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Is all of the "Tweaking" and "Modding" worth it?


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Let's try this again.

 

In trying to create the Ultimate Music Server, most people are "tweaking" and/or "Modding" their computers in order to "improve" the audio output quality.

 

 

My question is - "Is this trip truly necessay?"

 

 

Tweaking and modding a computer system leads to both instabilities as well disabling features you may want to have access to at some point. In addition, it is costly and makes the computer much harder to maintain over time as updates come down the pike.

 

 

Now, I am not saying that a computer is the best system in the world for PROCESSING audio, though it does an excellent job as a front-end and in SERVING the music. It is easy and familiar to most users, be it Windows, Mac or Linux (your flavor preference may vary).

 

 

Why not simply have the computer set up to serve the audio to a much more AUDIOPHILE device which would do all of the processing and then feed the signal into your favorite DAC? This way you could get away from all the noise and jitter inherent inside a PC. You could upgrade your USB and change your registry our add Amarra or some other software all day, but you can't rid yourself of these issues.

 

 

Has anyone tried this? What have you found?

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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Let's try this again.

 

In trying to create the Ultimate Music Server, most people are "tweaking" and/or "Modding" their computers in order to "improve" the audio output quality.

 

 

My question is - "Is this trip truly necessay?"

 

 

Tweaking and modding a computer system leads to both instabilities as well disabling features you may want to have access to at some point. In addition, it is costly and makes the computer much harder to maintain over time as updates come down the pike.

 

 

Now, I am not saying that a computer is the best system in the world for PROCESSING audio, though it does an excellent job as a front-end and in SERVING the music. It is easy and familiar to most users, be it Windows, Mac or Linux (your flavor preference may vary).

 

 

Why not simply have the computer set up to serve the audio to a much more AUDIOPHILE device which would do all of the processing and then feed the signal into your favorite DAC? This way you could get away from all the noise and jitter inherent inside a PC. You could upgrade your USB and change your registry our add Amarra or some other software all day, but you can't rid yourself of these issues.

 

 

Has anyone tried this? What have you found?

 

See the HQPlayer NAA for a hardware/software solution.

 

I haven't found tweaking my computer costly at all. It's mostly free software stuff like scripts to turn off processes and/or create RAMdisks, that sort of thing. So even if I'm fooling myself into thinking it's made a difference, no problem, because it's all reversible and I've spent nothing.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Oh, and regarding the OP for the information of other people coming to the thread:

 

We design ultra high end digital servers (audiophile and videophile) and we represent some of the finest audiophile manufacturers in the world.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Hi Peter,

 

A bit underhanded of a way to start advertising your streamers here.

 

You will be better of being up front with this crew about your background and motive for posting. Naturally we are interested in cool products, but please be honest.

 

Ta!

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Peter,

 

These "tweaks" are important to you. Do they provide value and, as such, are they worth it?

 

The Black Box II™ Custom Audiophile PC

 

Custom Designed - Purpose Built "Audiophile" PC

 

The Black Box II builds on the success its predecessor and is a state-of-the-art next generation digital music server/client utilizing the latest in low-power i7/Haswell technology from Intel. It is completely fan-less (passively cooled) and features no moving parts. This eliminates all audible, thermal and electrical noise contamination in the system. Among the standard features included with the Black Box II™ is a high-density SSD for fast reliable playback, as well as 8 GB of high-speed RAM for direct memory playback. Running the latest version of Windows (8.1), the Black Box II has been streamlined and reworked to provide the best in clean, pure, natural audio playback, without compromising the full functionality of the system. The Black Box II ships with J River and Media Center 19, and is controllable with iPad, Android and Windows devices.

Please contact us to discuss you particular needs and we will customize the solution to meet those needs.

