The future is now PC to Stereo

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eidolon
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The future is now PC to Stereo

Post by eidolon » Mon Jun 20, 2005 3:43 pm

The CD player to a certain extent is going to become passe. People are more and more are going to rip their CD's in an uncompressed format straight to a hard drive. They'll use the computer through a DAC to play their music.
Is anyone doing this?
If so, what caveat emptor's do you have for those of us that are thinking of pursuing such a music playback system.
Recommendations
I'm looking a Apogee Mini-DAC with the USB option.
It seems many are going the MAC route.
Is the PC format safe?
Is one board better than another?

:?:
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Post by Edward Ng » Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:31 pm

I don't rip to uncompressed, I rip to lossless compressed (a format known as FLAC; used to use Monkey's Audio before). I use foobar2000 to output via Kernel Streaming to an Echo Audio Mia MIDI sound adapter, which then sends the data via 75 ohm digital coax S/PDIF to a Benchmark DAC1, converting to analogue and then sending the audio via balanced XLR to a PS Audio GCC-100 control amp, driving a pair of Paradigm Studio/20s. This is the entire reason why I even decided to build an inaudible machine and ended up becoming part of SPCR. Were it not for my passion for listening to music this way, I'd not even be here contributing.

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Michael Sandstrom
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Post by Michael Sandstrom » Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:33 pm

Sending bit perfect digital audio from a PC to either a DAC or a digital receiver is very popular. Audiophiles set up their systems so that unnecessary resampling by Windows Kmixer or the soundcard is avoided. There are at least three ways to achieve an unadulterated signal. One alternative is to use a USB soundcard. A second method uses a very high end soundcard (Lynx) capable of hardware mixing. The third method employs a ASIO capable soundcard with a Via Envy chip such as the ultra affordable Chaintech AV 710. The third method requires the use of a music player that features either an ASIO output plugin or kernal streaming (winamp, j. river media center, foobar 2000 or mediamonkey). Good sources of information can be found at Hydrogenaudio forums and AVSforum.
Last edited by Michael Sandstrom on Mon Jun 20, 2005 8:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by scruzbeachbum » Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:57 pm

My current method is running iTunes on my quiet Wintel system in the study and porting the music via airtunes to my wireless router and then to an Airport Express in my living room. Stereo mini line out to rca inputs on my receiver. Sounds great (Yamaha/Polk system). Note that you can also run optical from the Airport Express to the stereo. Money spent: one airport express and a cable for a total of ~$150.

It took a while to get the bugs out (mostly my learning about wireless networking quirks more than anything else).

I've thought about using a mac mini as a media server. They've got the horsepower, are quiet, are tiny, and are cheap. Just add external HDD's for the additional music/movie storage as needed.

Note on music compression, etc: FLAC is about a 2:1 compression...as opposed to 256k mp3 at about 5:1 compression. With HDD media getting so cheap, I'll probably re-rip my CD collection as FLAC and get rid of the 300 CD collection...it's only 100GB or so. :-)

Too bad iTunes doesn't support FLAC, yet.

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Post by Edward Ng » Mon Jun 20, 2005 5:00 pm

But it does that ALC; doesn't that work with your Airport?
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eidolon
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Post by eidolon » Mon Jun 20, 2005 6:13 pm

I just recently sold off my audio system (spendor 1/2e's, musical fidelity a308cr amp & Audio Research LS15 preamp)
I've on order a Blue Circle NSCS integrated amp and a pair of Shahinian Arc speakers. I'm really trying to simplify my audio system into a musical enjoyment center rather than a audiophile nitpicking center.
Having a persons music collection on computer makes the most sense to me. After all a CD is nothing more than 1's & 0"s.

Edward. et al, I appreciate your answers.

