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Old 12th April 2007, 12:02 AM   #1
SashaV is offline SashaV  Canada
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Default PC as a transport

Hello all,
I would like to explore the options of setting up a PC as a transport for 2 channel music system.
After reading various forums, I feel I know less than ever before.
I would like to ask for opinions on some specific questions that I am struggling to find answers for.

First of all, should I get a good quality sound card installed in PC and drive an external DAC via SPDIF, AES, Toslink, USB (if DAC has any of these digital input interfaces)?
Or should I get an external USB to SPDIF converter and drive DAC via whatever interface (SPDIF, I2S, etc.)?

What would be recommended in each of these scenarios, if any is advantageous, what DAC, what converter, what sound card?

How do the following DACs compare to each other, considering that PC will be transport one way or the other, Benchmark DAC-1, Lavry DA10, Altmann Attraction, Apogee mini-dac with USB or firewire or Rosetta?

If external USB to SPDIF (or whatever) is prefered, which one? Any opinions on Konnekt 24D and Edirol UA-101?

After reading various comments, it seems all or some of these have some fundamental flaws? For example, Benchmark DAC-1 USB implementation not executed well, or has issues with PC versa MAC, native drivers usage?

Did anyone achieve exceptional performance with PC as a transport, how was it accomplished?
Or is PC hopeless t this time, should I consider MAC, which one, what OS?
What would professionals use?
Is it too early to get into this?
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Old 12th April 2007, 11:17 AM   #2
mhakman is offline mhakman  Sweden
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Here is my 5 pennies worth opinion.

1. Computers are excellent as transport devices. Whether you choose a PC or a Mac (or rather Windows or Linux or OS X because a Mac can run all 3) is a matter of personal taste. There is a lot more applications to choose among on Windows platform but on the other hand some OS/X apps are unbeatable in terms of UI, user friendliness, and easy setup. For each application type you will find 1 Ė 2 apps for OS/X and 5 Ė 10 for Windows. Platform choice will not affect the resulting audio quality if you get all other things right. However, if you want a computer that is silent in itself (I do) then itís easier to find quiet Mac than quiet PC. Most modern Mac notebooks and minis are silent, most PCís arenít. The real problem is that noise specifications arenít published and that most reviews and lab tests donít measure this important property.

2. Generally you get better results by getting digital signal out of the computer and doing digital-to-analog conversion outside. Even if there are some excellent internal sound cards with state-of-the-art DAC, the interior of a computer is electrically noisy and that noise propagates to your internal analog output(s).

3. If your computer has a built-in digital sound output (often optical or coax S/PDIF) then you donít need external USB/Firewire connected interface box. On the other hand you still need an external DAC. Some of these external USB/Firewire connected boxes have excellent DAC and that may be a reason for using them anyway.

4. Currently Iím using M-Audio Audiophile USB box (which originally is intended for mobile recording studios) with excellent results. There is a corresponding Firewire connected device too. Both work on Windows and OS/X platforms. Iím using its analog output to drive my headphones and its digital output to drive an A/V receiver and soon directly digital loudspeakers. Iím also using its analog input to get microphone signal and its digital input to get uudecoded audio output (Dolby Digital and DTS) from DVD and DVB units into computer.

/Mikael
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Old 12th April 2007, 03:13 PM   #3
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I'm mostly using my PC as a transport, especially when i'm learning and don't want to switch cd's all the time
I have had a few soundcards (from the SB live to audigy as well as a audiophile 2496) but they didn't give me the sound that my cd player could. Because i also have a MD player with a digital input i started using that as a D/A and it was far-much better than the audigy, even when it was upsampling
Because upsampling is as worse as you can get i went looking for another way to get the digital signal to my MD player without oversampling the signal.

I found the PCM2604 from TI and build it conform the datasheet and after some testing build it in my MD player. The output stage was then already build and fitted in my player. If i have some spare time i will make some new pictures and do some new measurements.

On my site the player is still without the USB interface.

http://midiserver.student.utwente.nl...0/minidisk.htm
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Old 12th April 2007, 03:47 PM   #4
epos is offline epos  Singapore
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I dont listen from PC frequently and mostly are lossy compressed MP3 or MTV in Divx/Xivd, none of them are high quality to begin with. but i found that not all SPDIF output are made equal, atleast comparing the Asus P4P800 onboard digital out and SB Live's.

i dont need to describe with words, just one, the difference is-- significant. i dont have a reasonable explanation, they both upsample to 48KHz, they both received by Denon DCD-S10. i would thought both are digital, both should sound the same as the same DAC was used. but they just didnt.
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Old 12th April 2007, 04:22 PM   #5
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i recently did comparison between "sound blaster live!" and external dac "ciaudio"(spdif signal fed from sb live!)
i tried real hard to notice any difference , with closed
yes, different kinds of music, fast input switching. nothing. no difference. same sound, imaging, everything.
and i quickly noticed difference with monica dac, it softens
tsss tsss high sounds. maybe it has high frequency roll off,
i didn't measure it.
so, to me, external dac does not
offer any advantage over high quality sound card.
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Old 12th April 2007, 04:25 PM   #6
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I think that a USB DAC gives you maximum versatility. You can use it with any PC or laptop, and no hassles when you decide to upgrade.

I found this the other day.
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Old 12th April 2007, 06:52 PM   #7
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Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Enschede
Quote:
Originally posted by MisterTwister
i recently did comparison between "sound blaster live!" and external dac "ciaudio"(spdif signal fed from sb live!)
i tried real hard to notice any difference , with closed
yes, different kinds of music, fast input switching. nothing. no difference. same sound, imaging, everything.
and i quickly noticed difference with monica dac, it softens
tsss tsss high sounds. maybe it has high frequency roll off,
i didn't measure it.
so, to me, external dac does not
offer any advantage over high quality sound card.
You know that the SB Live has a hardware lock on 48k samplerate ? so it really doesn't matter whether you use the DAC of the live or an external, the upsampling is already done. So your sound will be damaged all the way...
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Old 12th April 2007, 07:03 PM   #8
DcibeL is offline DcibeL  Canada
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Quote:
Originally posted by MidiMaze
On my site the player is still without the USB interface.

http://midiserver.student.utwente.nl...0/minidisk.htm
Please, tell me more on how to use my Gameboy as a spectrum analyzer.
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Old 12th April 2007, 08:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by DcibeL


Please, tell me more on how to use my Gameboy as a spectrum analyzer.
Little bit off-topic, but ok. You can find it on the Elektor site:
http://www.elektor.com/
I bought it as a module, but you can also make it yourself. It costed me about 150 euro's.
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Old 13th April 2007, 05:53 AM   #10
sangram is offline sangram  India
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I can't use my CD player any more. Just too used to my PC.

I have an old machine (A643200+, nForce3 board) that is dedicated to music listening. An e-Mu 1212M performs DA internally, and is a candidate for modding and upgrade. The TV doubles up as a monitor.

Apart from the fact that it blows my NAD c521 (modded) out of the water in the midrange, it is way too convenient, with playlists, full remote control once you add a wireless keyboard/mouse.

All my CDs are ripped to Wav files, can't bear to listen to MP3 on this system. Only deficiency is a slightly lean bass (compared to both the NAD and my M-audio Delta 66).
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