General question on PC audio set-up

I've been using my Toshiba Qosmio Notebook(NB) and a 500 gig external hardrive for playing mostly flac and shn (but some wav and mp3 files). I have been very happy with the sound quality and haven't done anything exotic in the set-up.

I use the single external stereo speaker output on the NB and use a splitter with RCA plugs connecting to an Aux input to my ARC SP-12 preamp. I cannot notice any sound quality difference between playing the digital files and a CD. Not using any special cables for speakers or interconnects other than a higher end pair between the pre and the ARC D-90 amp. Use Focal bookshelf speakers and the sound is very good.

The only question is that I've read a lot of forums where people are using D/A converters and a lot of other components for their PC systems and I'm wondering if I'm missing something. Again, I'm quite happy with the current sound and have listened to many systems including others I've had over the years but not through a PC. This one sounds as well as I can expect.
I'm afraid you are missing everything, sorry. The fact that you are not using upgraded interconnects or speaker cables and a "splitter" tells all. The entire system must be tweaked/modded in order to get superb sound. No splitters allowed. The other alternative it so spend upwards of $100K.

What I would recommend is that you upgrade your digital source first. This is where most of the problems begin. If you use a high-quality digital computer converter and then go to a very good DAC, this will make all the difference in the world. Again, you can spend big bux on components such as DCS, EMM labs etc.. or you can spend medium bux on modded gear. IMO, nothing stock sounds good.

Then, buy some good quality silver IC's and good speaker cables. This will probably cost you in the neighborhood of $2000.

Then, I would look to upgrade your speakers and amps. Finally, your preamp, which may just need modding.

Until you have heard how good it can be, you cannot really understand what you are missing. Unfortunately, the only place to hear this type of sound is in appointment-only dealers showrooms and at CES. Typical bricks and mortar dealers never have a decent sound IMO.
Audioengr- So basically you're saying scrap everything and spend $20K. Sorry, not going to happen. Just bought my Focal 806's and Bob Carver 8 sub and very happy with them plus they fit in my room and pass the Wife Factor. I like my old ARC gear and not spending $5K+ on another amp/pre-amp. Beleive it or not I do have better things to spend big $$ on and I already have enough electronic crap in my house w/o getting into processors, converters and interfaces.

However, I would be interested in a reasonable solution to the single stereo audio output from my Qosmio WITHOUT adding another box to my stack. Then I may address upgraded cables/interconnects. Other than that I guess I'm really not a player.....but I appreciate your knowledge.
A USB converter, or DAC...Foobar or Winamp software player along with the (ASIO plugin and driver) sounds pretty darn good IMO. Cost....$75-$500 depending on what you buy.

I'm using a cheap "XITEL" converter ($75) cable directly from the converter into my Sunfire prepro.


>> Audioengr- So basically you're saying scrap everything and spend $20K. Sorry, not going to happen. <<

Based upon that statement alone, I can tell you're a reasonable man. In addition, you say you're quite happy with the sound quality as it is now. My question to you would be "Why mess with a good thing?"

To get sound from my PC network to my pre-processor, I'm using a LinkSys Wireless MusicBridge. I use the digital out from the MusicBridge into a digital input on my pre-pro and the sound is great. This lets me use the DACs in my pre-pro instead of the ones in my soundcard.

Using WinAmp with assorted plug-ins, I am able to playback virtually every file format - WAV, MP3, WMA, FLAC, SHN, DTS, APE.

You might want investigate using a MusicBridge, the cost is around $80 and the sound quality and convenience are very good.

Thanks RW, you sound reasonable too. My basic issue was that the PC files sounded equal to my CD's so why add all the converters and so forth to the PC end? I am using Winamp and play the flac and shn files along with WAV's that can play on Windows Media- they all sound good based on the quality of the original source.

I'll have to investigate the MusicBridge. Not exactly sure what you mean by the "pre-pro" and how it interfaces with my notebook, or if I even need a pre-processor but the cost certainly seems worthy of a look.

I really can't justify spending huge bucks on more gear, cables, interconnects etc. Don't care that much, but if there is an inexpensive but hi-value upgrade I'll cerainly go for it. Especially if it removes the splitter and audio output from the PC.

I believe the soundcard in the Qosmio is one of the better stock ones you can get already installed. Not interested in another $300 card either.

Thanks for the response back and not being another "mortgage the house for the best system" tweeker!
i sincerely think you need to spend AT LEAST $20k to get decent sound; its just the way it is -- it was proven by science. as for all the countless upgrading required to reach any small mote of audiophile bliss, audioengr hit the nail on the head, hit it so hard, it went through the wood of dracula's coffin and straight through his heart. btw it was a nail made of $2k silver ICs.

as a general rule of thumb you can NEVER have too many silver ICs. i mean, copper? c'mon. copper was so 90s. its called progress people.

"My question to you would be "Why mess with a good thing?""

thats what audioengr said fyi
"My question to you would be "Why mess with a good thing?""

I believe that's what RW said. Anyway, think I'll look into the MusicBridge and come over to your house if I want to hear "audiophile bliss."