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Does (processing) power corrupt?


Norton
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Take 2 PCs, for example one a top end i7 and one Atom- based, running identical software for OS and replay, not presenting a difficult load to either machine (straightforward "native" bit perfect replay), powered by same LPSU and connected via USB to the same DAC (not at the same time) with no audiophile USB cards or isolating devices.

 

Which will sound best:

 

A i7

B Atom

C no difference

 

and if the answer is that the best sound comes from the machine with the lowest processing power capable of doing the job, what motherboard/CPU would you recommend for audio applications that don't need lots of processing power?

 

Ta

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C-no difference.

 

Now everyone else can tell you how wrong-headed I am.

 

I did for about 3 years use an Atom netbook as my computer music source. It was a low powered unit with only 2 gig of ram, and the lowly Atom CPU.

 

Didn't sound any different over USB than a big powerful desktop server machine or more powerful modern laptop machines. I did not use LPS on any of them. Though I could run the netbook and laptops from battery.

 

I consider this a good question. If playback is bothered by electrical activities leaking out it certainly seems the usual assumption newer more powerful machines doing various additional processing will sound better is a dubious assumption.

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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The higher powered PC will allow you to do more things. Like, run HQPlayer with all its settings maxed out. I am using an i7-6700, and with HQPlayer running 8 channels of convolution, my CPU load is something like 80% at DSD256. In reality I am not able to run DSD256 because the computer tends to overheat and shut down because my case is passively cooled.

 

However, if you do not need all that CPU power (e.g. you don't need DSD, don't need so many convolution channels, not planning to upsample, etc) you should get the lowest power CPU you can get away with. Not only will you save money, but you also can get away with less cooling.

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The higher powered PC will allow you to do more things. Like, run HQPlayer with all its settings maxed out. I am using an i7-6700, and with HQPlayer running 8 channels of convolution, my CPU load is something like 80% at DSD256. In reality I am not able to run DSD256 because the computer tends to overheat and shut down because my case is passively cooled.

 

However, if you do not need all that CPU power (e.g. you don't need DSD, don't need so many convolution channels, not planning to upsample, etc) you should get the lowest power CPU you can get away with. Not only will you save money, but you also can get away with less cooling.

 

If it's a general purpose PC that is also used for video editing and video format conversions, you will need the much faster machine ,or it may not be feasible. Many new videos and music videos are now available in 4K resolution, and if you want to convert them to 1920 x 1080 to play through your TV it will take forever, assuming that it even able to do so.

A much faster machine is also likely to push RF/EMI much further up the spectrum with less resulting degradation.

There was an article in HiFi Critic magazine a while back that delved into this issue and recommended the faster processor for best results.

 

How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.

PROFILE UPDATED 13-11-2020

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