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High quality sound from iTunes (running on PC) via USB DAC

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

I am trying to achieve a decent quality of sound from iTunes via an external USB DAC. Whilst the current level of performance is OK, it is significantly inferior to that of my iPod Classic 160GB via an Onkyo ND-S1 and the same DAC. I have heard that on Macs, there is the possibility of using software from Channel D - is there a PC equivalent, or any other effective tweak? I don't want to migrate to Foobar, as then all the metadata (track names, artwork etc) are lost, and I have to use iTunes in parallel anyway for the iPod.

 

System is as follows:

 

Lenovo T400 / iTunes / standard Belkin USB cable, or IPod Classic 160GB / Onkyo ND-S1 / Swoboda silver digital interconnect, both into Little Dot DAC_1 / AVM interconnects / Little Dot MkIII (stock tubes at present) / Sennheiser HD600s

 

Sound from the PC is detailed and fast, but lacks bass, body and soundstage in comparison with the iPod. Generally, it sounds "thin".

 

post #2 of 13

I have iTunes on my Dell Inspiron 14. For awhile, I just used the mini headphone  jack on the laptop to listen to tunes from my home theatre system. It sounded really good. But, now I use a Creative Sound Blaster X-FI HD to get music both to and from the laptop. Mostly, I use the X-FI's USB to S/PDIF and S/PDIF to USB function, since most of my music is digital. In addition to its its two way USB /S/PDIF function, it has a DAC  which I have yet had  a need, since my Sony TA-E9000ES control amp has a Toslink input. The X-FI does ADC too.  ADC, makes it possible for me to digitize vinyl, as well as get SACD analog output into my iTunes library. 

 

My iTunes has no help from any of the plug-ins out there which are highly touted by the elite audio press. My iTunes library which consists of 256k downloads, as well as music ripped from CD's  and stored as loss-less .wav files sounds so awesome over my HT, in fact, indistinguishable from SACD that I simply don't have any interest in these products which are as Mick Jagger said, "supposed to fire my imagination".

 

At any rate, the X-FI HD, which sells for about $80, was all I needed for iTunes to produce quality, as well as convenience.

 

The laptop is a black widow, her mate the CD. Watch out Compact Disc.

post #3 of 13

As you are using iTunes on a PC the first thing is to check all audio settings.
iTunes has its own quick time settings and Win has its own audio settings in the sound panel.
A possible scenario is that e.g. the QT settings upsamples everything to 96 kHz and the Win audio settings forces downsampling this upsampled material to e.g. 44 kHz.
So do check them both.

As you are using a USB DAC check its properties in the sound panel. Is it set to Full Range?
http://thewelltemperedcomputer.com/SW/Windows/Win7/USBDAC.htm

If you have all your settings right, you might try a different audio driver.
Players like J River Media center do support WASAPI.
It also support typical Apple audio formats.
There is a free 30 day trial.

post #4 of 13

You can let your device take exclusive control in shared mode. Set the computer to the highest bit rate the Digital receiver (device) can pass-through.

post #5 of 13

If you are using Windows 7, it supports WASAPI exclusive. Unfortunately iTunes does not support WASAPI exclusive, (only shared mode). But you can try something like "musicbee" that supports exclusive mode to see if this is the problem.

post #6 of 13

Can't you just let foobar read the iTunes music folder? That's what I do for my MP3s. Granted, there are problems like:

not seeing cover art; poorly tagged podcasts barfs on the album view

post #7 of 13

 

Quote:
not seeing cover art

 

1.1.7 sees and displays iTunes cover art.  Best thing ever since I've used iTunes for years, and still relatively new to foobar2K. 

post #8 of 13

agree

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone.

 

Is there a way of playing AIFF files directly from Foobar? It is a nuisance having to convert every track to .wav first.

post #10 of 13
Thread Starter 

Sorry - I reinstalled Foobar2000 yesterday (v. 1.1.7) and it now also plays AIFFs. There must have been a problem with the installation before.

 

I have now changed all the settings (no, the DAC wasn't configured for full range, there were DSP effects on and it wasn't in exclusive mode). Also, I am now using ASIO4ALL as the output driver. Performance via USB is now equivalent to the iPod Classic / ND-S1 combo (which has gone back into the main system as a secondary digital source, feeding an Opera Consonance CD 2.3 Ref.).

 

Current desktop system:

Lenovo T400 (with WD 1.5TB external drive holding audio files as AIFF) / Foobar2000 (v. 1.1.7) / ASIO4ALL / Belkin standard USB cable (2m) / Little Dot DAC_1 ("sharp" filter) / VdH D102 Mk III interconnect / Little Dot Mk. III (NOS CV4010 driver tubes) / Sennheiser HD600

 

However, I now consider iTunes to be virtually unlistenable via USB. So I open the AIFF files with Foobar, only to find that all metadata other than the track name has disappeared (a real nuisance with classical). Is there any way I can get Foobar to recognise information such as artist, composer etc (cover art is not so important)?

 

Is there any point in upgrading the USB cable, or is this of dubious value? Does anyone know if there is an isolation plug to isolate the power leads in the USB cable? I presume this could reduce PC-generated interference in the signal reaching the DAC. The sound does improve slightly when the PC is running from battery power (but the HDD must always be connected to the mains).

 

Finally, I have noticed an intermittent, slight "chirping" sound on the right channel, which is independent of the volume setting and occurs every 5 minutes or so. This stops when the PC is switched off. What is likely to be causing this, and how can I stop it?

 

Thanks.

post #11 of 13

Sorry if i am encroaching  on the thread but I am in a similar situation to CJG888 in the original post. I have an iPod for portable use and have ripped everything (foolishly?) in Apple Lossless Audio Codec. Having got a new DAC/AMP for home use, i've realised that i could do with EQing some tracks a small amount. I download foobar and realised that this will play just about everything except ALAC, is there anything that i could do to EQ my tracks at home without converting my whole library to another format?

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by mvmv View Post

Sorry if i am encroaching  on the thread but I am in a similar situation to CJG888 in the original post. I have an iPod for portable use and have ripped everything (foolishly?) in Apple Lossless Audio Codec. Having got a new DAC/AMP for home use, i've realised that i could do with EQing some tracks a small amount. I download foobar and realised that this will play just about everything except ALAC, is there anything that i could do to EQ my tracks at home without converting my whole library to another format?



Foobar plays ALAC - you just need to add the decoder:

http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_input_alac

post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooko View Post

Foobar plays ALAC - you just need to add the decoder:

http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_input_alac


Thank you so much, just got my whole library to come up and play fine, I didn't notice the components tab with all the bits you can add on.

 

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