 

Small Form Factor design to fit into any audio environment

Mates perfectly with the 384/32 Digital Output

Completely Silent - No Moving Parts - Full Heatsink Design

Solid State (SSD) System Drive - Fast and Silent

Completely Optimized OS Installation - Designed for Reliability as well as Functionality

Components Individually Selected for Use in an Audiophile System:

4th Generation Intel i7 Low-Power Processor

Extreme Power with minimal power overhead

Gigabit Wireless Network Support - 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (Dual Band)

Control the system from your tablet or smartphone, or stream your audio anywhere

Advanced Bluetooth 4.0 and 3.0+HS Built-in

Ideal for high-end Bluetooth Speakers and Headphones

Complete Support for the latest UHD 4k Video Output

(HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, and DVI-I)

Sophisticated Power Management for Clean, Pure System Power

12 Phase Digital Power Design (CPU)

2 Phase Digital Power Design (DRAM)

Enhanced ESD Shielding and Protection

Eliminates potential issues with static

High-End 5k-hour Solid Capacitors for Clean Power Generation

As well as 2.5x the lifespan of standard components

 

That seems to be quite a good list of tweaks over a standard i7 computer....I would wager it sounds a lot better than an off the shelf unit. I would say that if they sound better, then it is worth it (depending on cost, of course...diminishing returns rules still apply).

 

Since you know much, much more than I do, is there a better way? You seem to have founds something...and so have several others (SB Touch, Sonore, Lumin, Aries, Linn, etc)

 

I am exploring an "all digital" answer as proposed by DigiPete as it may solve a lot of the issues in ways not otherwise solved (i.e. analog issues like distortion, noisy wires/connectors, conversions, crossover limitations, etc). I still will want digital crossover and Dirac processes so whatever I feed will need some power and interaction to work best for my purposes.

 

Best,

John

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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Easy to answer this question. First use Windows 8 as a starting point and download Fidelizer. Try listening to your audio with and without. Best part - its free! Next buy the best internal power supply that you can and replace the one that your system uses. A couple I have tried is the Seasonic Fanless and the EVGA supernova 750 80 plus gold.

 

I cant imagine what a full linear PS sounds like in a server!

 

 

Good luck!

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I am not into being a watch dog, but I very much agree with this...

Hi Peter,

 

A bit underhanded of a way to start advertising your streamers here.

 

You will be better of being up front with this crew about your background and motive for posting. Naturally we are interested in cool products, but please be honest.

 

Ta!

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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Peter,

 

These "tweaks" are important to you. Do they provide value and, as such, are they worth it?

 

 

 

That seems to be quite a good list of tweaks over a standard i7 computer....I would wager it sounds a lot better than an off the shelf unit. I would say that if they sound better, then it is worth it (depending on cost, of course...diminishing returns rules still apply).

 

Since you know much, much more than I do, is there a better way? You seem to have founds something...and so have several others (SB Touch, Sonore, Lumin, Aries, Linn, etc)

 

I am exploring an "all digital" answer as proposed by DigiPete as it may solve a lot of the issues in ways not otherwise solved (i.e. analog issues like distortion, noisy wires/connectors, conversions, crossover limitations, etc). I still will want digital crossover and Dirac processes so whatever I feed will need some power and interaction to work best for my purposes.

 

Best,

John

 

Good questions IMO. My hesitation is usually cost of products like Bluesmoke, especially cost vs. expected longevity given the rapid development of computer hardware and software. But this has been mentioned many times in many other threads.

1070957250_Imprimatur.NihilObstatSepia3Crop(2).jpg.2162a44365e84a5df7d456bf8026ed67.jpg

 

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First, I should state that I tried to start this thread before - along with a discussion of our products and who I was - it was deleted! - I assume I violated some forum policy, so I started again - apologies if I was too subtle the second time.

 

So, this time I am trying to advocate for some discussion on the subject - without the overtness of my company affiliation - which I am happy to see survived in my signature.

 

I am truly interested as a manufacturer as to what people have done and observed. I myself am quite skeptical about all of these tweaks and mods, and instead prefer to rely on observable, repeatable, and measurable results. I like a good argument about these things, as I feel this is the only way we arrive at the truth.

 

I should say I have tried, experimented, and tested many of the suggestions you will find. Just about every one I find to have a psycho-acoustic effect - but little to no measurable effect.

 

Happy to discuss further.

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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Why would a fast modern computer with say i7 processors and 8+ gig of memory be any less good at performing computational tasks for audio processing than an outboard device? How do computations introduce jitter?

 

Good question.

 

First of all, you can measure jitter to audiophile levels without inducing some jitter into the measurement.

 

This is to say, measurement tools and methods are only so good....audiophiles want perfect 0.00000000% error otherwise its flawed.

