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Old 15th June 2016, 09:40 AM   #11
Kev06 is offline Kev06  England
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This thread is several months old now, but I forgot to report back. At the time I opted for option (2) in the OP - a computer and surround-sound card (an asus u7) to test the approach.

Initially Jriver was used for the crossover but (whilst excellent in sound quality) it was awkward swapping it to different sources, and the current version of windows is no longer properly compatible with it. So recently I gave up and moved to a software mixer called Voicemeeter Banana; this is less sophisticated wrt the crossover capabilities but 'much' better at handling different audio sources (and destinations) and plays well with windows 10.

Because there are a number of sources (software and hardware) I find voicemeeter much more suitable choice for this role. Its also more convenient to have the audio playing software be just another source, separate from handling output duties. If in the future Jriver and windows become harmonious, I may consider using it again 'purely' to make an output stage with more sophisticated DSP. But even then would continue to use voicemeeter to handle the sources (and foobar as the audio player). I've found this kind of flexibility is one clear benefit of the computer-based approach.

I can't compare with the mini-dsp as I didn't try that, but suspect there are pros and cons. Having all software controls live on one screen is certainly very convenient when it comes to setting up and tweaking, and its nice to have applications like youtube and online radio inherently part of the setup. But on the other hand the setup only works with the PC switched on, and the multi-purpose PC also had a tendency to get switched off, forgetting that it controlled the audio. When that happened, the tweeters got a big thump as the sound card powers down. So I ended up using a dedicated (if modest) audio laptop which is IMO the way to go, but it means there haven't been any huge savings in hardware costs.

Overall this setup has worked out very well indeed. The quality is surprisingly good too, so the sound card that was bought mostly just to test has become a semi-permanent solution. Very happy
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Old 10th January 2017, 07:09 PM   #12
us1070 is offline us1070  India
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PC onboard sound vs Android sound card?

I found that my Android mobile sounds Natural as it has no electrical noise while all my PCs has electrical noise

Will getting a Sound card remove electrical and make it sound Natural like my Android phone does?
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Old 10th January 2017, 07:56 PM   #13
Kev06 is offline Kev06  England
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'Natural' is a very subjective thing, and I haven't much experience with android audio. But with respect to noise from computers, then yes - I found it to be extremely frustrating. Especially with high gain power amps, which amplify noise at a fixed level even when playing low volume music to them.

All internal sound cards (including reasonably costly asus ones) I've used can pick up noise from the computer. I could hear noise when the video/monitor changed picture, and from many other things - even just when the mouse moved. I tried different PSUs, video cards, motherboards etc - it was getting too expensive to track down. I will never go there again.

External sound cards are generally much less prone to picking up noise from the computer, which is why I will now only use external types. BUT if your computer is earthed/grounded (as even some laptops are, when plugged into their PSUs) you can still get ground-loop noise over USB or coax to peripheral amplifiers - a kind of background hum. I believe there are USB devices to de-couple this but I haven't tried them. (EDIT: this shouldn't happen with normal headphones, just devices that are separately grounded).

My preference for eliminating ground noise easily is either a non-grounded computer (or laptop, tablet etc) and external sound card connected via a digital electrical lead (e.g. usb or co-ax), or any computer and an external soundcard connected via an optical link.

Last edited by Kev06; 10th January 2017 at 08:19 PM.
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Old 10th January 2017, 08:05 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kev06 View Post
'Natural' is a very subjective thing, and I haven't much experience with android audio. But with respect to noise from computers, then yes - I found it to be extremely frustrating. Especially with high gain power amps, which amplify noise at a fixed level even when playing low volume music to them.

All internal sound cards (including reasonably costly asus ones) I've used can pick up noise from the computer. I tried different PSUs, motherboards etc - it was getting too expensive to track down. I will never go there again.

External sound cards are generally less prone to this, BUT if your computer is earthed/grounded (as even some laptops are, when plugged into their PSUs) you can still get ground-loop noise over USB to peripheral amplifiers. I believe there are USB devices to de-couple this but I haven't tried them.

