well, even my Marantz CD7 sounds better them any computer audio I had/have.....
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dcs makes excellent gear but not everyone thinks that it is the best. There is also not one level of quality for computer based systems. Some probably sound 10 or maybe even 11 and some probably sounds 2 or 3.
Some people like to rip their cds to a computer so that they can browse their music collection and make up playlists. This is nice, but I think I would rather save my money until easier to use and cheaper servers are available, and more high resolution music downloads are available.
Computer based systems can play internet radio, which is good for the variety of music available for free, but the sound quality of the webcasts is usually not the best.
I hope this is some help. If you tell us about your system and your music collection I think we can offer better advice about how to improve it.
Many of us are getting excellent results with computer audio. Like everything it is all in the implementation; properly set up computer, good software, good cables, and a good DAC.
Higher resolution downloads are becoming more common up to 24 bit 192KHz.
Go poke a round over here
Never heard a DCS.
There is much debate about the best computer setup. I prefer a Mac since there is good software and they are easy to use but others prefer a PC. Like all things audio there is rarely a best, just different ways.
Go to the websites for Wavelength Audio and Empirical Audio. They have some info on setting up the computer.
The Marantz CD7 recommendation is interesting. It uses a much older 44.1KHz/16 bit DAC that in reality falls somewhat short of 16 bits. Given the availability of 24 bit 192KHz material you are limited in what it can handle. I've also found these DACs to be very forgiving and seductive but compared to modern DACs they just don't have the resolution or high frequency extension of modern DACs. I understand why some like it but it really falls short of the latest implementations.
PC is much cheaper. I have gotten improvement in sound for $200. utilizing PC that would have cost a minimum of $1000. before I discovered PC. Yesterday I compared the sound from my "playlist" to a Marantz transport feeding a DTI before going into a DAC, and the only difference was volume. After synchronizing a CD on the transport with the computer "playlist", I was able to go back and forth through the duration of the CD. The only difference was volume; I had to turn the volume up on the "playlist". PC DAC was the Musicstreamer II.
I prefer near-field listening on my PC. First reflections, everything sounds detailed. Sub under the desk helps out with movies and those times when additonal bass is desired. Water cooled system with acoustically treated case means my computer is dead silent when the fans are turned down. Listening to music, skipping through a recently torrented file while browsing AudiogonN at the same time. Digital multitasking is priceless. Aside from the transport, I do not see why PC audio should be in any way, shape, or form be inferior to conventional stereo setups. SACD workarounds include PS3 stereo rips to 24/88.2. AF/AP/DCC/MFSL/HDtracks material can all be ripped losslessly. And you can use the same preamp/amp, DAC, speakers, interconnects, treat the room...
There is no reason why a competently designed computer audio system (generally Mac, not PC) will not beat the highest end CD player or transport. Competently designed is the key. It is important to pick the right manufacturer. Most of the high-end systems at RMAF now use computer audio, and virtually all of the rooms that get best of show from TAS use computer audio.
It does require that you make some correct decisions along the way however, such as using the right playback software and ripper and a good master clock in the computer interface. As in all digital playback systems, the master clock is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, period.
Didn't DCS write a paper on how to set-up Computer Audio?
Somebody help out here! Awidyne, how much money were you
concidering investing in a System? DCS is some serious
money, but can be done via one of their DAC's-and one of
their transports plus PC Digital Audio Feed. These days you
can have both with many manufacturer's. Just not sure of the continued availability of CD Format for Ripping. I
would make sure that whatever DAC you use, can decode-
16/44.1, 24/48, 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/192, 24/196. You might
eventually want to experiment with High Rez. Downloads.
"There is no reason why a competently designed computer audio system (generally Mac, not PC) will not beat the highest end CD player"
Hi Steve, I noticed in other writings that you prefer MAC and your statement above says "Generally", but are you saying that even if you make all the right moves in PC that it cannot compete with MAC? I've not heard the best of the best on MAC, but what I've heard PC certainly competes. Have I missed something or are you saying subjectively?
I am tempted to respond to this, Timlub. My impression is that I-Tunes (MAC) is not so good. Amarra will give PC a
run for its Money. MAC Mini sounds promising, but modifications cost as much as a brand new MAC Mini, if not
more! Why didn't MAC get it right in the first place with
I-Tunes/MAC Mini? Neither were originally designed, in their original versions, for Audiophile Sound Reproduction.
Everyone still swears by them. I am just weary of any
Manufacturer requiring so much modification that you could
build a new device from scratch. So great-but you gotta
radically modify it-Why?
So one last question Steve,
Is just MAC or are there versions that we would need to look for. Example Win 7 sounds clearly better than XP. Does a G4 sound as good as a current version? Any specifics we should seek out? (Sorry about double duty questions on this and another thread, please just answer this one, thanks)
A computer can be as good as any other digital source. After all, a compact disc player is basically just a limited computer with a limited operating system, no hard drive, and increased emphasis (relative to most computers) on D -A conversion.
If D-A conversion is effectively outsourced to another piece of audio gear, then computers absolutely belong in the high end.
With the introduction of asynchronous usb DACs I thought the computer interface and software would be less important. As long as all the 0's and 1's are delivered with or without jitter and power supply differences etc. I thought the newer DACS "RE-CLOCK" the signal making the device sending the data immaterial.
If this is not the case why is the computer and software sooo important? A data stream of audio bits and their delivery cannot possibly be as difficult to send without errors as all the data transfered in milliseconds each and every day, billions of times on Wall-street and satellite tracking and cell phone communications, DRONES in Afghanistan controlled remotely from Vandenberg AFB. that go on without a bit of error.
I find it hard to believe that using a PC, Linux, or one of the many Apple products if set up properly with minimum resource hogs would not sound the same if using a device that "Re-clocks the data" before going to the audio output.
can't comment on usb anything as i'm not a usb fan. will tell that when i tried a macbook pro/amarra in my streaming system, it sounded no different then my i5 win7 set-up. no difference what so ever even though we tried very hard to hear something(including hi res).
maybe mac's do better with usb??....they change nothing when streaming.
to answer the OP's original question...pc audio is getting really close imho. in my pc system, i'd call it an 8.5 vs the 10 my transport yields. hoping the upcoming ps audio pwd upgrade gets me over the small hump still remaining.
"If this is not the case why is the computer and software sooo important?"
Unfortunately, these USB interfaces are not as perfect as they should be. They are sometimes affected by common-mode noise, particularly when the system uses several different AC circuits, creating ground loops. I know this because of some experiments I did using common-mode filters on USB cables.
It is best to plug the computer and DAC into the same AC circuit, but this is no guarantee that it wil fix the problem entirely.