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Anybody else using a PC as a transport ?

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Kaliar

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For the last 16 months, the most used transport on my system has been a PC with a RME Digi96/8 PAD audio card. Since I work at home most of the day and my working environment is in the listening room :cool:, I can play music on nice ML systems as much as I want.

So far, I have ripped approx. 400 of my CDs and the music files (mostly lossless .APE files) are stored on one of the hard disk drives of the main computer. Using Foobar2000, I have created a few playlists that allow me to choose the type of music fitting the moment or the mood I'm in.

All the music is played with Foobar2K and goes to the RME Digi96/8 PAD audio card via the ASIO output. I then choose the output device I wish to use. Many possibilities exist because I'm on a LAN and have access to two ML systems. To simplify things, here are the three I use most:

1- Analog output -> primary system (Odyssey)

RME's primary analog output -> long Canare IC -> Simaudio Moon P5 -> XLO Ultra IC -> Classé Twenty-five -> TARA Labs Temporal Continuum speaker cables -> ML Odyssey​
2- Analog output -> secondary system (CLS IIa)

RME's secondary analog output -> short Canare IC -> YBA Intégré DT -> YBA Diamond speaker cables -> ML CLS IIa​
3- Digital (TOSlink) output -> primary system (Odyssey)

RME's digital TOSlink output -> SP glass cable -> Benchmark DAC1 -> XLO Signature 2 IC -> Audio Research LS-1 Direct input -> long Canare IC -> Simaudio Moon P5's "pass through" input -> XLO Ultra IC -> Classé Twenty-five -> TARA Labs Temporal Continuum speaker cables -> ML Odyssey​
I know that computers are not the best environment for total silence, but the sound quality is fabulous and the convenience of having quick and easy access to thousands of music files is a fantastic incentive to put to good use those MartinLogan beauties ! :D

Right now, I'm listening to Ralph Towner's Anthem from the "ECM Jazz" playlist on the secondary system (CLS IIa) ! ;) Isn't life fun ?

I guess I am not the only forum member that uses a computer as a "jukebox". Am I ?
 
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sleepysurf

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I've been contemplating the exact same idea. However, I want to use FLAC lossless compression (open source, increasing popularity even in commercial media servers like the Escient/McIntosh units). Rather than using my PC Soundcard, I plan to use the Xitel Pro HiFi-Link (http://www.xitel.com/product_phfl.htm)

I also want my Media Server to search the Net, and display the Cover Art on my TV, corresponding to whatever music I'm listening to at the time. It also needs to move the image around to avoid screen burn-in. Unfortunately, I don't think the Microsoft Media Center software supports FLAC compression, and I don't know of other similar software to organize my collection, and also manage and display the Album art.

I figure I need about 400 megs hard disc space to rip all my CD's. However, the newest Media Center PC's also offer TIVO-like video recording, so I would need even more storage... e.g. a terrabyte!!

So, I've been patiently waiting to see what the NEXT generation of Media Servers offer.
 

Kaliar

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Hi sleepysurf,

I guess you meant 400 gigabytes and not 400 megs !! :) Just for info, my compressed files from ~400 CDs take up 110 gigs in hard disk space.

FLAC is a nice compression choice, well decoded by Foobar2K. Unfortunately for your needs, I don't think Foobar2K can manage and display the Album art cover you're interested in. :-(

Too bad, that would be :cool: !

I hope you find the right software for you. If it happens, please share the info.

Take care.
 
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Sky Saw

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So does this mean that you are using Odysseys and CLSIIs as computer speakers? Dude, I think you are redefining the hobby!

I was thinking of doing the same thing with my notebook computer, but figured that moving everything forth and back from the office would become too unwieldy ;) .

I imagine that one day soon we will be seeing high-end versions of home digital music libraries. We've come a long way from the days of vinyl where you actually had to get up at least every 20 minutes to keep the music playing. Now we could be dead for days before our wives notice that something is wrong! :eek:
 

SugarMedia

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I have a similar situation and I have no idea how it will effect sound... Any thoughts??

I own a 17" Apple PowerBook, with over 6,000 songs stored on it. Much of the music has been added using Apple's Lossless feature when importing from disc.