My preference for eliminating noise easily is either a non-grounded computer (or laptop, tablet etc) and external sound card connected via a digital electrical lead (e.g. usb or co-ax), or any computer and an external soundcard connected via an optical link.
Have you tested this one ?
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Old 10th January 2017, 08:31 PM   #15
Kev06 is offline Kev06  England
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No, just consumer level types like the xonar range. After my disappointing experiences with those, which weren't especially cheap or nasty, I would not dare to spend any large sums on an internal card. Nor is it necessary just to get rid of the noise, when a very modest external card will do so - though I realise there can be other benefits to spending lots if you wanted to anyway.

To be clear, I'm not saying that internal cards can't work. However they can be really frustrating and costly to resolve if one is unlucky enough to get noise from the PC, as I and also (it appears) us1070 was. IMO external cards make elimination of this much easier.

Last edited by Kev06; 10th January 2017 at 08:41 PM.
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Old 11th January 2017, 06:52 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kev06 View Post
No, just consumer level types like the xonar range. After my disappointing experiences with those, which weren't especially cheap or nasty, I would not dare to spend any large sums on an internal card. Nor is it necessary just to get rid of the noise, when a very modest external card will do so - though I realise there can be other benefits to spending lots if you wanted to anyway.

To be clear, I'm not saying that internal cards can't work. However they can be really frustrating and costly to resolve if one is unlucky enough to get noise from the PC, as I and also (it appears) us1070 was. IMO external cards make elimination of this much easier.
I've got noises issues with (high quality) external cards until they were isolated from the ground (galvanic isolation).
The lynx is renowned to be very silent without any isolation.

You perhaps should try to use your embedded internal motherboard card and two OEPZ1604 transformers on the output... then try to hear if it sounds good

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Z1604 OEP (OXFORD ELECTRICAL PRODUCTS), Transformateur audio, 600 ohm, 600 ohm, Traversant | Farnell element14 France
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Old 11th January 2017, 09:06 AM   #17
Kev06 is offline Kev06  England
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Thanks for the suggestion, but unfortunately I spent the best part of a year trying different solutions like that, none of which worked. I won't start tinkering all over again; there is no need - using a digital line to external cards/DACs, even very cheap ones, solved the issue instantly. And of course they also work with laptops and other small, low-power devices, which are ideal for 'always on' media players. For me, the days of using internal cards in big PCs just for playing media are over.

Yes, you can still get ground noise but the only time I actually encountered that was due to ground loops between computer and amplifier. Being due to an identifiable and external cause this was 'much' easier to track down and resolve. Many portable computers aren't even grounded these days, which helps too.
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Old 11th January 2017, 09:57 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kev06 View Post
Thanks for the suggestion, but unfortunately I spent the best part of a year trying different solutions like that, none of which worked. I won't start tinkering all over again; there is no need - using a digital line to external cards/DACs, even very cheap ones, solved the issue instantly. And of course they also work with laptops and other small, low-power devices, which are ideal for 'always on' media players. For me, the days of using internal cards in big PCs just for playing media are over.

Yes, you can still get ground noise but the only time I actually encountered that was due to ground loops between computer and amplifier. Being due to an identifiable and external cause this was 'much' easier to track down and resolve. Many portable computers aren't even grounded these days, which helps too.

Oups... i haven't read the topic subject.
My transformer is not designed for a digital line.

Since i often use my old portable computer on AC at home the problem is always here for me... could you give me a cheap noiseless model of digital line to external cards/DAC please ?
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Old 11th January 2017, 11:51 AM   #19
Kev06 is offline Kev06  England
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Ah, I see. Yes, ground noise and PC noise via digital and analogue are slightly different things.

If your old portable has an optical digital output then that should isolate any external DAC/soundcard from most ground noise and also most PC-induced noises. But if it has only wired outputs then even digital ones can carry ground noise through to external DACs and amps, so if your old portable is grounded and has a noisy ground then its a problem. I believe you can get special USB ground decouplers but I haven't tried them myself, or you could get a USB to optical converter but introducing an extra conversion stage isn't ideal.

It may be that you are getting ground loop noise, in which case plugging the amp and portable PC into the same socket can help, or even better if (safely) possible only grounding one of them. I managed to un-ground an old laptop by changing its PSU to a more modern type, but I was lucky to find a compatible one. You could in theory just disconnect the laptop PSU's earth, this works very well but is not likely to be a safe thing to do.
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