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Need to buy a new computer on Black Friday


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I am new to the computer audio hobby. I have been reading this great site for about a month now and as usual have a few questions. I have an A/V system consisting of a Marantz receiver, PSB 5.1 speakers and a new Toshiba Blu-Ray with all the streaming stuff. I purchased a HRT Music Streamer and now I need the computer.

 

I know Windows 7 is recommended but which version??? Home Premium or Professional? 32 bit or 64 bit?

 

I'm leaning towards a laptop because it's supposed to reduce jitter when running on the battery vs. AC. True???

 

I feel there will be a wide section of laptops available at the $400 or less on Black Friday so that my goal.

 

What are the alternatives to iTunes for mass market music? Thanks to this site I've bookmarked many of the HiRez sites.

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Frank

 

Magnepan 3.7i speakers, REL S/3 sub, PS Audio BHK250 amp, Wyred4Sound DAC2 DSDse, Server - Atom N2800 motherboard, 4GB RAM, 500GB SSD running Windows Server 2012, Audiophile Optimizer 1.40 and JRiver MC 21.

 

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Here are some standards that I would look for:

 

Windows 7 64-bit. Home or Professional: Home is what you'll find on most notebooks and it is just dandy.

 

4GB of RAM (or more)

 

Because you are using the HRT via USB other sound output isn't that important, BUT, if you can it would be nice to get an optical output.

 

For example, my wife just picked up a $600 Acer (regular price in Canada) that had all those things, including an optical out.

 

I've recently started buying my music at 7 Digital instead of iTunes. Selection is almost as good, most files are 320 kbit/s .mp3s.

 

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Maybe a laptop is right for you. Be sure you know why before you buy.

 

> I'm leaning towards a laptop because it's supposed to reduce jitter

> when running on the battery vs. AC. True???

 

A laptop running on battery may produce lower jitter on an digital output than the same laptop running on AC power. However, that says nothing about laptop vs. desktop. And it isn't directly applicable to output to a USB DAC where the DAC's implementation determines its sensitivity to electrical noise on the USB cable.

 

Laptops have some disadvantages. One is lack of expandability. No PCI or PCIe slots. Perhaps a single PCI express slot. No room for a second hard drive in most laptops. The half-height DVD drive in a laptop is usually slower than a full height drive in a desktop. (slower CD ripping.)

 

If you buy a standard size desktop, expansion is easy. You buy a SATA drive (a 2 TG drive is around $ 100 now) and put it in the case. Connect a couple of cables and you are in business. You want a firewire interface with a TI chip, you buy a PCI or PCIe card and plug it in.

 

Adding storage to a laptop is not as easy. You can't just add an internal drive. You can buy a larger drive and copy the drive C: image to it. This isn't trivial but it isn't impossible either. You can buy a USB drive for extra storage but all the external drives I've seen are noisier than internal drives. Since you have a USB DAC, you might not want a USB hard drive.

 

--- how much storage do you need?

CDs vary in amount of music on them. More minutes of music means more storage space required. Here are some rough averages for storage for music files from one CD:

 

WAV or AIFF (uncompressed): 0.6 GB

Flac or ALAC (lossless compressed): 0.3 GB

320 KPS MP3 (lossy compressed): 0.14 GB

 

So for ~1000 CDs ripped to Flac format, you need 300 GB of storage space.

 

Hard drive sizes are about 10% less than the nominal size. Win 7, a paging file and some room for applications and their data fiels might consume 30 GB. For that 1000 CDs, you will need a 500 GB drive in your laptop.

 

It makes sense to get enough internal storage when you buy the computer.

 

---

Before you buy a computer, you need to think through some practical stuff. Here are some questions you need to answer:

 

1. Where are you going to store the music files? (internal hard drive? external USB or firewire drive? on a NAS on your home network?)

 

2. Are you going to rip CDs, purchase and download music or download music music without purchasing it? If you are ripping CDs, you get to pick the format for your music files.

 

3. How much music will you have? How many CDs? How many minutes of music? It is vital that you understand how much space storage space you need for your music files BEFORE you buy a computer.

 

4. Where will you put your computer with respect to your amp and speakers? (How far away? In the same room?) This matters for connecting the computer to your preamp or amp and it matters for noise.

 

5. How are you going to browse and select music to play? laptop screen? iPhone or iPad like device?

 

6. Do you need to play music in more than one room? If so, think about the geometry of your rooms and whether you need closely synchronized playback in more than one room.

 

Bill

 

 

 

 

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Chris,

Thanks for the list. I knew about most of those sales www.dealnews.com but their are some new options...

 

Magnepan 3.7i speakers, REL S/3 sub, PS Audio BHK250 amp, Wyred4Sound DAC2 DSDse, Server - Atom N2800 motherboard, 4GB RAM, 500GB SSD running Windows Server 2012, Audiophile Optimizer 1.40 and JRiver MC 21.

