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Computer vs Network Media Player


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My first attempt at computer audio involved adapting an old DIY HTPC into a Audio PC. This set-up used Windows Vista with Media Monkey playing FLAC files through an on-board Lynx sound-card. This set-up was great in that it made my entire music collection accessible and some high-resolution downloads sounded great. The downside was that playback of standard RBCD files (ripped to FLAC) wasn’t up to the standard of my CDP and despite some effort the back-ground noise was a little too much.

 

So, now, this computer has been returned the TV room as a HTPC and I need to decide the next step for the music room. The obvious option is to build a dedicated Audio PC with a small solid-state drive for the OS that would access music stored on the HTPC and, ultimately, use an off-board DAC. Another option is to purchase a commercial network media player (such as the Squeezebox Touch) that would also access music from the HTPC or, potentially, local media.

 

The question, then, is which of these two methods is preferable given the objective of wanting to be able to take full advantage of high-resolution music while still having an acceptable solution for the vast majority of my music collection which is standard RBCD stored a FLAC. I guess that I’d thought that the computer option was preferable given the 176/24, 192/24 files. That said, it seems that 96/24 is being the “hi-res” music standard and, if not, surely media players will evolve to support the higher-resolution files.

 

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

 

Regards

APS

 

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I'm really curious about your old DIY HTPC project. Not that it really matters except some additional considerations apply IMO to the analog cards. What was the lynx card used? I have built many machines from clunkers to customer owned pcs to full custom and its hard to get one wrong with a little help in the right places. I think we need to figure out what went wrong with this build before proceeding. Especially if your considering a new build. In fact figuring this out may keep you from a new build in the first place. I can tell you that a solid state drive won't solve anything serious and is more about tweaks at that point in time. If you are up trying it out again post "all" the info on the machine and lets take it from there. If not I can put that card to good use......hahahaha.

 

Also, explain the back ground noise comment! Was this fan noise or something else?

 

Regards

Jesus R.

www.sonore.us

 

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Personally I would never go for the network media player because of inflexibility. I mean, once you have that, there's hardly anything to change, unless using an outboard DAC behind it again. Also, certainly the cheaper Squeezebox types are (electrically) noisy as hell (and won't allow hires material).

 

If you want to be on the safe side, just get yourself an audio PC from Sonore/Jesus.

He shouldn't say this in here, so I will ...

 

Peter

 

 

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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Peter / Jesus

 

The HTPC had the following hardware: Silverstone LC17 Case. Intel Core Duo E66850 processor. Intel DP35DP motherboard. Zalman 9700 Heak Sink. Artic Cooling Case Fans. WD Caviar Blue WD5000AAKS h/d x 2. Hauppauge WinTV HVR-2200 tuner card. nVidia GeForce 8600 GTS video card. Lynx L22 soundcard. All this worked well for HTPC duties but the noise became distracting when the machine left the closed A/V cabinet to the open stereo rack in my quiet stereo listening room.

 

Attempts to reduce the noise included: replacing the video card with a passive-cooling card, and rubber feet on the hard-disks / case fans. I also disconnected the case fans and had the CPU fan on low-speed, as well as removed / disabled all non-essential hardware include the tuner card, fire-wire and USB ports. All these changes had a reduce the noise but it was still possible to hear a low hum from the CPU fan and hard-drives, as well as occasional clicks when h/d were accessed.

 

The thinking at this point was that I’d more-or-less exhausted the options with the given hardware (fast processor, noisy disks) and I returned the machine to HTPC duties. I’ve concluded, then, that if I were to start again that it’s critical to take the perspective of silent Music PC from the out-set but, before doing so, wanted to understand the Network Media Player route.

 

One specific question. It is clear to me that a computer can be great, flexible, solution for high-resolution files but what about start RBCD files? Is it possible to put together a Music PC / DAC solution that rivals good, hi-end, CDP?

 

Thanks

APS

 

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My current system includes a SB Transporter, which has recently replaced a SB Duet. The only reason for doing this was so that I could stream 24/96 content and so I could have some really cool flashy VU meters!

