PC Based Audio - How?

I am hearing a lot of good things about PC audio as a replacement for conventional CD players. My question is threefold; first, what are the basic components I need to run a Mac laptop based PC audio system? Secondly, is it possible to simply feed the digital output from a Mac laptop (or MS Windows laptop) into my Krell HTS 7.1 processor for D/A conversion? Finally, any advantage/disadvantage using a laptop over a desktop for CD storage/playback? Any comments on equipment choice (say for a $2k budget), software and file ripping/storage formats would also be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your advise.


I use Windows Media Player to rip discs to lossless .wav format and as a music server on a Toshiba Vista PC. I use a Roku Soundbridge (~$200) with an outboard tube DAC (mhdt Paradisea)connected via standard RCA phono ICs to my audio system that also connects via a wireless WiFi connection to the remote laptop music server.

Use the similar music server program (not sure what that is though) to Windows Media Player that is provided on the MAc in a similar configuration and you will have a flexible and great sounding music server setup with sound that can play in the big leagues.

Using a MAC laptop is probably the easiest way to do PC based audio. Yep, you can take the digital output from your MAC directly into your processor. You just need to rip your music to iTunes using Apple lossless or AIFF. Don't forget to turn on error correction too when you set the ripping format.

I'm not sure how good the DACs are in the Krell. If you like it and want to try to squeeze out a little more sonic purity, try a quality external DAC next.


Yes, it's possible assuming your computer has audio outputs compatible with your Krell processor. Most modern computers have digital output via COAX and/or Toslink (optical). If not you can add a soundcard or external converter. The direct connection from your stock computer to the Krell would not be the ideal solution though.

dBpoweramp for ripping in FLAC format in windows. Apple lossless for the MAC. Windows Vista is better than XP for audio.

What I do is connect my Vista desktop, or XP laptop to a Saffire LE via firewire then out to the DAC (also a Paradisea) via COAX then stereo RCA to the NuForce processor...amp...speakers. I bypass the DAC running the COAX direct to the processor for 5.1. I've also used the desktop's onboard audio COAX output direct to the processor, but had periodic noise/interference issues this way. The DAC is currently connected with my CD changer (transport) and not the computer.

There are literally hundreds of product options, and several connection options including wireless, ethernet, firewire, USB, I2S (electrical serial bus interface), S/PDIF - COAX (RCA or BNC connector), or FO5 optical (Toslink), or AES/EBU...
I have tried both my own iMac G5 and my brother inlaw's MacBook laptop via optical toslink to my Sunfire HT processor as well as an outboard dac, PS Audio DLIII. Both work flawlessly and sound stunning good in comparison to my reference dvd player.

Other options I've tried are wireless feed to Airport Express; not nearly as good audibly, but very convenient for casual listening. I would not recommend wireless for critical listening - at least not AE.

But w/ your Mac laptop, you have everything you need to get started on a fun and fulfilling journey. As Ruebent mentions, configure iTunes correctly and you will hear excellent results.


Many thanks for your good advise. I used to aspire to a dCS based CD player, not anymore though! You have convinced me computer base CD play back is the way to go. Can't wait to give it a try. Thanks.

" I used to aspire to a dCS based CD player"

Me too. I'm glad I did some experimentation first to change my mind....
Do some reading - find a DAC that is reknown for jitter rejection and that accepts all the standard digital inputs (AES/EBU, S/PDIF, TOSLINK and now USB) and off you go - start auditioning for the sound style you like (all D to A converters will have subtle differences).

Unlike what Eric says - as long as your DAC is robust at jitter rejection then you can even consider an Airport Express or just about anything else which has less than stellar jitter performance.

Think about it - your source may likely change over the years - so apart from finding a DAC that you like the sound of - your biggest consideration should be to find one with as many inputs as possible and reputable jitter immunity...then just plug and play.
I've been out of audio and A'goN for over two years, but am getting ready to jump back in this time with a Mac based front end.

Right now I'm looking for my best options using the USB output from a Mac into a DAC via I2s, bypassing S/PDIF altogether.
Right now I'm looking for my best options using the USB output from a Mac into a DAC via I2s, bypassing S/PDIF altogether.

Dean - you may want to check out Empirical Audio's gear. It may be just what you are looking for.

Check out this site. . .answers to almost any question you might have:

Sorry, typo. That's:

I have to regress; I did a direct comparison today between iMac vss Airport Express via toslink optical connection to my dac. Results: both sound most excellent, almost identical. I stand corrected by Shadorne. Must be my dac - it is very, very good, and I now have decided to keep it! Thanks Shadorne.