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What "I" want from PC audio...

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is a descent sound! NOT audiophile quality, just good quality.


Hello, I recently posted a subject asking for some help and didn't really get any direct answers so hopefully this post will attract more reviews and more helpful answers.


When I started building my new PC I thought, Well, if I am going to build a nice dual core E8600 system I might as well add components that give my digital music and internet radio a better sound. So I started researching how about computer audio. What did I get.....A HUGH FREAKIN HEADACHE!!! I'm so tired of reading about DACS and digital eq's and pre amps and headphone amps and blah blah blah that I cant figure out what it is I really need.


Can I afford the best, NO. So I am not expecting to get audiophile sound from a low-mid budget system. I wouldn't now the difference in sound anyway.


All I would like to have my Windows based Intel chip computer do is play the music and then add one or two components and software that will take the "source" file and give it some level of quality sound,,,,,how do I go about reaching this goal?


Do I simply use a top end internal sound card? If so which brand?


Do I need a software program like Winamp to convert MP3s to lossless files for better sound? Or is there a better program for a windows system?


Do I need any external components? DAC, Headphones, Amps, EQs, speakers,,,,,,,,?


All I am looking for is a general list of what you guys think I need to purchase to help me get a "descent" sound quality from my PC. OR should I drop the PC for audio and go with a CDP system and loudspeakers? This system will be in my computer room which is your normal 12X14 foot room. Again, I am not an audiophile so I am not looking for the utmost in clairity or whatever it is an audiophile is really searching for.


My music taste is Newage, Ambient, World Fusion, Smooth Jazz, and on the other end is 80's Heavymetal. I have two teenage boys who like to listen to HIPHOP and the stuff that goes BOOMBOOM.


Thanks for reading and look forward to your suggestions. Don't forget that I am totally new to trying to figure out all this audio stuff. I have been using my old AMD 1800 with a creative labs speakers and sound card for the past 8 years, no headphones. Now I would like to upgrade this and listen to my favorite internet stations and MP3s with what I hope would be good quality sound. Thanks.





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"Do I simply use a top end internal sound card? If so which brand?"

For you're stated aim, you will exceed your expectations even with the on board Intel HD audio chipset found on many motherboards these days. In fact, AC97 found on most all of them exceeds that. Any M-Audio card and any Creative card Audigy or above will do so as well.


"Do I need a software program like Winamp to convert MP3s to lossless files for better sound? Or is there a better program for a windows system?"

No digital file can have any better resolution than it started with, so the basic answer to that question is "no," and since you are looking for simple here, I'll just leave it at "no."


"Do I need any external components? DAC, Headphones, Amps, EQs, speakers,,,,,,,,?"

To keep it simple, once you get to the line out on your MB or soundcard, you need precisely what you need for an FM tuner, a CP player, or a cassette deck.


One thing I will add: simple logic dictates that your system will sound precisely as good as the loudspeakers and no better.


Hope this helps...



\"If it sounds good, it IS good.\" Duke Ellington

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Mallette, thanks for the reply. Last week I looked up a post concerning the quality of a soundcard vs a DAC and did that open a can of worms! Seems like there are alot of people that think soundcard chips are as good as DACs and then the other way around. Thats what was getting me so confused on the subject of PC audio.


Another subject I am confused about is the actual MP3 format itself. Everyone mentions looseless (lossless?) format but how do you find songs that are in this format or how do you get them into this format. Is there a specific site you have to get your songs from or what?


Will the looseless format play good through a soundcard? Do you think I would notice a big enough difference in sound quality from MP3 to looseless?


One other question that pertains to audio but not PC. Is there a 2 channel mini/shelf system you would recommend. I have an office upstairs that I like to retreat to but I do not have a PC up there yet so I am looking for a small system to use with a good set of headphones.




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Many folks are quite happy with mp3, especially if they are mainly into pop/rock/rap, etc. In my case, I do not see the need for compression and cannot tolerate the sound of it.


I can smell an mp3 a mile away on acoustic music of any kind. IMHO, there is no substitute for lossless. OTOH, if it sounds good to YOU, that is what you should go for.


An awful lot of newbie audiophiles get way too hung up in various philosophies and such. Just go for it an let your ears be the judge. If it sounds good to you don't let ANYONE say it sux. If they persist and try to explain the awful things you should be hearing, drop kick them through your front door, grab a beer, and enjoy the music.






\"If it sounds good, it IS good.\" Duke Ellington

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it seems, is to not be tortured by doubts about the quality of the sound you're getting.


I fell down this particular rabbit hole a year or so back and have been merrily digging deeper ever since, but back when I could still see daylight I was doing what you're doing - looking for 'good enough' sound.


My cheap and easy recommendations: either a set of Audio Engine 2s or an Aego-M set. Use the analog out on your computer.


You'll not spend so much money (either the Aegos or the AEs run $200) and you'll get much improved mp3 sound.


Also, use iTunes as your player/organizer - it doesn't have many of the audiophile qualities lauded here, but it's dirt easy to use and pretty much universal at this point. If you buy music online, buy your mp3s from Amazon, because they're as well recorded as an mp3 gets and can be played on any player.


If you want to do more/other, keep reading this site, but be warned - we're chasing ghosts.


Scott Atkinson

Watertown NY


\"...many people are doped up, drunk, compulsive liars or completely bat-s**t insane. And some are all of those, all the time.\" - found on Slashdot, 4.11.11

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I'm new to Computer Audiophile but I have been using my PC to listen to my CD collection since 2000 and more recently to watch movies and TV shows.


You can spend anywhere from $200-$20k+ for a sound system. I myself have had systems that ranged from $500 to much more but the PC system hasn't changed as much as the other components.


The first thing I did was to use EAC and put all my CD music on an external hard drive and use Foobar. I also purchased a "fanless" mini ITX computer and will probably move all my music to one of the new External SSD Hard drives in the next 6 months.


I already had a Birdland DAC that I was using with an old SONY 707ES CD player as transport. I tried some different sound cards, from $200-$800 and the sound was as good, if not better than using the SONY.


When the Benchmark DAC-1 came out I tried that and later I went with a Wavelength Brick USB.


I have tried different "Active Monitors", Avantgarde, ATC, PMC, older Paradigm, and even the AodioEngine A2 which also has a wireless option.


I am currently using Magnepan 1.6's with a CC3 center and 12's as rear speakers, Edge 3 channel 175W amp for fronts and center and an older DIY 5 x 50W channel amp to bi-amp the rears with a Sony TA-P9000ES Preamp.


I was also using an inexpensive Peter Daniel USB DAC and just recently purchased the new Bryston USB DAC. I will probably try the Audio Research USB and the WEISS Minerva Firewire at some point.


I have been very happy with each change I have made but over the years I have moved frequently and have changed speakers, amplifiers and DAC's but my basic computer music files have remained the exact same.


I could "live with" most of the different systems I have had but I like to change speakers and amps. Even the AudioEngine A2 speakers and an inexpensive USB DAC sound wonderful for a small system that could cost as little as $500 and still use the same basic computer music files.


These have been my experiences using a computer as a music server for the past 9 years.





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