Low level noise through headphones can be a really irritating problem with some setups.
I’m not too sure what causes it but I don’t think it can be the proximity of the various parts.
I’ve used a tiny Lenovo PC hardly bigger than a paperback that has no interference whatsoever through headphones.
Same for many tablets and laptops.
Perhaps it’s a question of inadequate shielding? Or even a particular motherboard issue?
Although my first PC had a specialist soundcard I don’t think it sounded any better than the later ones with integrated sound chips.
I also prefer to use the minimum software (W7 driver) and stick to WMP and VLC - no enhancements / EQ.
The big issue seems to be the speakers and headphones you wish to use. It's far from easy to find a pair with a reasonably flat frequency response that you could trust for monitoring or comparison purposes.
I plugged my computer into outlet on different phase (I use WiFi). Digital transmission may produce timing jitter that will translate to added noise, proportional to signal and present only when music is present, causing loss of clarity (during gaps it is completely silent). Should your PC be built for this purpose - it depends. If you use WiFi then computer doesn't matter (I use it for other tasks while playing music). Same goes for Ethernet or USB. Slower computer might be even better polluting less (lower speed, lower power). With S/Pdif it might be better to dedicate computer to this task only. You will have to experiment, but people reported better results with faster dedicated computer, free of other tasks.
How important is it to make sure an audio PC is built specifically for that purpose. Is cross talk between PC parts common in terms of creating noise that will be audible through monitors or headphones.
What steps would you guys reccomend to figure out if noise is being generated by components rather than a power outlet?
Is it very expensive to hire an ele 192.168.0.1 ctrician to install audio friendly outlets in your home/studio?
I'm an IT guy. And I can tell you that computers can make a difference with regards to audio quality. But ..not in the way you think. In terms of audible noise from databuses; no, you won't hear it. Cross talk is an audio spec, not a computer spec.
However, very cheap power supplies from China (under 30 bucks) may cause performance drops in general computing as they are seriously inferior.
As you hinted at, the quality of electricity from your outlet can make a difference. This is especially true with high-end audio gear.
Doesn't mean you need an expensive multi-thousand dollar computer to use for music. Small ITX computers are the best for this purpose as they are quiet and don't generate much heat. This is purely for your convenience. If the power supply is external, that is an ideal option for audio. And...digital audio doesn't use a lot of power on modern computers away.
Laptops and desktops are fine too - but go for something with a solid state drive (nvme or SATA 3 SSD). Skip hard drives, as you don't want to experience latency with larger files. (seek time).
Regarding inteface - if you're using USB, then you need an ifi isilencer USB dongle. This will correct timing errors between the DAC and your computer. Also, get yourself a TRIPP LITE USB b cable with ferrite chokes on both sides from amazon.
Buy a power conditioner. Again, doesn't have to be expensive. I'm using a Monster Power - 8 outlet Platinum with active protection and power filtration. Don't trust cheap power bars with your audio equipment or computer...as they provide absolutely no protection to your equipment.
Check out: Fidelizer-Audio
. It's a software program that turns off unnecessary computer processes that create noise.
Regarding inteface - if you're using USB, then you need an ifi isilencer USB dongle. This will correct timing errors between the DAC and your computer.
There is no timing errors between DAC and computer with asynchronous USB. Computer sends data in "frames", likely at 1kHz rate, while DAC places data into buffer signaling back buffer under/overflow. Upon this signal computer adjusts size of next frame. DAC takes data from the buffer and feeds it to D/A converter at different internal clock. That way data is not missing, in spite of different clocks, and there is no timing errors. The only possible issue with asynchronous USB is injection of electrical noise from computer by the cable.
In my experience laptop docks may serve very well for USB galvanic decoupling
I built my PC music server based upon information and listening to different devices as the music server to different DACs.
What I have is, an 8Watt (yes eight) commercial grade, two core fanless CPU. Not very powerful, and not high current use, or generating much heat.
Two SSD, one strictly for all software, the other just for media files.
