Help Me With Everything Needed: Computer Audio

I'm ready to set up a computer audio to stream music from my favorite websites. I'll do ripping and storage later on.

I want to try and stay around $2k for everything and connect it to my stereo rig.

My audio setup is:
Amplifier: Cary A-306(Class D)
Preamplifier: Classe CP 35
Speakers: Mirage OMD-28
Sources: Krell SACD Standard Mk3, Jolida JD 100 modified, Don Allen Marantz Changer

I've done a little research. I'm thinking to get a laptop or Mac Mini--whichever is less complex.

I'm thinking of the mhdt Havana DAC

Can you suggest a reasonably (think good but inexpensive) cable. Which is best, glass toslink, usb or other---I don't know all the jargon...

Please tell me everything I need to purchase to hook it up to my stereo rig.
Go the The Cable Company

They have a lending library. Good people. Great service.

decide for yourself

Uh, glass is better than plastic.
If all you are going to do is stream radio, then just get one box internet radio?
I'm unsure of what computer to get, although I mentioned the mac mini and/or a laptop. Any suggestions? I'm only considering the Havana as the DAC, though. I haven't made a decision on a good (inexpensive)digital cable of some kind either.

I'm stil open to suggestions on all three:

2. DAC
3. Digital cable

is the right usb cable called "usb a-b"

Onhwy61, later I plan to get storage and rip cd's, so no interest in internet radio. I mentioned that in the original post.
see my setup....real simple and sonically satisfying (how the computer end is structured)
Any additional recommendations?

1. Laptop (I don't know)
2. DAC (I'm thinking mhdt Havana or maybe Valab- leaning toward NOS)
2. Digital Cable (I'm thinking Wireworld Starlight a-b usb)

I'll get storage and rip later. Right now just want to stream from websites. Come on you veterans! Help out someone who is new to computer audio!
You could take a look at my secondary system. Instead of the SBT, connect a mac mini or macbook and you're all set. The SBT is better for internet radio as you have access to the Linn stations (320 kbps) and it's less $ than a computer.
On the mac mini used for my main system, I just use a stock USB cable to connect to the DAC. The main system sounds better, but I'm happy listening to either setup
I'm not a veteran in computer audio, more like a new recruit but I've gotten thru some basic training. Here are my thoughts:

1. Apple something (laptop, mini, ?). Their headphone out is analog and digital. For digital, you use a Toslink cable that has a mini on one end or an adapter that fits over a normal end. That gets you a pure digital stream without going thru their cheap internal DAC.

2. DAC: You'll have to describe the sound you like and go with peoples recs. Maybe you can find a seller that allows a demo period. The DAC I use was highly modified by a tech friend so it wouldn't do any good to name it. I like listening to internet radio (have Pandora on in the background now). GIGO applies. Some songs suprise me with how good this can sound, other songs...not so much. My DAC has what I would call "relaxed detail" so that even the poorer sounding recordings don't annoy. Something to think about.

3. Cable: I'm using a custom made silver/teflon coax one. I like it better than the plastic Toslink. I haven't heard glass Toslink yet. Of course, you won't have a choice of coax/Toslink if you go the Mac way.

Good luck.

For a dac, maybe the Havana is not a good idea after all. I am looking for something neutral with bass weight and crystal highs. I listen to classic jazz, rb and rock
I understand wanting a NOS DAC, but if you are really going with computer audio, you might want to consider on that does 24/96. I think the Havana only does 16 bit. 24/96 downloads are becoming more common and are often much better than 16/44.

I actually go against much of the thinking on the PC, using a dedicated Netbook with a 250GB disk and Windows 7 Starter and no anti-virus software. That means there are not many processes running. I use J River and the CPU usage is seldom more than 5%. Then, you can use a USB to SPDIF converter that controls the timing (async USB) like the M2Tech Hiface or Evo, Halide Bridge, Empirial Off-ramp between the netbook and the DAC. When using USB, the async mode is critial to reduce jitter.

If you just want to get your feet wet to start, consider the HRT Streamer II for $150. It is a USB dac that uses asynch USB. Probably not your final solution, but a good way to get started and you can probably resell it pretty easily. It is remarkably good for its price.

On a PC, J River and foobar are probably the most common players. foobar is free but it is a realtively simply user interface. J River is not free, but it is very flexible and support async USB very well. I would stay away from iTunes on the PC.
I set mine up about a year ago after much research and question asking. Here's what I ended up with:
1. Mac mini (new) with an ipod touch as remote control. I have a usb keyboard attached to the mini and a wireless mouse. Once a month or so I hook up a monitor to see if anything requires updating other than that the mini is pretty unobtrusive (check my system).
2. PS Audio DLIII (new) actually bought it here but it had never been used.
3. Monarchy Audio DIP, this was a later add on and brought the sound quality up dramatically.
I use a cheap mini toslink cable to the DIP with a ZU digital cable (forgot model) to DLIII.
Currently using itunes with music ripped as AIFF files to an external hard drive. I'm just too lazy to look into another software program to manage the music as it sounds pretty darn good right now.
With more than 5,000 songs on the hard drive, my favorite way to listen is call up all songs and shuffle. I probably do listen more to the Mac than my cdp, but if I want to listen critically I use the cdp. The Mac is just so freakin easy to use.
Good luck however you go and keep us posted on your progress.
Since I plan to rip and store later rather than now and want to stream from my favorite websites, I'm going with a Toshiba with I5 processor, HRT Streamer II+ and Wireworld Starlight usb.
There's a great article over at that got me to thinking that maybe I'll just hold off on going the computer route for now. It's not that it's not the next step up the evolutionary ladder but the extra costs and efforts are making it a non-starter for me at the moment. The author seems to have gone the extra mile and it looks like its right up your alley. Here's the link:

Good luck.
Thank you Nonoise, nice read. I picked up at least one or two good tips.
Nonoise - Many people are getting very nice results from computer audio. If you are not somewhat computer savvy, then it is probably best to hold off. But if you are somewhat computer savvy and willing to put in a little effort, it is very much worth it. I'm afraid the author of this article is a little too critical of a process which he may not be ready to accept.
Apparently, software like Amarra and Puremusic do not work with Windows-based computers. Can you make recommendations for software with a new Windows-based laptop with (Windows 7)?
foober is a free program that many like, especially when using ASIO. The user interface is somewhat limited, although there are front ends for foobar. J River Media Center is probably the most popular non-free program. It is very flexible and has very good support for Async USB. Your Streamer II+ will work nicely with J River using WASAPI Event mode, which is a mode meant for async USB. You can download a free 30 trial of J River. Windows Media Player and iTunes are generally not recommended for audiophiles using Windows. I use J River and like both its sound and its flexibility.
For PC media centers/playback, consider XX High-end or JRiver MC-16. For ripping and conversions, try DBPowerAmp's later versions.
This is something I came across and there is a free trial period. It was designed around classical music as it's so difficult to catalog but I believe it can be used for any kind of music. It's made in Europe but what the heck.
Here it is:

Good luck.
I meant to include this site with my earlier post. Just go through his posts and you should find what you need:
Thanks for the links Nonoise. I have a thread at computeraudiophile as well.