So a person needs a computer with a CD unit.
This person could rip the music to the computers hard drive using software such as EAC.
In order to play the music on their stereo they could use an Apogee mini-dac with a USB in (from computer) and balanced outs (XLR) from the DAC to the preamp.
Is it really that simple?
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scruzbeachbum
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Post by scruzbeachbum » Mon Jun 20, 2005 9:41 pm

Edward: Yes, Apple has their own lossless compression std...but, a lot of bands are using FLAC for compression of their live performances. I'd rather NOT have to deal with conversions. :-) Just wishing out loud for Apple to accept other standards with regards to music compression.

Eidolon: Yes, if your PC is near your stereo, it's pretty simple. Instead of getting this Mini-Dac, I'd probably just get a preamp with s/pdif toslink optical input and a sound card on your pc with toslink out. Let the preamp do the d/a conversion. If you don't want to go optical, a lot of the mobo's with integrated audio have s/pdif out as well.

jackylman
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Post by jackylman » Tue Jun 21, 2005 7:00 am

Vinyl all the way! 8)

"A CD is a reconstruction of the sound. It's not even a clone. It's more like a toy or a robot, just a string of ones and zeros, whereas analog recording is a true reflection, like a pool or a mirror. Imagine telling Picasso, 'That's a nice painting; now we're going to fax it to the public.'"
- Neil Young

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Post by the_smell » Tue Jun 21, 2005 7:13 am

Yeah vinyl sounds pretty good, and pound-for-pound tend to sound better than CDs but I'm moving to SACD and DVD audio :shock: I just enjoy listening to them more! Unfortunatelly I haven't even tried copying them to disk cause they'd be too big.
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scruzbeachbum
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Post by scruzbeachbum » Tue Jun 21, 2005 7:22 am

the smell: too big? When you can get a 200GB seagate drive for $70? :shock:

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Post by alleycat » Tue Jun 21, 2005 7:30 am

Hopefully we can stay on topic here... we all know where this vinyl/CD/codec argument could lead...

I was wondering if a dedicated audio PC could be based on one of VIA's low-end EPIA boards, perhaps with a USB DAC. Would this have enough horsepower to rip, store, play and burn CDs/MP3s etc? How much memory? It would probably need to run WinXP for us 'dummies' who can't be bothered fiddling around with Linux.

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Re: The future is now PC to Stereo

Post by derekva » Tue Jun 21, 2005 7:55 am

This isn't necessarily a new thing. When I went to VSAC 2003 (Vacuum State of the Art Conference), the Cain & Cain folks were using a PC (VRS Audio Systems music server)as the source in their single-ended tube / dual horn system and it sounded fantastic. Granted, the analog playback through a (if my memory serves) Teres turntable sounded a bit more lifelike, but the digital was pretty damn good.

On a (very) brief aside, if you need a good, inexpensive, CD transport (e.g. you already have a good DAC), the NEC MultiSpin 6Xe (or 4Xe) external SCSI CD-ROM drive is a fantastic (and dirt-cheap) transport (uses a CD-caddy system) with a S/PDIF output.

-Derek
eidolon wrote:The CD player to a certain extent is going to become passe. People are more and more are going to rip their CD's in an uncompressed format straight to a hard drive. They'll use the computer through a DAC to play their music.
Is anyone doing this?
If so, what caveat emptor's do you have for those of us that are thinking of pursuing such a music playback system.
Recommendations
I'm looking a Apogee Mini-DAC with the USB option.
It seems many are going the MAC route.
Is the PC format safe?
Is one board better than another?

:?:

scruzbeachbum
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Post by scruzbeachbum » Tue Jun 21, 2005 8:10 am

Alleycat: It doesn't take much horsepower to rip/run music files. My CPU load is 20-25% when ripping to MP3 (at any compression rate) at 8x average read rate with the set up below. CPU load in playback is 1-2% with iTunes and ~2-5% with Windows Media Player.

