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I have been considering computer audio and I'm ready to try it. There is one area I'm unsure about - a convenient interface to control the music from my listening chair. With the reported importance of stabilizing and weighting down the computer, my initial idea of a laptop sitting in my lap or next to me on the couch may not sound best. What is the most convenient and high quality way to control computer music?

 

A little background - I'm an old school audiophile with ARC / Pass amps and Magnepan speakers. The computer music will be played thru this two channel system. My goal is to rip my CD's and play back at 24 or 32 bit and 192 khz. Also high rez downloads. I got some info from an Absolute Sound article, which may be splitting hairs in their recommendations, but I'm fairly sensitive to sound quality also. If I can avoid the long USB cable down the middle of the listening room from a laptop, that will be good. I've come up with two potential solutions: 1) a USB wired portable touch screen monitor or 2) an app to convert your I-pad into a monitor for your computer (splashtop). If I can get a desktop PC and put it in the rack with my stereo, that might be handier than hauling the tethered lap top around. If I can then come up with a wireless interface, that would be sweet.

 

I'm looking at DBPoweramp to rip. JRMC for file management, JPlay for playback and something to upsample to 24/32 bits / 192 khz. i'll buy a new DAC in the $2-4K range. This is a big step for me, the computer dunce!

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Welcome to CA, you should be in good hands with this community.

 

Looking at the gear you have / plan to buy, you are very close to being set up. All you need to do is add a tablet (I use an iPad) and make sure your computer (laptop in this case) is on your network and that you have wifi. This setup would involve the computer (laptop if you wish) to be connected directly to the stereo and your network. You could run analog out of the laptop until you get your DAC.

 

You can then use your tablet (JRemote for JRiver or SplashTop, Windows RDC, TeamViewer, or whatever you like) for control while the computer, sitting near your stereo, does all of the hard work.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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I'm looking at DBPoweramp to rip. JRMC for file management, JPlay for playback and something to upsample to 24/32 bits / 192 khz. i'll buy a new DAC in the $2-4K range. This is a big step for me, the computer dunce!

 

Also try:

 

- DSD DACs (native, chipless, tubed, at least DSD128)

- HQ Player (and real-time up-conversion to DSD128+)

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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Also try:

 

- DSD DACs (native, chipless, tubed, at least DSD128)

- HQ Player (and real-time up-conversion to DSD128+)

 

Thomas, an example of what YashN describes here is in my signature block.

Analog: Koetsu Rosewood > VPI Aries 3 w/SDS > EAR 834P > EAR 834L: Audiodesk cleaner

Digital Fun: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (JRMC) SOtM USB > Lynx Hilo > EAR 834L

Digital Serious: DAS > CAPS v3 w/LPS (HQPlayer) Ethernet > SMS-100 NAA > Lampi DSD L4 G5 > EAR 834L

Digital Disc: Oppo BDP 95 > EAR 834L

Output: EAR 834L > Xilica XP4080 DSP > Odessey Stratos Mono Extreme > Legacy Aeris

Phones: EAR 834L > Little Dot Mk ii > Senheiser HD 800

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Also try:

 

- DSD DACs (native, chipless, tubed, at least DSD128)

- HQ Player (and real-time up-conversion to DSD128+)

 

I'm not disputing HQPlayer's inherent SQ goodness, but recommending it to a self-professed "computer dunce" strikes me as a bit, er, optimistic. (I'd characterize myself as a "computer intermediate," and I find HQP's UI to be fairly recondite.)

 

Fortunately, the OP can download the trial versions, compare HQP with JR and decide which is the better way to go.

 

--David

Listening Room: Mac mini (Roon Core) > iMac (HQP) > exaSound PlayPoint (as NAA) > exaSound e32 > W4S STP-SE > Benchmark AHB2 > Wilson Sophia Series 2 (Details)

Office: Mac Pro >  AudioQuest DragonFly Red > JBL LSR305

Mobile: iPhone 6S > AudioQuest DragonFly Black > JH Audio JH5

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I tried many different setups for several years. Everything from a laptop in my lap (with the long USB cable) to a laptop in the rack controlled with a wireless keyboard or a Windows tablet to an iPad app. I found it very hard to choose a favorite. The convenience of computer audio was undeniable in every case but each arrangement had subtle advantages and drawbacks. If you aren't sure which you would prefer you might try to experiment a bit before settling on one.

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I'm not disputing HQPlayer's inherent SQ goodness, but recommending it to a self-professed "computer dunce" strikes me as a bit, er, optimistic. (I'd characterize myself as a "computer intermediate," and I find HQP's UI to be fairly recondite.)

