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PC/laptop or Mac?


Jon-3

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Hi all,

 

With the post Christmas sales now in full swing, I'm looking to take advantage of the sale prices and finally make my mind up in choosing a 'front end' to feed the Weiss Dac 2. So, there's two choices I'm looking at....

 

Laptop running windows 7 (c/w db poweramp, eac, J River, Foobar etc etc)

 

Mac running snow leopard (c/w I Tunes)

 

Cost is of course a major consideration. A well spec'd laptop - 2.1Ghz, 4gb Ram, 500gb harddrive - from a reputable manufacturer (e.g. Dell) can be had for as little as £500 whereas the equivalent from mac is likely to be double this, at least. Noted that a mac mini would save some however oncce all the peripherals such as moniotor, keyboard, mouse etc are added the laptop still looks good value.

 

From the following standpoints.....

 

Sound quality

useability

Interface

Cost

 

...could I ask for some advice.

 

 

Thanks

 

Jon

 

 

Jon[br]XP/JRMC ---> Weiss Dac 2 ---> Django TVC ---> SAC Glowmaster ---> B&W803S

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It was Mac for me because -

 

1) much easier to use, also has either Amarra or Pure Vinyl as playback options as well as itunes.

2) Sounded better - I also use PC, you can get great sounds out of PCs but It is more difficult

3) Mac usually has a firewire port out (check which mac you buy on this) - If you are thinking Weiss you must have firewire. A £500 dell will not have this feature

4) Cost, Mac higher at start, but does have much better residual value on resale.

 

The only think I miss in MAC is DB PowerAmp, great bit of software but I have a PC as well which offsets that issue.

 

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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...to supply the Weiss via a standard firewire 6pin port that came built into a Creative Audio soundcard.

 

Sounds are pretty good.

 

Hoever, before connecting up the PC I was leaning towards a mac as it seems many more prefer this route. A few weeks ago whilst I was evaluating the Weiss I had the benefit of a loan of a Macbook Pro for an evening, but like a true plonker, didn't do an A to B with the PC.

 

I was originally intending going for a mac in any case, then discovered that SQ via the current desktop was excellent, hence looking at a new dell laptop for a dedicated music server as they are so much cheaper. Surprisingly, the one on sale (Studio 15) does have a 4 pin firewire port.

 

Just one question, are the Lynx or similar PCI cards an improvment over firewire?

 

An on a mac, is there a benefit to using a mac mini over a macbook pro, sq wise?

 

many thanks

 

Jon[br]XP/JRMC ---> Weiss Dac 2 ---> Django TVC ---> SAC Glowmaster ---> B&W803S

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Given that you're already comfortable with Windows and that you want to keep costs down, I think this favors sticking with Windows. Sorry I can't give you a clear reading on overall sound quality -- my impression from many postings on many forums is that people are happy with either approach. I think there's a bit more homework needed for the Windows option.

 

Is your current desktop/tower PC too noisy? If not, then you might want to simply increase the RAM and build off of what you have. This will be the cheapest route.

 

Another route to consider is to buy a refurbished machine. If considering the Mac route, this brings down the price. Alternately you can buy into a higher end machine, or a better configured one.

 

I do use both types of OS in my daily activities, but I went with Mac for music playback because -- well it seemed more friendly overall. There was just less effort involved in getting it going. And although I've toyed with other players, I keep coming back to iTunes.

 

2013 MacBook Pro Retina -> {Pure Music | Audirvana} -> {Dragonfly Red v.1} -> AKG K-702 or Sennheiser HD650 headphones.

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Yes, after hearing the PC + Weiss sonics, it would make sense to use the tower for music server duties, however - as you touched on - it's the noise of the thing. A dell dimension 8400, the fan(s) of which have always been very noisy, from new. A quick google confirms i'm not the only one with this problem, in relation to this particular model. A design fault methinks. I've alway's put up with it as it's only been used as a general workhorse, although it's got a good spec.

 

I must admit windows/pc or laptop appeals, not least as I've just spent a complete day getting to grips with dbpoweramp to rip my 600 or so cd's to two formats (btw also thanks to the CA ripping strategy). Plus I know my way round the audio setting menu's.

 

 

 

Jon[br]XP/JRMC ---> Weiss Dac 2 ---> Django TVC ---> SAC Glowmaster ---> B&W803S

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Jon asked if Lynx or similar PCI card is an improvement over FireWire. With your Weiss DAC2 I'd say this was unequivicably no. The best quality sound comes from the DAC2 when using it's FireWire input.