Anyone seeing higher rip rates care to comment on their CPU loading?
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Re: The future is now PC to Stereo

Post by sthayashi » Tue Jun 21, 2005 7:22 pm

eidolon wrote:The CD player to a certain extent is going to become passe. People are more and more are going to rip their CD's in an uncompressed format straight to a hard drive. They'll use the computer through a DAC to play their music.
Is anyone doing this?
If so, what caveat emptor's do you have for those of us that are thinking of pursuing such a music playback system.
Recommendations
I'm looking a Apogee Mini-DAC with the USB option.
It seems many are going the MAC route.
Is the PC format safe?
Is one board better than another?
I've had some sort of PC acting as my CD player now for the better part of 7 years.

Caveat Emptors: Some cards resample even the digital out. I also use my system for DVDs et al and I found that sometimes a USB audio device won't always cut the mustard (at least in a standard setup).

Finally, a BIG Caveat Emptor is that DVD-A and SACD are unrippable with respect to their highest quality formats (SACD is downright unplayable with respect to its encoding).

Is the PC format safe? Define safe. Given enough precautions, storage of your multimedia is more robust than the original medium.
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bomba
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Post by bomba » Tue Jun 21, 2005 9:01 pm

I have been using a Squeezebox2 www.slimdevices.com which suppoprts FLAC natively. I'm in the process of ripping 300+ CD's to my PC using Exact Audio Copy & FLAC. Squeezebox 2 supposedly has 24-bit 96kHz Burr-Brown DACs and also has digital audio coax and toslink. Honestly, I don't care about that audiophile crap, but I love the music and it sounds excellent to my ears.

I have the SB2 in a cabinet with (3) receivers, configured with a wired IR repeater system. Speakers are in 3-rooms within the house plus 2 outside zones. Eventually, IR control will be directly available in all zones. Essentially, a poor man's multizone setup. The and the ability to browse the inventoey from the sofa w/ a remote is priceless. SB2 software is open source which has resulted in imo the best DAR UI, bar none. Oh and the digital and analog outputs are both active, I've got the toslink hooked to a 5.1 system in the den and analog out (via Y-cable) hooked to the Yamaha and Denon receivers which drive the other zones.

Howewver, if I were rich, I'd have the Netstreams digilinx, no doubt.
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Post by Ralf Hutter » Wed Jun 22, 2005 5:31 am

sthayashi wrote: Finally, a BIG Caveat Emptor is that DVD-A and SACD are unrippable with respect to their highest quality formats (SACD is downright unplayable with respect to its encoding).
Right on bro. I won't be getting rid on my stand-alone CD player until PCs can support these higher quality audio formats. CDs already give you enough of an audio quality hit over vinyl, it seems stupid to take yet another, just for the sake of removing a stand-alone CD player from your equipment rack.
eidolon wrote: Is the PC format safe? Define safe. Given enough precautions, storage of your multimedia is more robust than the original medium.
An even bigger issue, IMHO.

Even though CD Rot is a legitimate issue with pressed CD media, I've lost around 5-10 CDs to it over the past 20 years. That's out of the thousands of CDs in my collection during this time.

Burned CDs, and data stored on HDDs, on the other hand, seem much more fragile than pressed CDs. Personally, I've lost at least 20 burned CDs (and I've always used the best quality media, T-Y, Verbatim, Kodak Gold etc, and burned at less than maximum speeds) over the past 7-8 years. I've also lost a few HDDs (fuck you IBM and your stupid Deathstars) over the years, and have seen many others lose drives as well.

The whole issue of pressed CDs as a viable long-term storage media (ask the Library of Congress about this) is tenuous at best, and PC media makes them look real good. That's not something that fills me with lots of confidence.
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Post by chylld » Wed Jun 22, 2005 6:40 am

i feel a little out of place posting here - i have my motherboard's onboard audio doing all the sound processing, outputting analog signal to my 4.1 speaker setup. please don't shoot! :D

but i am looking to upgrade to something of much higher quality, especially to get rid of all the gpu blitter and hash and all the other noise that's plaguing my setup. i don't want to replace my speaker setup, and i also listen through my headphones so i don't know what i should do. if anyone could help introduce me into the world of aural bliss then i would be most grateful!

