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Computer as Stereo Component


DubyaVeeU
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Absolute newb here. Unsuccessfully searched the forums for a while to see if I can find what I'm looking for. I have a fairly nice stereo system - built for both theater and music listening, but leaning towards music: Denon 3808, Def Tech Mythos Supertower speakers - I can stream music through the Denon - but it leaves much to be desired in terms of listening options.

 

I want to add a computer with my entire music catalog on it. Connect it to my stereo/theater system. I want to fire up iTunes/Rhapsody (or something similar), see it on my TV (for playlist viewing/choosing), have the output from my computer to the stereo be in digital (let me clarify here since I've stumbled across the confusing DAC discussions -- pretty sure I have a DAC with the Denon) - I want CD quality sound or better.

 

I have plenty of computers - just need to know the essential components that I need to realize this. After I understand the components - I can determine (hopefully with much input from the experts on this forum) - which components will work best for my system (price is a very minor consideration).

 

Going forward I would like to stream video as well - but not the problem I am trying to solve now.

 

Thanks!

 

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I am with the person above. I am looking for the same solution. With little kids around the house playing with all my CDs, I want to be able to stream high quality sound without having to worry about the little hands scratching my entire CD collection.

 

My thought now is to use a dedicated Mac or PC, ripping all my CDs in either FLAC or Apple's lossless audio format and then connecting to my Marantz receiver. If anyone has feedback or suggestions regarding equipment or file formats, I am all ears.

 

Thanks.

 

beech07

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Hi Guys - Everyone is here to help and get you to your main goal. Have you looked over the basic music server designs in the Computer Audiophile Academy?

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/category/Computer-Audiophile-Academy/Computer-Audiophile-Academy

 

Let me know and we can go from there.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris - Thanks for the reply. I have looked over the designs in the Computer Audiophile Academy. Cool stuff and it has helped to increase my very basic knowledge of computer audio, etc.

 

I was looking for more detail about crafting my own system. I have 6 computers all relevant enough to use as a music server - at least my first incarnation of one. These were all built for business or home use.

 

I have the Denon 3808 with the Brown-Burr PCM-1791A DAC. I don't know where this DAC stands compared to some of the standalone DACs mentioned on this site and would like to understand what other experts think of it, but again it is good enough for my first run at this.

 

I'm more interested in what I will need to add to my computer to have the best connections possible to send audio (and then grow to video) data from a computer to the A/V receiver.

 

As a start, I'm looking for CD quality sound.

 

Thanks for any help you can give.

 

George

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

George,

 

Why not start with an AppleTV? You could stream from one of your existing computers running iTunes and have a nice interface on your TV screen with CD quality output to your Denon receiver.

 

Bill

 

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Mac Mini->Roon + Tidal->KEF LS50W

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Hi George,

I'm in a similar place to you in recognizing that now's the time to rip my CD collection and do away with my CD collection altogether. I don't want to compromise on sound quality.

 

I dabbled with Squeezeboxes a few years ago but couldn't live with the drop-outs when streaming FLAC files over a wireless network, so my solution is centered around having a computer next to my stereo gear with fixed connections (i.e. not using wi fi).

 

Like any forum there are some diverse opinions here and some experts may also have interests in selling certain brands or products so the most cost effective and straight forward solutions are not always as clear as they could be.

 

From what you say about your needs, playing files encoded in Apple lossless from iTunes into your Denon's DAC should meet your sound quality/convenience needs, so the question is which computer to use?

 

That's where priorities kick in. Many opt for a Mac mini mainly because it's so small and runs quiet. If you want to stream your music via your current Denon then check if it has an optical (Toslink) digital in. It's relatively easy to run a Toslink cable from a Mac mini (and most other post iTunes Apples) and then change the output in System Preferences > Sound > Output for the sound to be routed via the mini Toslink output (located in the headphone socket).

