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Another novice needing help please


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Hello, I am brand new to the forum and really appreciate what I have already learned. I have a few questions that I could not find answeres for. I currently us a cd jukebox and would really like to switch over to a computer based system. I currently have tried using the Logitech wireless DJ system. It uses blue tooth to send the signal to non critical listening receivers . I am using a soundblaster live (external ) and using the supplied Logitech streampoint software that controls windows media player (it can select other programs as well). with this I can select either of the recievers in the on non-critical rooms or the soundblaster card as the output. I have used 75 ohm cable (30 ft) on the coaxial output of the soundcard feeding the digital (coaxial) input on my B&K ref 30 pre-amp. The remote is almost as versitile as the much newer sqeezbox duet. I thought If I played windows lossless files through the digital out of the soundblaster card the result would be at least as good as my cd jukebox. Unfortunately the output is lower, veiled and not as full sounding. Since I do use bass management even the cd output goes through my &K's dac (presumably) so shouldn't the sound be as good from the digital output of the SB-live? I have some soon to be modded magnepan speakers that will really show the flaws in the system, so I really need a good signal.Can it be that my software or format is causing this? Perhaps the cable connection?I apologize for my ignorance and really appreciate any help you can offer.

 

Thanks, Chris M

 

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Hey Chris M - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I must say you have a lot going on with your system :-) I suggest removing some of the variables to conduct some tests. This will narrow down the culprit(s) causing the bad sound. I suggest using an application that will bypass the Windows KMixer. Something like JRiver with the ASIO add-on. Make sure your soundcard is capable of bit perfect output through the coaxial port. Do you have a cable that is closer to 1 or 2 meters long? You might also want to try a few WAV or AIFF files to rule out any compression issues that may be lurking.

 

This is just how I would start figuring out the problem. There are other options as well. Hopefully someone with the same Soundblaster card will jump in and provide some info if there is any.

 

Let me know if this just raises more questions or if any of this was unclear.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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This whole notion of 'bit-perfect' output has me a little worried. I'm about to pull the trigger on a sound card, and never realized that some have bit-perfect output via coax and some don't. Is there a card you could recommend, Chris C.? In general, I'm just curious about your system/setup, which I would hazard a guess is pretty close to a reference point for computer-based playback. In essence, I need a benchmark to attempt to copy.

 

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Hey Win200 - Bit perfect output is a major deal if you're looking for "audiophile" sound quality. Windows traditionally has trouble outputting a bit perfect stream unless you know what you are doing. Using applications "straight out of the box" will not do it and using built-in apps like Windows Media Player are not recommended. Sure any app can be made bit perfect, so I am not ruling anything out. As far as hardware goes there are soundcards that change the stream and ones that do not. Personally I chose to avoid as much ambiguity as possible. I use a MacBook Pro with iTunes which is a bit perfect combo out of the box. From there into a Weiss Minerva DAC (at the moment) which is a very high end piece.

 

On Windows there are a few internal cards that I would use if I had to use Windows.

 

M-Audio makes a couple nice ones including the Audiophile 192.

 

Probably the best internal card around is the Lynx Studio AES 16 or the AES 16e. Lynx cards are all pretty good though.

 

So, if you're looking to strive for a reference level system you should really think about using a Mac and either a USB or FireWire hig end DAC. This is a simple setup and is bit perfect. At CES this year there was only one suite using a PC as a music server. Companies selling $50,000 amplifiers have the cash to select whatever music server they want for CES and virtually all chose Macs.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Hmmm. Sounds like a Mac might be in my future (which I swore I'd never do). My current Windows computer is a laptop, so no internal sound cards, which seems to rule out all the best options (I've researched Lynx, which seem to be fantastic). I also like to avoid ambiguity, as I've got one of those anxious minds that can't help but assume that something's not working quite right, so knowing that (with a Mac) I'd be getting bit-perfect output no questions asked would be a load off. I'd drive myself crazy with a PC.

 

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"I'd drive myself crazy with a PC."

 

I'm glad you said it, I was thinking it! In fact I think most audiophiles would drive themselves crazy with a PC just because there is some ambiguity. PCs and the music applications right now seem to be more like lab tools for engineers to play with to see if they can get bit perfect sound one way or another. Some high end manufacturers see it this way as well.

 

Don't get me wrong though, there is certainly good sound to be had from a PC, but for the reasons discussed above and many more, I go the Mac route. I was a PC diehard for many years and always viewed Macs as cartoon versions of PCs that couldn't do everything I wanted. Now, I view Windows Vista as a cartoon version of XP with more rounded corners.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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You won't find any DACs right now that natively support anything over 24/96 via USB. So, I can confirm the Benchmark will do 24/96 via USB and nothing over. The other inputs can do up to 24/192, but getting that stream out of a Mac via these inputs takes additional hardware. The Minerva DAC on the other hand is FireWire and can handle "anything."

 

For under $2000 you should look at the Wavelength Brick. Gordon has the newest version really singing compared to others in its class. Also, the RME FF400 might work for you because it supports higher resolutions via FireWire. Let me know what you are leaning toward if it is either of these ot some other DACs.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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I would probably lean towards the FireFace, despite the fact that I think the thing is ugly as sin. I think my basic prerequisite for a DAC is that it handle 24/196, and preferably over Firewire. I couldn't tell from what I read about the Brick whether or not it handles hi-rez in any form. What "additional hardware" would be required to get a coax stream out of a Mac? I just kinda like the look of the DAC1, and the basic model is "only" $975.

 

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To get coax out of a Mac laptop in a reasonably "audiophile" way you would need something like the Weiss Vesta, which is the Minerva without a DAC, or something like the RME HDSPe MADIface.

 

If you go for a DAC1 I strongly suggest the DAC1 USB because in addition to the USB input there are some really good internal upgrades to the unit over the original DAC1 non-USB model.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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I think I'll probably get the DAC1 USB. That way, I can get 24/96 over USB for the time being. I mean, 100% of what I have on my computer at the moment is standard resolution 16/44, so I won't be missing out on anything unless I start to download hi-rez stuff. Then at some unspecified point in the future I can get a device such as the MADIface (which I looked at and can't even begin to understand). I take it this combo (Mac connected via USB to a DAC1) would result in a satisfactorily "audiophile" sound? This seems to me to be as relatively high-end as one can go without making a big price jump to something like the Minerva.

 

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You will definitely get audiophile sound from the DAC1 USB. Everyone would love to purchase that piece of equipment that is future proof. In this case it is the DAC that does 24/192 and connects every way possible etc... But, in reality there are not many albums available at resolutions above 24/96. When or if everything you listen to becomes available at 24/192 then you can always sell the DAC1 and move to something else.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Excellent. It seems like the most prudent option at this point. Are tracks distributed by the hi-rez download services 24/96 or 24/192? I would loooooove to be able to listen to the RR HRx discs, but it seems like there are precious few setups that can accomplish that. Their recommended Lynx/Berkley combo seems a little involved. It seems like the two options that do 24/192 and connect directly to a computer via firewire are the Minerva and the FireFace.

 

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Virtually no high resolution downloads are available above 24/96, so you will be safe for a long time.

 

There are more ways to get 24/192 via FireWire. You could look at the Apogee products like the Mini DAC. I really have no experience with this one. The more you search the more into the pro audio realm you will get. Consumer high end audio has real limited options at the moment.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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