my headphones (sennheiser hd497) connect via a 3.5mm stereo jack. my speakers have an analog input (2x 3.5mm stereo) and a digital input (round thingy with 9 pins inside it). the digital input works with the digital out from my soundblaster live, but not with the digital out on my motherboard. i'd use the sb live but it pegs my cpu util at 100% just being in there, and the sound quality is quite pathetic (clear, but pathetic).

the best option i've found (i have been looking hard, not just being lazy and asking for help.. although i am asking for help a lot these days hmm) is a sound blaster 2 audigy nx, which is an external usb sound card with front and rear speaker outs (analog) and also a headphone port.

are there any better options?

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Post by Steve Rosenthal » Wed Jun 22, 2005 6:49 am

bomba wrote:
I have been using a Squeezebox2 www.slimdevices.com
Nice to see another squeezeboxer on SPCR. :D I've been using one for over a year now. Wired version connected to a P4 (system 2 in sig). I ripped all our CDs down uncompressed which is about 180GB for around 260 CDs (our collection isn't exactly huge).

We love it for the streaming internet radio (Shoutcast, Live365). It's also great to be able to search your collection from the couch, create playlists, etc.

Frankly, the only downside for me was crawling under the house to run the CAT5 cable.

--Steve
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Post by peteamer » Wed Jun 22, 2005 6:58 am

chylld wrote:(round thingy with 9 pins inside it).
Don't wish to sound rude (and am willing to be corrected)... but I think it's actually a 'Whatsit Connector' that you are refering to... :wink:

perplex
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Post by perplex » Wed Jun 22, 2005 7:03 am

http://www.head-fi.org

that's a great place for this kind of information. i frequent it for this kind of information. check out their "computer-as-source" section.

Ralf i think i'll be following your footsteps :] its because i plan on using the PC for audiophile music listening that i'm planning on building a "silent" computer this summer for college. Headphones though, and then Speakers when i'm settled down in many years from now hopefully 8)

So Ralf you ever tried headphones like HD650 ? or just started on those speakers?

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Post by alleycat » Wed Jun 22, 2005 7:29 am

chylld, I just bought an M-Audio Revolution 5.1 from http://www.audiosyncrazy.com. Excellent service and about half the price that you can get it for here (including USPS express post). You might want to look into the M-Audio Transit USB which he also sells - it might be more versatile, depending on your needs. FWIW, my CPU load is about 5% right now while listening to Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy through my stereo system.

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Post by scruzbeachbum » Wed Jun 22, 2005 7:54 am

As this thread slowly wanders around digital audio......here's a link to a NIST report on CD lifetimes.

http://www.itl.nist.gov/div895/carefordisc/
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Post by sthayashi » Wed Jun 22, 2005 2:22 pm

Ralf Hutter wrote:The whole issue of pressed CDs as a viable long-term storage media (ask the Library of Congress about this) is tenuous at best, and PC media makes them look real good. That's not something that fills me with lots of confidence.
Burned CDs is not what I meant. Redundant sets of drives are. 80% of my music is backed up on 3 different hard drives in several different rooms (a sort of poor man's RAID-1). I'd say it's as reliable if not more so than the original media.
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Post by chylld » Wed Jun 22, 2005 3:54 pm

thanks perplex and alleycat :)

that site had loads of information - i seriously have a headache now lol. but i'll try to take it in slowly.

re the m-audio card - sounds very nice indeed - 109dB signal-to-noise ratio!! however i'm a bit concerned about having it inside my computer, if it gets plagued by the same noise then the money will be absolutely wasted. so i'd prefer something external :)

i found m-audio sonic theatre though for the same price - it has headphones-out and front L/R-out as the same port. i have a double 3.5mm adapter, but will this reduce the volume? i tried the same trick with my sb live sound card and the front speakers and headphones were much quieter than the rears. so at the moment i have a double adapter piggybacked onto another double adapter, so my headphones, front speakers and rear speakers all get the same level. (again please don't shoot me!!! :P )

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Post by alleycat » Wed Jun 22, 2005 5:06 pm

Why do you need to listen to headphones at the same time as your surround system? If you get a USB device you should be able to conveniently plug/unplug cables.