 

Personally, I'm not worried about how my music server looks so I'm leaning towards an early Powermac G5 (quite attractive looks, but big). My main reason is that I can upgrade an older machine by fitting two large capacity hard drives to store all my CDs plus high res downloads so I don't have to mess around with network drives and running an ethernet cable the length of my house.

 

I believe that the G5 also has a digital display output and it's possible to buy HDMI adapters to drive an HDTV, but that's not a consideration for me.

 

Ralph

 

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The Apple TV suggestion would get you there with all your tunes and video in a tiny box with a pretty interface right by your tv. Put everything in ITunes on a computer anywhere in the house and it'll play to the the ATV via wireless home network.

 

Alternatively, if you've already got a computer, you just need a sound card that can output a digital signal, likely either coaxial or optical. Two inexpensive ones I've used that worked were the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 and a Turtle Beach USB device that looked like a flash drive with a headphone jack (optical mini-toslink). You may even have something that works already.

 

Everything can be upgraded, but that gets you started. A PC or Mac with video directly to the TV and audio to your Denon will get the job done quite well.

 

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To give you more options.

 

I use a PS3 (vs suggested Apple TV) in my living room to achieve same.

 

My music is ripped to FLAC and stored on a (Linux) server where I'm running 2 programs accessing the same library (basically a flat folder structure). First one is Samba so the library can be shared across all my computers in the network. The second one is PS3 Media Server, which allows me to stream audio/video/pics to any DLNA client (such as PS3).

 

This way I get a really nice interface (I really like the XMB interface). The PS3 can be connected to your AV receiver through HDMI (if you use the AV receiver as your hub) or directly to the TV and then use the SPDIF optical out to your AV receiver.

 

Now, this system is not optimal for audio quality - I'm still working on configuration settings - for a few reasons:

1) PS3 Media Server is re-sampling my music to 48kHz although I'm sure that is a configuration that can be changed (I also build PS3 Media Server from the source so if necessary I could create my own build),

2) The PS3 is re-/up-sampling all music to either 48kHz (fixed) OR a 44.1kHz, 88.2kHz or 176.4kHz depending on the maximum sample frequency your AV receiver accepts (auto-discovered or configured manually),

3) The HDMI connection which is jitter prone or the SPDIF connection which is also jitter prone,

4) The DAC built into the AV receiver which will be less resolving then a good outboard DAC.

 

I'm not sure 1) or 2) apply to the Apple TV as well, but 3) and 4) would.

 

Advantages are you can use FLAC (Apple TV/iTunes don't support FLAC). And you can play games with it of course :)

 

Nes

 

Merging NADAC / Theta Compli --> Spectral DMC-20 --> Spectral DMA-250 --> Avalon Ascendant (with tweeter upgrades)

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As nice as the Apple stuff is, I just feel iTunes is a bit suffocating. I'm all for buying music legally, but they make it a bit cumbersome.

 

Did the Roku for a couple years (all of my stuff has been ripped for several years) - stopped working but choosing music to play is difficult. Have a PS3 and xbox 360 in the house - the xbox has the best music server features for me - choose an artisit - all songs show - choose shuffle and you're done. PS3 for example only allows you to do that within an album.

 

Great suggestion on turtle beach - got that, hooked up and it sounds pretty good. I'll hook up one of my laptops and see how it goes.

 

Audiophiles - music is ripped to mp3 ('ve have in FLAC too - not stored on my server PC), with turtle beach USB connection (optical) connection to Denon 3808 - is this CD level quality?

 

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There are many alternatives to ITunes. Use whichever player software has the best interface and gives you a sound you're happy with.

It's been a while since I used the Turtle Beach gadget, just make sure it's SPDIF out and turn off the equalizers and other things that adjust sound digitally.

As far as CD quality, the key is spitting back the bits that were on the CD to your receiver. If you're using MP3, you're using a compressed version of the music, which I guess is near-CD quality. If you're purchasing in MP3 format online, then this is the best you'll get and it's nearly indistinguishable from CD. If you have the actual CD, you'll want to rip it in a lossless format that will maintain all the information that was on the original. That's really the only way to get actual CD level quality.

