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HP Touchsmart. I am missing something?


foghat
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I have just put together an HP Touchsmart to work as a music server, but I can't seem to get good sound out of it.

 

I have previously been playing cd's in to a Vincent preamp, McIntosh amp and Aerial Acoustic 9 speakers--it's quite capable of playing outstanding quality sound. With the Touchsmart I have ripped cd's to AIFF, run them off iTunes, out a USB port, through a devilsound DAC and then into the preamp as above. The sound just doesn't seem to have the range I am used to and sounds muted and has some electronic artifact type noise. I have an iPhone and music played off of that with a simple minijack to rca plug into the preamp sounds much better than the Touchsmart.

 

Does anyone have experience running this as a server? It's puzzling and frustrating. I don't really feel like selling the Touchsmart just to go with Mac; I think the touchscreen interface is terrific for scrolling through a large library.

 

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Make sure that you are by-passing windows' sound mixer with something like ASIO. It looks like the problem lies in your sound settings and getting the digital signal to the dac given that the iphone sounds better.

 

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Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I think you have missed something here with regard to Windows ( WHICH Windows, by the way? ) and great audio. iTunes cannot be bit perfect on Windows - it is as it is and you cannot change it. iTunes IS bit perfect on Mac however. The testimonials here say that you should use Media Monkey or J.River players ( or possibly others ) when you are running Windows - these will let you run a plug-in, such as ASIO or wav.out, that will help you improve the sound from Windows. For more information on that use the "search" box on your upper left here and insert either one or both of those players names - or the plug-ins names - in the search field. You will find a lot of info there.

 

I use a Mac - though I have a PC as well - to listen to music. I'm not the type who wants to fiddle with this stuff. I just want it to work out of the box. With Windows, you will have to fiddle. Others here will chime in soon, I'm sure, to help out.

 

regards,

markr

 

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It is true, as markr says, that Vista resamples all audio unless the playback application supports WASAPI "exclusive mode" (J River supports this, among others, but iTunes doesn't). However, that resampling is of very high quality, as resampling goes, creating distortion products below -120 db or so. If you're hearing artifacts that are fairly obvious - and it seems you are - bit perfection is not the first problem to worry about. I have a TouchSmart, and have used both iTunes and the built-in HP touch player to output audio through the SPDIF port. I didn't compare it directly to my high-end music server, but it sounded pretty good to me on my high-end system, certainly nothing like you're describing.

 

I'd check closely to make sure the volume levels are maxed out, no DSP being applied, etc. Right mouse on the little volume icon in the system tray, select "Playback Devices", click on your USB device, click the "properties button". All of the properties for your device will be in that tabbed dialog. Good luck, hope you find the issue.

 

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I'm far from the most knowledgeable person here, but I'm in the middle of setting up an XP audio server on a high resolution system as well. What I've done so far is to run iTunes as a front end interface only, and stream its output through Foobar, using ASIO to bypass the Windows Kernal. My CDs are ripped using EAC to WAV format since I don't plan to ever own an ipod or iphone, so storage space isn't a concern. The music so far is fantastic, beating my CD player in every respect.

 

The Windows kernal is known to be substandard for high-quality playback, so bypassing that is definitely your first step as mentioned above. There are several ways to do it, but so far this is working for me. I'm not a fan of most Apple products for reasons I won't bother going into here, but the iTunes interface is very good and will be easy for my wife to use, even if the program is a bit of a resource hog and limited in system control. Foobar is exactly the opposite, being very efficient in resource usage, offering control over everything, and having an ugly, boring and clumsy interface. This is why I've set it up to do the grunt work while iTunes just sits there and looks pretty without actually playing anything. It's a great combo. There are drawbacks, but none overshadow the benefits for me.

 

Tomorrow I will be taking my sacrificial laptop, which I do all my software and configuration testing on, over to an audiophile friend's house to test some equipment and run some gear through head to head testing. One of these head to head contests will be his Macbook Pro against my ancient Win XP laptop to see who is producing the "best" sound via USB output. I have more tools at my disposal on the XP machine, but he has the benchmark, so it will be an interesting afternoon. :)

 

Ah, nuts! sys64738

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Foghat,

 

Let us know which operating system you're using.

 

Vista certainly does resample, but very well. iTunes can even be bit perfect within the XP environment too under certain conditions.

 

Tell us some more. I believe between ourselves and the site posted above we should have you listening to high quality sound very soon.

 

Matt.

 

 

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Thanks everyone for the advice--this forum is truly a fanatastic resource and I want to thanks everyone for taking the time to provide the suggestions above. Happy Easter to all.

 

I am running windows Vista. The output level was running at max.

 

I am making some progress! Sheepishly (as Mahler suggested artifact is not a bit perfect problem), much of the noise was due to loosening of the usb cable underneath the touchsmart cable cover. There is still some output quality difference from Vista on the Touchsmart, as I compared it with identical files to a macbook also running iTunes. The bass from Vista is just more muddled, so I am starting to work through the other tweaks suggested above by trying the bypass with an ASIO plugin to j river. I will make note of what I find out as I figure out more about the options.

 

There also seems to be some definite influence of the devilsound dac as that does color the music when i compare both the touchsmart and mac output through it versus my cd player. The highs aren't handled as well and the bass seems boosted so that acoustic music doesn't sound as clear, but interestingly i think that busier passages sound better esp. rock. I Will therefore also plan to demo some higher end DAC's to compare the impact. My system is fairly warm as it is tube based, maybe the DAC can affect that further? I have no experience with one prior to the Devilsound cable.

 

Thanks again all.

 

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