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Which computer to use with a DAC


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I am new to this but having been an NPR station manager and classical engineer and producer, I am very picky about audio quality. I have now acquired a pair of Orb2s (extremely good for desktop use BTW) a decent amp and and entry level USB dac. I am also about to buy a new computer. I am looking at three, An Alienware, a Toshiba, and a Macbook Pro. All three are their respective bests with I7 processors. Which one will provide the best USB output to use with an external DAC? Does it make any differece? If so, why? Thanks in advance. Dr. John Dozier

 

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Dr. John (had to say that),

 

I too prefer Mac. There is no panacea, but Macintosh is easier to set up and maintain for music (and other things as well).

 

Forrest:

Win10 i9 9900KS/GTX1060 HQPlayer4>Win10 NAA

DSD>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>"Naked" Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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There should be no difference in USB capability between any of the machines. USB protocol isn’t computer make dependant really.

It either has USB 1.1 and/or 2.0 or it doesn’t.

 

(that was the question you asked wasn't it. You didn't ask for a debate about win v mac did you?)

 

Dedicated Mains Cond dis block. Custom Linux Voyage MPD server. HRT Music Streamer Pro, Linear mains powered ADUM Belkin Gold USB cable. TP Buffalo 11, Custom XLR interconnects/Belkin Silver Series RCA. Exposure 21RC Pre, Super 18 Power (recap & modified). Modded World Audio HD83 HP amp.Van de Hull hybrid air lock speaker cables. Custom 3 way Monitors,Volt 250 bass&ABR, Scanspeak 13M8621Mid & D2905/9300Hi. HD595 cans.[br]2)Quantum Elec based active system self built.

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Cool, just checking ;)

 

Dedicated Mains Cond dis block. Custom Linux Voyage MPD server. HRT Music Streamer Pro, Linear mains powered ADUM Belkin Gold USB cable. TP Buffalo 11, Custom XLR interconnects/Belkin Silver Series RCA. Exposure 21RC Pre, Super 18 Power (recap & modified). Modded World Audio HD83 HP amp.Van de Hull hybrid air lock speaker cables. Custom 3 way Monitors,Volt 250 bass&ABR, Scanspeak 13M8621Mid & D2905/9300Hi. HD595 cans.[br]2)Quantum Elec based active system self built.

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The main principles are to minimize the number of spinning parts i.e motors and fans. So long as the mainbaord or USB cards are made by reputable manufacturers its unlikely to affect your DAC. Its mature technology. Consider having some USB 3.0 ports as part of your complement to allow for future DACS and other devices.

 

It sounds like this computer will not be dedicated for music but a general computing workshorse?

 

If not and its dedicated for music playback you should ensure plenty of RAM, use solid state storage devices in lieu of "hard disks" for the operating system if possible, and if its not a notebook try and locate a passively cooled/fanless motherboard. Passively cooled power supply's are useful as are external power supplies. An Intel i7 may run too hot and will be largely wasted playing digital music. I would consider a dual core Atom processor which can run without any fans in a suitably airy case and will accomodate most music related softwares.

 

Storing your music on NAS makes it available to multiple devices on the home network but if you use direct attched storage again you need to consider heat, fans, spinning motors, and whether or not to use SSD drives. Best to choose high cache size /moderate speed drives that are designed to be acostically quiet (not some 10,000 RPM monster) that do not chatter away while you are listening to something pianissimo in the middle of the night.

 

In any event because ripping and tagging computer files is such a tedious process make sure you have some plan for redundancy/fault tolerance and backup with the storage of musical data.

 

The operating system really is a personal choice but if you have a large enough collection you may need music databse software (i.e Orange CD Database), powerful tagging tools like Tag and Rename and some of kind of Digital player software like (J RIver Media Centre).

 

Optionally you may want a touch screen to navigate the player software and/or a smartphone/tablet device to control the machine remotely. Your music player can also double as a DLNA Server (or the NAS/NAS router can) making your music available to other DLNA renderers (TV's, receivers, Blu-Ray, PS3 etc etc) with the appropriate software.

 

If you have a lot of ripping to do a high quality CD/DVD drive is essential. Laptop drives are probably too flimsy. Rugged external drives in my view work best (Internally stored drives contribute to heat, noise, vibration, airflow)). You may want to consider blu ray capable readers as well.

 

Music Interests: http://www.onebitaudio.com

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Also worth mentioning, might be an idea not to rush out to buy a new computer at the moment as the 2nd gen i core chips are just around the corner along with new gpu's. Obviously this will affect current spec prices as well. Something to consider. If it's a Macbook Pro that ticks the boxes rumour is there should be a brand new one out around April time. Bit longer to wait but well worth it depending on what your after.

 

MBP 2011 2.3Ghz i7 8gb RAM 240gb OCZ Vertex 2 | PureMusic | WireWorld | MSB Platinum IV Signature| Kondo | MF KW550 (JS Audio) | Coherent Systems | B&W 803D

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All the Toshiba laptops I have been around have been very rugged and well built. Much better than Dell's, Compaq, HP, and other PC. Still have an old one somewhere. My son used it for gaming while watching TV, AND napping. Must have dropped it in the floor a dozen times when dozing off. This was after the wife carring it to classes for a couple years to break it in. Still works fine.

Where were you a NPR station manager? The name rings a bell, I listen to NPR in about a dozen cities as I travel.

We all have faves on computers, but I am an Apple convert. Struggled at first, maybe lessons would have helped. Now I only use a PC to operate inside the firewall at work. Got a Mini, iMAC, Macbook, iPad, and three iPhones. Plus a pile of iPods they threw in for free with student purchases at the Apple store. Guess the whole family has drank the koolaid.

 

George

 

 

2012 Mac Mini, i5 - 2.5 GHz, 16 GB RAM. SSD,  PM/PV software, Focusrite Clarett 4Pre 4 channel interface. Daysequerra M4.0X Broadcast monitor., My_Ref Evolution rev a , Klipsch La Scala II, Blue Sky Sub 12

Clarett used as ADC for vinyl rips.

Corning Optical Thunderbolt cable used to connect computer to 4Pre. Dac fed by iFi iPower and Noise Trapper isolation transformer. 

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I was an NPR mangler in Charleston, New Orleans, and Kilgore TX, I also did some program developement for KUT in Austin. Did some reporting for NPR. The new Toshibas appear to be very good value for the money, about two thirds that of a Macbook Pro, and they have a bigger (if not so good) screen. I am leaning in that direction but with a larger SSD than comes with the beast. Probably a 160gb Intel. The new processors are tempting, but I need to do something before the end of the year for tax purposes. Thanks to all for the good advice. I am trying to find a high quality CD only external drive, but am striking out. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I have a highly modified Rotel drive for use with my Muse DAC but it only has SPDIF and AES/EBU outs. Again many thanks for all suggestions. They are all good ones.

 

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