PC or individual audio system?

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R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah

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Oct 11, 2007, 6:20:11 PM10/11/07
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Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).

Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

--
<?php echo 'Just another PHP saint'; ?>
Email: rrjanbiah-at-Y!com Blog: http://rajeshanbiah.blogspot.com/

Harry Lavo

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Oct 11, 2007, 7:20:20 PM10/11/07
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"R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah" <ng4rrj...@rediffmail.com> wrote in message
news:fem7i...@news3.newsguy.com...

> Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
> experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
> speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).
>
> Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

No.

One can make the case that the PC makes a decent CD transport. Many
overstate even this simple fact.

As far as electronics are concerned, you still need a decent preamp section,
power amp, and speakers in order to get high-fidelity sound.

And you can't buy and play pre-recorded DVD-A's and SACD's on a PC...both
formats exceed the quality of ordinary CD's.

And you can't plug a turntable into a line-in PC input without a preamp in
any case, and even if you did that on many PC's you would get inferior
electronics.

Steven Sullivan

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Oct 12, 2007, 8:47:01 PM10/12/07
to
R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah <ng4rrj...@rediffmail.com> wrote:
> Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
> experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
> speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).

> Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

Better? Not necessarily. Just as good, and more convenient? Quite
possibly. However, a modern AVR will also offer room correction -- which
AFAIK is only offered by the new Vista PC audio scheme -- and other
features whihc may not be easily available on PC.

A good compromise is to store all of your music on a hard drive, and
stream it to a home theater system. Either way, by all means get the
best speakers you can, . THey'll make the biggest impact on sound, of all
your gear.

___
-S
"As human beings, we understand the world through simile, analogy,
metaphor, narrative and, sometimes, claymation." - B. Mason

R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah

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Oct 12, 2007, 8:47:33 PM10/12/07
to
On Oct 12, 4:20 am, "Harry Lavo" <hl...@comcast.net> wrote:
> "R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah" <ng4rrjanb...@rediffmail.com> wrote in messagenews:fem7i...@news3.newsguy.com...

Many thanks for your valuable input. Your points are quite
rational to me. But, I have also been told that many Music composers
(electronic music composers) too use PC instead of individual audio
system.

MRC01

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Oct 12, 2007, 8:52:37 PM10/12/07
to
On Oct 11, 3:20 pm, "R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah"

<ng4rrjanb...@rediffmail.com> wrote:
> Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
> experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
> speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).
>
> Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

In a word, no. You won't get high end sound quality from a PC.
However, a PC could be made to do a couple of things well. First and
most obviously, a CD transport. But that doesn't help if you don't
have a good D/A converter. The typical OEM sound card will not be as
good as what you can get in a well engineered CD player or D/A
converting amp.

So at a minimum, for high end sound you would need to put a good
aftermarket sound board in your PC. I'm thinking a Lynx or DAL would
do the job as well as many good high end preamps. These sound boards
cost a few hundred to a thousand bucks. Then you can wire the PC's
internal CD player into this sound card, using its high quality D/A
converters and analog (or digital) outputs. Now you have a cheap CD
transport and a good quality "preamp" with D/A and A/D converters.

All that said, you will still need a separate amplifier and set of
speakers (or headphones). Even with headphones you *may* need a
separate amp depending on the headphones you get and how picky you are
about sound quality. A sound card will drive most headphones just
fine, but most sound card outputs are designed to drive high impedance
(10+ kOhm) loads, and won't do justice to an inefficient set of
headphones requiring more power.

So at most your PC can become your source and preamp, saving you the
cost of a separate CD player and preamp. Sounds limited but it's
actually a good bargian considering what a good preamp and CD player
would cost - significantly more than one of those high end sound cards.

owe...@gmail.com

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Oct 14, 2007, 5:57:48 PM10/14/07
to
On Oct 11, 4:20 pm, "R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah"

<ng4rrjanb...@rediffmail.com> wrote:
> Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
> experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
> speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).
>
> Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

The bias of most "audiophile" tubeheads is that anything associated
with the word "digital" will give inferior results. However this is
simply not true using the most recent innovations. For a very
reasonable price, you can build an audiophile quality system based on
a PC. These are the components you need:

PC

First you need a PC, or better, a notebook computer. Windows Vista
has markedly improved audio processing relative to XP, and you must
use Vista. (Many reviewers feel the Vista audio is superior to Mac
audio, too.) Any notebook that runs Vista will be adequate. You do
NOT want or need a high-end sound card in the notebook -- this will be
handled externally. And you do not need a "game machine" with a high-
end graphics card. If this is dedicated to the music system, just get
the basics.

DAC (digital to audio converter)

You will need a "sound card", but internal sound cards -- even the
best internal sound cards -- are inferior to an excellent external USB
DAC. The DAC you want is the Trends UD-10 USB audio converter.
Search Google for the audiophile reviews of this little box. It sells
for about $120. It really is an extraordinary piece of hardware.
This box can be powered directly from the USB interface, but the sound
quality will be better if it is powered independently from a battery
source (I can confirm this, and most reviewers will mention this).

Amp

The DAC will need an amp. Here you can go the audiophile mega-buck
preamp and amp setups, or you can try something that I recommend, a T-
Class amp. There is an amazing new amp by the same company that makes
the UD-10, the Trends TA-10.1. It cost around $140. Again, search
out the audiophile reviews, like the one at 6Moons
http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/trends/ta10_3.html

In blind listening tests this little box has bettered audiophile amps
costing ten or twenty times more. It only pumps out about 10W, but
this drives my own (and many other reviewer's) audiophile-quality big
speakers to all the volume needed for a home system in a normal room.
See this review: http://www.stereomojo.com/SHOOTOUT2007INTEGRATEDS.htm

Speakers

Here go the big bucks.... And this is where they are needed. You
choose what you need, but take a look at the Axiom M-60 and M-80
speakers -- read the reviews, and you will get an idea how good they
are for around $1000 (M-60) to $1340 (M-80) a pair, delivered express
shipment to your door with a thirty day money back trial included in
the deal. Use 12 gauge speaker wire, but not the Monster-over-priced
stuff.

External CD-DVD drive

The CD player on a notebook can be inconvenient to use -- too small
and flimsy. Add a USB external CD-DVD drive for about $65 to make it
easier to get the disks in and out. And of course, you can use it to
burn copies of your music collection.

Software

Software manages the the music collection. It does not (and should
not) affect the quailty of the sound reproduction. Using Windows
Vista, you are sending the digital information directly to the
external UD-10 DAC. (Vista can add room correction and several other
high-level signal processing effects, but these can also be turned
completely OFF -- which is what the audiophile will prefer for initial
testing.)

Winamp 5.5 -- free software -- provids excellent audio library
management and all the pluggins one might need. Foobar is another
popular audiophile program, but with a more meager user interface (not
as pretty). iTunes works fine, but I hate the commercial clutter.

Media Storage

Put the notebook computer on your wireless home network. Add a big
500 GB drive to a computer on your network (they only cost about
$100). You can rip your CD collection to the hard drive for storage
-- but use a loseless format for conversion, like FLAC. These files
will sound as good as the CD -- no compression. If you must rip to
MP3, then use 256 kbit compression. This will give audio "almost"
indistinguishable from a CD.

Summary:

What does it cost? $260 for the TA-10 amp and UD-10 DAC. $1000 for
the speakers. Plus your notebook computer -- about $750 if you buy
one new with Windows Vista loaded. This adds up to a true audiophile-
quality system with amazing simplicity and vast music library storage
and access power. Before accepting the easy "it will not work well"
answers, dig in and read a bit about the components listed above. In
testing by highly trained ears, this system sounds better than many
"tubehead" audiophile setups costing over $10,000.

bob

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Oct 14, 2007, 11:24:08 PM10/14/07
to
On Oct 14, 5:57 pm, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

> The bias of most "audiophile" tubeheads is that anything associated
> with the word "digital" will give inferior results. However this is
> simply not true using the most recent innovations. For a very
> reasonable price, you can build an audiophile quality system based on
> a PC. These are the components you need:
>
> PC
>
> First you need a PC, or better, a notebook computer. Windows Vista
> has markedly improved audio processing relative to XP, and you must
> use Vista. (Many reviewers feel the Vista audio is superior to Mac
> audio, too.) Any notebook that runs Vista will be adequate. You do
> NOT want or need a high-end sound card in the notebook -- this will be
> handled externally. And you do not need a "game machine" with a high-
> end graphics card. If this is dedicated to the music system, just get
> the basics.

If you want multichannel capability, Vista may well be the cat's
pajamas. For 2-channel, I'm not sure what benefits it offers over XP
or Mac.

> DAC (digital to audio converter)
>
> You will need a "sound card", but internal sound cards -- even the
> best internal sound cards -- are inferior to an excellent external USB
> DAC. The DAC you want is the Trends UD-10 USB audio converter.
> Search Google for the audiophile reviews of this little box. It sells
> for about $120. It really is an extraordinary piece of hardware.
> This box can be powered directly from the USB interface, but the sound
> quality will be better if it is powered independently from a battery
> source (I can confirm this, and most reviewers will mention this).

Assuming it meets spec, this is a perfectly adequate little unit,
though it certainly isn't anything unique. I'd be dubious about the
battery-vs-USB power claim.

> Amp
>
> The DAC will need an amp. Here you can go the audiophile mega-buck
> preamp and amp setups, or you can try something that I recommend, a T-
> Class amp. There is an amazing new amp by the same company that makes
> the UD-10, the Trends TA-10.1. It cost around $140. Again, search
> out the audiophile reviews, like the one at 6Moonshttp://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/trends/ta10_3.html

T-amps are crap--lots of distortion, and no power. But it's unusual,
which is the only thing that matters to the likes of 6moons. Any old
solid state receiver will out-perform it.

> In blind listening tests this little box has bettered audiophile amps
> costing ten or twenty times more.

Must have been a lot of distortion fans in that test!

> It only pumps out about 10W, but
> this drives my own (and many other reviewer's) audiophile-quality big
> speakers to all the volume needed for a home system in a normal room.
> See this review:http://www.stereomojo.com/SHOOTOUT2007INTEGRATEDS.htm
>
> Speakers
>
> Here go the big bucks.... And this is where they are needed. You
> choose what you need, but take a look at the Axiom M-60 and M-80
> speakers -- read the reviews, and you will get an idea how good they
> are for around $1000 (M-60) to $1340 (M-80) a pair, delivered express
> shipment to your door with a thirty day money back trial included in
> the deal. Use 12 gauge speaker wire, but not the Monster-over-priced
> stuff.

Might be better to ask the guy what his budget is first, but Axiom's
not a bad choice.

> External CD-DVD drive
>
> The CD player on a notebook can be inconvenient to use -- too small
> and flimsy. Add a USB external CD-DVD drive for about $65 to make it
> easier to get the disks in and out. And of course, you can use it to
> burn copies of your music collection.

