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The Basics


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Hi Chris, et al.,


The site looks great; can't believe it's so new. I am a total newbie and looking to learn and acquire the basics of a computer audiophile system. Unfortunately, I don't know alot about either computers or audio (for reference I have a 2002 iMac desktop with a near-full 30 gig hard drive still running iTunes 6 and OSX 10.2.8 that was hooked up with plain old patch cords to an NAD 3240 PE integrated amp until the amp passed away a few months back). Can you recommend a site or publication where I can learn the basics in terms of vocab (i.e., what's RFI or SPDIF stand for?) and equipment (i.e., how using a better soundcard, or a converter or whatever improves the sound over just plugging into the headphone jack?), etc.? I've called a few hi-end audio stores, but they look down on you if you even say the word "computer" and/or unless you're prepared to drop $20k.


Thanks in advance,




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I'm in about the same boat as newbie, although I confess that I have been thinking about a high quality computer-based music storage system for a couple of years now.


I just bought one of the new aluminum iMacs, and have been seriously thinking about using my 2-year old Mini as a music server. I am considering Scott Nixon's tube based DAC. It is reasonably priced, and has reviewed well. http://www.scott-nixon.com/dac.htm


An additional concern I have, though, is a remote means of viewing and controlling the music playback from a wireless, handheld device (maybe via Timbuktu software) if this is in the realm of the doable at a reasonable price. I'm hoping this would eliminate the need to have a monitor connected to the Mini.


Hope someone has a suggestion for this.


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Hey newbie you've come to the right spot! I have a feeling if you stick around here you will be able to pick up all the terms and knowledge you want. Just keep posting your questions and read the other posts, even if unrelated to your major interests, and you will pick up on it pretty fast I'm sure. I'll consider creating a glossary section that we can all add to i needed.


For your specific questions right now I would start with Wikipedia if you need a basic definition. Its answers can be even more confusing sometimes, but it is a start. This hobby may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but there really isn't that much you need to know to build a great sounding audiophile computer based system. Also a simple google search may provide an answer. Your equipment questions can all be answered right here. That is what this forum and site was created for. I don't think any other site is filling this gap completely. The answers are few and far between. Hopefully we can create a site with all the answers. I suggest posting one question per post so the answers don't get too far off topic. For example just start a new post that has your question about soundcards v. onboard audio v. external DACs (digital audio converters) and you will get answers to that question. Post one hundred questions if you want because there are certainly others who have the same questions.


Sadly I haven't been to a hi-end store yet that has really embraced computer based systems. It is there loss and without a site like this we would also lose because nobody has the answers. That is where this community comes in. Thanks for joining and I hope to see all of your questions here in the forums!



- Chris

Computer Audiophile | Turn Down The Silence


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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For remote control access to your music one popular option is to use a Slim Devices Squeezebox and one of the suggested remotes to control that unit via its webpage or just control the unit itself. Here is the list of suggested remotes http://www.slimdevices.com/pi_remotes.html?


If you just control the SB you are stuck with a somewhat small "screen". Using a different remote would be a little better. If you went down this path I suggest using the squeezebox for little more than remote access to your music by taking advantage of its digital out to an external DAC (the Scott Nixon you are looking at).


I'm not sold on this type of solution but it is pretty popular. Hopefully others will chime in and let us know what they are doing or what they have heard. I will continue to research this and post back as I find other solutions.



- Chris

Computer Audiophile | Turn Down The Silence


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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Yes, this stuff can be very confusing. Just take your time and don't let anyone buffalo you into buying anything you don't need.


S/PDIF stands for Sony/Philips Digital Interface, I believe. It's one of several standards for connecting digital components. S/PDIF is audio only, as opposed to USB and Firewire which are data standards. Some digital-to-analog converters (DAC) can use USB or Firewire in addition to S/PDIF. You'll also run into AES format, which is mainly used on professional equipment. S/PDIF uses a coaxial connector, usually an RCA (phono) jack or a BNC (video-type) jack.


You can use the audio output of your computer but this tends to be noisy. If you want something better (let your ears tell you) you can buy a separate digital-to-analog converter, which gets the audio conversion away from the electronic noise in the computer. If your computer has a digital audio output, as most modern Macs do, then you can buy a basic DAC. If all you have is USB, then you need a DAC with a USB input.


Some DACs have built-in headphone amps. Some have a volume control and enough output to drive a power amplifier for your speakers. I don't think you have to spend a ton of money to get a good one, but you need to read reviews with quite a bit of care.


And remember that we were all newcomers at some time. For me that was about 30 years ago but the switch to computer-based operation was still confusing. Now that I've made the switch I'm never going back; a computer is a high-quality source, and adds great convenience.



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