 

One thing to consider is that not all FireWire interfaces are as compatible as they should be. A desktop will allow you flexibility to be able to swap the interface card if needed, while a Laptop with ExpressCard slot will allow similar if the inboard is not compatible.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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The screen in a notebook is a source of RF noise in the computer. A music server without a screen will provide better sound quality (all else being equal).

 

You also want you music on an external drive, not the internal hard drive. You don't want your music player and system operations competing to pull data from the same disk as the music files.

 

The best way to do this is to connect the external drive via Firewire since you also don't want your USB bus trying to receive data and at the same time send it out to your DAC.

 

There are other ways to avoid I/O bottlenecks (e.g. something like a Lynx card) but for a cost-effective solution that addresses the major problem areas, a Mac Mini is hard to beat. The Mac Mini also has a significant size advantage over a PC tower or mini tower (there are some PCs as compact as the mini, but then you still have the more complicated Windows setup to deal with.)

 

Finally (almost), on the Mac side you can get Play (from sbooth.org). It sounds as good as Amarra, it's free, and it doesn't load spyware onto your computer that compromises system security.

 

Finally (really), with hard drives so cheap now, you may as well store everything as AIFF. The decompression from FLAC or Apple Lossless can affect the sound (in some systems maybe not, but there are a lot of variables).

 

See posts from vanderdm here documenting his Mac Mini system: http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Mac-Mini-and-Ayre-QB-9-Amarra-noticeably-improving-sound

 

Good luck!

 

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What a great forum this is!

 

That's covered a heck of a lot of the questions and queries I have (had).

 

I can certainly see the logic behind keeping the visual interface (ie screen) away from the rest. From an analogue background as I am, I've spent counless hours researching the methods of minimising RFI and EMI, particularly in respect of cable topologies.

 

I think I'll try a few basic and inexpensive upgrades to the desktop PC first to see how that sounds - upgrade Ram from 1 to 4GB, install a 3 port firewire host controller, then more than likely invest in a Mac Mini and have a good ole head to head between the two.

 

Just picking up on a couple of points above...

 

"The best way to do this is to connect the external drive via Firewire since you also don't want your USB bus trying to receive data and at the same time send it out to your DAC"

 

assuming use of my desktop does the computer use a USB bus to direct/channel data via firewire to the Dac? If so, as I only have one fw port at the moment, I think the I'd try a 3 port firewire PCI card with TI chip, to allow multiple firewire connections - to an external harddrive, and the Dac. Are there any PCI cards you would recommend that have multiple firewire chips to avoid running the data through the same chip, to avoid a bottleneck?

 

"......the more complicated Windows setup to deal with"

 

A few of the group have mentioned complicated windows setup, over a mac. So far, in XP Home, I've switched windows sounds off, installed and am using dbpoweramp for ripping into two formats - including one on an external Seagate HD via USB, ditto J River for playing the files - outputting ASIO or when it works WASAPI, and finally switch off all background apps when playing music with the exception of firewall and antivirus. Is there anything else to do or consider to optimise windows? I've heard something about 'kernals' in windows. What are they and are they detrimental?

 

On a mac mini, how does one go about using files stored on an external HD connected via firewire when there's only one fw 800 port - being already connected to the Dac, a firewire hub?

 

Finally, I'm trying to lay my hands on some of the Gold X firewire cables recommended by other folk in the group - easier said than done in the UK.

 

Oh yes, btw, I just tried the HRx recordings you get with the Weiss @ 24/176. Quite simply, utterly, astonishing!! Easily the best sound I've heard anywhere. Bar none.

 

Once again, thanks for all the replies.

 

Cheers, Jon

 

Jon[br]XP/JRMC ---> Weiss Dac 2 ---> Django TVC ---> SAC Glowmaster ---> B&W803S

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My 2 cents;

 

Like you, I was looking for a front-end to drive the Weiss DAC2. I now have my system up and running satisfactorily, although I have the B&W 804s (which sound great, but I could not stretch to the 803s' that you have!).

 

I ran into a few issues when setting up the system, and it helps to have some knowledge (it sounds like you do) and a helpful forum (here). Mainly, I initially opted for a Dell latop (cheap, reasonably quiet, did all I needed it to do); however, playback was glitchy, a problem which I have put down to the firewire port on this laptop (see my other post at http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Problem-Weiss-DAC2-driver). I now use a Sony Vaio which seems to work fine in this respect (athough the CPU load does still jump up to 10-15% just by plugging in the firewire cable). If you're unsure about compatibility, you might be able to download the Weiss DAC2 control panel which will check the compatibility of the port for you (but bear in mind that this may not be 100% correct as it said the port on my Vaio was not compatible).

