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Computer Audiophile on the Cheap


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I have a very limited budget, but I consider myself to be an audiophile (My definition of an 'audiophile' is simply--There is a sweet spot, and I know where it is).

 

I started with a Dragonfly v 1.2, which was defective. But, as a result of that experience, I learned more about the workings on my computer, and eventually Audioquest replaced the DF. Then I heard about the Schiit Modi 2 external DAC which would give me the full 192 on my Linux machine. It arrived yesterday, one day early, and the result is a spectacular sound. The replacement Dragonfly is now attached to a spare laptop, and runs a compact stereo system in the bedroom.

 

I am a big fan of saving money and getting the most bang out of every dollar. My 'system' is a pair of vintage Advent Loudspeakers (circa 1975-composite boxes, re-foamed in 1990) and a three legged Harman/Kardon 330i which pushes 20 watts per channel. The computer is a vintage Dell Vostro with 4GB of RAM running Ubuntu Linux 16.04 LTS. I had an old pair of AR interconnects, which were close-out priced at $5 a few years back, and USB interconnect was borrowed from an external hard drive enclosure--nothing fancy or expensive.

 

Whilst some amongst us like to talk about how expensive their hobby has become, I am the contrarian who because of circumstance, am quite proud of the sound my re-used, re-furbished, and vintage system with a very low overhead cost.

 

The Schiit Modi 2 is key to making all the pieces work. I have a rather extensive collection of soundboard recordings from the 30 years of the Grateful Dead, and an array of 24 bit/192 audiophile pressing recordings in my hard drive. The Modi 2 makes everything sound better. Dare I say it, even 320 MP3 files sound great.

 

I have no beef with Audioquest, they were prompt to replace the v1.2 and it does a wonderful job up to 24/96. But there is a whole new world of music on 176 and 192 recordings that just get lost with a Dragonfly. Money wise-the discontinued v1.2 can still be bought for around $79-- but my advice would be to pony-up another Dub and get the Schiit Modi 2. You will hear the difference the first time you cue up a 24/192 file, and never regret the extra $20.

 

I have a friend who has invested well over $150,000 in a system, and I know he will never admit it...but I think my rig sounds better.

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  • 1 month later...

Since that writing, a few changes ('upgrades') have been made. I purchased a solid state drive, and when I did the clean install, I chose the tried and true 14.04 LTS distribution of Ubuntu Linux. And my old Yamaha RX-350 Natural Sound receiver is the amplifier, with it's 'cd-direct' circuit, is a cleaner sound and more power than the h/k 330i. I found the 16.04 distro resulted in numerous crashes due to system errors. Since I installed 14.04--not one single system error. Very stable and powerful great music.

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This past two months I have made two purchases for my Audiophile on the Cheap sound system. I cannot decide which was the better deal.

First, I bought some Sennheiser HD 205 headphones for $39, which list for $69.

And, I bought a solid state 120 Gb drive, which replaced a 120 Gb hard drive, with bad sectors.

 

The cans are super and a good value. But, the solid state drive makes everything load faster, and run at full bus speed. Even the USB 3.0 card I installed has a faster data transfer rate.

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Great times to be a frugal audiophile - the gear you can own with good to great SQ for minimal investments today is quite staggering!

 

Building is also a great way to save and get more insights into audio systems.

 

As you've seen, constraints can become a blessing.

 

There's a lot you can learn about SQ and improve your current SQ without actually changing any of your audio gear itself.

 

The more you learn about the digital audiophile chain, the more you can make better informed decision as to where and if you want to spend more to improve your system.

 

What audiophile player are you using and additionally, have you tried these:

 

1. DSD

2. Native DSD DAC

3. Tube Amp

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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Schiit Audio, Headphone amps and DACs made in USA. still $99 direct from Schiit. I see that Amazon costs $119, to off set Amazon handling.. The Advents were a wise choice my sophomore year at Indiana University, and in retrospect, I am glad I got the composite boxes rather than the walnut. Seems from used listings, the wooden boxes have not fared too well over time-checking, splitting and cracking. My corners are all broken off, but still sound great.
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And, very important:

4. Grounding cables

 

Very!

 

Here is what you can do without changing any piece of audio gear at all:

 

0. Learn to listen (tests like Golden Ear, etc...)

 

1. Clean Power (includes proper Grounding, proper cabling) - DIY AC Filter box, or combined with isolating transformers

 

2. Room Diagnosis and organic, acoustic room treatment, even DIY (rather than heading directly towards fiddling with a DSP as many are prone to do)

3. Vibration isolation, especially of the seismic kind (ball-and-cup for a start)

 

And lastly, combining 3 and 1.