This makes no sense at all. An external drive offers no performance
advantage whatsoever.

> Software
>
> Software manages the the music collection. It does not (and should
> not) affect the quailty of the sound reproduction. Using Windows
> Vista, you are sending the digital information directly to the
> external UD-10 DAC. (Vista can add room correction and several other
> high-level signal processing effects, but these can also be turned
> completely OFF -- which is what the audiophile will prefer for initial
> testing.)
>
> Winamp 5.5 -- free software -- provids excellent audio library
> management and all the pluggins one might need. Foobar is another
> popular audiophile program, but with a more meager user interface (not
> as pretty). iTunes works fine, but I hate the commercial clutter.

Commercial clutter? Nothing that can't be turned off.

> Media Storage
>
> Put the notebook computer on your wireless home network. Add a big
> 500 GB drive to a computer on your network (they only cost about
> $100). You can rip your CD collection to the hard drive for storage
> -- but use a loseless format for conversion, like FLAC. These files
> will sound as good as the CD -- no compression. If you must rip to
> MP3, then use 256 kbit compression. This will give audio "almost"
> indistinguishable from a CD.

Probably indistinguishable for all but a few recordings, and only if
you know exactly what to listen for.

> Summary:
>
> What does it cost? $260 for the TA-10 amp and UD-10 DAC. $1000 for
> the speakers. Plus your notebook computer -- about $750 if you buy
> one new with Windows Vista loaded. This adds up to a true audiophile-
> quality system with amazing simplicity and vast music library storage
> and access power. Before accepting the easy "it will not work well"
> answers, dig in and read a bit about the components listed above. In
> testing by highly trained ears, this system sounds better than many
> "tubehead" audiophile setups costing over $10,000.

A PC-based system is quite capable of high-end sound. The key is an
accurate USB DAC.

bob

owe...@gmail.com

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Oct 15, 2007, 7:14:01 PM10/15/07
to
The author of the above comment is not well informed about the
specifics of this setup. Since I have this system, and have
researched every element, and tested every element, and know what good
sound is: let me reply to the comments:

> If you want multichannel capability, Vista may well be the cat's
> pajamas. For 2-channel, I'm not sure what benefits it offers over XP
> or Mac.

This is a totally misinformed comment, indicating little understanding
of current software. Audio in XP is a left-over from Windows 3.
Vista entirely rewrites the audio stack, and does away with several
severe limitations of XP audio (like kmixer). It is a very important
and very substantial change. And the result is more advanced than
current Mac OSX audio processing. Search out the technical documents
on Google -- there are lots.

> Assuming it meets spec, this is a perfectly adequate little unit,
> though it certainly isn't anything unique. I'd be dubious about the
> battery-vs-USB power claim.

Before commenting, put the unit in a good system, and do a test. The
5.6v signal on a USB cable is provided with limited current. Using
the battery provides obvious improvement in A/B testing, cleaner DC
voltage and better current. It is not a subtle improvement, as many
reviewers have noted. The UD-10 is outstanding in component quality
and audio results. Test it against a top line Creative Audigy, and
difference in sound quality is obvious. If you have not done the
test, do not hypothesize....

> T-amps are crap--lots of distortion, and no power. But it's unusual,
> which is the only thing that matters to the likes of 6moons. Any old
> solid state receiver will out-perform it.

Simply wrong. Try listening to the best of them before commenting.
You would not say that if you had done the testing. Much of course
depends on the component quality -- the good ones with audiophile
quality capacitors and design are amazing. Audiophile review after
review notes the extraordinary audio reproduction produced by T amp --
they have a very "tube-like" quality.

> Must have been a lot of distortion fans in that test!

Well, you will find a dozen other reviews that agree the audio quality
is distortion-free and very cleanly musical.

> This makes no sense at all. An external drive offers no performance
> advantage whatsoever.

My comment says "ease of use" with a notebook. Perhaps you have not
used the little side-drawer CD on a notebook frequently. The external
CD/DVD is big, easy to use and has a front-loading drawer. No
technical advantage, sounds the same, but much easier to quickly load
and unload your music CD's.

> A PC-based system is quite capable of high-end sound. The key is an
> accurate USB DAC.

That last point is correct. The USB DAC is critical. However, you
fail to understand the UD-10 is just such a superior quality DAC.

If you wish to pontificate, do so. If you wish to provide accurate
technical information, do some research -- including empirical
testing.

Arny Krueger

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Oct 15, 2007, 7:55:24 PM10/15/07
to
"R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah" <ng4rrj...@rediffmail.com> wrote in message
news:fep4j...@news4.newsguy.com...

> Many thanks for your valuable input.

Unfortunately, much of what has been said in this thread is simply wrong,
and has been briefly rebutted in another post.

> Your points are quite rational to me.

But regrattably those comments are not well-informed.

> But, I have also been told that many Music composers
> (electronic music composers) too use PC instead of individual audio
> system.

You've been told right, but only part of the story. PC's are widely used for
audio production and playback, by both professionals, skilled amateurs, and
everyday people.

jwvm

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Oct 15, 2007, 7:56:33 PM10/15/07
to
On Oct 14, 5:57 pm, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

<snip>

> First you need a PC, or better, a notebook computer. Windows Vista
> has markedly improved audio processing relative to XP, and you must
> use Vista. (Many reviewers feel the Vista audio is superior to Mac
> audio, too.) Any notebook that runs Vista will be adequate. You do
> NOT want or need a high-end sound card in the notebook -- this will be
> handled externally. And you do not need a "game machine" with a high-
> end graphics card. If this is dedicated to the music system, just get
> the basics.

What is so special about Vista or Macs for that matter? Vista, BTW,
has extensive DRM that may make it a very poor choice for audio. Do a
google search using "vista" and "DRM" and see what comes back. XP
might not be a bad choice for surround sound:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/musicandvideo/hdvideo/SurroundSoundSys.aspx

It certainly works well for stereo with a wide variety of software.

>
> DAC (digital to audio converter)
>
> You will need a "sound card", but internal sound cards -- even the
> best internal sound cards -- are inferior to an excellent external USB
> DAC. The DAC you want is the Trends UD-10 USB audio converter.
> Search Google for the audiophile reviews of this little box. It sells
> for about $120. It really is an extraordinary piece of hardware.
> This box can be powered directly from the USB interface, but the sound
> quality will be better if it is powered independently from a battery
> source (I can confirm this, and most reviewers will mention this).

Why not just use the digital audio output from a soundcard and run it
to a receiver with digital input? Laptops with digital out are
available.

<snip>

> In blind listening tests this little box has bettered audiophile amps
> costing ten or twenty times more. It only pumps out about 10W, but
> this drives my own (and many other reviewer's) audiophile-quality big
> speakers to all the volume needed for a home system in a normal room.
> See this review:http://www.stereomojo.com/SHOOTOUT2007INTEGRATEDS.htm

Ten watts sounds pretty wimpy. You better have some really efficient
speakers with this amp f you like your music loud!

jwvm

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Oct 15, 2007, 7:57:18 PM10/15/07
to
On Oct 12, 8:52 pm, MRC01 <m...@mclements.net> wrote:

<Snip>

> In a word, no. You won't get high end sound quality from a PC.
> However, a PC could be made to do a couple of things well. First and
> most obviously, a CD transport. But that doesn't help if you don't
> have a good D/A converter. The typical OEM sound card will not be as
> good as what you can get in a well engineered CD player or D/A
> converting amp.

How so? Very similar converters are used in sound cards, CD players
and receivers. Why should there be a big difference?

>
> So at a minimum, for high end sound you would need to put a good
> aftermarket sound board in your PC. I'm thinking a Lynx or DAL would
> do the job as well as many good high end preamps. These sound boards
> cost a few hundred to a thousand bucks. Then you can wire the PC's
> internal CD player into this sound card, using its high quality D/A
> converters and analog (or digital) outputs. Now you have a cheap CD
> transport and a good quality "preamp" with D/A and A/D converters.

These cards are overkill for playback. Both are designed for very high-
quality professional recording. Just use a sound card with digital out
and run that to a good-quality receiver with digital input.

>
> All that said, you will still need a separate amplifier and set of
> speakers (or headphones). Even with headphones you *may* need a
> separate amp depending on the headphones you get and how picky you are
> about sound quality. A sound card will drive most headphones just
> fine, but most sound card outputs are designed to drive high impedance
> (10+ kOhm) loads, and won't do justice to an inefficient set of
> headphones requiring more power.
>

Headphones can be driven quite well from most modern sound cards. Just
check the specs before buying if this is what you want to do.

Walt

unread,
Oct 15, 2007, 8:02:24 PM10/15/07
to
R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah wrote:

> Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
> experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
> speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).
>
> Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

Most home computers as shipped will provide lousy audio - typically the
sound cards are mediocre, the speakers are horrendous, and if you have
the unit in your listening room you'll raise your noise floor to 40 to
50 db SPL just from the noise of the spinning hard drives.

That said, if you locate the unit in another room (or spend $$$ for a
quiet one), change out the sound card for something decent (you don't
need to spend big dollars for this, but you definitely want to get the
crackerjack box quality sound card out of the audio chain) and hook it
up to a good amp and speakers it should sound as good as separate hi-fi
components. The advantage is that it'll be more flexible since you can
store your library right on the hard drive rather than having a pile of
physical media. The disadvantage is that it'll be more complicated to
set up and then be obsolete in a few years.

BTW, the "sound as good" part assumes that your source is uncompressed
rather than bit-rate reduced audio files (e.g. MPEG Layer III). If
you're listening to 128k MP3s, the very best you can hope for is mediocre.

//Walt

Arny Krueger

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Oct 16, 2007, 6:58:45 PM10/16/07
to
"MRC01" <mi...@mclements.net> wrote in message
news:fep4s...@news5.newsguy.com...

> On Oct 11, 3:20 pm, "R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah"
> <ng4rrjanb...@rediffmail.com> wrote:
>> Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
>> experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
>> speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).
>>
>> Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

> In a word, no. You won't get high end sound quality from a PC.

Given the degree to which professional production of music and recordings is
dominated by computers, it is somewhat unlikely that you will get high end
sound quality without there being a computer involved with the signal path.

> However, a PC could be made to do a couple of things well. First and
> most obviously, a CD transport.

Most preminantely, a complete audio recording production system.

> But that doesn't help if you don't
> have a good D/A converter. The typical OEM sound card will not be as
> good as what you can get in a well engineered CD player or D/A
> converting amp.

Straw man argument - as there's absolutely no need to limit the discussion
to typical OEM sound cards. In fact the use of the phrase "typical OEM sound
card" shows a lack of familiarity with how modern PCs are made. The
so-called "typical OEM sound card" ceased to exist about a decade ago - all
OEM sound is made by chips that are permanently mounted to the system board
of the PC.

