PC-Based Set Up/Process - Comments?

I am finally going to bet around to setting up a PC-based music server for my mid-end system (Rotel components, Paradigm reference speakers, Music Hall CD player, etc.). I am NOT seeking perfect sound. I am seeking a music server system that will sound as good as my Music Hall CD player.

Can you please provide comments with respect to any potential flaws in my system and or process to achieve the above?

- Rip CDs to Dell laptop (La Cie external hard drive) using iTunes in Lossless format (Windows XP environment)
- Play CDs using iTunes
- Airport express connected to external DAC (eg. Bel Canto)

I know that in the past I have heard issues with playback on the PC under windows XP. What specifically do I need to be aware of and how do I solve that?

Thanks to all.

ASIO based driver and soundcard to bypass Kmixer.
I use a modified Squeezebox and I don't miss my CD player at all
So I simply need to download an ASIO-based driver? Is there are particular driver that I should use? I have

Also, I have a sound card in my computer currently. Is there are particular sound card that I should use?

Thanks again to all.

Larry, what is mod'd on your Squeezebox?

I've been pondering an SB, as they appear a good value, but am hesitant about being forced to connect via ethernet. Seems like if the DAC is sitting right next to my computer, would make more sense to connect more directly via USB. Anyone have insight on this concern?
I'm confused by the rash of recent posts regarding the airport express connecting straight to a dac.

As I understand it, the Bel Canto DAC has USB.

Here's my setup. Airport EXTREME connected via usb to an external hard drive (where my music resides.) Then the music is streamed wirelessly to my computer and fed via USB to my USB dac which connects to my integrated amp.
You can connect the AE directly to the Toslink input on a DAC, but the jitter is really awful. Requires a reclocker to clean it up, or at least a really good clock and S/PDIF digital output mod.

Jitter is not bad on a Squeezebox, even stock. Slaved from a reclocker such as the Pace-Car, these networked servers can have extremely low jitter. This is the main advantage over USB. The disadvantage is that most do not do 24/96 yet.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I think my thread got jacked a little here. From what I am reading elsewhere, it is beginning to appear that I cannot use avoid the K-Mixer with iTunes (Apple Lossless) and Windows XP and I can't use the Airport Express with FLAC files (to use EAC and Foobar). Does that sound right? If so, can I get good sound using a PC, iTunes and Airport Express? I would prefer not to be spending additional money on a Squeezebox or something similar.
Foobar will allow the use of a ASIO driver. There is also ASIO for All. I am not to sure if the latter works as well as a sound card driver based solution. Both will bypass Kmixer. I use dithering and secret rabbit code with Foobar 0.83 to the DAC. I rip to .wav files and tag with freedb.org. You might look for plug-ins for the use of FLAC files.
Fishbone222 - kmixer is avoided for PC when using ANY networked server, such as AE, SB3, Sonos or Olive etc...

kmixer is only a problem for USB streaming audio, and only for certain devices and firmware. It is not a problem for my Off-Ramp and Freeway because the firmware makes it bit-perfect.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Jimmdavis....the squeezebox if probably the best buy in audio today. Mine has had the full analog and digital mods from Redwine Audio and runs from a storage battery. Somebody more astute in this area needs to chime in on whether direct hookup through the USB is capable of the same performance. I just like the capability for remote control and in my case to use the wireless mode into another room. The unit also has all sorts of internet radio stations, podcast, etc. Truly a electronics marvel
USB, at least with an Off-Ramp converter, has lower jitter and 24/96 capability. However, with a Pace-Car reclocker, the SB3 passes it up. Only a simple mod needed to the SB3.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I use an old PC laptop. WinXP to ASIOForAll to WinAmp with ASIO plugin to USB to PS Audio Dac III. Sounds great.

I've tried kmixer to usb soundcard to optical to Dac III and also ASIO to toslink to Dac III and both sound worse than the straight ASIO to USB DAC.

Also trying Ubuntu Desktop to USB DAC III right now it that also sounds great. Slightly different presentation than Windows ASIO. Better than Windows Kmixer. Too bad I don't know enough linux to get an IR remote to work...

In both cases I am just playing my MP3 and wav files from a windows file server. I just want to avoid spending money on a Sqeezebox if I can get by with a spare PC next to my stereo.

Hope this helps.
Dancetracks - you should try Foobar or Jriver and unmap the USB device. Then the computer does not even know it has an audio output device. Really clean and bit-perfect. Here are instructions:

Steve N.
Empirical Audio