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11-18-2012 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
wlowes
Posts 2
Joined on 11-18-2012

Post #: 1
Post ID: 18748
Reply to: 18748
Computer Audio - like everything else - Keep it ultra thin optimized to the task
fiogf49gjkf0d
My journey with computer audio offers me reason to be optimistic. I think it is like everything else in the audio chain. Everything counts. Keep it as simple as possible. The power for every consumer is important. Keep the number of parts and transformations to a minimum.

Like most, I started with a single general purpose PC (laptop) trying to do it all using Foobar and the like. Not very good. Looking for a better player I ran across CICS/CPLAY.  This guy built a minimalistic player aimed at reducing jitter.  Every 30 days he posted another version and the sound (on WinXP) kept getting better. Reducing the foot print of the OS and the hdw was equally important. A group of devotees on Audio Asylum cut WinXP and the hardware to the bone with continued sonic improvements.  SSD helped. Getting rid of extraneous chips on MB helped. Pure linear power supplies for everything helped.

This led me to the next logical step. Use a system that is inherently thin. You want the least complex processor playing from memory. No more OS than aboslutely needed. Asynd USB to I2S. Good quality hyper short connections between PC to Asyn USB converter to Dac chip.

Current set up sounds complex, but it is actually very simple and not at all expensive. PC 'player' is an industrial processor, ALIX.  No video, sound etc. It runs Linux with Music Player Deamon (MPD). Nothing else. Music sits on LAN on a simple WD MybookLive. Cheap Netgear Router connects ALIX and NAS with ethernet cable. It broadcasts wirelessly to the client that is the user interface. In my case my Android phone running MPDroid. The Linux on the ALIX is MPDpup.  Its a super slimed down version of Linux with a simple wizzard to allow non Unix types to configure it. OS sits on a flash card on the ALIX. (better than another USB).  Async converter is a WaveIO card. See DIYAUDIO.  It is connected via micro cables I2S to the Dac chip. (TDA1541A).  Every consumer has its own well filtered power source with low noise discrete regulator. Every step of this journey brought more life to the music and deep quiet background. Lots of micro details. There are no fans.  Only moving part is the HDD in the NAS which is well away from the listening area. This setup is quieter than a typical CD player.  

The sound is very good.  I have no frame of reference to compare it to anything else other that the fact that each step to further slim the OS, the HDW, the connections, the power sources, going to Async USB etc made solid improvements.  In the most expensive music servers today, there is a poor copy of this architecture dummied down to make it work as an appliance.

To me this is no different than tuning the audio chain for great vinyl.   Certainly in that domain every choice counts. the Cartridge, tone arm, wire used, platform, phono preamp.  Every decision is important. Comparing a general purpose PC running Foobar or Windows media player is like comparing a 70's style record player (playing 45s) to today's best vinyl audio rig.
We have a long road ahead to perfect digital.  We need source material that is not already destroyed. But with a little work, the playback system can be much less the culprit in destroying digital playback.  My computer audio system is inexpensive. ALIX $100. Nas $120. Router $20. WaveIO $140. Android phone.. issued by my company. DAC another topic.
11-18-2012 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
Romy the Cat


Boston, MA
Posts 9,486
Joined on 05-28-2004

Post #: 2
Post ID: 18749
Reply to: 18748
Perhabs….
fiogf49gjkf0d
Perhabs, wlowes.

Might I ask you: when you refer to “sonic improvements”, “brought more life to the music”, deep quiet background and etc then what do you mean?  What I am trying to say is that your rational might be logical and lucid but I wonder if you motivated by architectural consideration of contemporary digital; playback or you are driven by some kind your own specific sonic considerations?

There are tone of action doing on today in digital domain and little each month a new DAC hit production or new card/player “invented” that made a new DAW configuration possible.  I do not argue – some of them might be good or better but I think a fight for DAW improvement, in my mind, a bit self-serving as we have no opportunity to get music for our DAWs. The source materials for the most part are already destroyed, very much as you said and if we had some accidental source that were not exposed to the idiocy of the cretins in headphones then they are most likely very bad music.
I use to react to the industry alert about this or that site posted a new 2X pr 4x 24 bit recording but after downloading many of them I observed that they are barbarian performances that I would never play in my room anyhow. So, I am a bit at dismay with DAW improvements as I am not sure why we need them. I am not against it but I do not see too much practical purpose of doing it.

An interesting question. With your unquestionably good DAW playback – can you play a digital LP dub, or 15ips  ½ inch tape dub, that would sound the same as your original LP or tape?


"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche
11-18-2012 Post does not mapped to Knowledge Tree
wlowes
Posts 2
Joined on 11-18-2012

Post #: 3
Post ID: 18750
Reply to: 18749
Re motivations
fiogf49gjkf0d
 Romy the Cat wrote:
Perhabs, wlowes.

Might I ask you: when you refer to “sonic improvements”, “brought more life to the music”, deep quiet background and etc then what do you mean?  What I am trying to say is that your rational might be logical and lucid but I wonder if you motivated by architectural consideration of contemporary digital; playback or you are driven by some kind your own specific sonic considerations?

I don't have a pre-conceived notion of what I might expect as my journey has been largely solo experience, and I am relatively new to this.  I always had a yearning for a good sound system, but too much of a thrift to invest in high priced gear.  Starting with some pretty basic consumer gear I drifted into DIY by being totally surprised by building speaker cables and interconnects.  I built a simple SS kit amp and was hooked. then an LDR linestage followed and then a fairly ambitious CD upgrade with tubes. Somewhere in my CD tinkering I destroyed the main board in a vintage Arcam CDP. To salvage my work and bruised ego I kept the DA board and case from the Arcam and turned it into a DAC to keep me going until I could find a new CDP.  So my venture into computer audio was really a blunder. After tweaking the computer audio to the point that I thought it was pretty good I ventured on to a better cd. A nice old Rotel came my way. With tube output and better power filtering around the CD it was clearly better that the DAW.  This motivated me to learn more about DAW and how to make it better. It seemed inconceivable that the Rotel which was reading a CD in real time and losing bits could be more musical than the computer with its potential for bit perfect play.  Where I am now with the ALIX / Linux system now renders the Rotel with the original CD virtually unlistenable compared to the same material ripped and played back on the DAW.  The only remaining part from the original Arcam is the TDA1541a chip and the case. Rest is a labor of love with pt to pt wiring lots of transformers / chokes and blackgate caps.
Long story short, my motivation is to get the best possible music in my home without breaking the bank.  I would read about things I had never experienced. Then there are those Ahah moments .. the first time you realize that there is no sense of speakers in the room, just a 3D sound stage ... the first time you realize that music can be clear and precise but have no soul .. when you realize that you don't just hear realistic sounds of the performer but get the sense of the performer is alive and there with you... and you share the emotion of the performance.  Then you want more.

 Romy the Cat wrote:
Perhabs, wlowes. 
An interesting question. With your unquestionably good DAW playback – can you play a digital LP dub, or 15ips  ½ inch tape dub, that would sound the same as your original LP or tape?

Great question.  I wish I could answer, but I do not have the ability to play the original LP or tape.  I am actually at the point where I would be intrigued to compare the DAW to a good LP.  No doubt that LP likely always better so maybe good I don't know what I am missing.  What I do want is to get more material that has not been edited or converted.  Why we do not have suppliers simply taking great master tapes and selling them at various digital densities?  I have a couple of tracks specifically recorded without editing or compression and it is fantastic. I have some nice clips with orchestra in a cathedral and a classical guitarist in a regular room.  I need to search for more.
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