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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My source is 24 bit files on an external drive. Have not tried DSD.

You can try: DSD material realtime converted to PCM (with say HQ Player or Foobar2000 or Audirvana+) to send to your DAC.

 

Ideally, though, I'd look for a DAC which does native DSD and then send it the file as is (or for a further test, up-converted to the highest rate DSD it can accept).

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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  • 1 month later...

The High Fidelity Cable MC-0.5 power conditioner, plugged into the extension strip with my amp and computer has made the greatest improvement of all the additions and tweaks. At $299 is make Music become more Magical.

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  • 2 weeks later...
The High Fidelity Cable MC-0.5 power conditioner, plugged into the extension strip with my amp and computer has made the greatest improvement of all the additions and tweaks. At $299 is make Music become more Magical.

 

Well this is interesting, wonder how this works. I have tried the PS Audio noise harvester which works differently but plugs in similarly to a free outlet in a power strip but didn't notice any difference.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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I have to admit, I thought the same thing when my friend had purchased 10 of these. I only began to see the difference when he loaned me one to try. If you have not heard the difference, then I encourage you to seek out one and give it a try.I agree that it may not be quantifiable with test instruments, but I do hear a difference. I am currently (pun intended) running three loaners, and yes, it even sounded better with three.

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You know I have found Nirvana on the budget I have to work with and quite honestly, if I had $100 K to invest in a fancier rig, with bigger speakers, et al, I would still be happy with what I got, the High Fidelity Cables MC-0.5 is the essential tweak at $299. Plugged into a 6-outlet strip with the computer, amplifier, monitor and a TV, and EVERYTHING looks and sounds better.

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I have a friend who has invested well over $150,000 in a system, and I know he will never admit it...but I think my rig sounds better.

 

Higher-price, sound-better, distortions-lesser, higher fidelity (subjective) are terms that have some correlation.

 

Sound engineers know several tricks how to made sound better subjectively.

 

Also price is matter of number of manufactured units.

 

In my opinion, for premium market audio quality is not single criteria of price.

AuI ConverteR 48x44 - HD audio converter/optimizer for DAC of high resolution files

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Offline conversion save energy and nature

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I've always been a big fan of HiFiMeDIY Sabre USB DAC's. I just picked up the new 9018 and been listening to it with Sony MDR-V6 with source of Raspberry Pi 3 with LogitechMediaServer (Tidal). It doesn't get a whole lot more frugal that that. Sitting right next to this system is a Bottlehead Crack, with Modi 2 and Wyrd and Sennheiser HD 650.

 

In many ways I think this 9018 and Sony V6 cans are more musical.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Well this is interesting, wonder how this works. I have tried the PS Audio noise harvester which works differently but plugs in similarly to a free outlet in a power strip but didn't notice any difference.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

 

For what it's worth, PS Audio at least used to say these don't function right when plugged into power strips and must instead be plugged directly into the wall. I used to have eight of them plugged in around my house but eventually determined, by unplugging them one at a time, one per week, that they weren't doing much of anything for my sound. I sold them off but accidentally failed to sell one of them. I later found that unit in my kitchen junk drawer and went ahead and plugged it into an empty socket on the circuit feeding my stereo. There it resides, blinking faithfully. I do see it blinking more during the day than at night, which would be consistent with there being more line noise when it is blinking more. But I think it might just be functioning as a monitor of the noise on the line rather than actually doing anything to reduce that noise. YMMV.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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For what it's worth, PS Audio at least used to say these don't function right when plugged into power strips and must instead be plugged directly into the wall. I used to have eight of them plugged in around my house but eventually determined, by unplugging them one at a time, one per week, that they weren't doing much of anything for my sound. I sold them off but accidentally failed to sell one of them. I later found that unit in my kitchen junk drawer and went ahead and plugged it into an empty socket on the circuit feeding my stereo. There it resides, blinking faithfully. I do see it blinking more during the day than at night, which would be consistent with there being more line noise when it is blinking more. But I think it might just be functioning as a monitor of the noise on the line rather than actually doing anything to reduce that noise. YMMV.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

 

I also see them blinking more sometimes but I think either they are not doing any effective noise reduction or my system deals with noise very effectively.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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