Use of PC in high-end audio?

genes

Member
2002-01-27 6:30 pm
Hi, I am wondering if I can use a PC as a source of music utilizing my existing configuration: McIntosh: amp & preamp, KEF speakers. I want to substitute my CD player by my PC: record all CD on its hard drive.

I'd highly appreciate your advices and/or references to any sources.

Thanks
 
The best thing to do is find a decent soundcard with SPDIF output. Using SPDIF is probably the best way to get decent sound from a computer. Unfortunatly, the soundblaster live doesn't handle internal signals very well and has a little bit of noise on the digital output (encoded digitally??? wow). There are plenty of others to choose from, but the SBlive is still a great value and the noise is very low, using either analog or digital outputs.



genes said:
Hi, I am wondering if I can use a PC as a source of music utilizing my existing configuration: McIntosh: amp & preamp, KEF speakers. I want to substitute my CD player by my PC: record all CD on its hard drive.

I'd highly appreciate your advices and/or references to any sources.

Thanks
 
PJ said:
Be careful...

Most soundcards do a D/A conversion, and then a A/D conversion before the digital out...

Yeah and the results are often pretty disappointing.

A few soundcards operate totally in the digital domain and the quality is far superior but it still suffers from the problems of operating in the noisy environment that is inside the average PC.
 
My friend uses Protools in a studio setup with an external DAC/ADC box and it is probably the best sound I've heard coming from a computer. Unfortunately it is quite expensive and most of us don't have any need for 8 channels. Maybe it's possible to do multichannel audio or something but I've never seen one of these things used for anything other than multichannel recording/playback in studios.

Does anybody know any soundcards with SPDIF output that don't do any nonsense with the audio?
 
The Delta Audiophile 2496

I have the Delta M-AUDIO Audiophile 24/96.
It is considered a professional audio card.

You will find the specs there: http://www.midiman.net/products/m-audio/audiophile.php

Just for an idea, the card will do 24 Bit 96 kHz 4 in/ 4 out PCI Digital Recording Interface with MIDI. SDIF out pure bit.
THD: Less than 0.002%.

They have other cards that are great too.
You will find my card for about $170 (Includes PowerDvd 4 or $159 without) at
https://www.metro-one.com/dc_store/system/Product_List.asp?CATEGORY=SOUND CARD

Those cards sound great.
I have a DTS sound system and the difference between this card and a sound lab (I had the live platinum) is really there.

Good luck.

Cooltalkingfrog.
 
Looks really nice... does it always output at 24/96, for instance if I am playing a 16/44.1 wav file or mp3 file. The sample rate conversion would be nice since my DAC is capable of 24/96 but I have never been able to use it yet!! =(

I will search soon, but is there any place I should look in particular to find one of these?
 
Randy,

About the conversion, I do not know.
I know that I can play anything (mp3, dvd, cd audio) through the spdif output (coaxial) and I do not have any problems.
My decoder will see the signal as dolby prologic for mp3, cds and mpeg videos and will play Dolby digital or DTS for the dvds, depending on the dvd.

A good place to buy them (where I bought mine) is the link I put in the previous msg. I am sure that you can call them and ask more technical questions. (I am in no way affiliated with them BTW). www.digitalconnection.com

You could also go to a great web site about home theater PC at http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?forumid=26

There, you will find plenty of experts about home theater PCs. They use a computer as a source for home theater purposes. (with a video projector usually)

Good luck.

Cooltalkingfrog.
 
I would also steer clear of the creative labs products.

Take a look at the frequency response plot done by tomshardware.com

http://www4.tomshardware.com/video/02q1/020115/terratec-09.html

I dont know whether to contribute this to error in the measurement system/tester or if it is a genuine response from a working card. I hope no self respecting engineer would release a product that flawed and use "sound quality" in the advertisements.

jt
 
R. McAnally said:
holy crap... im gonna test my live right now and post the results shortly. This is scaring me!!

here's the results of a SB live (the cheapest one)... not nearly what the guy on that page measured!!!

