Have you tried ripping straight into WAV with a different ripping program? I have used EAC and had the best result. I'd just try straight WAV and go from there. If it solves your resolution problem - maybe try a different lossless compression. If it doesnt help ... it's probably not a data stream/file compression issue.
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I'm using an M-Aduio Audiophile 192 sound card and run a coax digital out of the PC to an external DAC and to my amps. It just sounds flat to me
You should avoid any D to A and A to D conversion. Clearly by sending things through your sound card then you are making a conversion somewhere in the PC. Clipping in an A to D might explain what you describe.
If you are not making a D to A and A to D conversion then the sound cannot change between a CD played in your PC or from a separate CD transport.
Another possibility is that their is a bug in your compression and de-compression steps that introduces losses.
Yeah, it doesn't matter what type of file I use, even uncompressed WAV's. Actually, if I burn a CD from the existing files and play that from a CD player running to the same DAC, it sounds better, so I know it's not the source files. Honestly, I hear a bigger difference between the CD player and HTPC quality, than I do a 320Kbps MP3 and WAV!
I have a similar setup with a Benchmark DAC and I'm running WinXP Pro. There is a huge difference with ASIO drivers. You may have to try some different software combinations. I've used Winamp and ASIO4All with the winamp ASIO plugin with some good success. Very crisp with ASIO, horrible without it. If you don't notice a huge improvement then somethings not right.
Also, you may want to try using a SPDIF connection to remove the ground connection between the computer and your DAC. I haven't experimented much with it since I don't believe I have a Coax out on my card...wouldn't use it either way for a computer setup... (cheap $24 chaintech Envy24 based card) but it sounds almost as good as my PS Audio Lambda II CD into the Benchmark, so it must be doing something right. Keep the connection as short as possible. I do want to try out some more expensive cards, but there's only so much you need to do when you put the signal into a good DAC as far as cleaning up the timing goes.
The external USB options might be a big improvement over your internal M-Audio card. I have no experience with the M-Audio card to say for sure, but in my research it seemed to me that none of the cards could touch the external devices. You'll need someone more technical than me to explain why. Examples would be the Waveterminal U24, Empirical Audio's OffRamp, or other products that convert USB to S/PDIF via an external box. The other option would be to go to a USB DAC, but since you like yours, there should be no reason to go with the former suggestion. I've had great results using iTunes + WAV and Apple Lossless + Waveterminal U24 to DAC. I'm betting the culpret is your card.
Audioengr's comments in the attached thread sum it up:
There's some really helpful information on all aspects of PC Audio from Audioengr (Steve of Empirical Audio)in many of the threads he's contributed to. There's a good debate between Steve and Alex, of APL, on this thread. I haven't tried Steve's solutions, but they seem to be very highly regarded, as well as on the pricier side where that link/technology is concerned. Some may say, you get what you pay for. A good friend and fellow A'goner told me he heard a VERY impressive demo of Steve's new Pace Car reclocker at CES just recently. He was mightely impressed by the additional resolution it brought out from the digital files in the context of that demonstration. Anyone else hear that demo? I'd be curious to hear further comments. I'd be more curious to hear this stuff myself!
Thesauce - you state you are running MCE. Are you untilizing that interface to access your music, or are you running Foobar or similar player that supports ASIO? What version of ASIO are you using? Soundcard drivers up to date?
Also, take a look at this thread specifically the comments made concerning S/PDIF connections.
Shadorne - Thanks for your responses, but I think there's more to it than that:
"You should avoid any D to A and A to D conversion. Clearly by sending things through your sound card then you are making a conversion somewhere in the PC. Clipping in an A to D might explain what you describe."
There is no A to D conversions... going sttraight out the SPDIF of the sound card to an external DAC.
"If you are not making a D to A and A to D conversion then the sound cannot change between a CD played in your PC or from a separate CD transport."