If you're interested in high end sound quality you buy a quality audio
interface for a $100 or more.

> So at a minimum, for high end sound you would need to put a good
> aftermarket sound board in your PC. I'm thinking a Lynx or DAL would
> do the job as well as many good high end preamps.

Now, you're talking! However, DAL is no longer a leading producer of
competitive audio interfaces. Also, the performance of the Lynx sound boards
is duplicated by EMu at a fraction of the price.

> These sound boards
> cost a few hundred to a thousand bucks. Then you can wire the PC's
> internal CD player into this sound card, using its high quality D/A
> converters and analog (or digital) outputs. Now you have a cheap CD
> transport and a good quality "preamp" with D/A and A/D converters.

In fact internal CD players are never specially wired into sound cards, and
haven't been for about a decade. The audio data passes through the normal
IDE or SATA interface, into the motherboard, and out the audio interface.

> All that said, you will still need a separate amplifier and set of
> speakers (or headphones).

Except of course for the headphones and sound cards that are compatible with
each other. There are numerous examples. Making a big point out of the need
for a separate amp for speakers ignores the fact that there are such things
as professional grade speakers with built in power amps that can be
connected directly to the audio interface.

> Even with headphones you *may* need a
> separate amp depending on the headphones you get and how picky you are
> about sound quality. A sound card will drive most headphones just
> fine, but most sound card outputs are designed to drive high impedance
> (10+ kOhm) loads, and won't do justice to an inefficient set of
> headphones requiring more power.

In fact most professional sound cards are designed to drive 600 ohm loads,
and the consumer grade cards are designed to drive 16 ohm loads.

Steven Sullivan

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 7:00:02 PM10/16/07
to
Walt <walt_...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah wrote:

> > Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
> > experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
> > speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).
> >
> > Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA

> Most home computers as shipped will provide lousy audio - typically the
> sound cards are mediocre, the speakers are horrendous, and if you have
> the unit in your listening room you'll raise your noise floor to 40 to
> 50 db SPL just from the noise of the spinning hard drives.

> That said, if you locate the unit in another room (or spend $$$ for a
> quiet one), change out the sound card for something decent (you don't
> need to spend big dollars for this, but you definitely want to get the
> crackerjack box quality sound card out of the audio chain) and hook it
> up to a good amp and speakers it should sound as good as separate hi-fi
> components. The advantage is that it'll be more flexible since you can
> store your library right on the hard drive rather than having a pile of
> physical media. The disadvantage is that it'll be more complicated to
> set up and then be obsolete in a few years.

So, what exactly constitute 'crackerjack box' soundcards? Brands/models?

> BTW, the "sound as good" part assumes that your source is uncompressed
> rather than bit-rate reduced audio files (e.g. MPEG Layer III). If
> you're listening to 128k MP3s, the very best you can hope for is mediocre.

Actually, since many people can't tell a good 128 kbps mp3 from source,
the best you can hope for is better than *mediocre*.

MRC01

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 7:00:50 PM10/16/07
to
On Oct 15, 4:57 pm, jwvm <j...@umich.edu> wrote:
> On Oct 12, 8:52 pm, MRC01 <m...@mclements.net> wrote:
>
> <Snip>
>
> > In a word, no. You won't get high end sound quality from a PC.
> > However, a PC could be made to do a couple of things well. First and
> > most obviously, a CD transport. But that doesn't help if you don't
> > have a good D/A converter. The typical OEM sound card will not be as
> > good as what you can get in a well engineered CD player or D/A
> > converting amp.
>
> How so? Very similar converters are used in sound cards, CD players
> and receivers. Why should there be a big difference?

As shipped from the manufacturer (standard OEM equipment), most PCs
have a cheap sound card that, while functional, does not produce audio
quality deserving of the name "high end".

> > So at a minimum, for high end sound you would need to put a good
> > aftermarket sound board in your PC. I'm thinking a Lynx or DAL would
> > do the job as well as many good high end preamps. These sound boards
> > cost a few hundred to a thousand bucks. Then you can wire the PC's
> > internal CD player into this sound card, using its high quality D/A
> > converters and analog (or digital) outputs. Now you have a cheap CD
> > transport and a good quality "preamp" with D/A and A/D converters.
>
> These cards are overkill for playback. Both are designed for very high-
> quality professional recording. Just use a sound card with digital out
> and run that to a good-quality receiver with digital input.

Even an M-Audio card at $100 would be comparable to many good preamps
and far better quality than the crappy cards I often see as OEM
equipment in a PC.

> > All that said, you will still need a separate amplifier and set of
> > speakers (or headphones). Even with headphones you *may* need a
> > separate amp depending on the headphones you get and how picky you are
> > about sound quality. A sound card will drive most headphones just
> > fine, but most sound card outputs are designed to drive high impedance
> > (10+ kOhm) loads, and won't do justice to an inefficient set of
> > headphones requiring more power.
>
> Headphones can be driven quite well from most modern sound cards. Just
> check the specs before buying if this is what you want to do.

Overall, my point is that a PC can be made to serve quite well as a
full function preamp with D/A and A/D converters providing 2, 5 or
even 7 channel audio of high fidelity comparable to high quality
separate dedicated components, for a fraction of the cost. But the PC
usually does *not* come like this from the manufacturer with its
standard OEM equipment.

owe...@gmail.com

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 7:06:22 PM10/16/07
to
I am hearing a lot of distortion in the comments above. Let me try
to help those trying to build a really fine PC-based audio system --
hopefully these comments will be useful to those attempting to figure
stuff out. If you have already figured everything out, disregard this
post.

First, there is a difference between "good audio" reproduction and
"very high-end" or "audiophile" audio reproduction. The vast majority
of people have never heard the amazing sound of a really good
audiophile quality system playing in a properly mated environment. If
the music coming out of your iPod is good enough, then you can easily
get adequate audio from a very economical consumer system. And your
computer with a basic sound card hooked into a consumer receiver or a
networked Slingbox with cheap bookcase speakers may fully meet your
needs. I know professional musicians who are satisfied with the audio
quality of simple component systems -- they know what perfect sound
is, but they don't feel any need to get it from a home system. Most
normal people are satisfied with "normal" consumer audio components.

But if YOU want "high-end" audio reproduction in your home, the point
of my original post above is that it can be done for under $2,000
using a PC and a computer-based audio library.

The difference between "good" audio from a computer based system and
"high-end" audio comes down to very careful selection of components
and very careful management of all sources that distort or detract
from near-perfect sound reproduction. Tastes vary in defining
"perfect", and individuals can unendingly and unproductively argue the
details of the personal sensory perceptions which create the
experience of beautiful sound. Nonetheless, with care toward the
details and a relatively modest investment, anyone can create a PC
based system that every listener will agree exceeds "good" and
approaches "superior" or even "audiophile" (read that word "audio
fettish") quality. It will not have the snob appeal of a $10,000+
system, but it may sound nearly as good.

First, the source audio must be very good. If your digital music is
all 128kbps mp3 encoded (as found on your iPod), then forget the high-
end audio reproduction. The source is inadequate, and will never
sound great, no matter how you get it to your superb speakers. Too
much subtle sound information is missing. Move up the quality. On an
average consumer audio system, with higher quality 256kbps mp3
encoding, you will NOT be able to distinguish a difference between the
digital file and the original CD. But use a high-end system and even
with 256kbps mp3 encoding, the mp3 audio WILL be slightly (emphasize
slightly) distinguishable from the original CD. That is the
difference a high-end system makes. You hear everything the source
has to offer (or lacks). To get mp3 audio indistinguishable from the
source CD when played on a high-end audiopile system, one needs to
encode mp3 files at 320kbps, or even better, rip audio files in a
lossless format such as FLAC. We are talking here about an esoteric
concern with perfection.

Next issue is how the computer's digital possessing handles the
digital signal BEFORE sending it to be converted to analog audio. In
a modern computer, this is dependent on the audio stack -- the
operating system code that handles digital audio signal processing.
Here the details are very complex, but again, the team that designed
this software for Windows Vista did an excellent job. The audio stack
in Vista is fast and very clean -- what goes in (a digital stream of
sound information from a CD, mp3, or other digital audio file) comes
out the other end very true to the source. This was NOT the case with
WinXP. The computer needs a reasonably fast processor and adequate
memory to run Vista. But if it comes loaded with Vista, it has all
the computing power needed to handle audio processing in Vista.

Then comes the DAC, or "sound card" (or the integrated sound processor
on the PC motherboard) -- the device for turning a jagged digital
stream of 1's and 0's into analog audio, a smoothly varying wave of
voltage. The problem with a sound card INSIDE a computer, no matter
how good the card, is that it lives INSIDE the computer.
Electronically, this is a very noisy place. It moves digital
information just fine, but it is very hard to get a perfectly "clean"
analog wave out of the computer box -- some random noise (buzz, click,
hum) is unavoidably added by the myriad electromagnetic waves inside a
computer box. To test this, buy the very best sound card made, put it
in the computer, hook it to an amp, and with no input sound, turn the
volume all the way up. Listen to the computer's intrinsic noise.
That is why audiophiles move the DAC (or digital to analog converter)
OUT of the computer box. It has been found that a USB DAC device --
where digital signals are sent out of the computer to be converted to
analog audio wave voltage in a separate box -- provides cleaner sound.
The analog circuit is isolated from a huge amount of electromagetic
energy by moving it outside of the computer. The DAC does not need to
be very far from the computer, just OUTSIDE the box and perhaps a
couple feet away.

The audio coming from the USB DAC can also be contaminated with
computer "buzz" if it gets all of its DC power from the computer via
the USB 2.0 cable. (USB 2.0 supplies up to a max of 500 milliamps at
5VDC via the cable to all the connected USB devices on the hub.)
This DC line voltage can carry some random distorting "hum" into the
analog audio circuit. Another problem is power availability using the
USB cable as the power source. A sudden burst of sound will need
sudden immediate power avaiable to the DAC to create the analog audio
wave at proper power amplitude. The USB cable power may not be able to
meet this sudden dynamic power need. This diminishes the livelyness
and depth of the sound. If the USB DAC is powered independently -- by
its own clean DC power source -- it usually will sound better. Many
people notice a battery source of DC power for the USB DAC provides
the best sound. After testing this, I agree. Obviously, final
results depend on the quality of the DAC, and the Trends UD-10 is an
excellent DAC for high-end audio reproduction, certainly better than
most consumer audio USB devices like the Creative Audigy. These are
subtle details, but with a high-end audio system they make a very
noticable improvement in the attempt to produce the best possible
sound. Of course, they are irrelevant concerns when casually
listening to average quality mp3's on average computer speakers.

The analog audio signal from the DAC is sent to a power amp and
speakers. I will not say more on the need for quality here. I
mentioned two very good options for superior sound at relatively low
cost, the TA-10.1 amp and Axiom speakers. Everyone needs to make
their own choices.

