Computer as remote "CD player"


Hi,

I'm struggling with the "I need a CD player, want a changer, what about sound quality?" problem. Rest of system is Classe CP-35 pre-amp, Classe CA-200 amp, and older Celestion speakers. I have both wired and wireless Ethernet running to the stereo cabinet. I have a couple of good computers elsewhere in the house, also wired to Ethernet.

I've seen some mention here of using your computer as a CD player after "ripping" music onto it.

Here are some questions for you knowledgeable folks:

1. Can the computer be somewhere else besides the stereo cabinet?

2. Can I get good sound quality (better than $200 CD player) for $1000 or less?

3. Can I just stick a CD in the computer and "play" it, or does it *have* to be "ripped" first?

4. Can you play DVDs for movies this way?

5. Can this link be two way? In other words, can I record off my stereo to the computer (for recording LPs, tapes)?

6. Is there any way to remotely select a ripped "CD" without walking up to the computer?

Sorry for my igorance, thanks for your help!

- Eric
ehart
Its the wave of the future. Definitely worth it.

As to your questions:

1. Can the computer be somewhere else besides the stereo cabinet?

Yes, you can get a client device like the Squeezebox (http://www.slimdevices.com/) that pulls music off your PC that is running a server program. Or you can buy or build up a machine using a more living room freindly case. See Hush PC

2. Can I get good sound quality (better than $200 CD player) for $1000 or less?

Something like the Squeezebox plus and external DAC should beat a $200 CD player. Or you could put together a quiet PC with a good sound card (RME, Lynx, etc) for about that. I use an older motherboard with a processor that is only 800MHz which is pleanty for ripping and playing audio.

When you are ripping, make sure you do it into a lossless format (WMP Lossless, FLAC, etc) which can still compress the CDs to about half size. Any further compression such as MP3, and you will start to lose quality.

3. Can I just stick a CD in the computer and "play" it, or does it *have* to be "ripped" first?

Yes, you can put it in, play, and rip at the same time. But with a good drive, ripping is done much faster than real time, so it only takes a few minutes per disk.

4. Can you play DVDs for movies this way?
Yes, if you put a DVD drive in the computer. But it still is not real economical to rip DVDs to a hard drive.

5. Can this link be two way? In other words, can I record off my stereo to the computer (for recording LPs, tapes)?

With a good sound card, yes. You can run the tape out from your preamp/receiver to the analog input.

6. Is there any way to remotely select a ripped "CD" without walking up to the computer?
Yes, you can add a remote control like the Firefly and use your TV as the monitor, or even control the whole thing through a wifi Pocket PC (see NetRemote at http://www.promixis.com/)

Good luck. There is a huge amount of info on this. Start searching.
- J
Eric go to www.wavelengthaudio.com and check out the Cosecant computer tube DAC. When you are there make sure you click on--Much more information on the Cosecant USB DAC--. Gordan has a lot of information on useing your computor as your CD player.
>>2. Can I get good sound quality (better than $200 CD player) for $1000 or less?<<

If your question is -- can you get sound quality better than a $200 CD player by adding $1,000 worth of gear to your computer, the answer is better than that. Hard drive filled with uncompressed music played through a $1,000 USB DAC will give you sound that can compete with CD players that cost thousands of dollars.

You have to decide how much convenience you want and which trade-offs you're willing to make.

I have a reference system in my listening room, but I also want a system for casual, convenient, family-wife-and-guest-friendly playback and listening. I am spoiled and I still want to have sound that I can enjoy, so I use a high quality USB DAC and load my music to the hard drive uncompressed. The convenience of having hundreds of CD's worth of high quality music available at the click of a mouse, watching wife, kids, and visitors choosing music from a list of titles through which they can scroll with no need to rifle through my CD cases, no piles of my CD's laying about when they are finished, etc -- is really gratifying.

Depending on what kind of TV Monitor you have, you could connect your computer to your screen and you could rig a wireless mouse so you could scroll through CD's and titles on your TV screen, make playlists, and select songs with a wireless mouse.

If you pass this system through your pre-amp, you can use the pre-amp's remote to control the volume or you could control the volume with your wireless mouse if you rig it that way.

I dedicate a Mac G4 1.25 Ghz Laptop to my system. If you use your video display for your screen and rig a wireless mouse, you could probably dedicate a computer to your system and it wouldn't have to cost an arm and a leg. You can also install a DVD drive in your computer and play DVD's, but I am not sure how it would compete with a DVD player.

You *can* use a computer for a music server and send the signal from your computer to your system through wi-fi, but I suspect the gear available for that type of solution will not offer high end sound so I have avoided that route. I also tried lower quality USB DAC's and they all sounded terrible to my ears. What you use will depend on your goals for your system, your budget, and how much sound quality you're willing to sacrifice for convenience.

There is a Home Theater Computer forum over at WWW.avscience.com dedicated to this type of stuff, but it seems to me like they tend to emphasize the video side and are less picky about sound. I don't see a lot of discussion about high quality USB DAC's over there. You can get a computer to store and play your CD's and DVD's, act as a TIVO, and operate high powered video games, but this all depends on how tech-literate you are. The forum over at avscience is an excellent reference for the video and home theater aspect of building a HTC.

Here's a link to the Home Theater Computer Forum at avscience ---

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/forumdisplay.php?s=313521a887e3eaea46172cefd44f1101&forumid=26

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Great information, thanks. I am working to absorb it.

JKRING, the squeezebox looks great. Two more questions: 1. Is it possible to request an album or tune by ID number, rather than by browsing? 2. Is it possible to "force" music to the squeezebox from the serving PC, or does it always have to "request" music?

For recording from LPs, you say to use a quality sound card. Does the Turtle Beach Santa Cruz qualify?

RSBECK, what USB DAC are you using, it sounds like you are happy with it?
I am using the Apogee Mini-Dac and I am extremely happy with it.
Here's something I found ---

This is from 6 moons' review of a Hard Drive based system --

One of the great advantages of playing music from a hard drive is that the
playback is all byte-by-byte. You are not hearing music through a device
that is trying to read a spinning disc in real time. The major source of jitter
and distortion is simply eliminated in this hard drive-based process. As I
heard it, the net effect is a terrific sense of natural musical flow.

http://6moons.com/audioreviews/vrs/vrs_3.html

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