I used to beleive this, but it's not true, as you can read about the KMixer. I also beleive it goes beyond just the KMixer, since I've tried ASIO drivers that bypass it. Anything the computer does to process the sound affects it, even though you're in the dital realm.
"Another possibility is that their is a bug in your compression and de-compression steps that introduces losses."
I get the same results when running an uncompressed file (WAV).
Yeah, I'm using ASIO with WinAmp and Foobar2000 for testing purposes (although I like MCE because of the remote, there is an obvious quality loss when using it). The ASIO undoubtebly sounds better, a lot clearer, no distortion that is audible like when going through the Kmixer, but it's still not as 3d as a regular CD transport to the DAC... Arghhhh...
I think you may be right. I guess it may be a power source issue with an internal card sharing the dirty power in the computer... has anyone tried the Trends Audio UD-10? I am considering it since it's a USB and uses seperate power (even a battery pack if you want) and it's for 130 bucks! I just don't know how much of an issue the power is, vs. the clocking that makes it sound better. I'm sure it's not the best clock in the $130 unit.
I talked with Steve from Empirical and he seems to really know his stuff. His products sound like a great solution, but a little pricey... but may very well be worth it. I am curious though if anyone out there using cheaper units have got their computer to sound as good as a CD transport? I've had replies on how the USB devices sound "better" than internal cards, but can someone experiment with a CD player and tell me if it sounds as good or better? Also, anyone use Vista with MCE? I hear they fixed the Kmixer issue... that would be great!
Ben I'll let you know what I think of the Trends unit when it arrives..hopefully this week. Right now I'm using a optical out directly to the Dac. I also use Foobar, SRC and the ASIO with Kernal Streaming . The sound is terrific now..it has me wondering how much better it can get. I think my unit has the newer software with the Kmixer fix.... not sure though.
Have you tried the Secret Rabbit code?..it helps the sound quite a bit!
Gmood1 - Definitely let me know what you think of the Trends. I'd really like to get the Off-Ramp, but I just can't afford it right now. If I can find something that equals my CD transport quality, I will be happy for now, but until then the computer is only a convenience thing...
Yes, I tried the SRC when it came with Foobar a ways back (I guess it needed to be licensed so they pulled it). Honestly, I had a hard time telling a real difference. The upsampling on my hardware DAC sounds better to me, but it does seem to "soften" the sound. As you can see from my setup, I like the soft sound, so that's a plus for me.
So have you tried an optical out to your DAC from a CD source to compare? I'm curious of others setups if their computer is sounding as good as a CD source. BTW, I use glass optical cables and for my setup, they are slightly better than the coax... I don't have the option with the M-Audio card though...
Here is my solution, From PC to Roku SoundBridge via 50' ethernet cable (no wireless here) SPDIF via coax from the SoundBridge to a MF TriVista DAC. I am using Itunes to rip and play .WAV files. The roku works with the Itunes database and displays the album, artist and song titles even for .WAV files.
With this setup on most discs that I have compared I can't tell the difference between my transport (Theta Data Basic II) and the computer.
This is a fairly inexpensive option that may get you by. The SoundBridge M1001 is $200.00. Plus $40.00 for an ethernet cable the cable must be a reversing cable unless you are going through a switch then a normal ethernet cable is fine. A 1.5 meter digital cable will run $20.00 from BlueJeans cables. I feel that this is an execelent setup for the price.
P.S. Yes as you know there is a lot of grunge on the signal paths inside a PC.
You setup very similar to mine, I also use my HTPC as A/V source with a M-Audio Audiophile 192 using the SPDIF OUT into my A/V Marantz Receiver (acts as DAC) then using the pre-outs into my Aragon 4004 MkII power amp.
as software is concerned I use the latest drivers from M-Audio 5.10.00.5052v3 the great thing about these is that they natively support ASIO and AC3/DTS pass-through.