The computer is also hooked up to WIFI, 100% of the time using Apple's Airport Express Base Station with "AirTunes". This means that I can connect a Monster mini-to-RCA left/right audio cable from the Aiport, to my integrated amplifier. An then from my computer, send music wirelessly over to the Base station which sends it to the Amplifer via the Monster mini to RCA audio cable.

I've been hesitant to even consider getting the Monster Mini cable as this sort of goes against the reason why I just spent $2,600 on a Tube CD Player. It seems I could form a bad habit by listening to music that is reproduced in an inferior way. Perhaps the best solution is just to burn a "Lossless CD" when ever I want to listen to stuff off of my computer. Really, the only positive I see from using my computer is unlimited variety and the ability to create playlists.


-SM

http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/

http://www.apple.com/powerbook/index17.html
 
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Kaliar

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Hi Sky Saw,

In a sense, you could say that ! Yep ! :)

I also use more standard sources, but mostly when I am in the audio part of the room. Even then, I cannot say the results are superior. But it is nice from time to time to concentrate on the music without looking at a computer screen. ;)

From time to time, I also use my STAX earspeakers as "computer" speakers. :D

RME's digital TOSlink output -> TOSlink SP glass cable -> Benchmark DAC1 -> XLO Signature 2 Balanced IC -> STAX SRM-006t Vacuum Tube Output Drive Unit -> STAX SR-404 Earspeakers​
I also have a small part of my music collection on my notebook, where I use an Echo Audio Indigo PC card and Sennheiser headphones. Useful in those trips far from home.

Take care.
 
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sleepysurf

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Yeah, I meant Gigs.

It's funny... I have a Sprint Treo 650, and with (shareware) Busker MP3 player, it automatically d/l and displays album art, while playing MP3's. Yet, there isn't a PC-based solution other than Micro$oft Media Center. I doubt if Media Center will ever support FLAC, competing with their proprietary .wma format.

SugarMedia, does the Apple solution support Album Art?

Kaliar, how close to CD quality is the .ape playback? Those files apparently use ~50% compression, similar to FLAC.
 

Kaliar

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Hi SugarMedia,

I've been hesitant to even consider getting the Monster Mini cable as this sort of goes against the reason why I just spent $2,600 on a Tube CD Player. It seems I could form a bad habit by listening to music that is reproduced in an inferior way. Perhaps the best solution is just to burn a "Lossless CD" when ever I want to listen to stuff off of my computer. Really, the only positive I see from using my computer is unlimited variety and the ability to create playlists.
The main positive is rather to be able to use a transport that will not skip, interpolate or have trouble reading certain discs. At the moment the files are stored in bit-perfect format on your hard disk drive, the most difficult task of any CD player has been done ! All is left to do is to transport the signal to the DAC of an audio card and then to your preamplifier or integrated amp.

As with anything, the results will depend on the quality of your equipment: if your audio card is well shielded (immune to the internal noise of a PC), has a good quality DAC and is able to send a bit-perfect signal to its output, you are in business.

That's why I never burn a "Lossless CD". It would simply defeat the purpose of having a "Jukebox" and the benefit of having a transport inherently superior to that of most real CD players. Sidenote: I was in the process of buying a nice CEC transport when I decided to rather spend my money on better speakers. ;)

Take care.
 
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Kaliar

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Hi sleepysurf,

Kaliar, how close to CD quality is the .ape playback? Those files apparently use ~50% compression, similar to FLAC.
It is not close to, it is CD quality ! :D Remember, APE is lossless, just like FLAC.

Take care.
 
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SugarMedia

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iTunes

sleepysurf said:
SugarMedia, does the Apple solution support Album Art?.
Yes, it does support Album art. In addition to the option of having it shown on the Visualizer (psychldelic patterns) while the music plays.

It's actually an awesome program, I can choose to play music by (BPM) Beats per Minute, favorite rating, playcount, kind/genre, year, and many more ways of sorting it.

