PC based music server from TAS

I wanted to share my experiences with building the PC based music server that talked about in the December 2007 TAS. I was running it on an dual core Athlon with 1GB memory. At first I used an internal sound card from creative, the Audigy Soundblaster 2. I loaded Exact Audio Copy ( a great program by the way!) along with foobar2000. The sound was just Ok. I added the Kernel Streaming dll file and things got somewhat better. So I went for the whole setup and bought the Echo Gina 3G sound card with decent but not great TSR to XLR cables. I installed ASIO, Purewave and copied in a few Cds using the EAC uncompressed WAV file type. Hooked it all up expecting great things etc. etc. Just as a sidebar my system is all ARC stuff i.e. Ref 1 preamp, Vt100 MkIII, Cd 2 and a PH3 running into Tyler Acoustics Signiture Monitors. The sound was very clear and detailed but it lacked something intangible. The best adjective I can think of is "vitality". It was very lifeless, a quality that I don't get listening to the normal setup. I would be curious to hear if anyone else has attempted this PC setup and what their experiences are. If what I can up with is the expectation of music server sound, I'm not too excited about this trend.
I have to admit, I felt the same as you until I added a Slimdevices Transporter to my system. Before that I was using a fairly inexpensive USB DAC, the Stereo-link. It's not that it was bad, it was just a little dry to my ears. Same basic stuff as you EAC/FLAC/Foobar/ASIO4ALL etc. Now, with the Transporter, I am actually playing more digital than vinyl, for the first time.

Also, look at your system. Is a $275 soundcard really in the same bracket as your other components?
High quality, external DACs will sigificantly upgrade any computer hard drive transport system.

Jim Ricketts/tmhaudio
The TAS article also has me experimenting with running the PC directly into an integrated using both EAC/Foobar and Apple Lossless/Itunes. This setup does not use the echo soundcard, just a cable from the computer headphone jack to rcas. Thus far, Foobar seems to be slightly better than Itunes (not sure why) but both are flatter than a very dated CDP. This is not to say that the computer source is terrible and would certainly work well for a party but the CD is preferred source right now for critical listening.

Planning on testing Benchmark DAC 1 and Apogee Mini Dac which will hopefully boost performance.
Point taken on the quality of the Echo sound card. If the recording industry is really going in this direction for software i.e. MP3 downloads vs. CD sales, than are they taking a step backwards in sound quality?
All guidance seems to point away from using a sound card. I recommend reading some of Audioengr's posts on this. An external DAC will make a big difference, as well as the way you get the signal into the DAC. Not all USB devices are created equal and some digital connections work better than others.

You've obviously done a lot in this area already. I recommend trying a better DAC (for what it's worth, I wasn't impressed with the Cosecant or Benchmark USB DAC-1, but others here seem to like them). And also connecting to the DAC using an Empirical Audio interface, such as the Turbo-2 or PaceCar. This should outperform your external sound card solution, but the cost may be much higher.
I have my whole library on a dedicated PC-based music server and do the vast majority of my listening from it. I have it set up to output "raw" S/PDIF out to an external DAC. It sounds fantastic. I might just be ignorant of the other levels that fantastic might reference, either through an uber-CD player or a top-notch vinyl front-end, but I've never had the thought, "This is fundamentally lacking, somehow, but at least it's really convenient"