 

Overall the ease of use of the Mac solution is tempting, but the laptop will cost you more, and Amarra is very expensive for what it is. I use Mediamonkey on my Windows7 laptop with ASIO output which sounds great, and automatically switches to the track's native sample rate (although I am still figuring how to get gapless playback). With regard to interference from the monitor, many laptops (such as mine) have a button which allows you to turn off the monitor but keep the laptop running. The file format you intent to use will play a part in this too; I use FLAC, and as far as I know this pretty much rules out a MAC if you want to use iTunes/Amarra as it does not support FLAC.

 

Best of luck,

Dan

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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With the exception of the amps your system is similar to mine.

 

Are you in the UK? If so, could I ask where you purchased your Gold X firewire cable? I can't seem to find anyone here that stocks these wires. Firewiredirect in the US understandably want $50 to $75 for delivery.

 

Jon

 

 

 

Jon[br]XP/JRMC ---> Weiss Dac 2 ---> Django TVC ---> SAC Glowmaster ---> B&W803S

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Yeah I'm in the UK. I don't know if the GoldX cable is much different from other firewire cables, I just opted for it as it came recommended. I couldn't find any in the UK, and like you say most US retailers charge a bomb for delivery. I ended up finding one on Ebay.com where delivery was around 15US, so I just went for that!

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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Hi all,

 

Like most of you here, I am also getting serious to use PC/Mac as my main audio source. I have had the Weiss Minerva for about half a year now. Initial comparison between it and my Escoteric X-01 was not close. After learning how to set it up to decode at 24/192 and a few modifications, my Apple Lossless files are now sounding on par with my CD player. The CD player has the edge on smoothness but the Weiss has better detail and imaging.

 

Modifications I did with my customer PC were, installed SSD drive, removed the Creative Xi-Fi soundcard (with I used for multichannel videos) and disconnected all case fans (no problem of over heating so far in the winter).

 

I was fooling around with power cables on loan from a dealer the other day. I tried it on the DAC first and it was marginally better than mine. I than tried it on the PC and was shocked at what a significant difference it made. It made the PC/Weiss’s sound completely surpassed my CD player.

 

The power cable I borrowed cost about the same as a MacBook Pro. It got my wondering if getting a MacBook Pro (or any laptop) is the better way to go. Will playing music from a notebook running off battery be superior to a PC/Mac plugged in to the wall (even with expansive power cable)?

 

Please comment if you have any experience in this regard.

 

Robert

 

 

ALC and Aiff (normal and hi-res) stored on Qnap Q509 NAS -->Ethernet cable --> PC (Quad core / SSD) running Windows 7, iTunes -->Siltech Firewire cable -->Weiss Minerva -->Tara Labs interconnects -->ML 32preamp --> Boulder 860 --> VA speaker cable --> Dynaudio C2 speakers

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Is your PC on the same AC circuit as the rest of your audio playback gear? If it is, I'm not surprised a better power cord on the PC improved sound. Maybe that cord is reducing noise that the PC puts back on the AC circuit which makes your audio gear perform better. And if it is on the same circuit, you might want considering installing a couple of dedicated AC circuits for your system and make sure the PC is on it's own circuit. And you might want to try some other AC noise reduction products as well, even at your AC service panel. Could be cheaper than the spendy cord you're using, and more effective too.

 

Bryan

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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All of my source components are plugged into a PS Audio Power Plant Premier, including the PC.

 

I forgot to mention in my previous post, I also changed a gamer grade graphics card which requires dual 6-pin power connections to a mid level graphics card that does not need ext power.

 

ALC and Aiff (normal and hi-res) stored on Qnap Q509 NAS -->Ethernet cable --> PC (Quad core / SSD) running Windows 7, iTunes -->Siltech Firewire cable -->Weiss Minerva -->Tara Labs interconnects -->ML 32preamp --> Boulder 860 --> VA speaker cable --> Dynaudio C2 speakers

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I would speculate that because your PC is plugged in to the PS Audio Premier that it will pollute the AC going to all the other components. I believe Premier uses a switching power supply. The PC does. That's just a lot of noise around one box. So if you put a good power cord on the PC that filters out hash/noise going in and coming out of the PC, I could see how it would make your system sound better. Just a theory mind you.

 

Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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