 

Fortunately, the OP can download the trial versions, compare HQP with JR and decide which is the better way to go.

 

There's a bit of a learning curve initially for setup, but the forums have a lot of knowledgeable people to help him if needed.

 

I assume someone coming to 'Computer Audiophile' could be looking to optimise SQ rather than GUIs.

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

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You can up convert in river in the dsp section under playback options. Some regard this as a better option than having the day doing it. Of course that depends on your ram size. If you have 4gb's of ram or more that should be enough. Also I find that with CDs using dbpoweramp you can up sample whilst ripping it. Say from 16/44.1 to 24/96 although this takes up a lot of hard disc space.

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Like others have told you, a tablet is going to work best for this, and be simple to do. Put the computer over by the stereo system. Connect via USB to your DAC, and control the computer software remotely with the tablet. You also can control these over a smartphone, but a 7 inch or so tablet is probably a better choice for this.

 

A Mac Mini or very small Windows machine is good for this as they are plenty powerful, small, and relatively quiet. You can do this with a laptop too. I do as I had a spare laptop. If I were buying something it would be a Mac Mini or similar.

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Just wanted to mention that JPLAY and JRMC are no longer compatible with each other (at least with relatively recent JRMC builds you can't choose JPLAY as the driver).

 

If you like JPLAY and want to go wireless they now recommend Linn Kazoo for control point SW along with Minimserver.

 

Two other nice playback engines are the already mentioned HQ Player and my personal favorite - Infinity Blade/Bug Head Emperor. IB/BH is very powerful and flexible free software from a developer in Japan. The down side is there is no full English manual so it will take some trial and error getting used to the interface. If you like IB/BH the most active board I have found is on the JPLAY forum. I don't use a tablet/phone for control so I can't comment on how well HQ Player or IB/BH integrate into that environment.

Good luck.

Digital System: Cybershaft 10MHz OCXO clock premium>Antelope Liveclock>RedNet D16>AES Cable>Mutec MC-3+ USB​>AES Cable>Schiit Yggy

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There's a bit of a learning curve initially for setup, but the forums have a lot of knowledgeable people to help him if needed.

 

I assume someone coming to 'Computer Audiophile' could be looking to optimise SQ rather than GUIs.

 

I'm sure some take that approach, and that's fine; for others, I think it's a mix of optimizing SQ and optimizing convenience. If dealing with the software is eating up an inordinate amount of your time and making you upset, it's not necessarily worthwhile for the incremental improvement in SQ. I'd guess that where one falls on the SQ <-> Ease of Use plot depends on lots of individual factors, including the rest of one's system and how comfortable one is generally with computer hardware and software.

 

--David

Listening Room: Mac mini (Roon Core) > iMac (HQP) > exaSound PlayPoint (as NAA) > exaSound e32 > W4S STP-SE > Benchmark AHB2 > Wilson Sophia Series 2 (Details)

Office: Mac Pro >  AudioQuest DragonFly Red > JBL LSR305

Mobile: iPhone 6S > AudioQuest DragonFly Black > JH Audio JH5

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I have been using HQPlayer for years. I agree with you that a neophyte should not begin with it- nor did they appear to want to.

I'm sure some take that approach, and that's fine; for others, I think it's a mix of optimizing SQ and optimizing convenience. If dealing with the software is eating up an inordinate amount of your time and making you upset, it's not necessarily worthwhile for the incremental improvement in SQ. I'd guess that where one falls on the SQ <-> Ease of Use plot depends on lots of individual factors, including the rest of one's system and how comfortable one is generally with computer hardware and software.

 

--David

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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I guess that ease of use would be paramount initially. For me JRiver suits and have stuck with it. I have changed DAC's several times. Now using a NAD m51 which has several inputs including hdmi. Which might be beneficial if a longer connection from computer to dac is required. I also prefer to have my laptop several feet away from my analogue amplification. Having tried it close and the result was remarkably bad. Whether it was rfi or emi I don't know. Good luck and read as much as you can b4 diving in. The hardest part of this site is learning their lingo and abbreviations.

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I am old-school like you, with ProAc Response 2's (which replaced my Magnepans when space became an issue) and tube amplifiers. Here's what I ended up with:

 

A Mac Mini with an external BluRay-ROM, wireless keyboard and mouse, and an inexpensive flat-screen TV. With the TV we can watch concerts and operas on YouTube, plus movies and TV shows and what have you. The base Mac Mini is $499 and should be plenty of processing power for your needs.

 

JRiver Media Center is very convenient and plays music very nicely, with a big warm soundstage. You can experiment with other programs later but Jriver does so much of the work for you. And as others have mentioned, you can control the music from your listening chair with JRemote.