BTW, PCI cards are used for anything from consumer to pro audio, so I doubt they would be so popular if noise was a common issue. It seems that your onboard audio has real problems. My onboard audio was a write-off, prompting me to buy the Revolution, which as far as I can tell, is crystal clear.

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Post by chylld » Wed Jun 22, 2005 5:13 pm

ok thanks for easing my fears about pci noise :) yeh i think it should be fine, i was just a bit paranoid.

at the moment, i have sound going to both my headphones and my 4.1 speaker system. when it's night time and i don't want to disturb anyone, i turn the speakers off and put on my headphones, i don't have to plug/unplug anything. it's a hassle i'd rather do without.

ideally, i'd like a sound system that delivers digital audio (4 channel) to my speaker system at the same time as delivering normal stereo audio to my headphones. i wouldn't mind going into a software control panel to change the profile from "speakers" to "headphones" or whatnot, as long as i don't have to get messy with the whole plug/unplug thing :)

am i being overambitious in this request though?

edit: alleycat, if you have the time, with ur rev5.1 soundcard could you please find out what happens if you have speakers plugged into the front and rear audio-outs, as well as a pair of headphones plugged into the headphone out? if that card handles that (i.e. outputs sound to both at the same time), then i think i've found what i'm looking for! :)

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Post by Ralf Hutter » Thu Jun 23, 2005 4:28 am

sthayashi wrote:
Ralf Hutter wrote:The whole issue of pressed CDs as a viable long-term storage media (ask the Library of Congress about this) is tenuous at best, and PC media makes them look real good. That's not something that fills me with lots of confidence.
Burned CDs is not what I meant.
They're not what I meant either. I was referring to pressed (made in factorys with molded-in pits) CDs vs. PC media like HDDs and writable CDs.
sthayashi wrote:The whole issue of pressed CDs Redundant sets of drives are. 80% of my music is backed up on 3 different hard drives in several different rooms (a sort of poor man's RAID-1). I'd say it's as reliable if not more so than the original media.
FWIW, people who's business it is to keep data safe will tell you that HDDs are a poor backup medium. And while I'm certainly no expert (hell, not even much of a rookie) when it comes to data backup, my anecdotal experience with thousands of pressed CDs vs. >100 HDDs over the the past 20+ years firmly favors the pressed CDs as an archival backup media
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Post by alleycat » Thu Jun 23, 2005 6:03 am

chylld, unfortunately I don't own a pair of headphones; I'll ask my girlfriend if I can borrow hers. Anyway, the fact that there is a separate headphone jack on the Rev5.1 leads me to believe that there shouldn't be any conflict. Also, I found this in the manual:
The headphone out carries a stereo output signal, and has a volume control that is independent of the L/R Front.

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Post by chylld » Thu Jun 23, 2005 6:06 am

alleycat wrote:chylld, unfortunately I don't own a pair of headphones; I'll ask my girlfriend if I can borrow hers. Anyway, the fact that there is a separate headphone jack on the Rev5.1 leads me to believe that there shouldn't be any conflict. Also, I found this in the manual:
The headphone out carries a stereo output signal, and has a volume control that is independent of the L/R Front.
eeeexxcellent :P

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Post by perplex » Thu Jun 23, 2005 7:46 am

Ralf Hutter wrote: FWIW, people who's business it is to keep data safe will tell you that HDDs are a poor backup medium. And while I'm certainly no expert (hell, not even much of a rookie) when it comes to data backup, my anecdotal experience with thousands of pressed CDs vs. >100 HDDs over the the past 20+ years firmly favors the pressed CDs as an archival backup media
what do the experts recommend? tape backup?

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