Foobar2000 0.9.4.1 and lossless FLAC (ripped with EAC).
as for trouble-shooting you problem, first off I would try a different digital IC, you might also want to check the M-Audio Control Panel and check the settings and share with us how you have your software settings set up.
also it is not uncommon for a lot of Pcs to have sub-standard power supplys, it might be something worth looking into, maybe an Enermax or a Seasonic as high quality replacements
As promised I am reporting on what the Trends audio UD-10 does or does not do. So far so good! If buying this unit..best to get the battery power supply. It makes quite a difference in my system and easily recognized. The same with the different digital outputs. I tried three of them..optical,coax and BNC. I prefer the BNC to the others.
The BNC was cleaner and clearer.
I noticed more snap with the battery supply running. My only real gripe is not being able to leave the unit plugged to the Converter while it charges. You have to unplug the supply in order to recharge the batteries.
For a $115 which includes shipping ...it is a no brainer if using PC direct. Is it the best USB converter?..I don't know..it is the best for me at the present. Connected to a good Dac and PC on the other end, I find it hard to imagine a one box player embarassing the combo.
I'm officially done with CD players or conventional transports as a whole..just doesn't make economical or convenience sense to me now.
I've watched some of you scream PC audio for over a year now..sorry I'm a little slow.;-)
I'm late to the party with no intentions of leaving it now! LOL
Try running Foobar 8.3 with the SCR and dithering. Yes, adding noise to the DAC can open up the imaging a bit more. Run ASIO4All with the card or asio drivers for Foobar. Make sure you try 44.1 output first. Upsampling in software has proven no discernable difference with my setup. As for Vista being a better software solution for audio, I doubt that it will play a significant part when one considers the DRM and content protection schemes that degrade performance at the consumers expense.
Cheap a** Chaintek 710 sound card modded by me.
Tri Vista 21 DAC
Genesis Digital lens
4- 7BST amps
BP 25 Pre
Infinity RS-1B speakers
Cheap a** Chaintek 710 sound card modded
Tri Vista 21 DAC
Levinson 33H amps
Genesis 200 speakers
I've been listening basically all day to this setup. Reconfiguring the Foobar and ASIO4all many times. I think now the unit sounds fantastic even without the battery pack. Adjusting the buffer to 128 without latency and using the ASIO4all as the primary output in the foobar menu sounds best too me. I set the SRC to 48khz upsampling.
I have no idea what the jitter level is in this UD-10. The website claims +/-10 ppm.I know it's bettter than my Superclock 3 player/transport by a mile.So it must be extremely low from what I'm hearing now. Going back through well known recordings. It makes the soundstage so well defined...like I've never heard before. It does this without glare or hardness.....No edginess either. It is though the lid was taken off. The notes just flow like I've never experienced! I urge anyone not on the PC train..try one of these units out if you already have a non USB DAC. It takes patience and time to find the right settings,but once you find them...Oh my GAWD!!
This is another one of those little Gems that's a true value best buy!
Ben I bought my unit from Buyoyo.com. The guy on agon is based in Canada. These units ship directly from Hong Kong. If their in stock and you go courier shipping. You'll have one within a few days. The UD-10 units are selling faster than the manufacture can produce them. Their always out of stock. I waited a month for mine..hopefully it will be faster for you.
I'm trying to find a 5 volt AC/DC 1.5 amp power supply converter so I can plug this unit into the wall. Not having much luck! I assume the sound would be about the same as using the batteries.
I ordered the UD-10 from the dealer on Audiogon last week. I will report my findings after I receive it.
If I am using a MAC with the OS X and iTunes 7 - then do I have all those different settings (sample rates, buffer setting, etc.) some of you PC'rs are talking about through ASIO and Foobar? Would someone else who uses a MAC chime in on this?
I am aware of the Audio MIDI control panel which might have some relevance to this but have not messed with it or seemed to need to.