DRM problems? NO, none. DRM -- digital rights management -- is a
feature of certain software audio players installed on the computer.
iTunes and Windows Media Player have some DRM protection elements in
them -- reasons I do not use either. Foobar and Winamp do not. Many
other software players also are available free of DRM issues of any
sort. This is NOT a limitation encorporated in Windows Vista or Mac
OSX operating system. It is -- or is not -- a feature built into the
library management software running on top of the operating system.
You can download, rip and play anything you wish with the proper
software. But you should respect the right of artists to be
compensated for their work.

I hope this brief and simplified information is of help to someone.
Spend a few evenings with Google, and you can learn much more. Spend
a few months experimenting with the equipment, and you will really
understand what you have read.

Rob Tweed

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 7:08:01 PM10/16/07
to
On 14 Oct 2007 21:57:48 GMT, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

>DAC (digital to audio converter)
>
>You will need a "sound card", but internal sound cards -- even the
>best internal sound cards -- are inferior to an excellent external USB
>DAC. The DAC you want is the Trends UD-10 USB audio converter.
>Search Google for the audiophile reviews of this little box. It sells
>for about $120. It really is an extraordinary piece of hardware.
>This box can be powered directly from the USB interface, but the sound
>quality will be better if it is powered independently from a battery
>source (I can confirm this, and most reviewers will mention this).
>

For a considerably larger amount of money there's the Benchmark DAC-1
USB which seems to always get the rave reviews. At nearly 900 UK
pounds I'm still saving!

At the cheap and chearful end there's the Edirol UA-1EX which I
currently use - not bad for the money but not earth-shattering either.

I'm considering the E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 right now (about 130 UK pounds),
particularly since i want to be able to make field recordings from
microphones as well - it's received some very good reviews, eg
http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/proaudio/emu-0404-usb.html and
sounds like it should work well for playback of ripped CDs from iTunes
etc. Not sure I like the 1/4 inch jacks for audio output though.

For really cheap but interesting gear check out Behringer. I've not
heard any of their equipment but they have an equivalent to the Edirol
UA-1EX: the UCA202 for 22 UK pounds - half the price of the Edirol.
They also have interesting power amps that have been mentioned in this
forum in the past: eg the A500 which costs 125 UK pounds. And their
speakers (their Truth range, eg: http://www.dv247.com/invt/25944/)?
Dunno - anyone listened to any?
---

Rob Tweed
Company: M/Gateway Developments Ltd
Registered in England: No 3220901
Registered Office: 58 Francis Road,Ashford, Kent TN23 7UR

Web-site: http://www.mgateway.com

Out of the Slipstream: Come to the conference!
http://www.outoftheslipstream.com

bob

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 7:10:31 PM10/16/07
to
On Oct 15, 7:14 pm, owe...@gmail.com wrote:
> The author of the above comment is not well informed about the
> specifics of this setup. Since I have this system, and have
> researched every element, and tested every element, and know what good
> sound is: let me reply to the comments:

Hmmm, it appears you have some confusion about the distinction between
facts and opinions. let's see if we can help you out here:

> > If you want multichannel capability, Vista may well be the cat's
> > pajamas. For 2-channel, I'm not sure what benefits it offers over XP
> > or Mac.
>
> This is a totally misinformed comment, indicating little understanding
> of current software. Audio in XP is a left-over from Windows 3.
> Vista entirely rewrites the audio stack, and does away with several
> severe limitations of XP audio (like kmixer). It is a very important
> and very substantial change. And the result is more advanced than
> current Mac OSX audio processing. Search out the technical documents
> on Google -- there are lots.

Vista audio may be totally awesome in a thousand ways, but that's not
the issue. The issue is, what specifically does it offer for the
narrow (and simple) task of playing back two-channel 16/44.1 audio,
and what concrete improvements does that provide in terms of audible
sound quality? Can you answer that question for us? If the room
correction feature applies to two-channel, that would be a definite
improvement on XP or OSX. What else?

> > Assuming it meets spec, this is a perfectly adequate little unit,
> > though it certainly isn't anything unique. I'd be dubious about the
> > battery-vs-USB power claim.
>
> Before commenting, put the unit in a good system, and do a test. The
> 5.6v signal on a USB cable is provided with limited current. Using
> the battery provides obvious improvement in A/B testing, cleaner DC
> voltage and better current. It is not a subtle improvement, as many
> reviewers have noted. The UD-10 is outstanding in component quality
> and audio results. Test it against a top line Creative Audigy, and
> difference in sound quality is obvious. If you have not done the
> test, do not hypothesize....

Listening and testing are two different things. Can you tell the
difference between USB and battery power when you don't know which is
in use? And if so, is that difference just a matter of output power
(easily compensated for with a volume knob) or something else? When
you can answer those questions, you'll be entitled to tell me my
skepticism was misplaced. Not until.

> > T-amps are crap--lots of distortion, and no power. But it's unusual,
> > which is the only thing that matters to the likes of 6moons. Any old
> > solid state receiver will out-perform it.
>
> Simply wrong. Try listening to the best of them before commenting.
> You would not say that if you had done the testing. Much of course
> depends on the component quality -- the good ones with audiophile
> quality capacitors and design are amazing. Audiophile review after
> review notes the extraordinary audio reproduction produced by T amp --
> they have a very "tube-like" quality.

I would consider "tube-like quality" to be a negative. But if 10% THD
is your idea of "quality," then these amps are for you! (And cranked
to the limit, as it was in that shootout you linked to, that is
literally what the Trend amp produces, according to the manfacturer.)

> > Must have been a lot of distortion fans in that test!
>
> Well, you will find a dozen other reviews that agree the audio quality
> is distortion-free and very cleanly musical.

Which should tell you something about the people who write reviews--it
should tell you to ignore them.

> > This makes no sense at all. An external drive offers no performance
> > advantage whatsoever.
>
> My comment says "ease of use" with a notebook. Perhaps you have not
> used the little side-drawer CD on a notebook frequently. The external
> CD/DVD is big, easy to use and has a front-loading drawer. No
> technical advantage, sounds the same, but much easier to quickly load
> and unload your music CD's.

Though you were talking about sound quality. I use an iBook, which has
a slot. Much easier to use than a drawer.

> > A PC-based system is quite capable of high-end sound. The key is an
> > accurate USB DAC.
>
> That last point is correct. The USB DAC is critical. However, you
> fail to understand the UD-10 is just such a superior quality DAC.
>
> If you wish to pontificate, do so. If you wish to provide accurate
> technical information, do some research -- including empirical
> testing.

I suspect you do not really know what constitutes empirical testing in
this field.

bob

Sonnova

unread,
Oct 16, 2007, 7:11:51 PM10/16/07
to
On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:55:24 -0700, Arny Krueger wrote
(in article <ff0ul...@news5.newsguy.com>):

And, like anything else, are all over the place as far as quality is
concerned.

Steven Sullivan

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 6:52:37 PM10/17/07
to
owe...@gmail.com wrote:
> I am hearing a lot of distortion in the comments above. Let me try
> to help those trying to build a really fine PC-based audio system --
> hopefully these comments will be useful to those attempting to figure
> stuff out. If you have already figured everything out, disregard this
> post.

> First, there is a difference between "good audio" reproduction and
> "very high-end" or "audiophile" audio reproduction. The vast majority
> of people have never heard the amazing sound of a really good
> audiophile quality system playing in a properly mated environment. If
> the music coming out of your iPod is good enough,

Have you seen the bench test performance of an ipod? I'm guessing not.
You might look up Stereophile's, for one.

It's more than 'good enough'.

> First, the source audio must be very good. If your digital music is
> all 128kbps mp3 encoded (as found on your iPod), then forget the high-
> end audio reproduction. The source is inadequate, and will never
> sound great, no matter how you get it to your superb speakers. Too
> much subtle sound information is missing. Move up the quality. On an
> average consumer audio system, with higher quality 256kbps mp3
> encoding, you will NOT be able to distinguish a difference between the
> digital file and the original CD. But use a high-end system and even
> with 256kbps mp3 encoding, the mp3 audio WILL be slightly (emphasize
> slightly) distinguishable from the original CD.

That depends much more on who is listening, how the mp3 was encoded, and
what was encoded. And you'll have a better chance doing it on decent
heaphones (they needn't be 'high end'), rather than a system involving
loudspeakers and room interactions.

> voltage. The problem with a sound card INSIDE a computer, no matter
> how good the card, is that it lives INSIDE the computer.
> Electronically, this is a very noisy place. It moves digital
> information just fine, but it is very hard to get a perfectly "clean"
> analog wave out of the computer box -- some random noise (buzz, click,
> hum) is unavoidably added by the myriad electromagnetic waves inside a
> computer box. To test this, buy the very best sound card made, put it
> in the computer, hook it to an amp, and with no input sound, turn the
> volume all the way up. Listen to the computer's intrinsic noise.

That's a remarkably unrealistic test...and one that 'high end' components
would likely fail too. It might also damage your speakers if you
accidentally run a normal signal though them at that level.

A better test is to run the output of your soundcard into its input, and
use the Rightmark software to measure its noise characteristics
(www.rightmark.org).

My own M-Audio 2496, running on a bog-standard Dell PC that's about 5 yrs
old, has a noise floor down around -100dB.

I'm afraid your post contains a lot of audiophile 'lore' but not all
that much fact.

bob

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 6:55:47 PM10/17/07
to
On Oct 16, 7:06 pm, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

> But if YOU want "high-end" audio reproduction in your home, the point
> of my original post above is that it can be done for under $2,000
> using a PC and a computer-based audio library.

Agreed.

<snip>

> First, the source audio must be very good. If your digital music is
> all 128kbps mp3 encoded (as found on your iPod), then forget the high-
> end audio reproduction. The source is inadequate, and will never
> sound great, no matter how you get it to your superb speakers. Too
> much subtle sound information is missing. Move up the quality. On an
> average consumer audio system, with higher quality 256kbps mp3
> encoding, you will NOT be able to distinguish a difference between the
> digital file and the original CD. But use a high-end system and even
> with 256kbps mp3 encoding, the mp3 audio WILL be slightly (emphasize
> slightly) distinguishable from the original CD. That is the
> difference a high-end system makes. You hear everything the source
> has to offer (or lacks). To get mp3 audio indistinguishable from the
> source CD when played on a high-end audiopile system, one needs to
> encode mp3 files at 320kbps, or even better, rip audio files in a
> lossless format such as FLAC. We are talking here about an esoteric
> concern with perfection.

I know of no evidence that differences between MP3 and CD are more
audible on high-end systems than decent mass-market ones. The research
I've seen suggests that the key variable isn't the system but the
listener. To hear differences with codecs at higher bit rates, you
need to know precisely what to listen for. The system you listen on is
far less important. If you have actual evidence to the contrary (as
opposed to your opinion) please offer it.