 

The Transporter feeds a Tact 2.0s and I find the overall sound to be very satisfying. Yes, IMHO, it most definitely competes against hi-end CDP's. As Peter pointed out, there is very little you can change in the 'networking' way - whether or not you view this as a bad thing is, of course, open to debate! My SqueezeBox Server software runs on a small laptop which is completely silent. In my view, if the Touch appeals to you, then it is certainly in the price area where not a lot will be lost if it doesn't work out!

 

Putting together a very high quality system is perfectly possible and there are many ways, detailed in this site, of doing it.

 

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its just an experiment gone bad and I think you can slavage it unless your done and it stays as a media center.

 

Some Intel M.B. make noise (it is what it is) I don't use them for that reason. Please tell me if yours is one of them and I will add it to my don't use list. However. some Intel M.B. allow you to run your dual core cpu in single core mode:) That would be around 32.5 watts less and imo it won't harm the music any;) I like the stock intel heat sink and fan over the upgrade you have. Keep the cpu fan "on" and in silent mode in the cmos.

 

Pick and choose the case fans carefully. Some silverstone main case fans sound like a jet engine.....don't use those. The rear case fans in silent mode are pretty good. You may need to flip them to make the ventilation work for you. If the system starts to heat up the power supply fan ramps up and so on. I like to trun the power supply, so it blows into the case or exhausts the case (depends on the P.S.) I would chuck the video card and other junk and use the vga to a monitor or tv pc input.

 

It can be challanging to do video and audio at the same time, but it can also be done with some trade offs.

 

Regards

Jesus R

www.sonore.us

 

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Jesus

 

Thanks for the interesting ideas regarding fan selection and installation. The computer is, now, embedded in HTPC duties. So, then, I’ve got the opportunity / challenge starting from scratch with the network media player as an option given that the HTPC can be used to store files if that’s advantageous.

 

My thinking on the building a computer as the source is that it’d be worth the hassle to aim at a fan-less design, with a single solid-state drive for the OS and music accessed via the network HTPC. No need for video as I can log-on via the laptop or, potentially, use a fancy remote, and no need for CD/DVD as this is available on the HTPC. Not sure of the merits of Soundcard, USB or Firewire as the mechanism to feed DAC.

 

How does this sound? Any advice on suitable components and method of feeding DAC would be great.

 

Cheers

APS

 

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I had a feeling you were done and the ideas were just in case.

 

The fanless approach is very possible, but don't sell yourself short. IMO the l22 card you already have is a gem and easily rivals most cd players! It also has a very good analog to digital converters that you can record with plus digital ins and outs.

 

Anyway, I would build around a pci slot and leave yourself options to move away from the card if you need or want something else later. A mother board with a pci slot and usb is pretty easy to find and don't worry about firewire because you can add a pci to firewire card anytime. I use a small and inexpensive bluetooth key board with built in pointer (looks like a mini laptop). The wired version is even better at 1/2 the cost or around 40 bucks. I would not use a laptop in the room as they are generally loud and add complication. The iphone with ap is fine. Now you have to trust me on this....put a monitor in the room. The last thing you want is to need a monitor when your done and all hooked up. I would have the optical in case a bud comes over and you want to do a quick rip to show and brag....I mean show and tell. The video won't harm your idea, but stay away from high def video on the mother boards as they output a ton of heat.

 

Regards

Jesus R

www.sonore.us

 

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May it bring something new after all the good advices ...

 

I can confirm that you never should combine an "HTPC" and an audio PC. Not only for the heat - thus noise problems, but also for the many changes which will be applied to the PC at trying to run the movies from any type (think "merits", "graphs" and "codecs" here). In fact, in my opinion the HTPC days are over a bit, and if not already there, the "media players" for movies are around the corner. Just hardware boxes again, but for HD movies of any type. Much less hassle, once they do what you want.

 

Lastly, indeed get that monitor and keyboard Jesus talks about. Notice that both can easily take 15 meters (say 45') with a decent VGA cable (or DVI) for the monitor, and normal extension PS2 cabling for the keyboard.