Pardales I wish I could help you with that.Can you use foobar? Just asking because I have no clue. The ASIO is definitely the way to go with the UD-10 using PC. The difference using the ASIO as the output is quite staggering! I tried using the DS:USB DAC and Primary sound driver as outputs. The ASIO was heads above them.
You may want to try that SRC also and see if it makes a difference.
I have a linear power supply on the way. Thanks to a very nice Agon member. This will eliminate the use of the battery supply. Try to find a AC/DC converter that will power the SB3..this same unit will power the UD-10. Make sure it uses a non switching power supply..not the basic wallwart.
Just following up with my decision to purchase a UD-10. I received one in the mail yesterday that I purchased from a dealer here on Audiogon. Unfortunately, it died after about an hour of use. This may have been my fault though, I don't know. It worked great until I plugged in the AES/EBU digital. The moment I plugged that in, it threw my DAC into a frenzy, making digital noise and lights on the front were acting weird. I immediately unplugged the digital cable, but my DAC was still going nuts, so I unplugged the power from the DAC (no power switch). Luckily after I restored power to my DAC, it came back up and works fine, but the UD-10 is now dead (at least no output from any of the digi outs anymore, the headphone out still works).
I wrote the seller on this to see how to work the warranty on this thing, but haven't heard back yet. It really sounded MUCH better than my internal card digital outs (coax) and I didn't even get to use the battery yet. So I'm curious... Is it common practice to unplug from the USB any time a digital connection is made to a USB DAC? I want to know if the device was faulty or if it's possible that its my fault for making a connection while it was powered on by the USB. The problem here is that the UD-10 didn't come with any manual whatsoever... not even a piece of paper decribing the device. There was nothing to tell me not to make any connections while it's plugged to the USB. I've done this many, many times in the past (other devices powered on when making digital connections). Actually most DAC's don't even have a power button, so they expect you to plug them in while powered on...
Anyway, it's a sad thing right now. Hopefully it's not a huge hassle to repair/return under warranty. I'll let you guys know how it goes. I will say that for the short while that I heard it, it was much better and I would buy another one if I knew it was reliable.
That's a bummer Ben. Well I've plugged digital outputs up too mine... no problems at all. You are suppose to unplug the USB when plugging or unplugging the power supplies. I haven't seen anything about the DAC being turned off. I've had two DACS plugged up at the same time ..no problems. Maybe the unit was just defective?
If you think it sounded good off the USB power. You should hear it with the battery or linear power supply.
I hope the Agon dealer takes care of you. The unit is definitely worth the $90. You'll spend several thousand on a CDP to match it combined with a good DAC.
Gmood1 - I just got a call from Koby that sold me the UD-10. He was very cool about it and he's shipping me another one right now. Good guy there. This time, I'll make all the digital connections BEFORE plugging it into the USB, although he said that it shouldn't have fried it doing what I did, so it may have just been a defective unit. Still, I would rather not take the chance a second time!
So where did you get your power supply from? You said one that works with an SB3? What is an SB3?
Also, I am using Vista with MCE and it sounds a whole lot better than XP (not ASIO). I can't A/B XP ASIO and Vista, so I don't know if they are the same or not. I am leaning towards thinking that ASIO would be better, just because Vista will still enable you to use digital volume control. This is a great feature for me, since my tube preamp doesn't have a remote. If I can get it to sound as good as my CD transport, then I'll be happy. For the hour that I got to hear it, it was VERY close, but I think barely a little less 3D (barely, not like before). I am sure this will go away after the unit burns in and if I change the power source. I'll let you know the results when I get the other unit in the mail. Take Care!
Yes I like the volume control too. I have this with my PC. The only problem is if the volume control is still enabled while listening to music. You haven't bypassed the windows audio sys.
It makes the sound stage a bit flat. The USB-Audio driver will completely take out the windows audio sys.
In order to get the best sound, the Kmixer has to be bypassed completely. You need the ASIO drivers to do that. You'll know when it's done because the volume control will have no effect.