JCat FEMTO USB card.
A 200Watt HDPlex linear power supply with four separate feeds, that feeds 5VDC directly into the USB card, and feeds 5VDC to the SSDs, and 19VDC to the motherboard and CPU.
I use a fanless PC case, with copper and aluminum heat sink.
The operating system is WIN Server 2012 R2 in core mode, software is Fidelizer Pro, Audio Optimizer, JPlay FEMTO.
There are no moving parts to create electrical noise, the power supplies are linear and isolated, the software is quite possibly the biggest player here as it’s designed to turn off processes that just aren’t helping my audio playback.
Everything is plugged into a Puritan PSM-156 power conditioner - cleaning the AC power with exceptional sonic improvement overall. I say cleaning, the PSM-156 shunts high frequency hash in two stages off the active and neutral lines to ground, leaving the AC sinusoidal wave completely intact with no loss of amperage, just minus the high frequency hash/noise.
I am hoping that there is going to be released an operating system written specifically for a music server PC that offers a suite of tools to make it as good as possible. I am still waiting, it may exist already and I have to discover it.
All music servers are computers, the best are designed and " built specifically for that purpose" YES, it makes a significant difference to SQ.
Depending where you live and what tools you have, are you handy man?
In the US, isolate the circuit by turning off the circuit breaker (make sure nobody can turn it on while you work).
Confirm that you have isolated the circuit, there are AC pens that light up, like the Southwire one I have, or a multimeter to measure the potential volts between the contacts, do measure on and off to ensure you’re getting contact with conductors. The guy in the video uses a doo-dad hahahahahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhwClKlh_G8
If you’re stateside, get a hospital grade outlet at the very least. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGG_pYJdar4
What is best? there are many better optionshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVBHXSJNTaQ
I am hoping that there is going to be released an operating system
written specifically for a music server PC that offers a suite of tools
to make it as good as possible. I am still waiting, it may exist already
and I have to discover it.
Yes, there is. Euphony Stylus, which is more of a Linux operating system that has been pre-tuned to work best in most systems. It contains it's own music player or you can install Roon Core, HQPlayer, NetworkAudio HQP endpoint, Squeezelite LMS endpoint, or Airplay audio server.https://euphony-audio.com/euphony-stylus-operating-system/
Alternatively, you can get Arch linux and start digging into all the configuration. This can ultimately get you better than Euphany, but it requires tons of time and experimentation as well as Linux knowledge.
@auxinput - thanks, I'll be looking into that.
@auxinput, thanks yeah I'm looking at the threads.
I contacted memory player recently about their software - wow very expensive, much more than Euphony Stylus.
Have you personally used either?
Some people here are telling ya accurate stuff and trying to save ya money. Others want to share their neurosis. Get a fanless PC with an SSD and spend the money on a good DAC with USB input. Don't need to be expensive. No timing issues ever that's why they have such high dynamic range. Sometimes the numbers don't lie. Lots of stuff out there to get rid of USB electrical noise if you're worried. Save ya money to spend where it matters.
I have not used Euphony Stylus or any of the Linux implementations. Sorry. I'm running Windows 10 PC because it's used as a multi-purpose computer, gaming computer and sound system. I'm running an AMD 5900x based system with a Pink Faun S/PDIF card using AES/EBU as connection type. Farad Super 3 as linear power supply for the Pink Faun.
Good post. I've got a real quiet Noctua CPU fan in my PC, but I'd certainly want to go fanless next time.
As for the power supply fans, there's some pretty good low-noise units available at reasonable prices nowadays.
Any decent PC nowadays should be virtually noiseless.
@auxinput if you’re not interested in going dual boot, and are happy with Win 10 as your OS, maybe you aught to check out a trial version of Phil’s Audio Optimizer for free? There is a large PC music community and the information is quite good.