Here's the website if you would like to download it.
http://www.apple.com/itunes/
 

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Kaliar

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Hi SugarMedia,

Thanks for the picture. iTunes really looks like an awesome program for an Apple environment. Too bad it is not a little more open for Windows. Here's a message posted on Audio Asylum (Computer AA) that explains why:

Posted by Jon L (A) on March 14, 2005 at 10:42:14
In Reply to: Huge difference in quality-WHY? posted by TWB2 on March 14, 2005 at 09:59:03:

The theory is that iTunes works better in Mac than PC, due to the fact iTunes goes through Windows' dreaded K-mixer, which resamples everything to 48kHz, therefore not bit perfect. I have not seen any proof that this does not happen.

The K-mixer fiasco happens with Foobar, too. However, one is able to bypass K-mixer in Foobar with ASIO plugin and Kernel Streaming. iTunes is a very closed program and does not let you use third-party plugins to bypass K-mixer. So use iTunes for your Mac and use Foobar with ASIO or KS for your Toshiba laptop for best results.
Take care.
 
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SugarMedia

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Kaliar-

So are you basically saying that as long as my Airport Base Station maintains its signal at 100% I will not loose any quality from the music being sent wirelessly through the air to the Integrated Amplifier?

Thanks,

SM
 

Kaliar

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Hi SugarMedia,

So are you basically saying that as long s my Airport Base Station maintains its signal at 100% I will not loose any quality from the music being sent wirelessly through the air to the Integrated Amplifier?
In a word: Yes! :)

I'll give you an example taken from my own LAN: I have a secondary audio PC with an Echo Audio MiaMIDI card. This audio card is hooked directly to my main system (Simaudio Moon P5 / Classé Twenty-five / ML Odyssey) via a balanced cable. There is absolutely no difference to my ears if I use Foobar2K on that machine and play a music file :

- stored on that particular computer
- or stored on the main music server (using the Ethernet connection)

Isn't life fun ?

Take care.

Addendum: An AA forum member wrote this on the Computer Audio Asylum: "Depending upon your link quality, you may get audio dropouts with full fidelity sources over the WiFi. A typical CD requires around 2-4Mbps of free capacity to sound best so you want to make sure you do 802.11g at the very least." Here's the full link : http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/3252.html
 
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SugarMedia

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Kaliar,

Thanks for the information. If it is infact true, then it will open up alot of music for me with great ease.

I've actually wanted to use the Internet Radio for some time through the wireless function, and as I previously said had doubts about the sound quality.

Anyway, Two more months until the house is finished and I'll be able to test all of this out.

Regards,
 

SteveInNC

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SugarMedia said:
The computer is also hooked up to WIFI, 100% of the time using Apple's Airport Express Base Station with "AirTunes". This means that I can connect a Monster mini-to-RCA left/right audio cable from the Aiport, to my integrated amplifier. An then from my computer, send music wirelessly over to the Base station which sends it to the Amplifer via the Monster mini to RCA audio cable.
If your pre-amp/processor/receiver supports it , use the optical out on the Airport Express. Then you have digital end to end. Modern TOSlink has done away with most of the complaints that audiophiles had when it was introduced.
 

Peter Hogan

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I'm using a PC to store all my CDs on. I have a Promise RAID card, to do RAID 5 storage. That way the data is safe even if a drive fails (I originally had the data not on RAID, had a drive go bad, and had to re-rip about 450 CDs...NOT fun). I am using four SATA 250GB drives in RAID 5 to give me 750GB of storage.
I use MusicMatch to control the library. I rip all CDs as both MP3 and WAV files. The MP3s for portable devices, the WAVs for the main system, ripped at 1411KB/sec, are the same size as the original CD files, no musical detail lost. I use an Audigy2 NX (external, USB 2.0 based soundcard, has better S/N than internal cards), use the optical output to feed the main system, and the analog outputs to feed the headphone amp.
I also have 2 other computers networked, and can stream the music to those as well, so I have access to my whole music library anywhere in the house.
 

Kaliar

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Hi Peter,

Thanks for posting your PC setup, a nice one at that !

You are right to emphasize the importance of having a good backup procedure. In my case, I have a full backup on a portable hard disk drive, as well as partial one (classical and jazz) on another station, just in case...

If the worse happens, I still have the originals, but I know it would be a major pain to re-rip everything ! :(

Thanks again for sharing.
 
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