PC to AMP

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by gbrandwood, Jan 15, 2003.

  1. gbrandwood

    gbrandwood
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    Hi there

    I would really like to access the MP3s stored on my Shuttle mini PC to play them via my AMP (Marantz SR4200).

    What is the best way to connect the PC to the AMP?

    The PC has a stereo out and a SPDIF out. I want the output to be as good as possible so I could stretch to buying another sound card. Not many have twin (L&R) RCA outputs but one or two do. Would buying one of those cards be better or worse than using a SPDIF - if indeed, using a SPDIF is possible with my AMP... :confused: :confused:

    If you haven't guessed, it's all a little new to me. :blush:

    Any help would really be gratefully received.

    Kind regards

    Gareth
     
  2. Jeff

    Jeff
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    If its quality that you want than a lossy compression like mp3 might not be the best choice. You could use something like Ape which is lossless but still manages a 2:1 compression ratio. Normally unless you have one of the real top PC audio cards then using the spdif output is going to be your best choice, however you a still likely to be badly affected by jitter and resampling from 44.1 to 48kHz. Even if you do find a good sound card that has proper 44.1, it would still most likely go through the kmixer (part of Windows 2000/XP) and get resampled (even if at the same rate). Some manufactures such as RME have managed to bypass the kmixer and have true bit perfect playback. A good test for this is DTS audio CD playback, if the kmixer gets involved DTS audio doesn't work. Microsofts prefered method for getting around this problem is to do it at the application level. An example of this is ASIO, using the ASIO plugin for WinAMP you can bypass the kmixer and play DTS audio CDs.

    Jeff
     
  3. gbrandwood

    gbrandwood
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    Thanks for the reply, Jeff, and such a quick one at that.

    But, as with most things, I guess this isn't going to be such a straight forward affair.

    JITTER, KMIXER and ASIO are things I've never heard of (and until now, never worried about). I would definitely want to get the best quality possible therefore avoiding the KMIXER and JITTER.

    Assuming I run XP, can you recommend a sound card that will let me run either MP3s or APE compressed files without the problems you mention?

    I had a look for the WinAMP plugin but didn't find anything more stable than 0.2 releases here and there, mainly in different languages.

    I'm not hell bent on using the SPDIF, if a good sound card would let me use phonos then I'd be all for it.

    Thanks for your help.

    Regards

    Gareth
     
  4. sounddog

    sounddog
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    Best thing to do would be buy a reasonable mini-jack - 2 phono's cable - the Cambridge Audio / Richer Sounds one rather than a cheep 99p one - and a digital cable to match your input/outputs (optical or co-ax) and then compare the two.

    As already said, the quality you get from MP3 will never be as good as from the original CD, but only you can tell if it's worth spending extra on a new soundcard or if the MP3's sound good enough for you.


    Victoria
     
  5. Branxx

    Branxx
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    There are two sound cards that are known to have drivers written to avoid KMIXER issues. They are:STAudio card is hardware almost identical to M-Audio delta series (to the degree that STAudio Windows XP driver can be used with M-Audio Delta cards). This card is also the cheaper. If money is no object, going for RME is almost sure winner.

    STAudio uses RCA jacks for analogue out, while RME uses a single ¼” jack.
     
  6. gbrandwood

    gbrandwood
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    Thanks for the information.

    Funnily enough, my hearing isn't terribly good :)clown: ) but I like to know something sounds good even if I can't get all the benefit from it. Surely I'm not the only one who thinks in this daft way.

    But, I think a 320Kbit MP3 would be good enough for me.

    I'll look into the sound cards mentioned - I originally hoped I could use an old Creative Labs AWE64 Gold as it has gold plated left and right phono outs for around £10 on ebay!!. But, this is an ISA card not PCI :(

    Another option I've seen is using the SliMP3 unit. I've no idea how that is affected by the KMIXER and JITTER as it doesn't go via the sound card at all.

    Would using an operating system other than XP (e.g. Linux) avoid the JITTER and KMIXER issues?

    This is all very interesting stuff (at least to me!).

    Thanks again.

    Gareth
     
  7. Jeff

    Jeff
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    The other option that I know of is to use Windows 98 SE with VXD sound drivers rather than WDM. You would still want I good sound card that can do proper 44.1 kHz which excludes most of the sub £100 sound cards and all the creative labs stuff. The Terretec EWX 96/24 is a nice card for little over £100.

    I have a Rme Digi96/8 PST coming tomorrow, should be good but it is a £270 card.
     
  8. Branxx

    Branxx
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    Jeff,

    You will be very pleasantly surprised! Enjoy!
     
  9. Jeff

    Jeff
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  10. gbrandwood

    gbrandwood
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    When I started out thinking about linking my PC to my AMP, I thought MP3s would be good enough.

    As I've already said, my hearing isn't particularly good, but I still like to know something sounds good, even I can't get the benefit from it.

    So, everyone keeps saying the quality of MP3s is not as good as CDs. I understand that. But, just how good are they? A 320Kbit MP3 plays at around 40KB a second compared to 150KB for a CD. 110K has gone out of the window somewhere.

    How does the difference manifest itself in the sound?
    What kind of music is likely to suffer the most (if any)?

    I need to decide whether to stick with MP3s or buy a 200GB HDD and ripp all my CDs (again) into Money compressed WAV files. And then get a £150 sound card and get around the kmixer and jitter problems.

    [BTW, what is jitter exactly?]

    Would it be possible to compare a second of an MP3 track, converted back into a WAV file, with the same second of the original WAV file by looking at both WAVs in something like Cool Edit? I really can't trust my ears.

    Regards

    Gareth
     
  11. WhyAyeMan

    WhyAyeMan
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  12. Branxx

    Branxx
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    I applied Windows XP SP1 as well as DX9, and the latest M-Audio Delta driver. It still does not play DTS CD's. SO, kmixer however improved has not been improved enough.
     
  13. Branxx

    Branxx
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    gbrandwood,

    The difference in price between 200GB disk and 100GB is quite small.

    Using a good sound card would benefit MP3 as well as uncompressed audio formats.

    You can use any audio editor software to visually compare the difference between the original WAV and WAV->MP3->WAV, but the best way, even with the hearing problem you have, is to make an audio comparison. I think with MP3 at 320KB it is going to be very difficult ever for an able hearing person to notice the difference. The rest of your audio system would need to be of resonably high standard as well for the differences to become noticable.
     
  14. Jeff

    Jeff
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    My Digi96/8 PST card arrived, very nice it is too. VERY clean sound, only managed to test toslink so far but DTS CDs are working which is a good sign.
     
  15. gbrandwood

    gbrandwood
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    Argghh. I really can't decide. :mad:

    I think you're right, Jeff. I'm just going to have to try and listen myself. Suck it and see, as they say.

    If I use the SliMP3 (www.slimp3.com), does that mean I don't need to worry abut the kmixer, jitter and a decent sound card?

    Thanks for all your advice, everyone, much appreciated. This forum truly is formidable.

    Regards

    Gareth
     

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