 

Sound wise, sure everything makes a difference, which is not to say two people can hear the exact same thing or that tweaks are uniformly positive.

 

Best thing to do is, study the facts and reduce artifacts to an audible level to your ears....anything further is useless.

 

So can an i7 have less jitter than an i3 or Atom processor? That depends of a whole lot of variables....all else being equal the i7 can process the audio with less processing power and produce less EMI doing so...probably, can you hear it? Impossible to tell....or only YOU can tell.

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Thanks Pete.

 

What did you find to have the most benefit when putting together the BlackBox? Did you use a scope to verify the effects of different solutions or components?

 

To my ears it has been a collection of actions to lower electrical noise and its unpleasant harmonics to one day get the fatigueless effect of a great analog rig. Digititus is the enemy and very hard to address.

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So, let me answer a couple of questions then.

 

The Black Box II we offer contains no proprietary hardware and/or software. It is simply a well-speced and properly constructed dedicated audio PC will build for our clients who do not want to build their own system. It is entirely passively cooled and built from the best parts we can source. We have tried a variety of hardware mods on the computer-side and found that combined with and external audio device such as our 384/32, they make very little difference.

 

The same can be said of the software tweaks such as using Windows Server (vs. Windows 8), or Amarra on the Mac). While you may feel that there is some benefit, or you like the sound better, looking at a room plot shows that in almost all cases, the audio is compromised (now, it may be a compromise you like - and that is fine - I grew up in the age of Equalizers being used in Hi-Fi - they almost never improved the sound, but many liked it none the less.

 

The 384/32 then handles the audio processing.

 

It buffers the audio and re-clocks it using its own very high-precision clock (upgradable). It is not limited by the computer's system clock or the multi-tasking nature of the modern OS. It uses this clock to eliminate Jitter and Noise from the data-stream and properly configures the audio data for the appropriate output. There is a linear power supply option available to further decrease the noise floor if desired.

 

In other words, you could send the 384/32 a less than pristine audio signal, and it will reclock it to remove Jitter and filter it in realtime to reduce the noise floor. Timing of the samples is far more precise than you can get out of a standard computer no matter how much you tweak the software, so Jitter is reduced significantly. You also have an I2S output in addition to proper SPDIF and AES/EBU outputs. (You would be surprised to learn how many AES/EBU outputs are just SPDIF with a different connector).

 

So, don't get me wrong, as far as subjective listening is concerned, you may like the sound from your system after "tweaking". That is great. However, that does not mean it is more correct (which frankly, you may not like as much, but at least gives you a good starting place to work from.

 

Has anyone done both before and after measurements with any of these software tweaks? I have not found them and am very interested.

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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Tranz,

 

It all comes down to understanding electrical noise and thermal noise in the system. It all contributes.

 

Get rid of every device in the computer which can put noise into the system:

VFD displays

Stepper Motors (HD, CD, DVD, Fans, Pumps, etc.)

 

Use a processor which has a very low TDP. Run with as low power a PSU as you can. Preference to Linear PSUs of low-power.

 

DO NOT USE SPDIF or AES/EBU - use I2S whenever possible to a high-quality DAC.

 

Choose every component carefully!

 

You would be amazed at how smooth and analog the Black Box II sounds over I2S to a quality DAC.

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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Think of all those other chumps who actually thought they would have to purchase their ad space here.

 

Is there any evidence that an operating system or any other piece of software can create jitter? I think someone is blowing some blue smoke up my arse.

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I simply would like to have a discussion on tweaking vs. external devices. These are two distinct lines of thought as to how to deal with a computer-based audio server. I could have removed my affiliation entirely if that's what you would prefer.

 

Now, let me answer your question. What is Jitter? Jitter is actually the amount of error in the time-domain for the transmission of the various audio "packets". Can an OS affect this - certainly!

 

Music is data over time. When a packet is delayed or arrives to quickly at the DAC, you can detect it. It sounds wrong (some refer to this as "digititis"). This is especially true when your audio clock is derived from your less than accurate system-clock, and/or the OS is multi-tasking and may be away for a cycle or two doing other things. Remember, none of the OSes used today is a "real-time OS."

 

Also, noise in the system can overtake a packet of information, obliterating it entirely or causing it to be resent or repaired, again causing delays, ie, Jitter. Now again, these delays are small enough not to affect general computing, but audio is particularly sensitive to time-related interruptions.