 

I prefer the optical output on the Mac Mini over USB, it's cleaner and more faithful to the originals to my ears. But you have both options with the Mac. In looking for a DAC I would consider one with an optional optical input. Just sayin'. :-)

 

I bought the Arcam irDAC ($700) and I am very pleased with it. It's clean and crisp and extremely musical, and might be a good match for the Magnepans. Plus is has 6 digital inputs. I keep an older BluRay player hooked up to it so my wife can play her CDs.

 

So my whole front end comes in at less than $2000. But you can certainly spend more on a DAC if you like.

 

Hope this helps! It's a lot of fun and not terribly difficult to set up with very satisfying results.

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Wow! Thank you everyone for all the help. I will have to read all these posts several more times to absorb everything. At least I feel much more confident that I can do this with all this help. I'm a recently retired Chemical Engineer who never really warmed up to computers, but has decided to take them on for the sake of improving my music system. I have a Cambridge Audio 840C

CD player and realized yesterday it will take SPDIF and Toslink digital inputs. Maybe initially I'll use it as a DAC while I'm working out all the bugs. Need to get a USB to optical converter? I've read DAC's like an optical input better than USB(?) I will probably buy a small desktop PC (mount on stereo rack) and get a smallish touchscreen monitor I can use in my listening chair. I have other cables on the floor, so one more USB from the monitor to PC won't be a big deal. I'm thinking a real monitor may be less glitchy than my iPad running an app like Splashtop. If I'm coming back with ideas indicating I don't understand what you're telling me, pls let me know. My skin is thick. Let me absorb all these posts and I may be getting back with some questions. Thanks again. Tom

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Wow! Thank you everyone for all the help. I will have to read all these posts several more times to absorb everything. At least I feel much more confident that I can do this with all this help. I'm a recently retired Chemical Engineer who never really warmed up to computers, but has decided to take them on for the sake of improving my music system. I have a Cambridge Audio 840C

CD player and realized yesterday it will take SPDIF and Toslink digital inputs. Maybe initially I'll use it as a DAC while I'm working out all the bugs. Need to get a USB to optical converter? I've read DAC's like an optical input better than USB(?) I will probably buy a small desktop PC (mount on stereo rack) and get a smallish touchscreen monitor I can use in my listening chair. I have other cables on the floor, so one more USB from the monitor to PC won't be a big deal. I'm thinking a real monitor may be less glitchy than my iPad running an app like Splashtop. If I'm coming back with ideas indicating I don't understand what you're telling me, pls let me know. My skin is thick. Let me absorb all these posts and I may be getting back with some questions. Thanks again. Tom

 

iPad running JRemote will be a much better solution than a touchscreen monitor or Splashtop. No glitches. Toslink is usually limited to 24\96, if that is important to you.

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 Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>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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Stella U3 or a Halide spdif converter toslink might isolate electrically but are limited somewhat to 24/96 in most cases. Plus having tried it , i think it would be better to get a stand alone USB DAC and use the analogue route. If your worried about a long USB cable try a Supra cable. I use a 5 meter cable and after a little persistent trial got it to work ( I had to burn it in a little by connecting it to a printer). If you balanced inputs on your preamp get DAC with balanced outputs. They do make a difference IMO.

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Wow! Thank you everyone for all the help. I will have to read all these posts several more times to absorb everything. At least I feel much more confident that I can do this with all this help. I'm a recently retired Chemical Engineer who never really warmed up to computers, but has decided to take them on for the sake of improving my music system. I have a Cambridge Audio 840C

CD player and realized yesterday it will take SPDIF and Toslink digital inputs. Maybe initially I'll use it as a DAC while I'm working out all the bugs. Need to get a USB to optical converter? I've read DAC's like an optical input better than USB(?) I will probably buy a small desktop PC (mount on stereo rack) and get a smallish touchscreen monitor I can use in my listening chair. I have other cables on the floor, so one more USB from the monitor to PC won't be a big deal. I'm thinking a real monitor may be less glitchy than my iPad running an app like Splashtop. If I'm coming back with ideas indicating I don't understand what you're telling me, pls let me know. My skin is thick. Let me absorb all these posts and I may be getting back with some questions. Thanks again. Tom

 

One comment in your post is somewhat telling in what you are hoping for with a computer and that is " I'm a recently retired Chemical Engineer who never really warmed up to computers, but has decided to take them on for the sake of improving my music system. I have a Cambridge Audio 840C".

