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Re: Computer Audio - can i 'split' a laptop?


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I have been using the Sqeezebox Touch for about 12 months now,digital out to my Wadia 861 replaying hi-rez files on 32gb USB sticks and am very happy with the sound quality considering the low price of the Touch in relation to the cost of hi-fi components in general. I realise that computer audio is the future and after reading the guide from dCS have decided to extract as much as i can, sound quality wise, from my music collection by using a laptop dedicated to audio. When my son found out i was thinking of buying another laptop for this purpose he thought it a waste of money saying i could 'split' my present machine - by which meaning keeping the Windows 7 with all it's everyday applications and adding a barebones Windows XP for audio only with J Rivers 17 media centre and any thing else required for play back. Apparently, selecting XP on switch-on and letting Windows 7 hibernate will keep all deleterous garbage on that OS out of harms way - is this possible? has anyone here done the same?

 

At the moment my digital music is stored on the laptop and backed up on a Lacie 1TB hard drive. I assume i would use this hard drive connected to the laptop in future for play back as i understand the J Rivers moves the music you wish to listen to to RAM - does this seem feasible?

 

I have ordered a Musical Fidelity V-link 2 to use between the computer and DAC for the meantime until i can decide on a USB asynchronous DAC that will offer an improvement on the Wadia 861 (probably a hard act to follow). When the V-Link is delivered i will then be pestering my son to assist on the computer side of things as i'm not that much of a techie.

 

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

 

Terry

 

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this is going to sound a little facetious - it is not intended to be.

 

Put this search term - dual boot windows 7 and xp - into the search engine of your choice. Read a few of the returned entries and then go and get another laptop! ;)

 

Dual booting any OS is not a trivial undertaking, you really do need to be up to speed, as it were, and you need to be prepared for bad things to happen. It is possible, of course, and many people do it very successfully but it will come with risks that you need to be very aware of beforehand. Chief amongst those risks, as far as Win7/XP dualboot is concerned is that XP has a very nasty habit of deleting your Win7 restore points, if it gets half a chance! This is not 'a good thing'!

 

I realise this is a somewhat negative response but my experience in dual booting Windows-based machines is that they are really not very good at it, not very happy about it and not for the feint of heart.

 

Cheaper? Most certainly. Hassle free? Errmmm......

 

Hopefully some positive responses will happen along soon, to give you the other side of the coin. :)

 

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"I realise this is a somewhat negative response but my experience in dual booting Windows-based machines is that they are really not very good at it, not very happy about it and not for the feint of heart. "

 

I know of people who use the linux bootloader to boot Windows to get around some of the issues... I know it is a bit absurd, but hey, it works!

 

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Do not split the system as you described, it would make things more complicated and indeed will not add anything to sound quality . A better option is to come back to your initial idea of buying a separate machine just for this. If you serious about sound, you should be ready to spend some money, and you may indeed buy a cheap Atom based netbook with minimal features and make it dedicated to music. Replace existing HDD with SSD, add more memory if allowed, and optimize Win 7 per the suggestions you may see here on CA.

 

If you run across some of the firms that adapt your laptops for music reproduction, you may see that they offer much more including physical removal of bluetooth adapters and disconnecting webcams, etc. If may sound like an overkill, but clearly it is in right direction.

 

As a side note - your V-Link + Wadia is a very good combination, so no need to replace it with anything new unless ready to pay much much more for new DAC. In fact I'd suggest in the near future you switch to V-Link 192, which will let you play sources up to 24/192, and can be connected to your Wadia by AES/EBU. This would give you excellent music playback.

 

Main system: Music Server (Win 7/64+Foobar+JPlay) -> Furutech GT2 USB Cable -> Audiolab M-DAC -> Plinius 9200 (Chord Anthem interconnects) -> ATC SCM 40 w/Kimber Kable 8TC speaker cables

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Eh - drop the idea of using Windows XP and just use Windows 7. Most people, including me, think it is way better with event drive WASPI and such.

