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do computers make good sources?

post #1 of 160
Thread Starter 
do computers produce good quality sound reproduction when used with a good headphone amp and headphones. or is it better to just get a cd deck?
post #2 of 160

Re: do computers make good sources?

Quote:
Originally posted by woodytone
do computers produce good quality sound reproduction when used with a good headphone amp and headphones. or is it better to just get a cd deck?
If your concern is audio quality, computers are not so good. There are soundcards (and lots of discussions here about them) which offer decent sound reproduction, but they won't come close to a good cd player.

-d
post #3 of 160
Thread Starter 
yeah i thought so. i was checking up on some pc based sound cards and the good ones seem pretty expensive i would rather just spend that money on a good cd source
post #4 of 160
There are endless debates on this. Generalizing doesn't do a lot of good. Does a $100 soundcard equal a $500 CD player? No. Then again why should it? I recently compared my M-Audio Audiophile USB to an Onkyo DV-S525 DVD/CDP. Both cost me around $200 when I bought them. The Audiophile USB computer setup won... easily. This is of course only two examples. Then there are the DAC options for both. I don't think there's a simple answer to your question. Beware of generalizations.
post #5 of 160
I wouldn't say that all computer sound is bad sound. I would defy you to listen to my setup and tell me that it sucks. For good computer sound you just need a good non-resampling soundcard with a digital output to an external DAC and the sound can be very good indeed, if you play CD's or ripped WAV or losslessly encoded files. Sure MP3's through a SB Live will sound like *****. You could get a good setup as I described for around $200 (M-Audio Revo + ART DI/O) or spend as much as you can imagine (think $600 Lynx 2 to $1000+ Bel Canto DAC2). It's probably easier to get a good sounding CD player, but having your entire collection at your fingertips on the hard drive is very convienent indeed!
post #6 of 160
PC sound is all about convenience. And while a PC with a good sound card won't come near a good dedicated CD player it needn't be offensive to an audiophile. If you can only have a sound card or a CD player get the CD.

On the upstairs stereo I use a SliMP3 (www.slimdevices.com) with a server full of MP3s in the garage. With Paradigm Studio/20 speakers and an Arcam receiver I really don't notice that they're not CDs - maybe in a better room with some really critical listening you might. Big advantage - no arguments over who didn't put the CDs away.

For headphones it is a lot more difficult. Maybe the best solution is to store .WAV or .APE files (APE is Monkey's Audio, a lossless compression format) on your drive and to use a good external DAC, or a good receiver. Failing that a good internal sound card like the M-Audio Revolution. If you have to use MP3 care with your LAME command line makes a huge difference.
post #7 of 160
Quote:
Originally posted by blessingx
There are endless debates on this. Generalizing doesn't do a lot of good. Does a $100 soundcard equal a $500 CD player? No. Then again why should it? I recently compared my M-Audio Audiophile USB to an Onkyo DV-S525 DVD/CDP. Both cost me around $200 when I bought them. The Audiophile USB computer setup won... easily. This is of course only two examples. Then there are the DAC options for both. I don't think there's a simple answer to your question. Beware of generalizations.
I guess I was not thinking $200 card against $200 cd player, but instead $3000 computer vs $3000 cd player. In this case, I think it is safe to generalize.

-d
post #8 of 160
Not counting the computer (which I think I'm safe to assume Head-Fi members already have) please list really good $100 CDP's that blow away a M-Audio Revolution, etc.

That's part of the reason, these comparisons are always weird. People shoot immediately to very nice CDP's that cost several times the soundcard they are being compared against. Sorry to repeat.

To make it worse then there's the assumption that lossy files will be played on the computer versus Redbooks on the CDP. Aeberbach is right about uncompressed WAV/AIFF or Monkeys, (my preference) FLAC, or even WMA9 lossless. For best sound use one of these.

EDIT: Dsavitsk, I think you have a valid point comparing the whole computer cost, but if that's the case, try visiting Head-Fi with your CDP. Plus $3000 is quite a bit more than I suspect most spend on their computers and if not see all the options you have. A $1000 computer and a $2000 soundcard can do wonders.
post #9 of 160

Re: do computers make good sources?

