My sound card did not sound good when I did this. I bought an outboard USB dac which works and sounds great. Try stereo-link.com to buy one of these. I think they are around $129.
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I do this with my laptop all the time, we get files on the work LAN, then when I get home I have a cable from my headphone output on the laptop, and I plug this into the AUX L/R inputs on the receiver, and fire away !!
The quality sounds fine to me, but being an audiophile I am starting investigations to see what the actual quality is in Hz, bits, etc
Many savy owners of small CD stores have discovered that, by putting CDs onto the computer and then using a fairly high-end stereo system to demonstrate just about anything in the store makes for lots of sales.
I happened to be in Mendocino(Northern California) a while back and I wondered into Red Rooster Records and I loved listening to his imports. The owner listened to my tastes and, after a couple of hours, I walked away with about $250.00 worth of CDs. Almost none of which had I ever heard of.
Since you have a good A/V receiver, I would start with a soundcard like M-Audio's Revolution 7.1 sound card which is really geared toward home theater enthusiasts. It has the following features per M-Audio's Web site (http://www.m-audio.com):
24-bit/192kHz audio playback on all output channels.
Supports all speaker configurations from stereo (or headphones) up to 7.1
Analog line in supports recording up to 24-bit/96kHz
Analog mic in supports recording up to 24-bit/96kHz
Coaxial digital output
S/N Ratio A->D: 100dB
S/N Ratio D->A: 107 dB (eight channel/two channel)
Driver-Level Bass Management
Windows Media 9 Compatibility
Very low CPU utilization
Dolby Digital Decode (Windows)
Supports both CircleSurround II and TruSurround XT
You can install this card into your PC's PCI slot and use your PC as a music playback device. This will provide much higher fidelity than audio than what you can get from audio built into a PC's motherboard. Most home theater enthusiasts really like this card for PC-based home theater set-ups. You also have the option of going digital out on the card to digital in on your receiver. It would probably be worth it to test which device (soundcard or receiver) has better digital to analog (DAC) conversion.
Yamaha Cavit series is a sound processor and will do what you want to do. It's not liquid as an upscale amp, but will improve the sound of the most stock soundcard.
It stands up vertically and doesn't take up much space - and looks sleek. Besides having digital outs (ptical and coauxial), it has effects like Europian concert hall, church, Jazz club, etc.
You can tweak it from a computer. It's fun, and looks sleek - not for the high end minded, but will improve the stock.
You can get them at ebay, amazon, and buy.com.
I use Yamaha cavit products. Improvement on stock soundcard for sure, but not as good as a highend soundcard like lynx.
Has non-fiatiguing sound - USB hook up to by pass sound card for better sound. Has pretty good headphone out. Looks slim and sleek by the computer.
Can hook up to a DAC by digital coax or optical, though it has one inside already - pretty good but can do better.
Another possibility is if you want to get a Philips mini system with USB input if you just want small sound - sounds pretty good for a mini (digital amp) - MC-M570.
I recommend m-audio too. A word of warning, many soundcards with a digital output will resample the signal before sending it out. For example the Soundblaster Extigy resamples 44.1kHz signals to 48kHz. This sounds bad. The m-audio cards don't have this problem. Look for "bit-for-bit digital output" or something like it on their website.
On the question of whether to go with a internal or external card. If you are piping the digital signal to an external DAC then use an internal soundcard with an S/PDIF output. USB interfaces take use up processing power and the sound will skip when the computer is being used intesively (oddly enough scrolling a window is a processor intensive operation). But if you are going to use the analog ouputs of a card then definately go with an external soundcard. It will sound much better. The internal soundcard gets interference generated by the computer.
If you go with a digital out, I've had good luck with jitter reduction devices like the Monarchy DIP. Evidently soundcards don't output the cleanest digital signals.
This seems like a good question. For my part, this question came up in my home recently. My choices are:
XM Radio subscription and hardware purchase.
Upgrade of my Cable TV subscription to include some radio channels.
Internet-Based Radio and downloads.
Monthly subscription fees for each of these would be very roughly the same ($10) except the cable TV package upgrade unfortunately costs about $22 per month I think.
If I could figure out a way to use my existing cable-internet connection and beam it to my hi-fi with decent fidelity, I might consider doing this. Yes, it's a very geeky wierd project, but whatever. I think it would be a fun project, and might allow me to integrate my internet radio with some music download purchases. I do have a wireless router I'm not using, so I'm wondering if that could be a way to set up some sort of "receiver" near my hi-fi that could receive the signal, instead of stringing a wire across the house.
Or maybe there's such a thing as a purpose built internet radio "receiver" (i.e., that would allow me to not have to keep my computer tuned in all the time?)