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High Quality PC Music Server

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by milanlad, Sep 18, 2004.

  1. milanlad

    milanlad
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    I'm looking to use my PC Computer Systm to play out my WAV tracks through a decent quality hifi system.

    Can anyone suggest some kind of 'sound card' that would be suitable? I looking for quality rather than features. Ideally the card should have phono connectors.

    Also, is there any software that you can use to organise your music collection, WAV and or MP3?

    Thanks
     
  2. Knightshade

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    Hi Milanlad,
    I've had one of these DIGI96/8 PAD on order for about a week with this company http://www.synthax.co.uk/
    Only reason I'm looking is because it contains the same chipset as the CHORD DAC 64. So i'm thinking maybe it will be quite good...
    I'll let you know if it ever arrives.
     
  3. ukbubs

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    Have a look at http://www.emu.com/products/category.asp?category=754&maincategory=754
    emu 0404 or 1212m both worth looking at (I'm trying to decide between the two). I coudn't find a price for your prduct, but if it's anywhere near the Hammerfall's price, you'll find emu to be a bargain....

    The following site is for musicians, but audiophiles seem welcome: http://www.soundonsound.com You'll have to subscribe to the e version of the magazine to get the reviews on those 2 products 'coz they're both pretty new.

    post how you go.......
     
  4. WhyAyeMan

    WhyAyeMan
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    Theres been a lot of discussion about sound cards on headfi forums, and it seems which one you pick will be down to the type of sound you like.

    The EMU 1212M is supposed to be a very good buy for £150 or so, and apparently sounds better than the RME PAD 96/8.

    The RME HDSP 9632 "Hammerfall" is apparently a further step up from the EMU but is also a lot more expensive.

    The Terratec EWX 2496 (if you can still find one) or the M-Audio Audiophile still sound surprisingly good and are bargains if you can find one for less than £100, both will give any budget CD player a torrid time in my experience.

    If you want outstanding quality, then you may want to consider a cheap M-Audio Audiophile and a DAC with a RAM buffer such as the Benchmark DAC1 or Chord DAC64. Those are the kinds of DAC you are looking to get if you want a worthwhile improvement on even the lowlier cards mentioned in this thread.
     
  5. milanlad

    milanlad
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    Someone said that if you take the digital output from a standard £20 - £60 sound card, and put that digital output through an amp with a digital input, or indeed a DAC, then that should give a much improved sound output.

    Is this accurate or is an audiophile soundcard required to get a decent quality output?

    Also, how does a combination of PC and Soundcard compair with a standalone unit such as the IMERGE?

    Thanks
     
  6. NaimBoy

    NaimBoy
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    Alternatively, why not use something like a Squeezbox to stream the music to the hi-fi ? That way you don't even need the computer in the listening room.

    Just a thought.....
     
  7. milanlad

    milanlad
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    The only problem with units like the Squeezbox is that it only streams MP3 whereas I want to play uncompressed CD quality files, i.e. WAV files.
     
  8. cwick

    cwick
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    The squeezebox will do uncompressed audio - WAV, or other lossles format.
     
  9. milanlad

    milanlad
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    What other units stream uncompressed audio? Do any of these stream over ethernet?

    Thanks
     
  10. NaimBoy

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    As cwick has mentioned, the Squeezebox supports uncompressed audio - here's the list from their website :

    Audio formats

    • PCM (AIFF, WAV)
      • Supports raw pass-through of uncompressed audio
      • Sample rates: 32, 44.1 (CD), and 48Khz (DAT)
      • Configurable sample rate, byte order, channels
    • MP3, MP2:
      • Built-in decoding for all MP3/MP2 formats
      • Supports all MP3 data rates, including VBR
      • Supports all MP3 sample rates
    • AAC, WMA, Apple Lossless, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis:
      • Supported through server-side decoding
      • May be streamed in PCM (raw) or MP3 (transcoded) format
      • Some formats may require additional software installation, depending on platform

    Wireless (802.11b - 22mbps) and wired (Ethernet) versions are available.

    For more details go to the Slimdevices website - an alternative is the Soundbridge from Roku
     
  11. The Dude

    The Dude
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    The analog outputs on the MAudio Audiophile 2496 (£70) are streets ahead of using the digi-out into either a Denon AVR3803 or a MF XDAC if that helps any..

    I was quite honestly shocked when i did the comparison, the difference isn't just noticeable, it's astonishing.
     
  12. cwick

    cwick
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    Or an Airport Express, using iTunes to manage all your music.

    Although I'm not sure that any of these discrete devices would match a high spec soundcard for quality, especially as milanlad wants to use the analog outputs. How close is the computer to the hifi ? No point complicating things with streaming if the two are sitting next to each other.
     
  13. WhyAyeMan

    WhyAyeMan
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    I found the same when I compared my Terratec EWX2496 to my old Cambridge DAC3, the difference was surprisingly massive for a digital source (in the favour of the Terratec). Yet still people are so quick to write these cards off.

    :smashin:
     
  14. milanlad

    milanlad
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    If I use my PC to store all my music I need to be able to stream as the PC is not next to the HiFi. Thankfully I have a wired ethernet setup at home so I can easily stream around the house.

    I would still like to know what these units such as the IMERGE S2000 Soundserver are like in terms of anologue output? It seems like an easy and practical unit to operate. It also has digital outputs so I suppose one can always buy a separate DAC to gain better quality outputs. The Imerge does cost abut £1300 for a 1 zone 80Gb unit?