 

A computer will certainly help in accessing your music collection (once it's all ripped) and having it at your fingertips can be a great way to quickly find something in your collection, but....thinking it will improve the sound of your system is (and has been) debatable. The Cambridge CD player you have is a decent player and putting a computer through the dac will more than likely sound VERY similar to playing the cd directly in the player. If however you are looking to add to your music collection by purchasing higher resolution files than what you are currently listening to then and playing them through a higher quality dac THEN you will find that you may "improve your music system".

 

Food for thought. I just put another older turntable with new cartridge into my system and it sounds simply SUPERB! High res on a budget with a simply GIGANTIC library of high resolution software available to play on it. Amazing.

David

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One comment in your post is somewhat telling in what you are hoping for with a computer and that is " I'm a recently retired Chemical Engineer who never really warmed up to computers, but has decided to take them on for the sake of improving my music system. I have a Cambridge Audio 840C".

 

A computer will certainly help in accessing your music collection (once it's all ripped) and having it at your fingertips can be a great way to quickly find something in your collection, but....thinking it will improve the sound of your system is (and has been) debatable. The Cambridge CD player you have is a decent player and putting a computer through the dac will more than likely sound VERY similar to playing the cd directly in the player. If however you are looking to add to your music collection by purchasing higher resolution files than what you are currently listening to then and playing them through a higher quality dac THEN you will find that you may "improve your music system".

 

Food for thought. I just put another older turntable with new cartridge into my system and it sounds simply SUPERB! High res on a budget with a simply GIGANTIC library of high resolution software available to play on it. Amazing.

 

These are *very* good points, and I'd like to reinforce a few of them. :-)

 

I transferred my CD collection to computer for several reasons--because it was taking up my whole living room, and I probably paid $1000 extra to lug it across the country when we moved a few years ago. So I certainly enjoy the convenience. And I like being able to stream my collection to the kitchen or the bedroom for casual listening (JRemote, an iPhone and a little boom-box with a dock are just fine in this regard). I also am very into downloading new music and being able to watch HD concerts on YouTube.

 

BUT if you are looking for *huge* leap in sound quality alone, that may take some time and tweaking. Just sayin'. :-)

 

That said, even for an "old-school" audiophile like myself it's been a lot of fun, I do have better sound now, and I haven't really spent that much money.

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Again, thank you everyone for the load of help. Based on this advice, I'm now thinking of starting smaller. I need to buy a PC and was looking at units with plenty of power and storage. Any reason not to buy a fast machine other than cost? Was thinking of a 2nd internal hard drive just for music. Do solid state drives yield any music advantage? I have an iPad, so I'll use it with JRMC / JRemote to control the music. I'll stay away from separate playback software for the time being. Using my Cambridge 840C as a DAC will require an optical or RCA digital input. I'll have to see if the PC's I'm looking at offer that because I'd like to delay the DAC purchase until I have the computer going and optimized.

 

To answer some of the questions above:

 

Zach and Realhifi - I have been thinking I'd get at least a small SQ boost by ripping my CD's w/o errors (dbpoweramp best?) and up sampling. I'll try not to be too optimistic. Long term I am planning on downloading hi rez files and buying a nice DAC.

 

Realhifi - You hit a nerve when you mentioned your new / old turntable. Not long ago I bought a Rega RP-3 / Ortofon 2M Black / Nova Phonomena and can't get it to sound as realistic and engaging as my better CD's on the Cambridge. I think the main problem is the lack of balanced output (I hear you DEANO2) from the Nova. My ARC preamp sounds MUCH better with balanced inputs. So the turntable has been at a disadvantage vs the Cambridge. In the end I decided not to spend another $4K on a better phono preamp and just take a shot at the future. I also got tired of fiddling with vinyl.

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Realhifi - You hit a nerve when you mentioned your new / old turntable. Not long ago I bought a Rega RP-3 / Ortofon 2M Black / Nova Phonomena and can't get it to sound as realistic and engaging as my better CD's on the Cambridge. I think the main problem is the lack of balanced output (I hear you DEANO2) from the Nova. My ARC preamp sounds MUCH better with balanced inputs. So the turntable has been at a disadvantage vs the Cambridge. In the end I decided not to spend another $4K on a better phono preamp and just take a shot at the future. I also got tired of fiddling with vinyl.

 

If it feels like too much fiddling then for sure you will love the convience of a computer based system! I tend to be one of the "fit it and forget it" camp when it comes to vinyl so "fiddling" is the last thing I do when I listen to records.

 

Never have cottoned to the Rega tables so I can definately understand where you're coming from there.

 

PS. First time I heard Maggie's was with tubes (Precision Fidelity) and a vinyl rig with an old Koetsu cartridge on a Linn. I have yet to hear Jazz at The Pawnshop sound better or more realistic. Truly one of the watershed moments for me in my audio education.

David

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