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soundcheck 18th October 2006 11:40 AM

PC - The Perfect Source ?
Hi there.

I thought perhaps somebody would be interested to discuss this subject "PC-The Perfect Source?" here at DIY-Audio. (There can a lot DIY be involved.)

More and more audio-people are using the PC as high-end audio source.
Especially the ones building DIY DACs with either USB or SPDIF

What I learned in the last couple of months: It's not only about "bit perfection", or "a PC is a PC - it's all digital", there is more behind it.

I don't want to discuss here things like what's better upsampling, resampling etc. or if MP3 sounds as good as .wav.
I don't want to discuss the 100.000 features every software player supplies either.

It is just a pure perfect audio stream I am interested in and I'd like to discuss. Everything else would need a seperate thread.

To give some kind of backround:

I figured that there is not very much on the net about let's call it high end audio setups via PC.

On the other hand - If you have a look at the professional scene - if it is recording, producing, mastering - it is mainly all PC based. ( A lot of good hints I found in the professional area.)
I guess the majority of the home high-end-audio world missed that for quite some time. PC audio is today mainly connected to mp3. I hope that will change soon.

Some words on my system as a result of my last summer research:

I am running a Lenovo T60P Notebook with 2*160GB HD and 2GB RAM and Windows XP.

Further I am running a DDDAC1543 over USB.

All at 44,1khz 16bit. No re- or upsampling in between.

After months of listening and searching I selected J.River Media Center due to its superior audio engine and not because of its features as a player. (I was running foobar in all kind of setups before!)

After long time searching I felt over the ASIO driver, which replaces the poor usb-audio.sys driver of Microsoft and supplies ASIO at the same time.

Further I play all tracks from RAM having a RAMdisc installed.

.wav is the only format acceptable to me for the time being.

I think that is the best setup I could find for XP, considering the other parts of my audio chain.

Not to forget: Ripping is done with J.R Media Center ( I used EAC before)

Since MS puts a lot of attention to Audio on the upcoming Vista I'd
expect more improvements in that area soon.

I also believe in a Linux setup, since Linux is the only OS
supporting real realtime applications. And its more or less DIY and FOC!
Though it can be very time consuming to get into it. I'd very much appreciate some comments in this area. I know there are some guys at DIY-Audio running Linux setups.

Bottom line - My highly tweaked high-end CD Player is for sale!
To me the PC is the perfect source. It delivers great quality sound and it is extremly flexible and convienent once you got all your CDs ripped onto hardisk.

Looking forward to share and discuss other findings or setups.


bigwill 18th October 2006 11:54 AM

The thing that annoys me about a PC as a source is the huge amount of noise they make without expensive cooling systems!

Another thing is that cheap PC sound cards sound absolutely TERRIBLE (not just audiophile pickyness, as in most people can easily tell the difference) and have a high noise floor

So you have to spend a lot on a source PC :)

thomaseliot 18th October 2006 12:26 PM


Originally posted by bigwill
So you have to spend a lot on a source PC :)

Old Pentium III dismissed by somebody = Free
Passive cooling for CPU = 35
Power supply with passive cooling = 110
Hard disk 250Gb = 90
Foobar 2000 = Free
EAC = Free

TOTAL = 235

Better components than those listed have very little effects on sound.

How much does it cost a decent transport with a decent small number of read errors? PC makes no read errors because has time to re-read.

P. S.

Of course there is no need of a sound card. A USB-DAC will do the job.

rossco_50 18th October 2006 12:28 PM

Audio engine
Hi soundcheck,

I was interested to read that you had chosen the jriver player over foobar for reasons other than features. Have you been able to do this through listening tests or do you have links to information which explicitly states reasons for why jriver is better?

I too have also been keen on a Linux system, but I cant afford an RME card and the best lower cost cards e.g. EMU 1212m seem have an agreement with microsoft and do not release the required information for the ALSA team to develop drivers. The linux player, aqualung, seems to have a similar feature set to foobar, but its difficult to get a level playing field between the two oses without more expensive equipment.