 

Or better yet, get another laptop and try Linux or MacOS. :) You might really groove on Vortexbox and Vortexboxplayer or MPD.

 

 

-Paul

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Thanks for the replys guys.

 

I have looked on the net re: 'dual boot' (thanks Bob) and there are literally thousands of queries on the subject - really not something i want to get into at all - i want to keep it simple and just have another piece of equipment to enjoy my music on.

 

So it looks like a new Netbook/laptop is on the cards.

 

Why Linux guys? dCS do state that 'great sound' can be had from Windows, OS X, and linux but add, i quote, 'However, Linux is extremely difficult for the average user to install and use', again, maybe something to think about in the future.

 

Decent laptops with 4GB RAM aren't exactly cheap - is it really necessary to remove the HDD and replace with SSD? A 128GB SSD would add about another 140 GBP (approx 220 USD) here in UK.

 

Unfortunately, the Wadia 816 only does 96Khz and not 192. Wadia UK told me the machine would probably not detect it at all. I recently bought a 192 album from Naimlabel and downsampled it to 96 to enjoy now and look forward to hearing it as Naim intended when/if i get a new DAC.

 

Cheers

 

Terry

 

 

 

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I too have an older Wadia 861se. Mine happens to be modified by Great Northern Sound as well. It sounds fantastic, even in comparison to my BADA2. I use an Alpha USB at the moment to drive either the 861se or the BADA2.

 

Note that Wadia is now offering a USB input card for the 861 series. I'm not aware of the costs associated with that upgrade. I'd be surprised if Wadia could better the various outboard USB-AES/EBU converters though (e.g. Wavelength, Berkeley, etc.). And it's still a 96/24 solution.

 

If you're going to spend all that time and money on a new laptop, why not just buy a dedicated server for less money. A Auraliti PK90 with SDD and stripped Linux OS is far less than a new laptop, and will sound much better. Same can be said for a Bryston BDP-1 or even a used Transporter.

 

I'd probably hang onto the Wadia at 96/24 until ready to drop a similiar amount on a new 192 capable DAC, of which there are now many great choices. If you limit yourself to the hi-res music that you really would buy regardless of resolution, the choices are still fairly limited compared to 44.1/16.

 

My goal is to maximize the sound quality of my existing (extensive) collection of 44.1/16 material first.

 

Good luck. For what it's worth, I'm typing this on a dual boot Linux/Vista box. It was painless to setup. But Linux sysAdmin does require some basic geek skills.

 

PK90->AlphaUSB->BADA2

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Terry-

 

People here are enthusiasts and tend to give enthusiast (re:expensive) answers.

 

An SSD is an "ultimate" tweak. It's not necessary for very good quality sound.

 

The simplest route would be to buy a netbook dedicated to music playback only. Assuming it comes with Windows 7, you should turn off as many processes as you can using Chris' list from the CAPS2 setup. Fewer processes=better sound.

 

I took a look over at Amazon.co.uk, and you can buy an ASUS netbook with Windows 7 and 1GB of Ram for 230 GBP and up. That's not a lot of

RAM for Windows, but more RAM is cheap. A 2GB nebook RAM chip costs about 10 GBP. If you use a Linux variant, 1GB of RAM will do - one of the advantages of Linux! I personally would add another GB of RAM in anyway, if I could.

 

The other option I'd recommend is Vortexbox, which is a variant of Linux expecially setup for computer audio. You can read all about it at vortexbox.org.

 

It's not hard at all to setup - it has an automatic setup routine - but depending on your laptop/netbook you might run into an issue or two that would take some command line code to fix. You don't have to know programming, but some problems require finding the solution at the vortexbox site and then copying the code over to your vortexbox.

 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Path: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Cayin iDAC6 MKII (tube mode) (XLR)>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Thank you Mark/firedog - I shall investigate both options.

 

I am not a computer geek nor even a trainee computer geek so if i do get into setup problems i will have to rely on my son to help me out - not as easy as putting a CD in a tray.