> Next issue is how the computer's digital possessing handles the
> digital signal BEFORE sending it to be converted to analog audio. In
> a modern computer, this is dependent on the audio stack -- the
> operating system code that handles digital audio signal processing.
> Here the details are very complex, but again, the team that designed
> this software for Windows Vista did an excellent job. The audio stack
> in Vista is fast and very clean -- what goes in (a digital stream of
> sound information from a CD, mp3, or other digital audio file) comes
> out the other end very true to the source. This was NOT the case with
> WinXP.

Really? It's certainly true for OSX. It is trivially easy to put a bit-
for-bit copy of a CD on a hard drive. It is also trivially easy to
subsequently deliver those very same bits to an outboard DAC, either a
USB device or an A/V receiver. XP couldn't do that? I know Microsoft
sucks, but I didn't know it was THAT bad.

<snip>

> The audio coming from the USB DAC can also be contaminated with
> computer "buzz" if it gets all of its DC power from the computer via
> the USB 2.0 cable. (USB 2.0 supplies up to a max of 500 milliamps at
> 5VDC via the cable to all the connected USB devices on the hub.)
> This DC line voltage can carry some random distorting "hum" into the
> analog audio circuit.

This should be measurable. Got any measurements?

> Another problem is power availability using the
> USB cable as the power source. A sudden burst of sound will need
> sudden immediate power avaiable to the DAC to create the analog audio
> wave at proper power amplitude. The USB cable power may not be able to
> meet this sudden dynamic power need. This diminishes the livelyness
> and depth of the sound.

This is certainly a theoretical possibility, but again I'm skeptical,
given the low voltage required of a line-level source. Again, it
should be measurable. Please supply some measurements.

bob

Sonnova

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:10:19 PM10/17/07
to
On Tue, 16 Oct 2007 16:08:01 -0700, Rob Tweed wrote
(in article <ff3g8...@news5.newsguy.com>):

I have a Behringer UCA202. Bought it for US$30 from Zzounds. I use it to
allow me to employ my Mac iBook as a digital recorder. I use it in
conjunction with a Behringer XENYX1202 mixer and a pair of SM-Pro CP-1 large
capsule condenser mikes as well as an Avantone CK-40 stereo condenser mike.
The digital recordings it allows me to make (via Audacity) are really
excellent, easily as good as my big Otari studio DAT Recorder.

I have also used it convert LPs to WAVE files and that works great too. For
the money, you can't go wrong.

Sonnova

Sonnova

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:11:20 PM10/17/07
to
On Tue, 16 Oct 2007 16:00:50 -0700, MRC01 wrote
(in article <ff3fr...@news5.newsguy.com>):

> On Oct 15, 4:57 pm, jwvm <j...@umich.edu> wrote:
>> On Oct 12, 8:52 pm, MRC01 <m...@mclements.net> wrote:
>>
>> <Snip>
>>
>>> In a word, no. You won't get high end sound quality from a PC.
>>> However, a PC could be made to do a couple of things well. First and
>>> most obviously, a CD transport. But that doesn't help if you don't
>>> have a good D/A converter. The typical OEM sound card will not be as
>>> good as what you can get in a well engineered CD player or D/A
>>> converting amp.
>>
>> How so? Very similar converters are used in sound cards, CD players
>> and receivers. Why should there be a big difference?
>
> As shipped from the manufacturer (standard OEM equipment), most PCs
> have a cheap sound card that, while functional, does not produce audio
> quality deserving of the name "high end".

Also, unless precautions are taken in design and assembly (not economical in
your standard cheap sound card) most sound cards are noisy. There are so many
clock signals floating around inside of a computer that it's hard to keep
them out of the audio where they cause distortion, beat together causing
noise in the audible pass band, etc. It can be done, but such sound cards
tend to cost almost as much as another complete computer .

Rob Tweed

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:12:19 PM10/17/07
to
On 16 Oct 2007 23:06:22 GMT, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

>Next issue is how the computer's digital possessing handles the
>digital signal BEFORE sending it to be converted to analog audio. In
>a modern computer, this is dependent on the audio stack -- the
>operating system code that handles digital audio signal processing.
>Here the details are very complex, but again, the team that designed
>this software for Windows Vista did an excellent job. The audio stack
>in Vista is fast and very clean -- what goes in (a digital stream of
>sound information from a CD, mp3, or other digital audio file) comes
>out the other end very true to the source. This was NOT the case with
>WinXP. The computer needs a reasonably fast processor and adequate
>memory to run Vista. But if it comes loaded with Vista, it has all
>the computing power needed to handle audio processing in Vista.
>

I would be very surprised if Vista makes any real difference to the
process of shunting 16 bit/44.1 khz audio streams from a hard drive to
the USB port compared with XP. However, there has been debate about
the relative merits of kmixer which is used in XP and not in Vista and
the extent to which this can affect the sound, and there are things
that you should watch for and avoid within the OS you use.

This (very long!) discussion thread is interesting in this regard (and
many others):
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=225363&page=2

In particular, watch for the first posting from Elias Gwinn from
Benchmark Media, who then proceeds over a series of many responses to
give chapter and verse on the internal technical design of their USB
version of the DAC-1, and the role of things like kmixer.

Also this is very useful - Benchmark's guide to ensuring your OS and
any DSP add-ins don't mess things up along the way:

http://extra.benchmarkmedia.com/wiki/index.php/Computer_Audio_Playback_-_Setup_Guide

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:12:49 PM10/17/07
to
"Sonnova" <son...@audiosanatorium.com> wrote in message
news:ff3gf...@news5.newsguy.com...

> On Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:55:24 -0700, Arny Krueger wrote
> (in article <ff0ul...@news5.newsguy.com>):
>
>> "R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah" <ng4rrj...@rediffmail.com> wrote in message
>> news:fep4j...@news4.newsguy.com...

>>> But, I have also been told that many Music composers


>>> (electronic music composers) too use PC instead of individual audio
>>> system.

>> You've been told right, but only part of the story. PC's are widely used
>> for
>> audio production and playback, by both professionals, skilled amateurs,
>> and
>> everyday people.

> And, like anything else, are all over the place as far as quality is
> concerned.

Exactly what light do you think that this comment sheds on the question
raised by the OP?

owe...@gmail.com

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:16:48 PM10/17/07
to
On Oct 16, 5:10 pm, bob <nabo...@hotmail.com> wrote:

(I will reply to each on-going comment by the above author:)

> Vista audio may be totally awesome in a thousand ways, but that's not
> the issue. The issue is, what specifically does it offer for the
> narrow (and simple) task of playing back two-channel 16/44.1 audio,
> and what concrete improvements does that provide in terms of audible
> sound quality? Can you answer that question for us?

Yes, I can answer that question. Search on the term "kmixer" and read
a bit about the digital audio internals of XP -- which largely
inherits kernel code initially written in the early 1990's for Windows
3.1. kmixer processes the digital audio stream in XP. It has many
limitations, including mixing or processing all digital input, even
when it really only needs to be directly passed-through to an another
output.

With specific regard to 16/44.1 digital audio streams, due to internal
limitations of the kmixer code, kmixer effectively processes the audio
data from a CD source at only 14 bits, not 16 bits. Does that make a
difference in audio quality? There are several audio tests devised
that will show it does, even to an inexperienced listener.

Next problem is SN ratio. CD audio (Redbook) provides a 96db (or
97.5db) signal to noise ratio. kmixer's encoded limitations give it a
max signal to noise ratio of 92db. Does that make a difference?
Yes. kmixer also has a very high latency. Those are just the simple
issues, easy to explain.

The Vista audio stack does away with all of those limitation. That is
not to say that XP sound is bad -- it certainly is not! But Vista is
better in many ways. On a high-end system (and "high-end" is the title
of this forum), this makes a difference in what you can hear. And it
makes a much bigger relative difference in the final audio quality you
will experience than would purchasing a new $1,000 pure copper and
gold powercord upgrade for your $10,000 dollar amplifier.

Take a brief look at this article, which pops up at the top of a
Google search on "kmixer": http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=77185

> If the room
> correction feature applies to two-channel, that would be a definite
> improvement on XP or OSX. What else?

Vista room correction does work in 2-channel. Use a good mic, and it
will work very well. It is a sophisticated system.

But the more important thing is that Vista ALSO allows the user to
select "direct digital pass-through" without any of this type of
signal processing added to the audio stack -- something that could not
be avoided in XP with kmixer. What is in on the CD (in digital
16/44.1 format) goes to the DAC with essentially no alteration,
digital interpolation, or degradation. If you want signal processing
(Room correction, bass-boost, whatever), Vista will do it. But it
will also do absolutely nothing to alter the source digital stream if
the user selects that option. Most high-end users want the pure bits
going from CD to DAC, at least as a quality reference.

> Listening and testing are two different things. Can you tell the
> difference between USB and battery power when you don't know which > is
> in use? And if so, is that difference just a matter of output power
> (easily compensated for with a volume knob) or something else?

I am not trying to talk to the specs here, but to get the final aural
perception of great sound. Yes, of course I can tell in blind A/B
testing. If I could not, I would not bother wiring the battery
circuits and charger circuits into the back of the antique walnut
cabinet that houses the darn system. Indeed, my wife, children, maid
and old cat can tell the difference -- none of the them having any
idea which switch I am turning (the power source) that makes the sound
better. And no, it is not just volume. See my extended comments
above about USB DAC power and USB cables.

>When
> you can answer those questions, you'll be entitled to tell me my
> skepticism was misplaced. Not until.

I would not wish to make anyone less of a skeptic, but hope to help
people who are researching the details prior to building their own
"high-end" PC-based system. That was the title of the original post
to which I attempted a reply.

> I would consider "tube-like quality" to be a negative. But if 10% THD
> is your idea of "quality," then these amps are for you! (And cranked
> to the limit, as it was in that shootout you linked to, that is
> literally what the Trend amp produces, according to the manfacturer.)

I have no vested interest in selling anyone a Trends TA-10. It is an
amp with many limitations -- but in the specific setting of a PC based
system, it is cheap, tiny, runs very cool, sounds great, and may be
all one needs for a home system using relatively high-efficency
speakers. Hooked to a UD-10 DAC and using a dedicated notebook
computer, the whole system fits in a tiny shelf space, looks elegant,
and performs like a big-boy. Phonograph input (with an integrated
preamp) goes to the back of the computer, so no further input
switching is need in this simple setup. But if you have several
component inputs, drive a 2 ohm speaker array, and live in a concert-
hall sized room, look elsewhere for your amp.