If you have a bit-perfect software and a digital stream through the Turtle Beach playing lossless files, you've got CD quality.

 

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So music sounds great thru USB/optical connection. I will work on getting display on the TV, and wireless controller to work the PC from the kitchen - any suggestions on equipment is appreciated.

 

Now I am looking at replacing my personal laptop with another faster one. Looking for HDMI connection - my question is - thru an HDMI connection - can this serve as my digital connection for listening to music? I thought I read somewhere that the HDMI won't serve the purpose of just transferring the digital signal to play music - only the sound component on video - what's the deal here?

 

thanks

 

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DubyaVeeU, don't know if any of these replies addressed your question but as I have a 3808CI as well, I think I can provide some useful info.

 

The 3808 is a very good piece of equipment for what you want to do. Probably as good or better than the other things that have been suggested. There are several ways you can go.

 

No matter what, you will need to get a HDMI cable to run from the receiver to your TV. This is necessary to get your GUI displayed in a more user friendly format.

 

For the first option, you will need to set up a network through which your computer can control the 3808 and the 3808 can access your music files on the computer. A simple and cheap router will suffice for this purpose. I like hardwired stuff for simplicity, security and stability. It may take some research and work to get everything set up properly but it is worth it.

 

The next option is probably the simplest though. Burn all your music files on an external USB hard drive (Exact Audio Copy worked very well for me and it is free) then plug the hard drive into the USB port on the 3808. You will be able to access the hard drive through the Net/USB function and play what you want. I do not yet know if the 3808 will allow you to set up play lists, etc. If it doesn't, you may have to go for the first option and use Windows Media Player for that type thing.

 

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Thanks Doyall.

 

Currently doing all of that with the 3808 today. Ripped all of the music and either streaming or using the USB option for music play. The music server options on the 3808 are neanderthal at best -I copy play lists to the USB primarily to use the shuffle option for parties - can't shuffle music streamed music. I'm looking for more out of a music server - that has led me down this path.

 

Cheers,

 

WVU

 

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DubyaVeeU,

 

I think the answer to your questions is it all depends on what you have in those various computers that you have laying around.

 

The following link: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=17984809#post17984809 is the best that I know of for building a HTPC (Home Theater PC) which is basically what you're trying to do. This site has a lot of information so you should take as much time to read it all in terms of the writer's recommendations and there's a few white papers that he references that explains much of the detail on audio through motherboards, and video cards, PAP (Protected Audio Path). Microsoft audio design ...etc. This all will inform you of the pros and cons, and limitations of each configuration.

 

So, depending on your Motherboard and processor you will need a Video card capable of 1080P play back. The site referenced above makes a few recommendations. You can use the HDMI output of the Video card direct to your TV and the S/PDIF to your AVR. Or you can take the HDMI to your AVR and then to your TV (depending on HDCP). And Yes, HDMI can carry music alone, not part of video, I do it all the time and the receiver picks it up as digital HDMI. You may or may not need a audio card depending on your motherboard (if it has S/PDIF if you don't go with a video / graphic card now. If you do need one I would suggest the one that Chris on this site recommends (CASH List).

 

In this configuration Media Monkey is the best, but you can still use Itunes (Not bit perfect....so to speak) but as a starting point it will work nicely (and that is what you said you wanted to do).

 

This will get you going from a music stand point and meet your needs. One thing is I would suggest a Ipod touch(With the Media Monkey App or the ITunes remote App) to display your music selection rather than displaying on your TV. Once you want to move to the movie playback things get a little less robust in terms of software to support.

 

Let me also say that path to a Computer as a Stereo Component (PC) is one of discovery and limitations due to Digital rights issues and lack of forethought by the designers (who are not audiophiles) and should only be taken by the patience and determined explorer. For those less patient the Mac Mini or other Apple platforms are a better route for audio alone (At this point) and is the reason the experienced folks on this forum were pushing you towards the Apple TV route.