The SB3 stands for Squeeze Box 3. You can go to Audio Circle and read about these little wireless units.
You need a 1.5 amp 5 volt power supply . Elpac use to make them.The same units discussed on AC will work with the UD-10.Go to AC an do a search on SB3 power supplies. You should get a lot of info to pop up. EBay could be a good place to look for this power supply. It is larger than the USB converter itself. lol
You shouldn't need to go through all of this trouble to get better results. Something else is going on.
I don't know about that particular card, but have lots of experience with the Coax out of the M-Audio 24/96 and even the less expensive Revolution. I typically use plain old MusicmMatch Jukebox and do everything as WAV files. The results are very good. Not as good as multi-thousand dollar transports, but at least as good as entry level ones.
I also don't have any experience with your specific DAC. I can tell you that some DACs are much more sensitive to timing error than others and that could be a problem. In my experience, the Perceptual Technologies units work very well with PC's as a source.
For my own system, I use a Lynx AES16 with AES/EBU digital out into an Audio Research DAC3mkII. It gives me the best results of anything I have ever tried. The cards from Lynx and RME are better sounding than most others, including the otherwise pretty good M-Audio cards.
I used to spend a lot of time experimenting with this stuff and comparing the best I could achieve with a PC to very high end transports like the Audio Research CD3 and Linn CD12, for comparison.
For those of you who think that a transport is just a transport and that a PC can easily equal any transport, my experience has found that nothing could be further from the truth.
From my experience, I think you do have to go through "this much trouble" to get good quality out of a computer. I don't think it was too much trouble though. I've found that in my experience, seperating the power from the computer is a major difference in sound quality, as well as bypassing the Kmixer in windows. The best sound card in the world is going to sound bad if the data fed to it is distorted from the kmixer (and I imagine the dirty power from the computer doesn't help the situation). I am very happy with the quality I am now getting from the computer. I didn't think it would be possible, but USB with it's own power source is the way to go. I'm using Vista now, which doesn't have the kmixer anymore and it sounds MUCH better than XP did... I mean night and day difference here. I am not sure if it's better than ASIO in XP, since I can't easily A/B them. You may want to try ASIO on your system and see what you think if you haven't already. I think a PC can surpass any transport if it's set up right. The technology to pull data off a hard drive is far surperior to optical CD technology, as long as you get bit perfect transfers to the drive in the first place. Maybe certain transports color the sound in a pleasing way that the PC won't do, but that's what my DAC and tube system are for.
The reason I said that you shouldn't have to "go to all of this trouble" is that in your original post you reported acheiving sound that was noticeably inferior to "any old CD player." In my experience this is definately not normal. I have been able to equal or surpass entry level CD players without going through the same steps that you had to. It makes me believe that there was something wrong, incompatible, or just not working right in your PC originally.
I would also respectfully disagree with you that a "PC can surpass any transport if it is set up right." Don't be so sure until you have had world-class transports and DACs to compare to in your system at home. I've spent a lot of time with units reference-quality digital players at home and am fortunate enough to get to work with them every day, and believe me, equalling their sound, or even coming close is no easy feat. If it were that easy, no high end manufacturer would still be selling those very expensive reference products. Companies like Meridian, Linn and others, have been trying for years to get a PC/hard drive/buffered machine to make state-of-the-art sound, and haven't been able to. I am not aware of anyone who has yet demonstrated or even made a serious claim to be able to equal the world's best digital players with a PC. I'm not saying that it can't or won't happen. I can't wait until it does. But we aren't there yet.
My understanding of the USB method is that has the potential of being superior to SPDIF, but in terms of actual implementation thus far, has not acheived anywhere near its potential. One possible exception to this is supposed to be the USB DACs from Wavelength Audio (I have never heard them). See their web site for a technical discussion and more detailed theory on this matter. They get quite expensive though.
Anyway, I'm glad you are getting better results with your new setup. Good luck!