The actual specs for the TA-10 give a 0.03% distortion at 9W into a 4
ohm speaker (like mine, which have 95db sensitivity). The distortion
is 0.1% at 11W. Those are great numbers by any standard, and are
reflected in the sound many reviewers have experienced from the amp.
It is only at max output of 15W that distortion was higher (as is true
with any amp). And as you may know, the db SPL increase (increased
perceived sound volume) with an increase of amp power from 11W to 15W
is very tiny, about 1 dB. In my system, I have no need for that last
dB, and the knob does not go much beyond noon. Of course, even at max
power, only the most transient sections of music (excepting very hard
rock music) will drive the amp to full power. Also, discussions with
the "shoot-out" reviewers made clear that when they said in the review
that the amp was turned up "to the limit", they meant the performance
limit, probably below 3/4 max output power rating on peaks.)

Also note, speaking of power output: Most people using 200W amps with
efficient speakers in a home setting are actually seldom running more
than 5W to the speaker. It is the FIRST watt of power that is
important to sound quality.

But I don't care much about arguing technical specs when the sound I
experience is good. All the above details are meaningless if in the
end you do not hear a difference that you judge "good".

> I suspect you do not really know what constitutes empirical testing in
> this field.

Informed opinion varies on that, too. But perhaps we can agree the
best test for a home audio system is the owner's own ear (of ears, if
he/she still has two). I hope the comments above help others in the
effort to create their own systems.

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:20:55 PM10/17/07
to
<owe...@gmail.com> wrote in message news:ff0s7...@news5.newsguy.com...

> The author of the above comment is not well informed about the
> specifics of this setup. Since I have this system, and have
> researched every element, and tested every element, and know what good
> sound is: let me reply to the comments:

>> If you want multichannel capability, Vista may well be the cat's
>> pajamas. For 2-channel, I'm not sure what benefits it offers over XP
>> or Mac.

Let's start with the basics. Is there anything about how XP and prior
releases of Windows such as 98, 2K and XA implemented audio that
categorically prevented sonically transparent concurrent recording and
playback of any reasonable number of channels? The answer is clearly no.

What then could Vista provide that would be advanteagous? Examination of
Microsoft white papers reveals that MS claims the following benefits:

1. Simpler installation of audio peripherals. The operating system can
detect and configure a UAA-compliant audio device when it is connected to
the system, without requiring the user to find and load a driver.

2. Performance advantages. UAA class drivers are designed to consume a
minimum amount of CPU time during streaming and to take advantage of
increased bandwidth in hardware that support data rates comparable to
high-end consumer electronics.

3. Glitch-resilient audio. UAA class drivers are designed to follow the
planned Vista API real-time coding guidelines for glitch-resilient audio.
For more information, see "Resources" at the end of this paper.

4. Security for protected content. UAA class drivers support current and
planned content protection technologies in Windows.

Note that none of these benefits suggest that prior releases of Windows
necessarily had any sound quality problems, given competent choice and
installation of hardware and software.

> This is a totally misinformed comment, indicating little understanding
> of current software. Audio in XP is a left-over from Windows 3.

This is a false claim. Audio in XP has evolved in many ways since Windows
3.x.

> Vista entirely rewrites the audio stack, and does away with several
> severe limitations of XP audio (like kmixer).

This is a false claim. Kmixer has never caused any severe audible problems
given appropriate choices of hardware and software. The ready means to
bypass Kmixer have been around for years.

> It is a very important
> and very substantial change. And the result is more advanced than
> current Mac OSX audio processing. Search out the technical documents
> on Google -- there are lots.

There are lots of technical documents, but they don't support the claims
made above.

>> Assuming it meets spec, this is a perfectly adequate little unit,
>> though it certainly isn't anything unique. I'd be dubious about the
>> battery-vs-USB power claim.

> Before commenting, put the unit in a good system, and do a test. The
> 5.6v signal on a USB cable is provided with limited current.

This is a straw man argument. Yes, USB current is limited but its limits
have never eliminated the possibility of quality 2-channel audio.
Implementers of external audio interfaces have never been forbidden to
provide their own power sources. Any number of commercial products implement
not only a 2-channel playback audio interface, but also a 2-channel record
interface, microphone preamp, and phantom power for the microphones, all
with just USB power.

> Using the battery provides obvious improvement in A/B testing, cleaner DC
> voltage and better current.

False claim. There have been many USB powered 2-channel playback audio
interfaces that are capable of sonic transparency over the years.

> It is not a subtle improvement, as many reviewers have noted.

Actually, I find no competent independent reviews of the UD-10.

> The UD-10 is outstanding in component quality and audio results.

I see no reliable evidence to support this claim, and I've looked for it
pretty dilligently.

> Test it against a top line Creative Audigy, and
> difference in sound quality is obvious.

False claim - the Creative Audigy is in fact not Creative's top of the line
audio interface.

> If you have not done the test, do not hypothesize....

Since many USB interfaces with good sonics already exist, there's nothing to
test.

>> T-amps are crap--lots of distortion, and no power. But it's unusual,
>> which is the only thing that matters to the likes of 6moons. Any old
>> solid state receiver will out-perform it.

Agreed.

> Simply wrong.

Simply true. T-amps are nothing new. Their limitations are well-known.

> Try listening to the best of them before commenting.

The basic T-amp technology is what it is and always has been - substandard
compared with other equally economic approaches.

> You would not say that if you had done the testing.

I've tested T-amps and reviewed any number of other independent tests of
them. They are nothing special, and significantly underperform other equally
cost-effective approaches.

> Much of course
> depends on the component quality -- the good ones with audiophile
> quality capacitors and design are amazing.

Audiophile capacitors are an urban myth.

> Audiophile review after
> review notes the extraordinary audio reproduction produced by T amp --
> they have a very "tube-like" quality.

This is more urban myth. Tubes and T-amps have nothing to do with each
other. While I'm no fan of tubes, I would prefer a competently-designed
tubed amp over a T-amp.

>> Must have been a lot of distortion fans in that test!

Agreed. T-amps have some fairly unique distortion modes that tubes lack.
But, a quality SS amp of a more conventional design out-performs either. If
someone wants a small, low-powered quality power amp, LM 4780 technology
provides greater freedom from distortion.

> Well, you will find a dozen other reviews that agree the audio quality
> is distortion-free and very cleanly musical.

Poorly informed people can say the darndest things.

>> This makes no sense at all. An external drive offers no performance
>> advantage whatsoever.

Agreed.

> My comment says "ease of use" with a notebook. Perhaps you have not
> used the little side-drawer CD on a notebook frequently. The external
> CD/DVD is big, easy to use and has a front-loading drawer. No
> technical advantage, sounds the same, but much easier to quickly load
> and unload your music CD's.

I just spent about 6 hours listening and viewing CDs and DVDs on a standard
Toshiba notebook using its internal DVD drive. No problems!

>> A PC-based system is quite capable of high-end sound. The key is an
>> accurate USB DAC.

No, USB DACs are not key. The cleanest audio interfaces for PCs are
generally packaged as PCI cards, not that a USB format is necessarily a
problem. Furthermore, if an external DAC is desired, Firewire can easily be
as effective if not more effective than USB.

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:21:53 PM10/17/07
to
"Rob Tweed" <rtw...@mgateway.com> wrote in message
news:ff3g8...@news5.newsguy.com...

> On 14 Oct 2007 21:57:48 GMT, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

> I'm considering the E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 right now (about 130 UK pounds),
> particularly since i want to be able to make field recordings from
> microphones as well - it's received some very good reviews, eg
> http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/proaudio/emu-0404-usb.html and
> sounds like it should work well for playback of ripped CDs from iTunes
> etc. Not sure I like the 1/4 inch jacks for audio output though.

EMu has some very cost-effective audio interfaces with extremely high
performance. Definately high-end performance for both recording and
playback.

> For really cheap but interesting gear check out Behringer. I've not
> heard any of their equipment but they have an equivalent to the Edirol
> UA-1EX: the UCA202 for 22 UK pounds - half the price of the Edirol.

Here's a technical test of a UCA 202:

http://www.birotechnology.com/soundcards/html/Comparison.htm

It looks good enough, but nothing exceptional. For the price, it is just
fine. I would surely prefer it as compared to say the iMic.

> They also have interesting power amps that have been mentioned in this
> forum in the past: eg the A500 which costs 125 UK pounds.

I have one, its fine.

> And their speakers (their Truth range, eg:
> http://www.dv247.com/invt/25944/)?
> Dunno - anyone listened to any?

I have a number of very picky friends with strong backgrounds in
professional audio who are very pleased with Behringer B2031A speakers. I
have heard very good sound from them in a variety of environments. When
combined with adequate subwoofers, they are capable of truly exceptional
high end sound. All by themselves they of course have a bass that is a bit
limited compared to the very best speakers. A tremendous sonic value at the
price.

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 7:22:31 PM10/17/07
to
"Walt" <walt_...@yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:ff0v2...@news1.newsguy.com...

> R. Rajesh Jeba Anbiah wrote:
>
>> Of late I have been told that it's better to use PC for better audio
>> experience than going for individual Hi-fi music system (better buy
>> speakers for PC than buy audio systems with surround system features).
>>
>> Could anyone comment on this? Is it really advisable? TIA
>
> Most home computers as shipped will provide lousy audio - typically the
> sound cards are mediocre, the speakers are horrendous, and if you have the
> unit in your listening room you'll raise your noise floor to 40 to 50 db
> SPL just from the noise of the spinning hard drives.

The major sources of acoustic noise from PCs are almost always the fans.
With desktop PCs, the CPU fan and the power supply fan can duke it out to
see which is the noisier of the two. Laptops can have noisy fans as well.

But, it need not be this way. It is possible to build a fairly quiet PC for
a reasonable price. Even commodity PCs from sources like Dell have improved
quite a bit in the past few years.

One key to building a quiet PC is to avoid the very highest performing CPUs,
power supplies, hard drives, and video cards. They aren't needed to play
back audio or video, anyway.

jjn...@sonic.net

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 10:48:27 PM10/17/07
to
owe...@gmail.com wrote:

> This is a totally misinformed comment, indicating little understanding
> of current software. Audio in XP is a left-over from Windows 3.
> Vista entirely rewrites the audio stack, and does away with several
> severe limitations of XP audio (like kmixer). It is a very important
> and very substantial change. And the result is more advanced than
> current Mac OSX audio processing. Search out the technical documents
> on Google -- there are lots.

Just use ASIO with a card that supports it. That's what I do to convolve
speaker and room correction pulse files generated by Acourate into
streaming audio with a Lynx 2 card. Results are exceptional. Trying to
do such a thing with XP audio in the chain usually doesn't even allow
basic function due to dropouts and noise.

You can also use BruteFIR to do this, which usually compiles well on Linux,
and with a bit patience, also on FreeBSD and Solaris.

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 10:50:18 PM10/17/07
to
"Sonnova" <son...@audiosanatorium.com> wrote in message
news:ff64q...@news3.newsguy.com...

> On Tue, 16 Oct 2007 16:00:50 -0700, MRC01 wrote
> (in article <ff3fr...@news5.newsguy.com>):

>> As shipped from the manufacturer (standard OEM equipment), most PCs


>> have a cheap sound card that, while functional, does not produce audio
>> quality deserving of the name "high end".