 

Apple, however has not gone down the Blu-Ray path or to the 1080i/P video. Knowing Apple thinks through their strategic direction this is by design and not simply an oversight. I believe Blu-Ray will die a slow death and Apple has choose to following the path of download via ITunes and will at some point support true HD 1080i/p video.

 

Hope this helps,

 

Ed

 

Mac Mini (2010) > Rotel RSX-1560 > B&W 805Di>JL Audio F112>iPad (4th gen)> iRule / Demopad

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There's a (free) app you can download to your apple ipod touch or iphone that allows you to control iTunes from those devices. It operates via wi-fi in your house and is quite convenient. It's not absolutely necessary, but once you have it you'll never go back. There is a similar app to control MediaMonkey now, exact same interface. This link is from the Apple website explaining it.

 

http://www.apple.com/itunes/remote/

 

In short, you can search your entire music library (that's stored on your computer but viewed on your ipod via wireless connection) by song, album, artist, or many other categories, find exactly what you want, touch your ipod, and it magically plays from your speakers. This can be expanded to whole house audio as well should you desire.

 

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To echo and amplify what Egon said. In the beginning we used our HDTV to view as scrolled through our music collection on Itunes using some type of remote / keyboard / mouse. This was nice because we were amazed by the quality of the HDTV (Plamsa or LCD). Then the Wi-fi enable Ipod touch came along and now we can view as we scroll through the music collection with the computer and our audio components turned on. This is especially nice during dinner parties were music is in the background or is the focus. Just use a Ipod touch or Ipad to play your musical selections or select a intenet radio station. My friends are amazed at the interface of the Ipod touch and the connectivity to my HTPC. It really does open up a whole new world of connectivity.

 

Feel free to ask more questions, everyone is here to share knowledge and experience. Most likely someone on the form has something that you can use because they started out at some point and some shared information with them.

 

All the best on your path to "Computer as Stereo computer"

 

Ed

 

Mac Mini (2010) > Rotel RSX-1560 > B&W 805Di>JL Audio F112>iPad (4th gen)> iRule / Demopad

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I see - this would be very convenient. I planned to get the wireless key/mouse to manage the media server.

 

My only question is this: I have a big server in my office (big desktop) that physically stores the music files and a thin laptop as my HTPC component, the music server library is loaded with files stored on the big server, but the music server software runs on the laptop. Would the iTouch app still work?

 

I think I answered my own question writing this out - the iTouch app communicates with the media server software - the physical file location is irrelevant.

 

I'll still post for confirmation and to let the world know just how dumb I is :)

 

Dubya

 

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In this situation, you'll run Itunes/MediaMonkey on your HTPC, which will grab content from your office server. The Touch controls the HTPC and tells it what files to grab.

 

You've described my setup, so I can confirm it works smoothly.

 

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Yes, you did answer correctly your own question and confirmed twice (I agree).

 

It's not possible for a question to be dumb....a wise man once said that (paraphasring) ....."the measure of a man is not his specific question, but rather that he decides to ask a question". This wise person also said that "it's a wise man that will admit he does not know". I think this means you're wise.....

 

 

 

Mac Mini (2010) > Rotel RSX-1560 > B&W 805Di>JL Audio F112>iPad (4th gen)> iRule / Demopad

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I went the route of the Apple TV to begin and it has worked very well for me. Simply make a wireless connection to the Apple TV and you are off and running. The nice thing about the Apple TV is that it has both coax and optical digital outputs. This would allow you to make the digital connection to your Denon 3808 and use its internal DAC. I previously owned an older Denon 3805 and thought it was a fine product. I think to start this would be satisfactory sound quality but the first upgrade I would make is an external, upsampling DAC. I use the Cambridge Audio DacMagic. In the end I love using and listening to music with this technology.

 

"If you fly a flag of hate you are no kin to me"

Ry Cooder

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