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Sensible Configurations for Computer-Based Audio Systems - For Dummies


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Greetings.

 

 

Since discovering this community, I’ve learned a lot about Computer-Based Audio from many patient & wonderful people. But the more I learn – the more I realize how ignorant I am. I find myself listening to my audio system less and less because I haven't been able to figure out how to make using it less of a hassle. The wife doesn't even look at it. I KNOW there must be a better way to control my system, and I’m going to figure it out (eventually... I think). This got me wondering how many folks have either given up or never attempted to put a system together from their own lack of knowledge.

 

This leads me to a request for a sort of “Starting Place” where newbies could come and learn – in one place, and in simple terms – what they’ll need in order to set up a system of their own. Sample diagrams from the most basic configuration (connecting a computer to a set of powered speakers with built-in DAC) to the most sophisticated systems would be very helpful, as well as a crash course on digital music files, where & how to acquire them, codecs, resolution, dacs, remote control, front end, storage, network integration, streaming, wireless, etc. etc. etc.

 

Clearly all of this information can be found here with simple searches, but a beginner won’t search the forums for information about DACs if they don’t know of their existence. Same goes with the latest and greatest audio files etc, etc. etc.

 

Any senior members willing to take on such a challenge? I would gladly provide assistance if needed (such as read your material and tell you if a dummy understands it).

 

 

Thanks.

 

 

 

Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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If you didn't see it, Chris developed this FAQ section for just such a purpose: Computer Audiophile FAQ

 

I read every word. It's a very good intro, but 1. it's hard to find, and 2. far too much of the puzzle is missing; though in fairness, the subject does represent quite a large puzzle. Perhaps I'm asking too much.

 

 

Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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I read every word. It's a very good intro, but 1. it's hard to find, and 2. far too much of the puzzle is missing; though in fairness, the subject does represent quite a large puzzle. Perhaps I'm asking too much.

 

Gary

 

Gary

 

Hi Gary,

 

I read Audioquest's "computer audio demystified" and "computer audio set up guide" as per the link "Computer Audio" offered by wwaldmanfan above and believe together these two docs they provide an excellent "starting point". They contain sufficient information for anyone genuinely passionate about great sound and willing to make some effort to educate themselves further.

 

Most of the members of this forum fall into this category - they seek excellence and recognise that it requires some effort, including research, experimentation and self education. They also understand that manufacturers and bloggers alike produce information that is simply incorrect and are therefore also willing to seek collaboration of the facts. This is true of anyone passionate about achieving excellence in any hobby or their work - everything worthwhile requires effort.

 

IMO what you are seeking is a guide for those who are not willing to make that effort and want it on a plate in a childlike fashion. Most of my friends fall into this second category. They are not really seeking excellence and simply want something that is easy to use and sounds good. As I explain in some detail the process of how to get great sound from their computer their eyes start to close over. Most people are just not that "into" creating great sound to make the extra effort required.

 

This is not a criticism it is just how it is - you only have to look at the iTunes store sales of 256kbps (was 128) and the popularity of internet radio and streaming services such as Spotify (and the success of Beats headphones) to know that is the case. They simply don't care enough about sound quality to make the effort.

 

So for these people I will write you the instruction manual for getting "good" quality sound out of a MAC (I previously used JRiver on a PC but changed for family reasons and ask that someone else write that manual i.e. I am not a MAC fan boy). I don't intend writing a detailed explanation or offering a long list of alternatives because that will just confuse and bore them and also if they really care enough they can simply google what they want to know or search this site.

 

As you have hinted the puzzle is very large and IMO computer audio is still in its infancy and there are many many ways to skin the cat.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

MAC COMPUTER AS SOURCE

 

Choose a computer - either your desk top, laptop or dedicated computer as it doesn't really matter (and not hard to change). Increase its RAM to 4Gig min (preferably 8Gig) if not already.

 

Purchase a 2TB external drive that can be connected connect via firewire (or use thunderbolt adaptor if via USB) and label it MUSIC and also purchase a 2TB time machine from the apple store for back up.

 

Install latest version of iTunes.

