More info about the intended use would yield better answers. What software do you plan to use, to drive what, where will your music be, etc.
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Spec'd out by the experts at www.computeraudiophile.com. not something I've bought for my own use, but something I aspire to own. I use jriver with the jplay plugin.
Pc audio is not that demanding on a system, it's more important to dedicate that system to audio only and eliminate superfluous processes. I think there are various guides on the benchmark and wavelength websites to accomplish this.
Thank you. Sounds like this will be a secondary source, and like this would be an initial foray into PC audio. In that case the specs look good. How much RAM does it have? 32 or 64-bit?
I'm of the opinion this is the best way to get your feet wet in computer audio and later decide if you want to pursue it further. Some tips to think about down the road:
Dedicating the computer to audio playback only is the preferred route so you can eliminate other processes that cause internal noise.
Using the same computer for ripping and playback is not ideal. You can rip at any other computer, copy the files into a flash drive, and copy them into the audio computer. Take a look at computeraudiophile.com guide to ripping CDs. I follow it to a t and works great.
Switching mode power supplies introduce a lot of noise. Replacing it with a linear PS yields nice benefits.
Eventually, using an audiophile usb card, like the Paul Pang Audio, also yields improvements in sound. This is a big plus of a desktop vs a laptop.
If your PC is 64-bit, consider using Windows Server 2012 as operating system and later use AudioPhil's Optimizer. Big improvement in sound!
Also eventually, using a SSD for the operating system and another drive for music also yields sound improvements.
Further again, powering the hard drives independently from the mobo and the audiophile usb card also yields benefits.
Going passively cooled and getting rid of fans (because of both the noise we hear and the electrical noise their motors generate) is also a plus, but to get there you need to replace the computer case, at which point you might as well replace the whole thing. But you could feed the fans from an independent switching source.
You can see this keeps going in typical audio fashion...
Bottom line is this would be a great way to start and will allow you enough flexibility to try improvements.
Hope this helps.
A little off topic, got into computer music a year or so ago and bought a 21" iMac specifically for this purpose. I'm using Audionirvana Plus for playback. The user Interface is about a good as it gets, works seamlessly with iPhone and iPad as a remote, sounds very nice as well. No whirling fans either.
Just to try out PC audio i had my IT guy build me a PC specifically for the purpose, with the latest greatest mother board with a digital RCA out directly on the board it self, extra beefy power supply etc. I loaded J River for the playback engine. It sounds very nice too. However the user interface is terrible, maybe the learning curve is greater with this system. Also, wires everywhere, separate monitor, whirling noisy fans.
I do think that the sound is very nice of the PC set-up, however I'd recommend a iMac dedicated playback system over a PC based one any day.
As usual: it depends. My server is a fanless black anodized aluminum box that looks like yet another audio component, with no screen (headless, in PC audio jargon). I control it through an iPad/JRemote and works very well. As clean and silent as it gets, I guess.
Plus I don't have the electrically noisy display and all the other processes not needed for audio. But frankly this is a highly optimized computer. Several people at specialized fora have been moving from optimized Mac Minis to this kind of solution with Windows Server 2012 + Optimizer driven by sound, but it is more work than a plug and play Apple solution, for sure. And probably Apple's interfase is more user friendly - that is one of their key capabilities.
So it depends how interested/willing is one to go into these complications. Like setting up a highly optimized vinyl playback system, I guess.
"Using the same computer for ripping and playback is not ideal. You can rip at any other computer, copy the files into a flash drive, and copy them into the audio computer."
I have not read or seen this comment anywhere else. What is the basis for this claim? I'm a member and frequent participant at ComputerAudiophile and this statement is news to me.
Upfront I'll say I don't exactly remember where I saw this. I thought I saw it at computeraudiophile.com, maybe at Chris' guide to ripping CDs? But you frequent the site and don't remember it. Frankly I don't remember where I did.
My take (and I reckon this doesn't offer a whole lot of support!) is we want to keep any un-needed processes outside of the audio computer so these don't run in the background. Additionally, in my case, I just don't have a CD drive (or any spinning motors) connected to my mobo, so in fact I couldn't rip at that computer. Moreover, these days after having applied the Optimizer in WS2012, my audio computer is only useful as a music box...can't use it as a regular computer anymore.
So the bottom line is I started ripping at a different computer 2+ years ago for what I thought was a good reason at the time, but have now forgotten the reason and anyway now I couldn't rip at my audio computer even if I wanted. Sorry I can't offer better support for my statement, but did offer a honest answer :-)
Rip them and play them from the same computer if you like. I did that when I was using an optimized MacBook and then MacMini for computer audio. Just use good ripping software. For PC you would want to use dbpoweramp.