 

but

 

Also keep in mind that the audio PC shouldn't be miles away from the DAC or otherwise you'll have degradation in that area. On that matter, Firewire is your best option, and with a self-powered connection, that can take 10 meters (30'). Do not get active hubs for that distance, but just a 10 meter cable (they exist).

 

It is all one complex knot if you never done it, but in the end most solutions can be derived from some logic and a little bit of help from others. Step by step is the best, but don't start off wrongly.

 

Good luck !

Peter

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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There are several possible solutions; I agree with the previous posts I've tested media servers Sonos etc... and they don't quite make it yet (although there are aftermarket mods available on the Sonos).

 

You should be aware that 'breaking' the music out of a PC/MAC is currently undergoing quite a price revolution. A year ago the choices were a Lynx card $800, A Wiess box $5000, Spdif (free), or a DAC with a USB/FW interface.

 

In the last month or so we have seen the FW Wiess INT202 ($1300) and the USB Hiface ($150) both of which on paper meet the Hires 192/24 low jitter audiophile requirement. (I have a Hiface on order I'll post a review when I get it).

 

So a possible system (min cost/size/noise , max audiophile).

 

Mac Mini (as a MAC or a PC depending on choice; noiseless)

 

HiFace USB (or Emperical USB or INT202)

 

(Optional Reclocker Antelope or Emperical)

 

External DAC

 

If you want to seperate the PC from the DAC (long cable) a reclocker Emperical or Antelope DA in front of the External DAC.

 

Of course you could use a DAC with a FW/USB input e.g. Metric Halo ULN-2.

 

Aside: The output of MAC's is HDMI; I feed the MAC video out to my video projector and if I want to see the MAC screen it is projected. Mostly I remote into the MAC using a Laptop or iphone. Also Music can be held on the Network Server with no loss of quality.

 

/Paul

 

Serious Listening:[br]Intel Mac Pro 6G (SSD) -> Amarra ->Alpha USB ->Alpha I Dac -> Ayre KX-R -> Tom Evans Linear Class A -> Avantgarde Mezzo Horns (107db) + Basshorns-> Engineered Room (Power, Traps, Helmholtz Resonators, Ceiling Diffusers)[br]Computer Listening:Intel Mac Pro 6G -> Lavry DA10 -> Adams S3A Active Monitors

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Jesus / Peter / Paul

 

Thanks for all the great advice. You’ve convinced me that it’s worthwhile to attempt a dedicated Audio Computer for my 2-channel music room (with the existing computer remaining in HTPC duties in the family room). Are there good “recipes” for a Windows based system? Any recommendations on a good, black, fan-less case?

 

Cheers, APS

 

 

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can you tell us if you have decided on usb, firewire, aes card or analog card? Im not concerned on the company just the concept. This will help in selecting parts and focus the build. Example: if your not going to use the cards then we don't care if the case slots are tall or short or if it even has them.....

 

Regards

Jesus R

www.sonore.us

 

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Jesus

 

I'm not, yet, wedded to any specific implementation but was thinking of the Lynx AES16e output to Bryston BDA-1 DAC. The rationale is that these components get a good review, seem flexible and unlike others, can be found here in Australia.

 

Note, neither the mCubed or Zalman cases are available in Australia. I'm not adverse to importing but it doesn't sound wise for either given that the mCubed requires specialist parts and Zalman is so large (and preference is HTPC form factor). The http://www.hd-plex.com/ cases might be the go but are, I guess, untested.

 

Cheers,

APS

 

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Any advice on the case options given information posted above? It looks as though I can fit Lynx AES16e into a www.hd-plex.com case via using a flexible PCIe Riser card.

 

Regards,

Andrew

 

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I don't have one (I use Sonos and various sonos mods) but as far as I am aware the best hi res network media player is the Linn.

 

 

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

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most designs are going to have one issue or another. I can tell you what the weak link is, but all this is relative. It can be as simple as the case is to large all the way to a poor power supply and it just depends. Small cases need these 90 degree adapters, but you gain not having fans. You have to be willing to give and take in the design.

 

My best advice is to get help from the company. Let them know what your doing and ask if they have done it before and what issues exist.

 

Jesus R

www.sonore.us

 

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