 

Select the external MUSIC hard drive as your music source via the menu - iTunes > Preferences > Advanced > Select "Change" under iTunes Media Folder and then select MUSIC hard drive and un tick "Copy files to iTunes Media Folder ..."

 

Rip your CDs using iTunes but first select lossless quality via the menu - iTunes > Preferences > General Preferences > Import Settings > AIFF > Automatic > with error correction ticked.

 

Download and install Audirvana + 2 .... read the manual on how to set it up so that it uses iTunes as its data base

 

If required purchase hi res music (24/96 and above) of your favourite albums from HD Tracks etc (but only if you think you can hear the difference to CD quality) and add to iTunes using the special folder "Automatically add to iTunes" in the Finder.

 

Depending on your budget and connection requirements (you may have more than one device such as a CD player) purchase an external USB DAC that uses asynchronous technology:

 

e.g. US$200 Drangonfly V1.2, Merdian Explorer, iFi Nano DSD, HRT Mico Streamer

 

US$500 Arcam irDAC, Rega, NAD D1050

 

US$1,000+ Audiolab M-DAC, Chord Hugo, Mytek 192

 

Connect the DAC to any USB port but best to choose one that is not also multitasking other functions.

 

Using a 3.5mm to 2 x RCA analogue cable (or simply RCA to RCA depending on the DAC) to Aux in on your AMP or powered speakers.

 

On your MAC go to System Preferences and select Sound and similarly go to Audio MIDI under Utilities and select you DAC in each.

 

You are now up and running.

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The main problem with what I have written is that it assumes a certain level of IT knowledge and a willingness to read manuals.

 

I am happy for the above to be cut and pasted if someone else would like to use it as a base and develop it further as per wikipedia etc. (delete and add as you see fit)

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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Gary

 

Hi Gary,

 

I read Audioquest's "computer audio demystified" and "computer audio set up guide" as per the link "Computer Audio" offered by wwaldmanfan above and believe together these two docs they provide an excellent "starting point". They contain sufficient information for anyone genuinely passionate about great sound and willing to make some effort to educate themselves further.

 

Most of the members of this forum fall into this category - they seek excellence and recognise that it requires some effort, including research, experimentation and self education. They also understand that manufacturers and bloggers alike produce information that is simply incorrect and are therefore also willing to seek collaboration of the facts. This is true of anyone passionate about achieving excellence in any hobby or their work - everything worthwhile requires effort.

 

IMO what you are seeking is a guide for those who are not willing to make that effort and want it on a plate in a childlike fashion. Most of my friends fall into this second category. They are not really seeking excellence and simply want something that is easy to use and sounds good. As I explain in some detail the process of how to get great sound from their computer their eyes start to close over. Most people are just not that "into" creating great sound to make the extra effort required.

 

This is not a criticism it is just how it is - you only have to look at the iTunes store sales of 256kbps (was 128) and the popularity of internet radio and streaming services such as Spotify (and the success of Beats headphones) to know that is the case. They simply don't care enough about sound quality to make the effort.

 

So for these people I will write you the instruction manual for getting "good" quality sound out of a MAC (I previously used JRiver on a PC but changed for family reasons and ask that someone else write that manual i.e. I am not a MAC fan boy). I don't intend writing a detailed explanation or offering a long list of alternatives because that will just confuse and bore them and also if they really care enough they can simply google what they want to know or search this site.

 

As you have hinted the puzzle is very large and IMO computer audio is still in its infancy and there are many many ways to skin the cat.

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

MAC COMPUTER AS SOURCE

 

Choose a computer - either your desk top, laptop or dedicated computer as it doesn't really matter (and not hard to change). Increase its RAM to 4Gig min (preferably 8Gig) if not already.

 

Purchase a 2TB external drive that can be connected connect via firewire (or use thunderbolt adaptor if via USB) and label it MUSIC and also purchase a 2TB time machine from the apple store for back up.

 

Install latest version of iTunes.

 

Select the external MUSIC hard drive as your music source via the menu - iTunes > Preferences > Advanced > Select "Change" under iTunes Media Folder and then select MUSIC hard drive and un tick "Copy files to iTunes Media Folder ..."