14 day trial for freehttps://www.highend-audiopc.com/audiophile-optimizer
** If you do try it, please give some impressions? There will either be an immediate improvement heard in your system or not, there will be no waiting for it to run in. **
Fanless CPU heatsinks are good if you have a relatively low powered processor:https://www.fullysilentpcs.com/product-category/cpu-coolers/?v=7516fd43adaa
These are actually HUGE heatsinks. However, they are not good enough if you're running a 12-core CPU for gaming (like me).
I tried Fidelizer a long time ago and it actually did weird things to the audio on my desktop (in other words, it did not improve it). It did however improve audio from my crappy laptop, so verdict is out.
I have found that running Windows with stock kernal timings seem to be the best. In some cases, the windows WASAPI drivers sounded better than kernal streaming from JRiver. lol. If I was doing a dedicated music server, then I would look at Euphony Stylus and doing a closed silent PC with a relatively lower power cpu. However, I have specific needs for a general use computer that has to server as a miscellanous platform, gaming platform and music playback along with data redundancy for all my personal financial data (quickbooks, etc.). So I had to pick very specific parts when building this.
So now I focus on how good the sound card is and how good the power supply is. The Pink Faun S/PDIF with Farad power supply is just excellent! I will eventually add on their custom OCXO clock, which should give me significant improvements.
NOTE ON PINK FAUN: There appears to be a compatibility issue if you run Pink Faun card on a Linux platform using Intel CPU (sound breakup problems). This is a weird problem with the chipset used in the Pink Faun card. Pink Faun engineers and Linux engineers have worked on this issue for many years but nobody can figure out the root cause. Intel CPU with Windows appears fine though. There is no issue with AMD processor and general consensus is AMD actually produces better sound as a digital transport.
I don't mean this facetiously, but why not just run USB? Big buffers. High data rate, no losing sleep over competing processes, no losing sleep over jitter? If ya got an older DAC I get it, but not much without USB now. Ya running into a processor or somethin that needs SPDIF?
@snratio - I have heard of one (sorry I cannot recall the name of it) DAC that actually uses USB with checksum, but generally DACs don't store the stream, they process it in real time, and what doesn't get accurately read in by the DAC is lost.
This is the reason AFAIK why so much emphasis on the clean linear power, signal integrity and the least amount of work, or rather unnecessary handling and processing threads that are not essential for the playback of music help the system create less distortion and loss of data packets.
SPDIF is used with claims that because it's not an electrical conductor that it doesn't transmit electrical noise. However, from many reports (not done very recently I must confess) indicate that USB as a means of data transfer to a DAC more often than not, sounds better. Then of course the latest and greatest is TCP/IP Ethernet as the means of data transfer, or I2S over HDMI.
Honestly, I can't keep up, there's so many manufacturers out there, it's like trying to keep up with who makes the best sounding speakers in certain price brackets - does anyone actually know, and then how long until that knowledge is obsolete?
I should add, and I'm sure if I say this incorrectly someone will chime in with why, and how and I'll learn something I didn't know...
In order for a DAC to store the bit stream in a buffer, the protocols required to do so have to be processed by a computer. To do a checksum for example, registers (or data storage) need to set aside to evaluate and store information about the packets in order to determine whether or not the packets of data arrived correctly. So the DAC requires an onboard computer to store the data into RAM, evaluate the incoming bit stream to ensure it's correctly read in, or request the data rate is slowed down and data resent.
The bitstream is evaluated from raising and lowering voltage, or light intensity from one device, and measured on the receiving device, if it's either not sent with a very clean signal, the measuring of that signal may be wrong, and if there's no computer to evaluate the data packets it's discarded at best, or becomes corrupted.
We can read written language and within the contxt of the sentnce detrmine the meening of what was written, a DAC cannot.
The least dropouts of data packets, and the less electrical noise, a more accurate representation of the recording, created by transforming a series of voltage changes or light pulses into an alternating electrical signal that can be transformed by a
(speaker) into sound waves, the better. (Read that aloud three times without taking a breath, I'll have you put in a circus)
Memorial Day - Lest we Forget.