 

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Thanks, I just added 7 Digital to my favorites.

 

Magnepan 3.7i speakers, REL S/3 sub, PS Audio BHK250 amp, Wyred4Sound DAC2 DSDse, Server - Atom N2800 motherboard, 4GB RAM, 500GB SSD running Windows Server 2012, Audiophile Optimizer 1.40 and JRiver MC 21.

 

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Bill,

 

Wow! You have given me lots to think about. I am recently getting back into music after being on a 14 year hiatus. Kids have a wonderful impact on your life and you need to make compromises. I compromised music and high end audio. Back in the day I had a dedicated listening room, Dunlavy speakers, Ayre amp, and a Wadia CD player. My Cardas cable cost more that any one of my audio systems today.

 

I chose the laptop because I would like to move it around to one of four modest HT set ups and a distributed audio system. The sole purpose of this computer is to be a music server. I have about 300 CDs to be ripped, LPs are long gone and I don't expect to ever buy another CD. I'm dying to find out the quality of Pandora and Rhapsody.

 

So... Can I get away with a HP Laptop Computer with AMD Athlon™ II Dual-Core Mobile Processor, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, 3GB memory, 320GB hard drive??? It's $329 at Office Depot on Black Friday. Link below.

 

http://officedepot.shoplocal.com/officedepot/default.aspx?action=entryflash&SiteID=145&PretailerID=-99860&CityStateZip=&sid=PQGIE4mO_Ht-H3BodsoHwbA&odserver=www.officedepot.com

 

THANKS!

 

 

Magnepan 3.7i speakers, REL S/3 sub, PS Audio BHK250 amp, Wyred4Sound DAC2 DSDse, Server - Atom N2800 motherboard, 4GB RAM, 500GB SSD running Windows Server 2012, Audiophile Optimizer 1.40 and JRiver MC 21.

 

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> Wow! You have given me lots to think about.

 

Thinking is cheap.

 

> My Cardas cable cost more that any one of my audio systems today.

 

No need to do that again right away.

 

> I chose the laptop because I would like to move it around to

> one of four modest HT set ups and a distributed audio system.

 

Sounds like a multi-room solution via sneakernet. an innovative solution.

 

Keep in mind that when you rip CDs, you'll need an internet connection so that the ripping s/w can retrieve tag info.That tag info will be stored in the music files (unless you choose WAV files as a format) and it will be used to create folder and file names for the music files from ripping a CD. You'll also need the internet connection for streaming music services.

 

> The sole purpose of this computer is to be a music server.

 

OK. you can use a general purpose PC to play music and that's a good way to start. A dedicated PC does allow for some tuning and since things don't change much once you get your CDs ripped, a dedicated PC can be very stable and free of user error problems. You should do backups to an external device once you get a significant number of CDs ripped.

 

> I have about 300 CDs to be ripped, LPs are long gone and I don't

> expect to ever buy another CD.

 

OK.

 

> I'm dying to find out the quality

> of Pandora and Rhapsody.

 

You have to calibrate your standards about whether lossy files at a certain bit rate sound acceptable to you.

 

> So... Can I get away with a HP Laptop Computer with AMD Athlon™ II

> Dual-Core Mobile Processor, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, 3GB

> memory, 320GB hard drive??? ...Link below.

 

I looked. not much detail. Probably OK.

 

One thing to realize. Most laptops have a small diameter fan. Small diameter fans make more noise than large diameter fans for a given air flow. Many manufacturers are conservative about protecting the laptop against overheating. So the fan may come on and may be audible even if you aren't doing anything that is CPU or graphics intensive. There are 3rd party programs to adjust the fan use strategy in computers.

 

Netbooks with Intel Atom processors are a special case. For other CPUs, a rough guide is that cheap laptops have CPUs that use more power for the performance level. More power means more heat which may lead to more fan noise. If you are 10 feet away this may not matter.

 

Bill

 

 

 

 

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Bill,

 

I detect the sarcasm but still appreciate the feedback.

 

Happy Thanksgiving

 

Magnepan 3.7i speakers, REL S/3 sub, PS Audio BHK250 amp, Wyred4Sound DAC2 DSDse, Server - Atom N2800 motherboard, 4GB RAM, 500GB SSD running Windows Server 2012, Audiophile Optimizer 1.40 and JRiver MC 21.

 

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> I detect the sarcasm but still appreciate the feedback.

 

No sarcasm intended.

 

re: cardas comment. The great thing about PC audio is that you can get going without big bucks expenditures. There is stuff to learn and you might as well learn it before you spend real money.