 

Rip your CDs using iTunes but first select lossless quality via the menu - iTunes > Preferences > General Preferences > Import Settings > AIFF > Automatic > with error correction ticked.

 

Download and install Audirvana + 2 .... read the manual on how to set it up so that it uses iTunes as its data base

 

If required purchase hi res music (24/96 and above) of your favourite albums from HD Tracks etc (but only if you think you can hear the difference to CD quality) and add to iTunes using the special folder "Automatically add to iTunes" in the Finder.

 

Depending on your budget and connection requirements (you may have more than one device such as a CD player) purchase an external USB DAC that uses asynchronous technology:

 

e.g. US$200 Drangonfly V1.2, Merdian Explorer, iFi Nano DSD, HRT Mico Streamer

 

US$500 Arcam irDAC, Rega, NAD D1050

 

US$1,000+ Audiolab M-DAC, Chord Hugo, Mytek 192

 

Connect the DAC to any USB port but best to choose one that is not also multitasking other functions.

 

Using a 3.5mm to 2 x RCA analogue cable (or simply RCA to RCA depending on the DAC) to Aux in on your AMP or powered speakers.

 

On your MAC go to System Preferences and select Sound and similarly go to Audio MIDI under Utilities and select you DAC in each.

 

You are now up and running.

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

The main problem with what I have written is that it assumes a certain level of IT knowledge and a willingness to read manuals.

 

I am happy for the above to be cut and pasted if someone else would like to use it as a base and develop it further as per wikipedia etc. (delete and add as you see fit)

 

 

 

I can't tell you enough how much I appreciate your comments & your effort to help those just starting out put together a system. You probably just helped a whole bunch of people.

 

You hit on some excellent points & I agree with just about everything. The one thing I would like to point out is that, in the end, it's about the music. Most audiophiles are very VERY technically inclined. What about the other 95% of music lovers who aren't? The forums here are a great place for those with a passion for the whole enchilada (the gear, the technology, "The Hunt", and everything else, including the music). A better group of people you'll not find to introduce the rest of the world to the wonders & convenience of computer audio systems. Not necessarily to spoon feed them with model numbers, but to guide them as they were your sister, mother, or technically challenged best friend.

 

Really, it may be too massive of an undertaking. I'll try to put something together & email it to one of the senior members and maybe they would be inspired to take it to the next level.

 

Thanks!

 

 

Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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Hey Gary, I understand your feelings. there is a lot of engineering on this site, and even more opinions. I like to dabble so I don't mind it, and like you, I have learned a lot here. What I suggest is what I have done. Make a simple system up and working with some cheap hardware and leave it alone for your and your family enjoyment...then buy more hardware to "toy" with. For a simple CHEAP setup that sounds good do something like I have done. Small pc with all your music in organized folders and install foobar and a touch screen monitor. Buy a cheap usb dac and take the audio into a receiver and out to a decent set of speakers. That configuration can be built for less than $1K and be set up quickly in less than a day. Then just leave it alone for enjoyment. THen tinker with everything else. It's clear there is a lot of advancement in technology and lots of opinions....so dabble if you are so inclined. JMO ...disregard...I just read your next email in the thread, and you are more advanced than I first guessed. I have only been doing this for about 6 months and very part time during that 6 months, so I still consider myself a "newbie". In reference to your email about getting good sound cheap and easy for mac, suggest the same for pc/android. I know I am not the only one in the world that doesn't want to touch an apple.

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Hi Gary,

 

Check out this website

 

The Well-Tempered Computer

 

Darren, after just a minute of perusal, this is looking very good. I have a bad case of ADD & this guy's note taking proclivities mirror my own. I'll give it a thorough read after work today. Thanks a bunch! Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

Link to comment

Install latest version of iTunes.

 

Select the external MUSIC hard drive as your music source via the menu - iTunes > Preferences > Advanced > Select "Change" under iTunes Media Folder and then select MUSIC hard drive and un tick "Copy files to iTunes Media Folder ..."