 

I do intend to rip all my CD's over time to the computer for ease of use and even possibly a better SQ (according to Classe and others). I am also listening through my vinyl collection at the moment to determine which i would like to replace with a Hi-rez/CD version and have on the computer as i may be moving abroad and will not be taking my turntable and all the vinyl records with me.

 

Terry

 

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"I do intend to rip all my CD's over time to the computer for ease of use and even possibly a better SQ"

 

If you go through that effort, make sure you use a ripper that can check to make sure it gets a perfect rip. Nothing as annoying as finding afterwards that some of the rips are less than perfect.

 

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I have a couple different machines. I use my dual boot Linux/Vista machine for ripping. At the moment I use dbPowerAmp for ripping and for bulk tag editing (under Vista).

 

I'm a big Linux advocate, but there are a lot of great free tools for Windows as well.

 

 

PK90->AlphaUSB->BADA2

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You should have a dedicated music server so not to downgrade your Sound quality. A dedicated laptop is not that expensive to have a SOTA play back performance.

 

My Dedicated 2CH System Gallery

 

Custom C.A.P.S. Reference Music Server with UpTone Audio JS-2 External Linear Power Supply > Bel Canto REFLink Asynchronous USB Converter > AT&T ST Optical Glass Fiber > Bel Canto DAC3.7 DAC > Pass Labs XP-20 Preamp > Pass Labs XA160.5 Class A Mono Blocks > Martin Logan Summit X Speakers

 

Powered By Balanced Power Technologies - UpTone Audio JS-2 Linear Power Supply - CyberPower Sinewave UPS

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Hi,

 

Have you considered using your current laptop initially, to see if the difference between the Touch and it would justify all the fuss and expense? Afterall, in a sense, the Touch is more suited to audio than are standard "utility" computers. It is a computer, it's optimized for audio, you can use it with any dac, you can control it from a monitor, remote, or by touch, run it from a NAS, on a network and play music directly off a hdd.

 

You can demo JRiver for a month, rip a few cds (it does include a ripper that is bit perfect) and play with it. See what you think. You may be able to tweak computers, get fancy software, get lucky and get slightly better sound out of them eventually, but your Touch should be able to do just about everything a pc or Mac can, and if not exactly as well, certainly very nearly so. And the Touch may well sound better than the average pc/Mac, as it incorporates much less extraneous noise producing hardware and software.

 

-Chris

 

 

 

 

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I had spare 2.5in drive to swap out with an elderly Asus W2J series notebook to try Linux.

Installed Ubuntu and Ubuntu Studio, all installed very well, but OMG a steep learning curve to stratospheric levels with Voyager and MPD. That is all text based spells, and very difficult, read extremely difficult on the first few hours anyway to get bit perfect output using a Halide Bridge. Windows and OSX bit perfect support is out of the box, done, few minutes.

 

Thoroughly recommend to audition the Linux boxes, such as Sonore, Auraliti, and Bryston BDP-1, a lot more fun and you keep your sanity. Linux may be free, but won't cover medical expenses, especially to the psychiatrist. For that, OSX or a Windows release is dirt cheap!!

 

If you want to have a try and rolling your own Linux server, it has been done, but at an emotional cost.

 

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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Less processing time, means less noise conducted to USB cables. An SSD is very fast to write and read, so it takes less time for the OS to do its tasks.

Besides, you can install an OS on SSD in less than 15 minutes.

 

You can also search this forum for many varied discussions...SSD really don't sound any better from brand to brand, but they all reduce noise both acoustic and electric, and that's something very tangible.

 

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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"Less processing time, means less noise conducted to USB cables."

 

Not sure about that. Even if there is no user-level process activity, the CPU will still generate noise. On a modern computer, the emission spectrum doesn't seem to vary too much with CPU load - and a lot of modern CPUs even dither their own clock to "even out" the emission spectrum.

 

Increased processing does increase power consumption, and thus load on the power supply, so the emissions from the power supply might vary.

 

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