The near-flat line toward the top is freq. response, and the jumpy ones at the bottom are 2nd and 3rd harmonic distortion. This is measured from input to output. Similar results are yielded with internally generated pink noise.

I feel better now =)
 

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Interesting.

I'm using a Soundblaster Live! card in a K6-3+ based computer
via twenty foot teflon-insulated cables (pseudo-balanced). I'm
rather pleased with the sound; compares well with my
Rotel RCD-970BX, a $650 CD player. Playback of most MP3s
is nearly indistingishable from a CD.

I wonder if I could hear a difference with 96/24 hardware? I'm
beginning to doubt it. Maybe my hifi system is just too average
to tell a difference. I do have serious doubts about my hearing.
 
Damon Hill said:
Interesting.

I'm using a Soundblaster Live! card in a K6-3+ based computer
via twenty foot teflon-insulated cables (pseudo-balanced). I'm
rather pleased with the sound; compares well with my
Rotel RCD-970BX, a $650 CD player. Playback of most MP3s
is nearly indistingishable from a CD.

I wonder if I could hear a difference with 96/24 hardware? I'm
beginning to doubt it. Maybe my hifi system is just too average
to tell a difference. I do have serious doubts about my hearing.

Although the frequency response is somewhat flat (shown in the response) I did not show the FFT plot of the noise. The SBlive is a rather noisy card especially compared to most CD players. This is the reason I am buying a new one soon...:(
 
Damon Hill said:
I do have serious doubts about my hearing.
Possibly with good reason. My old system was an Aiwa (yes, Aiwa...college student at the time) with KLH loudspeakers and I could clearly tell the difference between original and mp3 on a lot of music. Have you really listened to mp3 and original back-to-back? The degradation usually isn't glaring but is very noticeable compared to the original, especially on anything with a wide dynamic range and detailed soft passages.

Back on topic:

Check out this link: Sb-live measurements

They have tested many other cards as well. Very useful resource!
 
Something I noticed recently: the sound card I usually use with my amp (Rod Elliot P3A) is an AOpen AW744. A few days ago, I moved the amp to a different machine in a different room with a Creative AWE64, and noticed two things:
- much less output from the card
- the Creative card has audible hiss at higher volume levels (but not very high - probably at the sort of level I'd listen at when I'm alone).

I then took the amp back to the AW744, turned the volume right up, and put my ear to the speaker. Nothing. I could not hear a damn thing (while I desperately hoped that no-one ICQ'd me in case the speakers blew out or something). The sound quality from this card seems quite a lot nicer, and I don't have to wind up the card volumes an outrageous amount to get a good signal out of it (which, of course, distorts on the AWE64 at high levels).

I guess I *should* do something a little more conclusive than 'this card sucks because on a different computer on a different power circuit it hissed', and also try out the SB16 I have in another computer. Proper distortion measurements would be nice, but I don't have that sort of gear (or the time to build it).

I'd really, really like to compare these to an SBLive, too. And an Audigy. I'd love to know if there actually is any reason to pay so much for them - my AW744 cost $45AUD, and has every feature I could ever want (EAX, S/PDIF optical out being the main selling points for me).
 
tiroth:

I've got the originals of many of my MP3s, and really, there's
hardly any difference to me with my Live! card. On some other
cards I can tell a difference.

Given that my high-frequency hearing was documented as
rolling off very rapidly and that I have mild tinnitus, I tend to
regard my perceptions as suspect, but that's the way it is. Before
I turned 30, I could still hear the TV horizontal flyback ringing.

That's life in my 50's. (Hey, when did I get middle-aged?!)

Anyway, I sometimes look at newer cards but now it's more as
a potential test instrument than for listening. MP3s allow me to
collect music for audition and buy the CD if I really like it, and to
conveniently play back many, many hours of music without having
to change CDs.

There's an external Audigy, the Exigy or something like that, which
may be quieter than a PCI-based card inside a computer. I think
we will soon see aspiring high-end USB-based devices showing
up in the audio reviews and on many listener's systems.