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aps

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Another long-time reader, sometime questions, and I thought it was about time to provide an update on my introduction to computer audio. My starting point was several years ago when I built a HTPC to sit in the main, family, room which has a 2-channel set-up. The computer comprised of Windows Vista Ultimate with a Lynx L22 card used for analog output along with usual complement of tuner / video cards and multiple SATA hard-drives.

 

This one-box solution worked but didn’t get a lot of use to the complex user interface for TV / DVD and was replaced by a HD-TiVo / DVD player. So I decided to move the HTPC into my study for use in a two-channel set-up which comprises of DIY 3-way, active, speakers driven by 300B amplifiers on mid-range / highs and solid-state on bass. This transition from HTPC to Audio PC raised the usual challenges of noise, stability, and software:

 

[*]The initial HTPC set-up saw the machine sitting in a closed AV cabinet and noise wasn’t an issue but all of this changed when the machine was moved into an open stereo-rack in a small, quiet, room. All of sudden the machine noise became a major distraction so a process of elimination saw the migration to a passive video card, quiet case fans and much lower CPU RPM

[*] The next challenge was that whilst the music was playing there were occasional interruptions and “click” noises. All this was a little distracting but, more important, I was worried about the life of the tweeter in the active speaker configuration. The action taken was to disable as many other services as possible and disconnect all extraneous hardware.

[*] The first solution for playback that I’d used was a replica of my work laptop set-up which was designed to minimize total footprint and, as such, used Foobar with mp3 files. All this saw me re-rip all CDs following Chris’ recommended approach using dBPowerAmp and, then, moving to MediaMonkey as the software interface. One interesting observation was that the time to rip a CD seemed to increase over time and an occasional re-start of the machine allowed for a much quicker process.

 

 

All these changes made a big improvements but playback wasn’t better than my Primare CDP – with the main difference being the lack of sound-stage. Also, the low hum of the disks remained an ongoing distraction. Yes, a few downloaded 24/96 and 24/192 files showed promise but, ultimately, the set-up was the home-run that I’d hoped given the fact that the vast majority of my music was 16/44 RBCD.

 

The computer was, then, returned to the HT set-up as an alternative music source (to the DVD player) where the cabinet location could subdue the remaining noise. Additional changes included adding MonkeyTunes / iPhone Remote support (which is fantastic) as well as using the L22 S/PDIF output to a 24/96 DAC (from a local hi-fi builder) which wasn’t in use – with much confusion / frustration getting MediaMonkey / Lynx drivers to work. Result of all this experimentation is a quiet, stable, and simple to use computer source is now working full-time in the HT set-up and outperforming the DVD as a music source.

 

Of course, this system keeps screaming at me to add a high-quality DAC that excels at RBCD while supporting hi-resolution formats (88, 96, 176, 192). Might also start tinkering with using SOX to up-sample 16/44 prior to the 24/96 DAC as a temporary solution. That said, the immediate concern is addressing the original issue of getting access to the digital music stored on the HT computer in the remote, 2-channel, set-up. My initial thinking was for Squeezbox but, now, I'm thinking running a AES/SPDIF cable to the stereo room or, alternatively, adding a small computer to act as a streamer to an async USB / Firewire DAC. Anyway, thanks, Chris, for the web-site and to all the others who have unknowingly helped me on this journey.

 

Regards,

APS

 

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