 

 

Thanks!

 

 

Gary

Also, I tried ITunes. hate it and all the ads. It wouldn't be so bad if there was a way to turn off the store?? I bought jriver, but I like foobar for simplicity better.

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Also, I tried ITunes. hate it and all the ads. It wouldn't be so bad if there was a way to turn off the store??

iTunes Prefs > Parental controls > Disable > iTunes Store

HQPlayer (on 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 iMac 2020) > NAA (on 2012 Mac Mini i7) > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

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Hey Gary, I understand your feelings. there is a lot of engineering on this site, and even more opinions. I like to dabble so I don't mind it, and like you, I have learned a lot here. What I suggest is what I have done. Make a simple system up and working with some cheap hardware and leave it alone for your and your family enjoyment...then buy more hardware to "toy" with. For a simple CHEAP setup that sounds good do something like I have done. Small pc with all your music in organized folders and install foobar and a touch screen monitor. Buy a cheap usb dac and take the audio into a receiver and out to a decent set of speakers. That configuration can be built for less than $1K and be set up quickly in less than a day. Then just leave it alone for enjoyment. THen tinker with everything else. It's clear there is a lot of advancement in technology and lots of opinions....so dabble if you are so inclined. JMO ...disregard...I just read your next email in the thread, and you are more advanced than I first guessed. I have only been doing this for about 6 months and very part time during that 6 months, so I still consider myself a "newbie". In reference to your email about getting good sound cheap and easy for mac, suggest the same for pc/android. I know I am not the only one in the world that doesn't want to touch an apple.

 

Mike,

 

(I also read your later post)

 

Me? For now, I need cheap. That, of course, doesn't necessarily apply to the other folks who may find this site hoping to get help setting up their own computer audio system. What I was hoping for (and may have found with Darren's help) was a place to help newbies with various budgets - especially technically challenged newbies:

 

1. Learn the basics of all the required elements, with encouragement to learn more

2. Learn what they need to learn "more" about if they are to go beyond a basic setup (computer/cable/powered speakers with on-board dac)

3. View several sample systems to give them an idea of what they'll need (some will already have many of the components)

 

An example of #3:

 

SAMPLE SYSTEM #1 (A SIMPLE SAMPLE SYSTEM;)

MUSIC SOURCE/PLAYER: Laptop (music files are stored on internal hard drive using FLAC codec)

SOFTWARE PLAYER: Foobar2000 (use to play and organize your music library - it's free!)

---------- use high quality USB or OPTICAL CABLE to connect your laptop to the next component:

DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER (DAC)

---------- use high quality RCA cable to connect the "output" on your DAC to the "input" on your audio receiver or preamp or integrated amp

For more information about how to easily control your music player of choice (Foobar2000, JRiver, iTunes, etc) please read our articles about "Front Ends" here (link) & "Remote Control" here (link). For more information about "How To Configure Foobar2000 For The Best Possible Sound Quality", please read the article with the same title here (link).

 

I believe it would be very helpful to show complex sample systems as well (with NAS, networking, streaming, etc).

 

Anyway, back to the grind...

 

 

Thanks.

 

 

 

Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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Hi Gary - do you have an iPhone or iPad? if so, drop $10 on JRemote. It is not only good, it is good enough to convince people to switch from super high quality Mac Players like Amarra to JRMC.

 

It's a game changer, no fooling. My wife and even my daughter can choose and listen to music with ease now, and love it. As a side bonus, you can even listen to uncompressed HD music from the iPhone or iPad, directly from your JRMC system. (It just shows up as another "zone.")

 

I cannot recommend doing this highly enough, it may be that your system is just perfect for you exactly the way it is, but if you are using Gizmo, I think JRemote is going to blow your mind... :)

 

-Paul

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

Robert A. Heinlein

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Hi Gary - do you have an iPhone or iPad? if so, drop $10 on JRemote. It is not only good, it is good enough to convince people to switch from super high quality Mac Players like Amarra to JRMC.