Well, this thread is a little old now, but I'm going to have to follow up on it. I am now using a Paradesia + USB DAC, so I'm running straight from the PC to the DAC, then to a Placette RVC and to my amp. It still isn't "quite" up to par as the CD transport to a MSB digital director (jitter correction) then to the DAC using glass toslinks. It sounds VERY good, and it's close... but it's just not quite there. Not quite as involving and the soundstage is not as deep... the transients are also slightly longer using the CD transport. I've tried Foobar, DS through Vista. I also tried the same glass toslinks out of the computer (using an external USB converter, nice modded linear power) to the jitter correction and to the DAC just like the CD player and it sounds REALLY close to the direct USB to the DAC, but barely not quite as good, and obviously not as good as the CD transport. I'm using CD's I burned from the music on the computer, so I know it's not a data loss issue. I'm stumped on the reason why, but as for now, CD still beats the Hard Drive in my experience. I guess the quest goes on!
It still isn't "quite" up to par as the CD transport to a MSB digital director (jitter correction) then to the DAC using glass toslinks. It sounds VERY good, and it's close... but it's just not quite there. Not quite as involving and the soundstage is not as deep...
That's interesting, Ben. For as much as I love my SB3 into my EAD DSP7000 Mk.III DAC, I have to admit it does not sound as good as my transport (Proceed PDT3) into the same DAC. As I said in a thread on the Digital forum, it's not really fair to say it doesn't "sound" as good. Tonally and in frequency response presentation it is right up there with my transport source. But it is lacking in exactly the same area you identify - the soundstage. Not as deep, and actually not quite as wide.
This is like asking CD quality versus Vinyl quality. The result depends entirely on the devices used. It can go either way. In this case, the SB3, which is very good and easy to use probably has higher jitter than the Proceed transport, or at least the jitter spectra is more objectionable. They probably both have high jitter IMO. The SB3 can be made much better than you can ever make the Proceed Transport. The technology of the network enables this. The SB3 just needs a reclocker to reduce jitter and it will undoubtedly pass up the transport by a large margin.
I own a USB DAC, and it rocks, however, that's not totally true. I need to follow up on my last comments because I mis-stated something major in it. When I last tested the CD transport against the DAC, I had the DAC running from the USB input and not the glass toslinks. In theory, the direct USB should have sounded better, but in my setup it does not. It has taken a LOT of experimenting to get here, so I will share my experience with others and hopefully save them a lot of time.
Get a Trends UD-10 (USB to SPDIF converter) or similar device. Then upgrade the power to a linear power supply (absolutely necessary). Run a glass toslink from the USB converter to a jitter reduction unit (I use a MSB digital director). Then run glass to the DAC. With the digital director, I can have up to 6 digital sources that automatically switch when they get a signal. This way I could play back the CD transport and the computer at the same time and flip between the two, playing the same song at the same time. I could not tell a difference between the two! The computer sounds just as good now. I swear by the MSB digital director... going through that opens the soundstage and bass response that was lacking compared to the CD transport against the USB input to the DAC. And I'm talking the difference between sitting and listening to music for hours instead of just turning it off. It's what puts the music right into that place where it comes into the room with you and is so involving. That's what I need when I listen!
My girlfriend and other friends have also commented on it and agreed that going through the jitter reduction sounds better than direct USB, and they are not as freakish about sound as I am.
Yes, this may just be my system. Maybe Audioengr's equipment does this without using a seperate re-clocker (like the MSB I use) or just clocks it right in the first place. But what I'm trying to get at is that the direct USB doesn't always mean it's better!
This may be a not too welcome suggestion around the pc audio forum, but remember this IS audiogon.
Try a good quality power cord for the pc, or make one. I found this made a big difference, especially bass slam and smoothness. I go J River media center on the xp pc to a Wavegterminal U24 to an EAD Ovation Plus DAC/preamp to 300b tube amps.