Quote:
Originally posted by woodytone
do computers produce good quality sound reproduction when used with a good headphone amp and headphones. or is it better to just get a cd deck?
You'll read numerous complaints about PC based setups around here, and I'd say 99% of them are from people who have never even heard a good PC-based setup... they just keep talking like a broken record about EMI issues and PC power issues without ever having listened for themselves to a proper setup.

For example, I asked one person who regularly bashes soundcards and they replied that yes, they'd heard a high end soundcard... they'd listened to Sony CD3k's directly out of the headphone jack of an M-Audio Revo, and of course listening to MP3's . You certainly won't get high quality sound that way, any more than you'd get it out of the built in headphone jack of most gear. In other words, he was judging the headphone jack output (with MP3s playing) and not a properly amped analog line out or digital out to external DAC, then extrapolating that to "soundcards don't sound good." Doh!

The fact is, it takes more knowledge to set up a good sounding PC-based system than it does to just hook a CD player to an amp and plug in a pair of headphones. Those who satisfy their craving for better sound by throwing money at the problem need not apply, you need to throw brains at the problem in this case and learn about things like FLAC, DAE, EAC, Foobar2k, kernel streaming, secure ripping, master clock settings, DMA buffers and all sorts of other wacky acronyms and computer programs. If you don't want to bother, just get a CD player.
post #10 of 160
woodytone: Basically, if you have a pc running all the time, anyway, and want instant access on all your music, you can get decent sound out of your computer (at least with a bit of luck, because interference issues are somewhat unpredictable) - a decent soundcard (M-Audio Revolution, Terratec DMX 6fire LT & Aureon 5.1 Sky/7.1 Spave, Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1...) for ~ 100 US$/Euro can compete with standalone cd players up to 250 US$/Euro, I'd say.

On the other hand, if you plan to use open or barely isolated closed headphones, pc noise can be a nuisance - so if you aren't willing to ignore that or to invest time and money in a silent pc (or silencing your pc), a standalone cd player is definitely the better solution for you. You could take a look at standalone cd/hd combos, though, if you want some more pc like convenience...

Greetings from Munich!

Manfred / lini
post #11 of 160
I can fairly easily notice a difference between flac (even at a compression of 0) and wav; have yet to try monkey audio, though. Granted the difference is small, but bass really stands out in the wav format vs. flac in my system (hits much better and is deeper.) I am awaiting the arrival of some upgraded tubes for my MG Head, and then an upgraded HD600 cable (can't decide between silver dragon and mobius ). If that still doesn't satisfy, an external DAC next. Only then will I give up the conveniece of having all my music on my computer, which runs quietly 24/7. Unfortunately, several 200GB Seagate hard drives do get expensive. But, oh how I can't wait for the terabyte hard drive!

BTW, has anyone heard of a SACD-ROM?????? Or a soundcard that could handle such definition/resolution?

edit: no wait, I mean sampling?
post #12 of 160
I wonder if that is more the decoding process than the format itself. And as you probably know the different FLAC settings are for compression time/size, not quality. I recently did a MP3 & AAC comparison and when I posted my results over at Hydrogen they contributed the differences to playback problems with my player (QuickTime), which may indeed be the case. Did you try the FLAC/WAV playback comparison in multiple players? Did you notice any difference between WAV and PCM? How about WAVs ripped from Redbooks, versus WAVs ripped from Redbooks, encoded to FLACs then decoded back to WAVs?
post #13 of 160
Blessingx,

Playing a cd straight from my cd-rom resulted in lots of pops, but that is probably because of the slowness of cd-roms in general. I'll have to try again with buffering enabled.

As far as different players, I've only tried foobar so far, but will definetely try others. Any suggestions other than winamp or qcd?

edit: love your moonphase wallpaper!
post #14 of 160
Thanks.

I'm on OSX and you're on Windows so different uncompressed and lossless playback options. Sorry, I can't suggest anything on that side.
post #15 of 160
How do people deal with the noise from PC fans and hard drive whirring? I've never bothered trying to get good sound out of a PC mostly because of all the mechanical noise.

Are there any simple & relatively cheap solutions?
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