In fact PC's haven't come with OEM sound cards for about a decade.

> Also, unless precautions are taken in design and assembly (not economical
> in
> your standard cheap sound card) most sound cards are noisy.

Absolutely false. Some of the quietest audio interfaces that exist are
packaged on PCI cards.

> There are so many
> clock signals floating around inside of a computer that it's hard to keep
> them out of the audio

Every product that does D/A conversion has this exposure. CD players have
just as many, if not more unshielded clock signals running around inside
them.

> where they cause distortion,

Clock signal leakage would not cause distortion, but it could cause noise.

> beat together causing noise in the audible pass band, etc.

Never obsevered to happen.

> It can be done, but such sound cards
> tend to cost almost as much as another complete computer .

Complete and total error and misrepresentation of the true facts.

owe...@gmail.com

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 10:51:24 PM10/17/07
to
> http://extra.benchmarkmedia.com/wiki/index.php/Computer_Audio_Playbac...

>
> ---
>
> Rob Tweed
> Company: M/Gateway Developments Ltd
> Registered in England: No 3220901
> Registered Office: 58 Francis Road,Ashford, Kent TN23 7UR
>
> Web-site:http://www.mgateway.com
>
> Out of the Slipstream: Come to the conference!http://www.outoftheslipstream.com

That is in excellent discussion you have linked! Bottom line, reading
the whole thing, seems to be there is evidence of good digital audio
pass-through with XP (using kmixer). With a PC source for high-end
audio, it really comes down to using a good DAC and making sure the
software player is not altering the digital stream (Foobar is king
here).

My XP box has had hundreds of codecs, drivers and A/V software devices
installed for various testing over several years. My Vista notebook
has not had much software added in -- it is a pretty clean, fresh
install. I think the Vista notebook does a better job with the audio,
and has a nice easily configurable interface. I attributed the
apparent subtle sound superiority of Vista to the many comment I have
read over the years about kmixer -- but given the random error
distribution and impossibliy of isolating error source in highly
complex systems (like the internal interactions of drivers and
components in a PC), it could be a complex condition with my XP
system.

I guess one has to just test how it sounds.... Start with a good DAC,
a good amp, and see what comes out the good speakers. The hobbyist
will spend mega-bucks repeating the tests over and over, varying
conditions, seeking audio nirvana. Others will try something, find it
better that whatever they previously experienced (or not), and be
satisfied (or not)! For now and the next few years, I am satisfied
with my humble attempt at a well-designed setup.

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 10:52:31 PM10/17/07
to
<owe...@gmail.com> wrote in message news:ff655...@news3.newsguy.com...

> On Oct 16, 5:10 pm, bob <nabo...@hotmail.com> wrote:
>
> (I will reply to each on-going comment by the above author:)
>
>> Vista audio may be totally awesome in a thousand ways, but that's not
>> the issue. The issue is, what specifically does it offer for the
>> narrow (and simple) task of playing back two-channel 16/44.1 audio,
>> and what concrete improvements does that provide in terms of audible
>> sound quality? Can you answer that question for us?

> Yes, I can answer that question. Search on the term "kmixer" and read
> a bit about the digital audio internals of XP -- which largely
> inherits kernel code initially written in the early 1990's for Windows
> 3.1. kmixer processes the digital audio stream in XP. It has many
> limitations, including mixing or processing all digital input, even
> when it really only needs to be directly passed-through to an another
> output.

Kmixer does not process all digital audio streams in XP, just the ones that
are routed through the standard mixer applet. Most quality audio interfaces
completely bypass this feature.

> With specific regard to 16/44.1 digital audio streams, due to internal
> limitations of the kmixer code, kmixer effectively processes the audio
> data from a CD source at only 14 bits, not 16 bits. Does that make a
> difference in audio quality?

Properly downsampling audio to 14 bits has no discernable effect on sound
quality, except in contrived test cases.

> There are several audio tests devised
> that will show it does, even to an inexperienced listener.

Yes, its possible to come up with contrived tests that show that there is a
problem, but they are not real world. The general trick is to use a
combination of attenuation and amplification to make the effect of
downsampling to 14 bits effectively the same as downsampling to 11 bits or
less.

> Next problem is SN ratio. CD audio (Redbook) provides a 96db (or
> 97.5db) signal to noise ratio. kmixer's encoded limitations give it a
> max signal to noise ratio of 92db. Does that make a difference?

Not at all, if done right.

> Yes.

Impossible to show in real-world testing.

> kmixer also has a very high latency.

For playback which is what hi fi listening is all about, latency is a
non-issue. We listen to recordings hours, weeks and years after they are
made. Delaying them another 25 milliseconds (unrealistically high!) has no
effect.

> Those are just the simple issues, easy to explain.

Overly simplistic explanations based on assertions that are easy to disprove
in regular audio listening.

> The Vista audio stack does away with all of those limitation. That is
> not to say that XP sound is bad -- it certainly is not! But Vista is
> better in many ways. On a high-end system (and "high-end" is the title
> of this forum), this makes a difference in what you can hear.

So far no technical issues with audible significance have been raised.

> And it
> makes a much bigger relative difference in the final audio quality you
> will experience than would purchasing a new $1,000 pure copper and
> gold powercord upgrade for your $10,000 dollar amplifier.

Straw man argument.

> Take a brief look at this article, which pops up at the top of a
> Google search on "kmixer":
> http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=77185

This is just another collection of more vast exaggerations of the audible
significance of small differences.

Bottom line is that I don't see anything wrong with cleaning up the audio
mixer code in XP for Vista, but anybody who thinks that this is going to
lead to mind-blowing improvements is very poorly informed.

Sonnova

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 10:53:25 PM10/17/07
to
On Wed, 17 Oct 2007 16:21:53 -0700, Arny Krueger wrote
(in article <ff65e...@news3.newsguy.com>):

> "Rob Tweed" <rtw...@mgateway.com> wrote in message
> news:ff3g8...@news5.newsguy.com...
>> On 14 Oct 2007 21:57:48 GMT, owe...@gmail.com wrote:
>
>> I'm considering the E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 right now (about 130 UK pounds),
>> particularly since i want to be able to make field recordings from
>> microphones as well - it's received some very good reviews, eg
>> http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/proaudio/emu-0404-usb.html and
>> sounds like it should work well for playback of ripped CDs from iTunes
>> etc. Not sure I like the 1/4 inch jacks for audio output though.
>
> EMu has some very cost-effective audio interfaces with extremely high
> performance. Definately high-end performance for both recording and
> playback.
>
>> For really cheap but interesting gear check out Behringer. I've not
>> heard any of their equipment but they have an equivalent to the Edirol
>> UA-1EX: the UCA202 for 22 UK pounds - half the price of the Edirol.
>
> Here's a technical test of a UCA 202:
>
> http://www.birotechnology.com/soundcards/html/Comparison.htm
>
> It looks good enough, but nothing exceptional. For the price, it is just
> fine. I would surely prefer it as compared to say the iMic.

Yeah, it sounds fine. I was using a Hi-MD minidisc, but this is better. It's
also better than a Samson Zoom H-2 SS recorder


>
>> They also have interesting power amps that have been mentioned in this
>> forum in the past: eg the A500 which costs 125 UK pounds.
>
> I have one, its fine.
>
>> And their speakers (their Truth range, eg:
>> http://www.dv247.com/invt/25944/)?
>> Dunno - anyone listened to any?
>
> I have a number of very picky friends with strong backgrounds in
> professional audio who are very pleased with Behringer B2031A speakers. I
> have heard very good sound from them in a variety of environments. When
> combined with adequate subwoofers, they are capable of truly exceptional
> high end sound. All by themselves they of course have a bass that is a bit
> limited compared to the very best speakers. A tremendous sonic value at the
> price.

I found their mixer to be an exceptional value. Reasonably quiet mic preamps,
phantom powering, low audible distortion, altogether acceptable - and very
reasonably priced.

bob

unread,
Oct 17, 2007, 10:54:44 PM10/17/07
to
On Oct 17, 7:16 pm, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

> Take a brief look at this article, which pops up at the top of a
> Google search on "kmixer":http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=77185

That's not an *article*. It's an anonymous post on a discussion board,
by someone who may not know what he's talking about. You might want to
think about whether "effectively 14 bits" and "92 dB S/N" are
compatible.

I'd be looking for some more robust sources of information, myself.
And for that reason, I'll give the rest of your post a pass.

bob

Sonnova

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 6:53:23 PM10/18/07
to
On Wed, 17 Oct 2007 19:50:18 -0700, Arny Krueger wrote
(in article <ff6hl...@news5.newsguy.com>):

> "Sonnova" <son...@audiosanatorium.com> wrote in message
> news:ff64q...@news3.newsguy.com...
>> On Tue, 16 Oct 2007 16:00:50 -0700, MRC01 wrote
>> (in article <ff3fr...@news5.newsguy.com>):
>
>>> As shipped from the manufacturer (standard OEM equipment), most PCs
>>> have a cheap sound card that, while functional, does not produce audio
>>> quality deserving of the name "high end".
>
> In fact PC's haven't come with OEM sound cards for about a decade.
>
>> Also, unless precautions are taken in design and assembly (not economical
>> in
>> your standard cheap sound card) most sound cards are noisy.
>
> Absolutely false. Some of the quietest audio interfaces that exist are
> packaged on PCI cards.

I didn't say that they didn't. I said CHEAP ones can be noisy

>> There are so many
>> clock signals floating around inside of a computer that it's hard to keep
>> them out of the audio
>
> Every product that does D/A conversion has this exposure. CD players have
> just as many, if not more unshielded clock signals running around inside
> them.

Of course it does/ But well designed ones use layout and shielding practices
that keep these noise and distortion components to a minimum. Many cheap ones
do not.


>
>> where they cause distortion,
>
> Clock signal leakage would not cause distortion, but it could cause noise.

IM distortion can be caused by clock signals leaking.


>> beat together causing noise in the audible pass band, etc.
>
> Never obsevered to happen.

Maybe you should get out more.

>> It can be done, but such sound cards
>> tend to cost almost as much as another complete computer .
>
> Complete and total error and misrepresentation of the true facts.

Right. The best sound cards from RME start at around $300 list. A cheap
computer can be had for around $300 too. Would you like to explain where my
"total error and misrepresentation of the true facts" is in that sentence?

Rob Tweed

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 6:54:33 PM10/18/07
to
What is clear to me from summarising this thread is that with
relatively small expenditure, you can build a very creditable audio
system around a standard PC or Mac.

