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Can someone help me with an audiophile discussion?


tfarney
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I just need a simple explanation for why the switching power supply and other non-audiophile components in my computer have no effect on the quality of my sound once you get the bits outside and into a DAC....

 

Tim

 

I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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You raise a really good question. I'm not sure it's about distance. I think the central issue is in what ways and to what extent the noise pollution inside a computer infiltrates the bitstream you are sending out to the DAC. With an analog signal, that noise would be problematic. But with digital, unless the noise affects bit transparency or jitter, what's the problem? The other possibility is that it doesn't affect the bitstream but it finds its way through the [uSB/coax.etc] wire and otherwise pollutes the DAC. I do know one highly-regarded digital designer, who is not a computer audio enthusiast, who insists that the noise pollution from a computer environment is a huge problem. I want him to be wrong.

 

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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All right, I´m the tweakie - as Tim said ;-)

 

The technique of switching power supplies is generally not a problem. Even High-End manufacturers like Linn are using them. As for computers, they only need to be strong enough, means have enough power to energize all the components inside the computer. It´s true that the inside of a computer is not good for audio purposes - but if you use an external sound interface then you won´t have any problem with this.

 

Even if you´re using an internal interface your digital connection won´t be distorted. Most interfaces nowadays are constructed extremely well, even an internal Creative X-Fi offers decent quality without adding jitter over analogue or digital outputs.

 

In my opinion computer audio generally is the superior source - you will be achieving better sound with decent hardware with less money compared to most high end components. My E-MU external interface (even my Creative X-Fi - which I won´t buy ever again, but for other reasons) easily tops most of the HiFi components out there for the same money. Don´t let yourself fool you by yesterdays opinions, not the computer is bad for audio, its image is.

 

E-MU 0202 USB wired with Monster USB Cable --> Audioquest King Cobra --> (sometimes) Corda Arietta --> Sennheiser HD-600

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My first post then...

 

I think your audiophile friends don't understand how digital music works. A couple of reasons why (in my own opinion) the PSU and other no audiophile bits will have no effect:

 

The computer PSU is operating at a very high switching rate (should be way beyond the audible range), AND is enclosed in a farraday cage (the metal "box" that covers it). You will therefore have no interference either directly or through electronic radiation.

 

In a digital stream the only important bit is indeed the "bit" which is stream of 0's and 1's (or " 0 volt" and +5 volt" if you want). No matter how exotic your components are, when it comes to digital streams they have no means of altering this stream. Sure, a variance in a resistor could for instance change the 5 V to say 4.5 V, but as long as it isn't 0 V, there is no problem!

 

Even if you were to inject through whatever means, wrong "bits" into the stream, or manage to remove some, there will always be some sort of checksum to ensure that what was sent by the computer is received correctly by the DAC.

 

 

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Quote,

Good answer and pretty similar to the kind I may have come up with myself. It won't satisfy the tweakies I'm talking to though.

 

Hi,

I think I may be one of those tweakies, and the original question may be due to looking for a suitable response to another thread elsewhere.

 

As an avid reader of many magazines over many years, with interest in much of what was progressing in home Hi-Fi terms, many magazine readers wishing to pursue computer audio were given the impression of certain detrimental effects of computers in general within audio systems, such a claim was the injection of noise into mains by switch mode power supplies and such found in computers. Indeed many Hi-Fi magazines stated that computers and fridge freezers were detrimental to an audio systems performance and advised that switching such off would improve quality. There used to be similar investigation into what affected what areas of performance within a PC, certain graphics cards for instance, background Apps etc.

 

Even back in the days of Biege Apple G3's with hospitality boards providing RCA outputs for audio and video, and CD burning drives and programs like Toast costing an arm and a leg, and for the first time making CD recording at home a possibility (back then such a drive would cost as much as a basic laptop in today's market but was considered cheap in comparison to the likes of a Marantz Studio CDR recorder) people were finding issues with computer audio. (Hence audio magazines advised switching computers off)

 

Well as many are aware, there are plenty of "Free" solutions to improved codecs and drivers and such, and we are aware certain areas can be improved, what seemed to have been left to the side is late 90's discussion on what stuff like PSU's and the like did to affect performance in audio systems. Manufacturers of said PSU's are more interested in modular construction and available power at reasonable efficiency than investigating what may happen to delicate audio ancillaries on the same mains spur.

 

Now it may be nice to speculate that they do or do not affect any sort of performance, but so far I have not seen any technical info suggesting any such investigation has ever been carried out. So we have a lot of opinion, and some internet links to better opinion.

 

As an example though, Naim's HDX suffered inconsistency problems which seem to have had them re-address the PSU as they found it to have a detrimental effect on some ancillaries? This was long after rave reviews and such, and as far as I am aware was only found by a single reviewer?

 

This may bring some light as to why people ask apparently silly questions. As far as I am concerned, computers in audio have been in audio enthusiasts interests before, lost their appeal for a few years, and regained popularity. Now that they have regained popularity, it seems many performance claims are taken for granted, even though many are only opinion, many of the detrimental areas of performance seem to have been misplaced along the way, and indeed it seems we are starting over again with much kit based on gaming or pro audio use. I am under no doubt computer audio is capable, but have a nagging doubt much of the information or problems during the likes of the Hi-Fi World computer audio days seem not to have been addressed but swept aside.

 

Some of the stuff I was interested in building a few years ago only now seems possible, but it still seems there is a general lack of what suits what best, and we still have to rely on stuff designed for uses other than ultimate audio fidelity, and for those interested in pro audio components it can be as expensive as high end audio.

 

It seems as usual people dismiss anything and everything, it cannot therefore does not etc. As we can see with the above replies many decided the problem lay in supposed affects within the the digital domain, which it may or may not do, I don't see any conclusive technical evidence that this may or may not be the case with every DAC and sound card or every manufactured computer modular PSU. Anyone tried an alternative PSU to a switch mode and investigated the differences? What about a never connected PSU, as far as I am aware the only interest expressed has been in quiet PSU's?

 

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