 

It's a game changer, no fooling. My wife and even my daughter can choose and listen to music with ease now, and love it. As a side bonus, you can even listen to uncompressed HD music from the iPhone or iPad, directly from your JRMC system. (It just shows up as another "zone.")

 

I cannot recommend doing this highly enough, it may be that your system is just perfect for you exactly the way it is, but if you are using Gizmo, I think JRemote is going to blow your mind... :)

 

-Paul

 

 

Paul,

 

Thanks for the input. That is a big problem, and sadly I don't have an iPad or iPhone to solve it. My biggest problem is self-inflicted: my netbook isn't dedicated yet. I'll soon buy a 2nd (used) laptop. After that, an older model iPad may be in order. Who knows... maybe MY wife would finally begin using it.

 

Thanks again.

 

 

 

Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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Paul,

 

Thanks for the input. That is a big problem, and sadly I don't have an iPad or iPhone to solve it. My biggest problem is self-inflicted: my netbook isn't dedicated yet. I'll soon buy a 2nd (used) laptop. After that, an older model iPad may be in order. Who knows... maybe MY wife would finally begin using it.

 

Thanks again.

 

 

 

Gary

 

(grin) My wife was the same way. iTunes REMOTE.app was her goto program, and woe betide anyone who messed with it.

 

Took her all of 10 minutes to fall in love with JRemote. Borrow a friend's iPad or iPod or an old iPhone from a friend. :)

 

-Paul

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

Robert A. Heinlein

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(grin) My wife was the same way. iTunes REMOTE.app was her goto program, and woe betide anyone who messed with it.

 

Took her all of 10 minutes to fall in love with JRemote. Borrow a friend's iPad or iPod or an old iPhone from a friend. :)

 

-Paul

 

Would this would mean I'd have to hear a lot more Depeche Mode? Brilliant group, but aside from a few tracks ("Policy of Truth" and "Enjoy The Silence" come to mind), not really my cup of tea. Even so, she'd hardly have the long end of the stick. I dislike her music, but she hates mine; most notably Radiohead, Evanescence, & ELP.

 

 

Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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Would this would mean I'd have to hear a lot more Depeche Mode? Brilliant group, but aside from a few tracks ("Policy of Truth" and "Enjoy The Silence" come to mind), not really my cup of tea. Even so, she'd hardly have the long end of the stick. I dislike her music, but she hates mine; most notably Radiohead, Evanescence, & ELP.

 

 

Gary

 

Naw - you can snuggle up side by side on the same couch listening to different music with headphones. Trust me, that one works. My better half likes Yoko Ono's more experimental stuff...

 

-Paul

 

P.S. Yoko is definitely a stress test for any stereo setup! :)

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

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment
Hi Gary - do you have an iPhone or iPad? if so, drop $10 on JRemote. It is not only good, it is good enough to convince people to switch from super high quality Mac Players like Amarra to JRMC.

 

It's a game changer, no fooling. My wife and even my daughter can choose and listen to music with ease now, and love it. As a side bonus, you can even listen to uncompressed HD music from the iPhone or iPad, directly from your JRMC system. (It just shows up as another "zone.")

 

I cannot recommend doing this highly enough, it may be that your system is just perfect for you exactly the way it is, but if you are using Gizmo, I think JRemote is going to blow your mind... :)

 

-Paul

 

Hey Paul, I have switched many times back and forth between Jriver and Foobar, depending on what I was trying at the time. I am just now playing with DLNA and Jriver is hands down much better at that than Foobar. However, I finally got all my music organized the way I want in FOOBAR, and it doesn't look like Jriver will work in the same way as FOOBAR will in creating an interface I am finally happy with. I want an interface that looks like attached. I am using folder organization and don't seem to be able to accomplish the same thing with Jriver. If I could, I would likely switch back now that DLNA is important to me. 15164d1413946548-foobar2000-interface-streaming-question-help-please-foobar.jpg

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Hi Gary,

 

You hit on some excellent points & I agree with just about everything. The one thing I would like to point out is that, in the end, it's about the music. Most audiophiles are very VERY technically inclined. What about the other 95% of music lovers who aren't? The forums here are a great place for those with a passion for the whole enchilada (the gear, the technology, "The Hunt", and everything else, including the music).

