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Power Mac G5 Setup & Options-Just doesn't sound good

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I just can't get the sound. I read about you guys getting superior sound from computer playback and so I believe it must be possible but I am nowhere close. Two recent threads mentioning the appeal of G5s prompted this appeal to any of you for help. I'm using a Power Mac G5 (dual 2GHz Power PC 970 processors-not Intel) with 3.5 gig RAM. All rips are uncompressed from CDs in WAV at 16/44.1 using error correction. I'm using ITunes on the G5 (I only use the Mac for ITunes and have removed a lot of programs) and all music is stored on external terabyte WD hard drives (backed up on other WD hard drives using time machine). I'm 99% sure my midi settings are correct because I've been hoping that I had something amiss there and have checked them repeatedly against the advice on this site. Signal is fed through Kimber usb (with ferrites removed) to Nixon USB tube dac (Nixon dac has usb input only) to Sonic Frontiers SFL1 Signature preamp to Classe CA 300 amp to Krell Reference 3 speakers. I've also tried the various usb ports on the G5 and believe I have it on the best one (front port) as I've seen recommended here as well.


Bottom line-bright, compressed, honky and two dimensional. My CD player into the preamp crushes this. I have Itune's and the machine's volume at max but, frankly, without using iTune's equalizer it is painful to listen to. I've considered changing to a mac mini (in case the G5 with power PC chips is the problem and Intel chips will be better); changing the Nixon DAC to a Benchmark USB HDR (twofer-better? DAC and eliminate the preamp); but lately I've read of some of you espousing the G5 with a Lynx card (not express-got it). Basically, the Lynx card or the mac mini cost about the same (but I'll still be limited to usb output only because of the Nixon dac) or I could just replace the dac with a Benchmark which would allow me to try other non-usb connections if non-asynchronous usb (acknowledgments to the other Gordon, fount of knowledge) is the problem.


I'd hate to drop $2k for the benchmark and not notice much difference if the processor chips or the soundcard are the problem. I noticed another reference to Tiger vs. Lepoard (I'm using 10.5.7 which I believe is Leopard)


I'm kind of familiar with audiophile and definitely expect the 80/20 rule-diminishing returns here but like I said, I'm not even in the ballpark. I just feel that I must be missing something pretty basic. Is there something inherently wrong with what I've got? I'll happily provide any further information and would love any advice on which way to lean particularly from others who are using G5s with power pc chips.


My goal, as is all or yours, is perfect sound but for now, I'm just trying to get to good and restore some faith in computer audio.







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Hi Gordon - Posts like yours are the fun ones because I know what kind of sound a Mac G5 is capable of and it's not too difficult to achieve. In my opinion you should keep the G5. It's the foundation of a great sounding music server. The USB implementation in your DAC is one of the major weaknesses in your system. I would use a Lynx AES16 card to output a digital signal to a different DAC. Have you considered the Bryston BDA-1? This DAC with the Lynx will allow you up to 24/192 audio and sound wonderful. There are many other options, but this is one that comes to mind.


Also you can stick with USB and look into some of the best asynchronous implementations. I suggest reading my article Asynchronicity: A USB Audio Primer on the front page for more info.


I'm positive you can get great sound, but you will have to keep asking questions to get there. Don't settle for a comment that offers a solution you won't try. Keep asking and you'll get there. Some options recommended just won't work for you so be sure to let us know.





Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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That bad? Something technical is definitely not right in your setup. I suggest this:


Buy an EMU-0404 USB with a 30 day return policy. For around $200, it's not too much to splurge in the pursuit of decent computer audio. With the EMU, you can feed it from your Mac via USB OR optical.


I would definitely experiment with both and make sure to leave the EQ off, volume to maximum in iTunes. Of course, volume is also set to maximum in Audio midi as well. You shouldn't need the EQ at all.




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Frank, I have a Sonic Frontiers SFCD1. Good in its time but it is at least 10 years old. Don't get me wrong, I like it but I guess I figured that 10 or more years would have given a lot of development time to other DACs. I in no way want to bash the Nixon DAC. I bought it several years ago before I found this site, outboard consumer DACs were relatively new and it has functioned problem-free. But both Chris and you touch on something I had suspected. If I infer correctly, you are both implying that at this point, the weak link is more likely to be my DAC than my computer.


Chris, considered the Bryston but much of the appeal of computer audio is convenience so a volume remote is really appealing and additionally would allow me to remove my preamp from the chain. And though I don't think this preamp is a sonic liability, if I can remove something from the signal path, I'd prefer to do it.


If I go the Lynx route chris, will I need to have balanced INPUTS on the DAC? My question is from the Lynx card, what is the simplest/cleanest output connector? It looks like the Lynx comes with, oh, I don't know, about ten XLRs. ;) What's a non-engineer to do?


BTW Chris, just to confirm... The power pc chips in my G5 vs. Intel chips are not a problem? I had an annoying chirping noise and would remind anyone else out there to uncheck "allow naps" in the processor control panel. I believe that this is specific to the power pc chips.


Thanks again to all for responding and preventing me pursuing dead-ends.




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"My question is from the Lynx card, what is the simplest/cleanest output connector? It looks like the Lynx comes with, oh, I don't know, about ten XLRs. ;) What's a non-engineer to do?"


I am interested in this as well. I'd like to see the pinout of the back ports. I'd prefer to have a cable with a single balanced digital output and was consider just making one.


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HI Gordon - I'm not sure how much you want to spend but I'll say the Berkeley Audio Design Apha DAC is a great candidate for you. It has volume control and allow removal of your preamp.


The Lynx requires your DAC to you at least one AES/EBU digital input. The cable has an XLR termination. You can use the Lynx cable but only use the one cable that says output 1. The rest of the antennae can just sit there. No engineering required. Or, you can have a custom cable built that has one AES/EBU XLR cable. This is what I have.


Your G5 is not a problem and some think it's a benefit over the Intel Macs.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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You CAN use a software volume control without sonic degradation IF it is implemented correctly. Amarra is supposedly working on a remote volume control maybe for the ipod touch. I'm just pointing that out because it opens up many more dacs to use.


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Computer Audiophile has a new advertiser coming on the site Friday that offers the custom cables for Lynx AES16(e) and Lynx L22 cards. I have not tried the cables out yet so I cannot offer any information more than the fact the the cables are available.


I would mention the name of the advertiser, but they wanted the ad to start Friday so they could be fully prepared for inquiries.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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