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help on going digital...


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OK... I'm giving thought to going PC based digital with a server, so here are a few questions:


1) I need a computer (PC or laptop)

2) I need some software to manage & play the music files (I Tunes, Windows Media Player, other...)

3) I need a lot of storage (for lossless files) like an external hard drive or better yet a RAID NAS

4) I connect an external HD to my PC via USB/firewire

5) OR I connect an NAS to my Linksys router via network cable

6) I connect my computer to a DAC via USB, Toslink, coax, or whatever options I have between the two.

7) I connect the DAC to my system preamp

8) I actually control playback via the computer and software


Are the above correct?


I am confused about the PC sound card and what role it plays in the system and the features it needs. How does that card sonically effect the output?




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I'm still confused...


1) The means by which I connect the computer to the DAC is determined by what digital "IN" ports are on the DAC and what digital "OUT" ports are on the PC. So I have to use a type that they both have.


2) If I connect my computer to a DAC, how do I direct the sound in my playback software to the digital "OUT" port that connects to the DAC?


I'm still in the "pondering" stage and have not purchased any gear yet.






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Hi Blazer - Good questions. You're absolutely correct about #1. Fortunately you can add output ports/devices to the PC that will enable you to connect to just about any DAC. The simplest way is to use a USB DAC since your PC is likely to have a USB port already. Directing the sound of your PC to the DAC is much simpler than you think. Some DACs will automatically do this when connected to the PC. Otherwise in programs like MediaMonkey you just select the DAC or output port in the program's options. Don't let this hang you up on the whole thing. There are plenty of people around here including myself who will tell you exactly what to click if necessary. Music servers are the best thing to happen to high-end audio in recent memory. You'll never look back once you have one.


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Hi Blazer - Almost any connection type on a DC can be put into a PC or may come integrated with a PC. The popular connections on PCs are USB, FireWire, and S/PDIF optical. You can get a PC card that supports S/PDIF coaxial, or a card that supports AES/EBU. I prefer the Lynx AES16 card that outputs up to 24/192 via AES/EBU.


None of them are better than the others without proper implementation. Typically S/PDIF optical is rated the lowest in terms of sound quality, but many readers around here use it and have no problems.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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A USB connection from your computer to the DAC is the easiest to do, and works well. From an audio standpoint, if your DAC is well designed this connection is as good as any other.


Potential disadvantages:

1. Shortage of USB ports on your computer. You'll need one port direct from the computer to the DAC. Don't use a hub in this link.

2. Possible conflict between the offboard USB drive supplying data to your computer, and the stream that's going to the DAC. You can use a hub for the drive if there are no other high-data-rate devices trying to use bandwidth at the same time.


Almost as easy is the co-ax connection. This requires a digital output from your soundcard or motherboard. Usually it will be a mini-plug (1/8" phone plug) at the computer end. The other end just needs to match your DAC. Some DACs use XLR connectors. If yours is like that you'll need an adaptor.


The third option is optical. Some sound cards have only an optical digital output. Most DACs have optical in. You'll need an optical cable with the proper connectors.


I use the first two options and haven't had any problems with either.


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