Id be interested in hearing about anyone using a diy usb DAC with linux and how the drivers compare with xp. There is a thread on diyhifi with a number of members measuring the performance of various usb interfaces, in terms of jitter, and concluded that where usb is currently worse than spdif, it may be xp (with asio) that causes the interference. You should maybe encourage some further measure using the drivers you use.



thomaseliot 18th October 2006 12:32 PM

ALSA driver for 1212M

soundcheck 18th October 2006 12:45 PM

Re: Audio engine

Originally posted by rossco_50
Hi soundcheck,

I was interested to read that you had chosen the jriver player over foobar for reasons other than features. Have you been able to do this through listening tests or do you have links to information which explicitly states reasons for why jriver is better?

Hi Ross.

Yes we did listening tests. Quite some people confirmed that JRMC sounds better.
Playing it from RamDisc improved the situation even further.

The good thing though - the 30day trial is free of charge. It is easy to verify. That's what I love about the PC as source. ;)

As I mentioned for USB--Audio the special USB driver is a must.

Audible jitter drops heavily. As long as you have usb-audio.sys in the stream you'll never manage to get clean sound over USB.

Just download it and give it try!

thomaseliot 18th October 2006 12:52 PM


but it is a demo.

rossco_50 18th October 2006 03:31 PM

EMU 1212m
Apologies for the mis information - I was sure I had read that none of the EMU cards were supported - but maybe this was just the 0404. Thats great news for me, thanks for the info both of you.

Think I'll get this card. It will allow to experiment with both windows and linux, without compromise of my purchasing decision. will be interesting to see if the alsa drivers allow syncing to an external clock.

Kevinkr has moved to the j river media player for his htpc project, but this seemed to be more for its format support. although listening tests have also obviously been positive for him.

I was interested to try xmcd as it seems to be a cd player with real time multiple read and a jitter correction algorithm. Workload prevents at the moment, but might be interesting for others. lamip is a foobar clone for linux, but seemingly only in terms of interface.

I recently read on hydorgen audio that ubuntu now comes with the alsa drivers preconfigured to resample everything to 48khz. This can be turned off with varying degrees of difficulty, but might be worth checking when setting up your newly installed linux os.



I_Forgot 18th October 2006 03:50 PM

Have you looked at the Squueezebox or Transporter for playback? Both are quite good and eliminate the noise of the PC from the listening room. They also provide remote control for selection of music for playback.

You don't have to wait for Vista to have a 64 bit OS. I run the server (Slimserver) on a PC with 64 bit Linux (AMD64 ubuntu) and it works flawlessly. I rip/burn CDs using K3b, DVDs using K9copy. All Linux, all the time! And the best part is, it doesn't crash, ever! No more rebooting every 30 minutes, no more reinstalling the OS every 6 months, no more viruses/trojans. It just works!

I attempted to install and run linux a few years ago, and found it was too much trouble to get it working. Things have progressed since then. It is now faster to install linux than windoze, and the hardware issues have pretty much fixed themselves. Check it out- it's free- you have nothing to lose except Bill Gates...

I find it interesting that devices like the SB3 are almost ignored on these forums, but then again, there are a lot of folks still trying to get the best sound they can out of vinyl.


peufeu 18th October 2006 04:17 PM

I used a Linux computer with a RME soundcard connected to a homebrew DAC. Said DAC contains a master clock, sent to the CD player, which sends SPDIF to the soundcard, slaving it to the DAC clock.

I could have used a SPDIF encoder but I had a CD723 laying around, so I used this to generate a SPDIF signal for the PC. At first I wanted to use it to also play CDs but it sucks too much (the digital output is not bit-exact and sounds like sh*t) (and the mechanism died anyway).

Computer runs Linux (gentoo 64 bits) and has music stored on a Linux Software RAID.

So far I changed 3 siying harddrives and no data loss.

I'm trying to build something based on Ethernet now. It's quite difficult, but interesting.

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