Audio setup for my PC

USS_Enterprise

Standard Member
I use my PC as my main music player. Currently I have it hooked up to an old Goodman's 'Pro Logic' center speaker/amp from a surround sound system. It's switched onto Stereo mode and hooked it up to a couple of very, very old speakers from my parent's old stereo system. (The amp for that is wrecked.)

Thing is I also use that for my TV, as my old TV's built-in crap speakers don't work anymore. This means that the speakers are with my TV, while my PC is on the other side of the room.

As you can tell I could do with some better equipment. I'm thinking of just getting an Amp and set of speakers solely for my PC. So, I've been looking around at some entry-level stuff and So far I've looked at the 'Cambridge Audio A5' (Or perhaps the A1 model?) Amp. it seems to be relatively cheap and decent. BTW my budget for the whole thing is about £150. Is that realistic?

I could do with some suggestions for other speakers too.

Oh and I'm currently using the audio integrated into my Motherboard, is there any point upgrading to a standalone sound card? And if so what model? A Creative Sound-Blaster or an M-Audio model? (Linux compatibility is an issue here...)

Finally just a few questions about cables, what ones do I need to connect the Amp to the speakers, and is there any point shelling out for the expensive cables to plug my PC into the Amp?

Oh and does the A5/A1 have any kind of "circuit protection" to protect the Amp and/or speakers if I turn it up too loud?

Thanks for any help anyone can give, I know I've asked a lot of questions and I don't expect a single response to answer them all. (Although that would be nice :) )
 

coliam

Active Member
Hi,

Yes, I too use Linux and a PC as my music player. :thumbsup:

In my experience, on board SP/DIF outputs CAN be O.K., but analogue outs can be bettered with the addition of a decent Sound card.

I use an M-Audio 2496 feeding SP/DIF out to my external DAC and Amps, and find it excellent.
I'm sure plenty of other cards would be good too. At the moment, I'm using it in a Windows machine, but I have used it in a Linux machine also.
I would avoid the newest Creative cards for Linux, but the older ones should be fine.

I can't really advise on the amps as that's really up to you, but I wouldn't spend too much on cables, myself.
It's a controversial subject and I'm not a believer, except in certain circumstances. :D

I would recommend using an external DAC on your PC, though. It doesn't have to be anything expensive,
but an external USB dac or a Beresford TC-7510, if you have SP/DIF output, would almost certainly be an improvement over
sound card and motherboard DACs, even the M-Audio 2496.

Have Fun. :D
 

WhyAyeMan

Well-known Member
I second the suggestion on the Beresford. I have one for my PS3 and Sky STB, and having used many sound cards and DACs in my time, I can say that the Beresford is better than the vast majority of soundcards that I've heard (which include the Terratec EWX, M-Audio Audiophile and EMU 0404), and its a great piece of kit for the money. Sure it wont beat the best DACs but for the cash its really pretty good. I'd recommend this over a soundcard which can have noise issues with certain amps.

If you went the soundcard route though I can recommend the EMU cards as I think they are very noticably better than the previous gen sound cards (the EWX and Audiophile, the latter of which is very overhyped IMO).
 

USS_Enterprise

Standard Member
Is a DAC really going to make that much of a differance? And do I have to worry about the DAC supporting file formats, or does my PC convert it to a pure binary form before sending it to the DAC?

I could really do with some advice about Amps/Speakers too. I went to an audio shop in my home City today and saw someone who said that the Camebride Audio A5 was dire and that if I don't mind buying second hand (I don't) I should look at the 'Marantz PM4001' amp and the Monitor Audio BR1" speakers.

Anyone have any advice about them?
 

coliam

Active Member
Is a DAC really going to make that much of a differance? And do I have to worry about the DAC supporting file formats, or does my PC convert it to a pure binary form before sending it to the DAC?........

If you play FLAC, OGG, MP3 or whatever on your PC, then the PC's software converts and expands it into the 16bit/44.1kHz
format (usually, but there can be exceptions). Most, if not all, of your music is likely to be of this format and this is what will
be output from your PC's SP/DIF. For USB it would be @48kHz. It could also be up-sampled internally, if you choose to do so
and have a suitable Sound Card. This then would be sent to the DAC either via SP/DIF or USB cable.

This is where the benefit is. The DAC is away from the PC and is not as badly affected by the electrical noise of the PC.
This improvement can be enormous, particularly when compared to on board Sound devices.

Using suitable software (eg Foobar2000 with ASIO driver), and an external DAC fed from a Sound device capable of a
good quality SP/DIF output, the results can be stunning when set up correctly. ;) :D

wrt your amp, don't forget; 'you get what you pay for'. That range of Cambridge amps are about the cheapest around,
so pretty well anything s/hand would be better. Having said that, at this level, I would suggest the DAC and Sound Card
quality are far more important. (IMHO :D )
 

USS_Enterprise

Standard Member
Thanks for the advice about the DAC, but for now I think I might just go for a set of Amp and Speakers and upgrade with an external DAC later... Is buying Amps/Speakers second hand a bad idea? Or can it help to get better-quality equipment?
 

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