 

Hope this helps.

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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My interest is genuine.

 

First, I have been working in this field for longer than most. In fact our first product was the first "audiophile digital music server" on the market - as proclaimed by Robert Harley of Absolute Sound.

 

Second, I am looking o share what I know. I don't think the DIY crowd here has any interest at all in our Black Box product as they can all seem to build their own quite nicely. I am just hoping to provide some alternative to all of the tweaking and modding discussed here.

 

Third, I am seriously interested in any scientific results and testing coming primarily from all of the software mods and options discussed here.

 

If providing information and knowledge is considered "pushing" a product, then I am guilty. Sorry if this offends anyone, and I will continue to endeavor not to push any single product. However, I am interested in discussing these different approaches to achieving the desired results.

 

[i have posted my affiliation in my profile, clearly so everyone can take this into account and determine any agenda I may have on their own.]

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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Why would a fast modern computer with say i7 processors and 8+ gig of memory be any less good at performing computational tasks for audio processing than an outboard device? How do computations introduce jitter?

 

Here's an attempt at an answer, but with a caveat as regards what the OP's company is offering:

 

- Attempt at an answer: A "fast modern computer" is not often built with a view to reducing electrical noise. It's the relatively noisy electrical environment that, at least in my limited understanding, helps to introduce jitter. (Very briefly, and again in my limited understanding: The bitstream is evaluated by comparison to ground. Noisier the ground, the more the evaluation is affected. It's almost never enough to "flip the bits" - and if it was, you would of course know - but it is enough to throw off the timing of when a 0 turns into a 1 or vice versa, thus jitter.)

 

- Caveat: The OP is talking in terms of clocking being done at the computer (near as I can tell), whereas most of us are using async USB input DACs where the clocking is done in the DAC. So while the foregoing about noise on ground is still true AFAIK, a lot of the other stuff the OP mentions is not problematic for us. Second part of the caveat: The OP's output module/reclocker has its own problems with jitter versus an async USB setup. The clock is separated from the conversion process by a digital cable (AES/EBU, S/PDIF, or I2S) and the DAC's input circuitry. So yes, the way the OP does things is helpful in terms of electrical noise plus whatever jitter problems the electrical noise may cause, but it may not be the lowest jitter system you could have, particularly at the price.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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I think your understanding of noise and jitter is pretty spot on and well explained.

 

A couple points.

 

When using the I2S, the output of our output device and the DAC are slaved together so there is no drift or increase in jitter.

 

While there are some great DACs with significant buffers and high-quality clocks out there (for which I agree our device would be of less benefit), jitter is a cumulative problem. Even the best DAC would benefit from having the lowest jitter signal sent to it. As there is always a limited time-domain in which to correct the signal, ergo the correction is in a percentage of the drift.

 

Lastly, most DACs (though not the best units) do not have truly high-quality clocks which are upgradeable. A dedicated high-speed clock is necessary to get the best sound possible.

 

However, I think the point is that Jitter may be the most important spec when it comes to achieving high-quality audio. Also, that no matter how much software tweaking you do to a computer, it can never truly achieve the same low-jitter specs as an external dedicated hardware device can.

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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Peter - No more discussing any of your products on CA unless specifically asked a question about a specific product. Your first post was a blatant advertisement, so I removed it promptly. You're really pushing the line right now. I usually say, when in doubt don't post. However, it appears you have no doubt. The CA community will see right through any attempts to create discussion that all lead to your product. If you want to get out of this somewhat unscathed i would back away now.

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Chris,

 

As you wish. Trying not to discuss product, but APPROACH TO OBTAINING HIGH-QUALITY AUDIO. However, I could see how that might ruffle the feathers of some.

 

Just trying to inject some science into the anecdotal musings.

 

Once again, apologies.

 

BTW - I only mentioned a product once (in direct response to a question). Frankly, don't care if anyone purchases our products or not. This is an entertainment category, everyone should purchase whatever makes them happy. I was just trying to have a discussion and clear out some FUD.

 

 

Regards,

----

Peter Sills

Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems

"That which can not be questioned, can not be trusted!" - quote

www.bluesmokesystems.com

847.977.0220

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