    Thanks
     
  15. Branxx

    Branxx
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    When you said that you are looking for high-end PC server, how high-end is the rest of the system? Number of moderately priced solutions mentioned in the previous post would require a reasonably high-end hi-fi gear to complement properly.

    If the rest of your system if mid-fi you may use any PC with sound card and still get good match.
     
  16. milanlad

    milanlad
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    My system comprises of:

    Arcam Alpha 8SE CD Player
    Arcam Alpha 9 Intergrated Amplfier
    Arcam Alpha 9 Power Amp (for use in bi-wire speakers)
    Linn Tukan Speakers

    My standalone considerations are:

    Imerge s2000 Soundserver

    or

    Yamaha MuiscCast MCX 1000

    Any thoughts on this, and a PC card option to match the above system?

    Thanks
     
  17. Knightshade

    Knightshade
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    Well it's arrived, so far it doesn't seem bad for the money. Playback from CD still sounds like it comes from a computer but playback from uncompressed wav's is fairly exceptable. Output into an external DAC improves things considerably. It seems to be a bit lacking in detail and musicality but nothing to drastic. I won't be replacing a CD player with it in a hurry though!
    I know it wasn't going to be world beating but I guess if your looking for a cheap solution this isn't bad.
     
  18. WhyAyeMan

    WhyAyeMan
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    Some folks say the PAD sounds a bit grainy and analytical. Do you get that impression?
     
  19. Knightshade

    Knightshade
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    Yes,
    That's a good way to desribe it, I haven't really got anything to compare it to soundcard wise and comparing it to CD isn't really fair. It sounds to me like to much time has been spent designing it and not enough listening to it. The software is good though!
     
  20. Branxx

    Branxx
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    If you feeling comfortable opening a PC and changing hardware and software components I'll suggest you build your own PC. That way you have full control over what ges into it.

    Alternativelly, they are several companies specifically building PC for home entertainment market. I think one of them is demoing them next weekend.

    If the above does not appeal, Imerge maybe good solution, but check which sound card they are using, does it support ASIO and lossless audio files.
     
  21. WhyAyeMan

    WhyAyeMan
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    If you are up for some modding, there are people who've done mods to the PAD, namely a guy called Iron Dreamer on headfi, and he said it improved the sound a fair bit.

    However, according to him and others, the DACs in the RME's are a bit like that by their nature.
     
  22. Knightshade

    Knightshade
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    It was worth a try, Interesting to see how it compared to CD for playback and like I said for the money, not bad. If I can't return it. I'm sure someone will find a home for it somewhere. ;) Just thought it would be quite good to have the flexibility of all or most music in the one place.
    Thanks for the advice about building a purpose system. It's something I hadn't thought of doing but the idea is that it stays cheap. If I start purpose building the price will start to rise. I'm looking at going down the home cinema route so other toys are at a minimum! :devil:
     
  23. milanlad

    milanlad
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    The Squeezbox sounds great, but I'm wondering whether it would be possible to have 2 or more on the same network? I'm thinking of using 2 boxes in different rooms?

    Any thoughts
     
  24. NaimBoy

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    Two squeezeboxes shouldn't be a problem on a wired or wireless (22Mbps) network. According to their website, with multiple squeezeboxes you also have the option of playing them independently or synchronised - i.e. replicating a single source with mutliple speakers throughout the house.

    "And when you install multiple players, they can play independently or in sync for whole-house audio."
     
  25. JonLeach

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    My 2 pence worth on using a squeeze box.

    My System,

    PC upstairs (itunes encoded at 320kps, wireless to 802.11b)
    Squeezebox >
    Meridian 606 DAC
    Rotel RSP 1066
    Rotel RB 1080
    Dynaudio 42's

    CD player is a meridian 602 into the DAC.

    i have a wireless version on 802.11b. it will not stream lossless over the wireless link, its currently running at 70% wireless signal strength, the fix is to run lame MP3 dll's to compress the data. Now you may think that this would degrade the sound, but i had a Naim Audiofile in a darkened room trying hard to tell the difference between the original CD and encoded Itunes file.

    the sound quality is superb from the squeeze box, but i found using analog outs was very quiet.

    The software is very easy to use, browsing your music is easy, you can play internet broadcasts etc etc.

    if you were to use lossless on a wired system i can't see a problem using many squeezeboxes.

    Jon
     
  26. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    milanlad: As you seem to have an Arcam thing going on you might want to consider their own MS250 Media Server that they'll be telling the public about at the HiFi Show this weekend.
     
  27. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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  28. cbemoore

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    My squeezebox happily streams lossless (PCM) data across my wireless network. I've had the signal strength as low as 35% and still not had any problems.

    Have you changed volume using the volume control on the Squeezebox? The default is 50% volume....

    I'll second that. Also, since all the software is open source, there is an active community supporting the squeezebox, and bugfixes and new features are constantly being released.

    As I said above, I'm having no problems with lossless on a wireless system. But if you were going to run more than 2 or 3 units at once, I'd recommend using MP3 compression (as you have suggested).

    Chris
     
  29. milanlad

    milanlad
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    Sounds interesting, but I dred to think how much it might cost!!!!!!!! I wonder if it will be a music only or a music and video server?

    I am seriously looking at the Imerge S2000.

    Anybody wanna hazard a guess at the price of an Arcam MS250 Media Server?
     
  30. milanlad

    milanlad
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