 

re: sneakernet comment. You appeared to have thought about where you want to use a MusicPC and what would be a good solution for your needs. Good for you. The fact that your idea is not the standard is a plus rather than a minus.

 

Bill

 

 

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If you have a desktop computer somewhere in the house that is hooked up to a wireless metwork that I would look at getting a Squeezebox Touch for your A/V system. It can read anything that you would store on it and also has instant access to both Pandora and Rhapsody and you can run it with a an iTouch while you sit on your couch listening! Unless you want to cart your tunes around somewhere besides your house this is truly the way to go. Oh, and it happens to sound superb.

 

David

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I forgot...you can EASILY move this from one spot to another and also simply add more players to whichever spot you decide you'd like at any time and they can either synchronize or not, your call. Your computer can just sit somewhere else while you choose your player, choose your music, etc. Seriously, it's an amazing device and the more I use them the more I dig them. Oh, and it can run USB sticks at 24/192!!

That's crazy.

 

David

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Laptops are terrifically convenient, even when used in a single location. They're easy to position on the side table next to your listening chair and can be lifted over into your lap when you want to surf your music library. I know you're asking primarily about sound quality, but the convenience of having your library at your fingertips is a real win for computer audio.

 

The comment about fan noise is worth considering. I have two laptops and one (the more powerful one) has a truly distracting level of fan noise. You might drop over to Best Buy (or similar) where they might have 20 laptops set up and running -- to hear directly what the fan noise is like.

 

Another thought... you may well expand your music library to the point where it needs to reside on an external drive. In that case, it is nice to have both USB and Firewire options. That allows you to have the external HD (chain of HDs when you think about backup requirements) off of one bus and the DAC operating off the other. Unfortunately this is an option that often drives up the price...

 

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

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> They're easy to position on the side table next to your listening

> chair and can be lifted over into your lap when you want to surf

> your music library.

 

I've been doing that for awhile. My experience is that an 8 lb. laptop is way too heavy to be comfortable on my lap. A 4 lb. laptop is fine.

 

> the convenience of having your library at your fingertips is a

> real win for computer audio.

 

Yes. Someone mentioned the jazz singer Jimmy Rushing in a post on another forum. I found all 28 tracks in my library with Rushing singing. I played some tracks from different albums. I noted that most of the tracks were done with the Count Basie band so I sampled some Basie tracks. Someone else mentioned 'temptation' played by Artie Shaw. I found two different tracks recorded years apart with different styles. That lead to playing all of a favorite Shaw album.

 

Another comment lead me to think of Bing Crosby's collaborations with other big name musicians. I browsed, found tracks with various artists and sampled some of those tracks.

 

This was all effortless with a good PC audio player (JRMC). I would not have gone to the trouble with physical CDs.

 

> You might drop over to Best Buy (or similar) where they might have

> 20 laptops set up and running --

> to hear directly what the fan noise is like.

 

It is worth doing. I find the noise level in such stores to be too high to allow conclusive results.

 

Bill

 

 

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on my MacBook never runs when playing back music files, and yes, I do play back 24/192 files. My room is never hot though, at this altitude it never gets above 75 degrees inside. I use an Oyen Minipro firewire drive (fanless), and the noise level is well below the noise level of even the very best digital recordings. At the listening position I cannot hear any noise from the system, at 2 in the morning, with no other noise in the house.

There is no reason to be concerned about noise from a good laptop with the right external drive.

 

SO/ROON/HQPe: DSD 256-Sonore opticalModuleDeluxe-Signature Rendu optical--Bricasti M3 DAC--DIY Purifi Amplifier-Focus Audio FS888 speakers-JL E 112 sub-Nordost Tyr USB, DIY EventHorizon AC cables, Iconoclast XLR & speaker cables, Synergistic Purple Fuses, Spacetime system clarifiers.  ISOAcoustics Oreas footers.                                                       

                                                                                           SONORE computer audio

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I purchased a Toshiba Satellite laptop from Office Max. Bill, you talked me into the 4GB of memory and 500GB hard drive. I went over my budget by $30, but what's $30 to guy who owned Cardas Golden Cross???

 

http://www.officemax.com/catalog/sku.jsp?productId=prod3210556

 

I'm really excited to get this server up and running.

 

Magnepan 3.7i speakers, REL S/3 sub, PS Audio BHK250 amp, Wyred4Sound DAC2 DSDse, Server - Atom N2800 motherboard, 4GB RAM, 500GB SSD running Windows Server 2012, Audiophile Optimizer 1.40 and JRiver MC 21.

 

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I have two Toshiba laptops that work and don't give me any trouble. The ~8 lb. desktop replacement from 2003 doesn't get much use. The under 4 lb. CULV laptop is almost a year old. It has been on a number of trips and serves a remote control for JR Media Center.

 

Good luck with yours.

 

Bill

 

 

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