 

Gary

 

Hi Gary,

 

Your quest is a noble one and I have thought of doing something similar in the past.

 

Please note that I am not technically inclined and that I simply love music. The convenience and quality of computer audio properly set up allows me to listen more often and with more enjoyment.

 

The difference for me (and most others here at CA) is that learning and experimenting is not an effort, its fun.

 

If you enjoy / love something enough you will educate yourself to get good at it. What people who love music need is a simple "starting point" or computer audio 101.

 

Good luck.

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

Link to comment
Hi Gary,

 

Your quest is a noble one and I have thought of doing something similar in the past.

 

Please note that I am not technically inclined and that I simply love music. The convenience and quality of computer audio properly set up allows me to listen more often and with more enjoyment.

 

The difference for me (and most others here at CA) is that learning and experimenting is not an effort, its fun.

 

If you enjoy / love something enough you will educate yourself to get good at it. What people who love music need is a simple "starting point" or computer audio 101.

 

Good luck.

Being relatively new, I understand where Gary is coming from. It would be nice to just get the puzzle pieces and slap something together cheaply just to hear the difference. I think once someone does this, they will be hooked in the learning and lab testing regardless. I like the idea of having a list of a few sub $1000 options (excluding speakers) (at least a couple windows/apple options each). I think once someone gets started they will be hooked, technically inclined or not....jmo. I think just getting people off the mp3 to their pc speakers will open up a whole new world to them...at least it did for me, just a short time ago...

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Hi Gary,

 

Your quest is a noble one and I have thought of doing something similar in the past.

 

Please note that I am not technically inclined and that I simply love music. The convenience and quality of computer audio properly set up allows me to listen more often and with more enjoyment.

 

The difference for me (and most others here at CA) is that learning and experimenting is not an effort, its fun.

 

If you enjoy / love something enough you will educate yourself to get good at it. What people who love music need is a simple "starting point" or computer audio 101.

 

Good luck.

 

 

Agreed. I do get mucho enjoyment from the process as well, but I worry the people without interest in tinkering & finessing themselves into a great audio system won't have the patience when stung by ignorance as I have - too many times. Who likes losing an entire Saturday or Sunday or even (gulp) the whole weekend with nothing gained?

 

 

 

Being relatively new, I understand where Gary is coming from. It would be nice to just get the puzzle pieces and slap something together cheaply just to hear the difference. I think once someone does this, they will be hooked in the learning and lab testing regardless. I like the idea of having a list of a few sub $1000 options (excluding speakers) (at least a couple windows/apple options each). I think once someone gets started they will be hooked, technically inclined or not....jmo. I think just getting people off the mp3 to their pc speakers will open up a whole new world to them...at least it did for me, just a short time ago...

 

You're probably right; I think a lot of people would persist after a small victory. Again, I'd like to point out that lots of people already have audio systems. A DAC and a few cables can be purchased for as little as $100. But they should learn about quality DACs, storage, networking, & streaming too as these can significantly enrich their experience. If nothing else, they would see possibilities for the future. Now, a message from Greedy Gary. As a group of buyers, we're all better served if the group is bigger. What would DAC manufacturers do if the market suddenly increased by 1000%? They'd rush to make better DACs and offer them as competitively as possible; that's what. I could finally afford to get rid of my piece of Schiit DAC;)

 

 

Gary

Win10 Sweetwater recording studio PC running JRMC > Soundcraft Ui24r 24-track digital mixer > JBL LSR308 via Magomi Balanced XLR cable pair

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Thanks, I will give it another try. If I do that, when I do searches, it won't search other sites, just my library?? I hated that!

 

Are you sure you were using iTunes? Seriously, you have to search to find the store (it isn't on the main screen, and you must specifically navigate to it), and there are no ads. Also, search only searches your local library unless you specifically go into the store (i.e., navigate away from your local library), then *choose* to search in the store.

