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Music from computers

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by phalaris, Jul 22, 2005.

  1. phalaris

    phalaris
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    I don't want to seem like a spammer but since someone mentioned there not being enough new threads made, I thought I'd start a conversation.

    What means do you use to play music from your computer? What sound card do you guys have and what sound cards are recommended? Do you use a DAC?

    Right now I'm using a 3.5mm-to-phono cable from my sound card (Sound Blaster Live) into my amp and it doesn't sound the best. Nots of noise and little or no detail, especially on bootleg recordings and low quality recordings (such as one of my all-time favourites -- Selected Ambient Works 85-92).

    Discuss.
     
  2. cwick

    cwick
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    Excellent choice of reference material there .... although I'm not sure it's particularly low quality - sounds pretty good here :)

    There's more to consider than just the sound card and DACs, and since some of the other is cheap / free, it's worth starting there. How are you playing back ? From the CD-drive ? If so, start by ripping - I'd suggest iTunes (free download), change the preferences for importing to Apple Lossless encoding, using error correction, and then listen again. This may well render some improvements just by removing the CD transport from the equation.

    There are other routes - Exact Audio Copy (EAC) for ripping, and Foobar2000 for playback. As I understand it, those two are the purist, quality options. Personally, for the gains available, I prefer the convenience of iTunes.

    That's the front-end sorted (maybe !). Soundcard wise, the first option is some sort of digital output (assuming you've got a digital input on your amp). This is about the cleanest, cheapest way to get good audio out of a computer. From that point in, IMHO, you''re rapidly into the realm of diminishing returns.

    There are quality analogue output solutions (I use an M-Audio audiophile 24/96 PCI card on my PC), but I really think you're fighting a losing battle given the hostile environment that is a PC. Digital out to some sort of offboard DAC has to be a better answer.

    I'm sure there's plenty for others to disagree with there I reckon ;)

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  3. cwick

    cwick
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    Oh, forgot to mention. Try Select Ambient Works Vol II - Blue Calx (2nd disc, track 2 if memory serves). If the bass note about 19 seconds in doesn't induce an involuntary bowl movement, then there's something wrong with your playback system :)
     
  4. phalaris

    phalaris
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    Well there was only so much that could be done with it considering the original copy made by Mr. James was recorded onto a tape and then chewed by his cat. ;)

    I use WMP for mpegs and other videos and I use iTunes for my tunes. Most of my music collection was at one point changed from .wma to .mp3 (@ 256kbps), not to mention the hours (yeah I admit it..) of downloaded music. I have something like 10 days of continuous music on my PC..
    However I read somewhere that under careful testing, 256kbps .mp3 showed no difference to .wma files in top end hi-fi systems.
    So I doubt there is much point in messing with my actual music files.

    As for digital input, the DAC will do that. So basically it's just a question of getting a good sound card, with a digital output?

    What are the criteria for a good sound card then, if it has digital output?

    .

    As a matter of interest, what music do you all listen to?
     
  5. stevos

    stevos
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    Your soundblaster live has a digital output (mine does), so thats sorted.

    Depending on your hifi's quality any form of compressed (mp3, aac, wma) will sound poor. These forms of compression use dynamic range compression. Basically it removes the extremes from the music that they claimed you couldn't hear.

    Using lossless in itunes or wm9 will improve things on its own. Although i have been in the process of recopying all my cd's for the last couple of weeks and have so far only made it to 250 albums, so a few more weeks to go yet. The sound difference makes it worth it, in my opinion and in the end i will have a non stop radio station made up of my own music (Virgin has the no repeat 9-5, i will have the no repeat month).

    My music choice is indy rock.
     
  6. phalaris

    phalaris
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    Yeah you're right, actually it does.. I hadn't noticed it before because it's a 3.5mm. I went to buy a plug today so I can have the digital output go into the DAC. So I was looking for (or at least so I thought) a 3.5mm to single phono cable.
    I mean it makes sense, right? Soundcard digital output=3.5mm; DAC digital input= phono. Seems to make sense to me..
    Well.. aparently there's no such cable and to get one I have to have it CUSTOM MADE. And I got laughed at AGAIN when I mentioned DACs.
    So am I missing something? Or are they missing something?

    I'm not sure what this 'lossless' setting is. I can't find it in preferences, but I have had iTunes for a while now and when I first got it (with my iPod) I am pretty sure I set all the settings to the best possible. The quality of the music files themselves should be acceptable... for my amp anyway.

    Examples?
    Stone Roses maybe?
     
  7. stevos

    stevos
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    Lossless compression came with one of the more recent versions of itunes. You may need to update yours. The setting is in the preferrence / import (or something like that).

    The lead you require is a single standard phono lead and a phono to 3.5mm adapter (maplin do both). Another option is to use a 2 phono to 3.5mm lead and ignore on of the leads.

    More into the modern stuff like Killers, Stereophonics, Massive Attack, Blink182, etc.
     

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