I have since graduated to a NAS with server software and run wired Ethernet to my source.
"Dedicating the computer to audio playback only is the preferred route so you can eliminate other processes that cause internal noise. Using the same computer for ripping and playback is not ideal. You can rip at any other computer, copy the files into a flash drive, and copy them into the audio computer."
The most absurd thing I've read on the internet in many months. Seriously folks, if there was ever a device designed to do many things at once, it is a computer. a GENERAL PURPOSE computing device. Internal processes causing audible noise? Oh yeah, you should NEVER run Excel while listening to music. Please.
Sure, mechanical devices inside the chassis can make noise and quieter fans and SSDs can address that, but the primary reason for SSD use should be for performance, not db reduction. If your fans make noise, replace them with Noctua's. Water cooling is for over-clockers.
You can fiddle with DirectSound/ASIO/WASAPI playback settings if your player supports them but if you're so concerned about noise from your PC, get a hifi music streamer.
I reckon this can sound absurd to some, just like cables sounding different sounds absurd to some. At this point this is not an exchange of views anymore, so I'll leave it here. There are plenty of people at specialized fora stating this, and I have experienced it myself. Maybe we are all delusional.
For those interested, check out computeraudiophile.com or jplay forum. I'm more than willing to help those intrigued/interested with what I know, but I'm in no way on a crusade to turn folks into believers.
There's absolutely no reason a modern computer has to be dedicated to music playback. Some playback software can be more sensitive than others to other processes running, but audio playback is not CPU or disk activity intensive. Should you run Photoshop, burn a DVD and download an HD movie while listening to Pure Music with upsampling? Probably not, but going to the opposite extreme of having no other operations active is overkill.
I think you are partly right. A process that doesn't run while playing music should generate electrical noise/jitter.
However, there are many reports from users talking about sound improvements from minimizing the processes that run on a computer. I know I experienced a very significant improvement in sound from running the same OS on the same hardware without and with AudioPhil's Optimizer, which does exactly that. So I'm a believer. One of the critical processes to disable seems to be graphics and running headless, rendering a computer useless for anything other than audio playback. So in my view a computer dedicated to audio is the best way.
This doesn't mean audio will sound bad on a multi-purpose computer. For a long time I used a laptop to feed my Audiophilleo and DAC with great results. I'm only saying to get the BEST results a dedicated computer is the way to go. Just like anything in audio, I guess, a full blown assault renders better results than "just" a very good one.
Many other folks who use JPlay report best sound from using two computers optimized for audio: one as controlPC and one as audioPC. I can't comment on this as I haven't tried it, but again it shows there are improvements to be gained from dedicating a computer to audio only.
Some folks are experimenting with EMI/RFI shielding and absorption inside a computer and report improvements. Overkill? Maybe, but I haven't tried it so can't speak.
The issue of noise in a PC is an interesting and complicated one. I think it goes without saying that the PC should not have a lot of other work being down on it. Surfing the Internet while playing music is just a bad idea. I also turn off any virus control when playing music. You should minimize what is running, but going to hibernate mode on JPlay seems extreme. Without running any special software on my laptop there is seldom more than 1% CPU usage other than the music player. I know there are all sorts of positions on this, so will not dwell on it.
One option is to deal with the issues outside of the PC. Products like ifi's iUSBPower or iPurifier or Empirical's various products like his reclocker can deal with many of the ill effects of the PC environment. One option is to do the obvious things to minimize PC usage and then use these outboard solutions. Food for thought.
FWIW, I'll share my experience. My music server has plenty of headroom (Xeon quad core, 8GB RAM), runs Windows Server 2012 and JRiver, and feeds an Audiophilleo with PurePower. The PurePower works pretty much like the iFi iUSB Power, but designed for Audiophilleo only. When I compare the server running audio only with no antivirus or other programs vs the same hardware & software plus the Optimizer, the difference is very clearly noticeable. I think whatever is going on does not only correlate with CPU load, and the example in my mind shows the iUSB/PurePower don't turn the upstream irrelevant.
Lewinskih01 - some people hear big differences from various optimizers, some do not. It seems to depend on a lot of factors. I can find a large number of people who report little or no improvement for the various programs that shut down lots of processes. I respect what you found but I do not believe that means it will be true for everyone. As I said, it is a complicated issue and there are tons of discussions on this issue in lots of forums.
I just wanted to point out that there are external options to consider.
I run a Sound Science, Music Vault Diamond server that utilizes Windows 7 and a Lineux sound card. I use JRiver for playback and DBpoweramp for ripping. The sound is incredable and beats the pants off my previously optimized MacMini. I was surprised at the ease of use and the better sound compared to the Mini.