 

Almost sounds like you were using some other program :/

John Walker - IT Executive

Headphone - MacMini running Roon Server > Netgear Orbi > Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet > mRendu Roon endpoint > Topping D90 > Topping A90 > Dan Clark Aeon 2 Closed / Focal Elegia

Home Theater - Mac Mini running Roon Server / AppleTV > Blue Jeans Cable HDMI > Denon X3700h > Anthem Amp for front channels > Revel F208-based 5.2.4 Atmos speaker system

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Being relatively new, I understand where Gary is coming from. It would be nice to just get the puzzle pieces and slap something together cheaply just to hear the difference. I think once someone does this, they will be hooked in the learning and lab testing regardless. I like the idea of having a list of a few sub $1000 options (excluding speakers) (at least a couple windows/apple options each). I think once someone gets started they will be hooked, technically inclined or not....jmo. I think just getting people off the mp3 to their pc speakers will open up a whole new world to them...at least it did for me, just a short time ago...

 

Hi Garry & Mike,

 

I believe I understand where you are both coming from, i.e.

 

How do you introduce Joe 6 Pack (as Chris likes to call a non audiophiles) simply and cheaply to the benefits of computer audiophile without overloading him/her with technical jargon (and too many options) so that he/she doesn't get confused?

 

IMO the message you need to get across is that:

 

"computers provide an inexpensive way of playing back music with incredible quality and convenience."

 

However, Joe needs to understand that computers perform many functions and therefore they have a very noisy internal environment that can interfere with the audio and you therefore need to set them up properly.

 

From a implementation perspective -

 

You do this by installing specialist audio software such as Audirvana (that bypasses the OS) and by replacing the internal "cheap" DAC with a purpose built external DAC.

 

Remember it is called "computer audio" and it is absolutely vital to get these two steps right so your source is bit perfect and free from electrical interference and jitter. It is imperative to start right to finish right otherwise your sound will be immediately compromised and no amount of money will fix it.

 

IMO this is computer audio in a nutshell and it is all you really need to understand and implement properly. The rest is just amp and speaker selection.

 

From a cost perspective -

 

Ripping your CDs at lossless quality and setting up iTunes properly costs nothing. I can easily rip 25 CDs in a night while I'm working if I set up the "rip CD when inserted" function in iTunes.

 

A dedicated audio software player for both PC and MAC only costs $75 (some less) and are essential as they bypass the OS and provide the external DAC with bit perfect data. They all demonstrably improve the sound over iTunes and also provide many great facilities such as proper filtering and automatic sample rate switching.

 

You can then select your USB DAC from the $200 options I have provided above. When you are ready to upgrade you can relegate the original DAC to travel duties paired with your laptop and headphones. (The iFi nano DSD would be my choice because you can also use it with an iPhone making it a truly portable system).

 

If your/our target market is people who genuinely love music then they will already have a stereo, most likely an AMP and pair of old speakers lying around the house, and they can simply plug their $200 DAC into the Aux of that system.

 

Total Cost < $300 for what will most likely be very good sound depending on the existing gear.

 

Alternatively for about US$400 they can purchase a pair of powered speakers from Audioengine or Akimate.

 

(I use a Macbook Air / Audirvana with a Dragon fly v1.2 DAC into a pair Akimate Micro powered speakers blue tacked to my balcony railings and it sounds wonderful).

 

Total Cost < $700

 

Anyway the point is price is not the problem - it is the stigma that audiophile quality costs a bomb and that digital is crap (because of mp3).

 

Anyway you want to cut it a little education and a little effort is required for Joe to have great sound cheaply and to gain a basic understanding of how to produce real high fidelity sound from a computer.

 

Bla Blah Blah - I've been on holidays too long - I've got to get back to work!

LOUNGE: Mac Mini - Audirvana - Devialet 200 - ATOHM GT1 Speakers

OFFICE : Mac Mini - Audirvana - Benchmark DAC1HDR - ADAM A7 Active Monitors

TRAVEL : MacBook Air - Dragonfly V1.2 DAC - Sennheiser HD 650

BEACH : iPhone 6 - HRT iStreamer DAC - Akimate Micro + powered speakers

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