Whilst power amps and speakers are clearly still required in the
chain, all the other "traditional" separates that companies have (and
indeed still) produce would now seem to have become unecessary. Given
the top-end performance that something like the Benchmark DAC-1 can
apparently provide, and the convenience of cataloguing/library
software such as iTunes to which you rip your CDs, I really wonder why
anyone would buy a top-end CD player (or even more expensively and
barmily, a CD transport), particularly when these separates can often
cost many times that of the Benchmark.

Similarly, if all your sources are digital, I'm not sure I see any
point in buying an expensive pre-amp. It seems to me that a DAC can
provide this role more than adequately (provided of course it supports
variable output). With many DACs providing switchable USB, optical
and electrical SPDIF interfaces, you have a rather nice "digital"
pre-amp capable of supporting 3 separate digital sources.

I guess I'm glad I'm not a manufacturer of pre-amps and CD
players/transports!

We've also seen, with the likes of Behringer, the costs of highly
creditable sounding power amps and speakers coming down to remarkably
cheap levels. It seems to me there's never been a time when extremely
good (if not totally high-end?) audio was so attainable at such
totally affordable prices.

Mind you I suppose I really should be considering spending the several
thousands of pounds I'll have saved on that special power cord and
interconnects ;-)

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 6:56:13 PM10/18/07
to
"bob" <nab...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:ff6ht...@news5.newsguy.com...

> On Oct 17, 7:16 pm, owe...@gmail.com wrote:

>> Take a brief look at this article, which pops up at the top of a
>> Google search on
>> "kmixer":http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showthread.php?t=77185

> That's not an *article*. It's an anonymous post on a discussion board,
> by someone who may not know what he's talking about.

It looks to me like someone has confused Microsoft FUD and hype with
reliable information.

> You might want to
> think about whether "effectively 14 bits" and "92 dB S/N" are
> compatible.

Good point. 14 bits corresponds to from 84 to 86 dB dynamic range, depending
on which standard means you use to calculate it.

FWIW, most studies find that 12 or 13 bits are required for subjectively
noise-free music listening, depending on other technical details.

Again, I see no loss and indeed significant potential gains from cleaning up
and enhancing how Windows Vista handles audio. However, improving resolution
over the extant 14-16 bits is not going to yield mind-blowing sonic
benefits.

Steven Sullivan

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 6:59:25 PM10/18/07
to
owe...@gmail.com wrote:
> On Oct 16, 5:10 pm, bob <nabo...@hotmail.com> wrote:

> (I will reply to each on-going comment by the above author:)

> > Vista audio may be totally awesome in a thousand ways, but that's not
> > the issue. The issue is, what specifically does it offer for the
> > narrow (and simple) task of playing back two-channel 16/44.1 audio,
> > and what concrete improvements does that provide in terms of audible
> > sound quality? Can you answer that question for us?

> Yes, I can answer that question. Search on the term "kmixer" and read
> a bit about the digital audio internals of XP -- which largely
> inherits kernel code initially written in the early 1990's for Windows
> 3.1. kmixer processes the digital audio stream in XP. It has many
> limitations, including mixing or processing all digital input, even
> when it really only needs to be directly passed-through to an another
> output.

> With specific regard to 16/44.1 digital audio streams, due to internal
> limitations of the kmixer code, kmixer effectively processes the audio
> data from a CD source at only 14 bits, not 16 bits. Does that make a
> difference in audio quality? There are several audio tests devised
> that will show it does, even to an inexperienced listener.

Documentation for this? The last I heard, 14 bits was the threshold
for detection of bit-limitation.

> Next problem is SN ratio. CD audio (Redbook) provides a 96db (or
> 97.5db) signal to noise ratio. kmixer's encoded limitations give it a
> max signal to noise ratio of 92db. Does that make a difference?
> Yes.

An audible one?

> But the more important thing is that Vista ALSO allows the user to
> select "direct digital pass-through" without any of this type of
> signal processing added to the audio stack -- something that could not
> be avoided in XP with kmixer.

AIUI, using Kernel Streaming allows users to bypass kmixer
and windows volume contol. This is an option in the Foobar2000
player , for example (though it is not available for all soundcards)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kernel_streaming

Walt

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 7:01:01 PM10/18/07
to
Arny Krueger wrote:
> "Walt" <walt_...@yahoo.com> wrote in message

>> ...you'll raise your noise floor to 40 to 50 db

>> SPL just from the noise of the spinning hard drives.
>
> The major sources of acoustic noise from PCs are almost always the fans.
> With desktop PCs, the CPU fan and the power supply fan can duke it out to
> see which is the noisier of the two. Laptops can have noisy fans as well.

Agreed that the fans, not the spinning hard drives, are the primary
source of the noise. I wrote in haste. Good catch.

> But, it need not be this way. It is possible to build a fairly quiet PC for
> a reasonable price. Even commodity PCs from sources like Dell have improved
> quite a bit in the past few years.

I bought one of those "quiet" Dells, and it was fairly quiet. Emphasis
on the word "was" - as it's aged it's gotten noisier and noisier.

//Walt

Walt

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 7:01:37 PM10/18/07
to
owe...@gmail.com wrote:

> Another problem is power availability using the
> USB cable as the power source. A sudden burst of sound will need
> sudden immediate power avaiable to the DAC to create the analog audio
> wave at proper power amplitude.

Power? You're mixing up the concepts of power and voltage.

A sound card does not need much "power" to reproduce a full scale
waveform. A full scale (2 volts) sine wave into a typical analog input
(10k ohms) requires less than half a milliwatt.

//Walt

owe...@gmail.com

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 7:03:27 PM10/18/07
to
On Oct 17, 8:52 pm, "Arny Krueger" <ar...@hotpop.com> wrote:

> Bottom line is that I don't see anything wrong with cleaning up the audio
> mixer code in XP for Vista, but anybody who thinks that this is going to
> lead to mind-blowing improvements is very poorly informed.

If you read what I actual said, the words "subtle" and "slight" were
prominent. Not the word "mind-blowing". Many solutions will work.
The quest for "high-end" becomes subjective, and may involve esoteric
concerns that will make little difference in the final sound. Note
above, I used that phrase "esoteric" concerns. Such they are, and
they have been argued ceaselessly for several years. They will not be
resolved with posts back and forth here.

There is substantial disagreement on all issues related to quality
sound production, and this thread reveals a good deal about that
disagreement.

The individual who started the thread asked about using a PC as an
audio source. Perhaps to summarize, it could be simply said:

Yes. Use your PC. It can sound very good. But how good it will
sound using a variety of components and/or alternate operating systems
you alone will be left to judge. Because no one else's opinion really
matters!

Arny Krueger

unread,
Oct 18, 2007, 11:09:33 PM10/18/07
to
"Sonnova" <son...@audiosanatorium.com> wrote in message
news:ff8o5...@news1.newsguy.com...

You're cherry-picking to prove a point. Very fine audio interfaces (110 dB
dynamic range) can be obtained for a little more than $100.

> A cheap computer can be had for around $300 too. Would you like to
> explain where my
> "total error and misrepresentation of the true facts" is in that
> sentence?

The fact that one need not pay even half of $300 to get a CD-quality audio
interface. Right now, its more like 1/10th.

Sonnova

unread,
Oct 19, 2007, 6:50:49 PM10/19/07
to
On Thu, 18 Oct 2007 20:09:33 -0700, Arny Krueger wrote
(in article <ff975...@news4.newsguy.com>):

They sound pretty poor too, compared to the RME models. But I do agree that
they are, for the most part, more than acceptable for most people. In fact
Turtle Beach sound cards at under $50 are acceptable, they just don't have
the top common mode noise rejection specs nor the extremely clean sound of
the more expensive units, which I assumed was what we are talking about. If
we were talking about acceptable as opposed to excellent, then I'm sorry for
the misunderstanding.

>> A cheap computer can be had for around $300 too. Would you like to
>> explain where my
>> "total error and misrepresentation of the true facts" is in that
>> sentence?
>
> The fact that one need not pay even half of $300 to get a CD-quality audio
> interface. Right now, its more like 1/10th.

I'll agree to that if you agree that what I said was NOT a "total error and

misrepresentation of the true facts"

I'm not here to make enemies or to pontificate like a pompous know-it-all. If
I'm wrong about something, I think you will find that I have no problem
acknowledging the fact or apologizing for my error. I'm just here to discuss
whatever audio topics I find interesting. I hope the same can be said for the
rest of the posters on this NG.

Rob Tweed

unread,
Oct 26, 2007, 6:26:52 PM10/26/07
to
Just a follow up - I just bought the E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 and I confirm
it sounds fabulous. Very flexible in terms of inputs and outputs too,
very simple installation on both my PC and Mac - a very nice piece of
kit IMHO.

You'll probably need 1/4 inch jack to phono adaptors or leads, though,
for most hi-fi set-ups.

....next step is to replace my trusty Arcam A64 amp with just a power
amp...

On 16 Oct 2007 23:08:01 GMT, Rob Tweed <rtw...@mgateway.com> wrote:

>On 14 Oct 2007 21:57:48 GMT, owe...@gmail.com wrote:
>

>>DAC (digital to audio converter)
>>
>>You will need a "sound card", but internal sound cards -- even the
>>best internal sound cards -- are inferior to an excellent external USB
>>DAC. The DAC you want is the Trends UD-10 USB audio converter.
>>Search Google for the audiophile reviews of this little box. It sells
>>for about $120. It really is an extraordinary piece of hardware.
>>This box can be powered directly from the USB interface, but the sound
>>quality will be better if it is powered independently from a battery
>>source (I can confirm this, and most reviewers will mention this).
>>
>
>For a considerably larger amount of money there's the Benchmark DAC-1
>USB which seems to always get the rave reviews. At nearly 900 UK
>pounds I'm still saving!
>
>At the cheap and chearful end there's the Edirol UA-1EX which I
>currently use - not bad for the money but not earth-shattering either.
>

>I'm considering the E-MU 0404 USB 2.0 right now (about 130 UK pounds),
>particularly since i want to be able to make field recordings from
>microphones as well - it's received some very good reviews, eg
>http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/proaudio/emu-0404-usb.html and
>sounds like it should work well for playback of ripped CDs from iTunes
>etc. Not sure I like the 1/4 inch jacks for audio output though.
>

>For really cheap but interesting gear check out Behringer. I've not
>heard any of their equipment but they have an equivalent to the Edirol
>UA-1EX: the UCA202 for 22 UK pounds - half the price of the Edirol.

>They also have interesting power amps that have been mentioned in this

>forum in the past: eg the A500 which costs 125 UK pounds. And their


>speakers (their Truth range, eg: http://www.dv247.com/invt/25944/)?
>Dunno - anyone listened to any?

>---
>
>Rob Tweed
>Company: M/Gateway Developments Ltd
>Registered in England: No 3220901
>Registered Office: 58 Francis Road,Ashford, Kent TN23 7UR
>
>Web-site: http://www.mgateway.com
>
>Out of the Slipstream: Come to the conference!
>http://www.outoftheslipstream.com

---

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