Here's my situation: I'm really sick of dealing with compact discs and feel like the technology must be at hand to to dump all my discs (about 750) onto a couple of huge hard drives, run the digital signal out of the computer (mac or pc) into a nice dac (probably an AudioNote 1.x) and put my CDs in the closet forever.
Can this be done with quality playback, or is bound to be a big step down from a dedicated transport-->dac?
I use a PC for my main audio front end, supplying on disk Wav/MP2/MP3, CD & DVD transports, Analog & digital television & radio interfaces.
The PC connects via optical coupler to DacMagic - passive preamp - JLH Class A DIY amplifier - Lowther speakers.
TOSLink coupling ensures noise isolation, and removes the need for a top-end sound card (although I still use a Terratec 24/96).
The biggest hassle is PC fan and disk noise. My PC is limited to 866Mhz so that I can use a fanless Via Ezra processor, I have one 40Gb 5400 rpm Fujitsu hard drive that is virtually silent (other drive - a 60Gb 5400 Maxtor is only inserted for backup due to high-pitched whistle), and a recent upgrade to a Radeon A-I-W graphics card with fan is currently driving me crazy. All this despite having built a sound-deadening enclosure for the PC base unit.
for the pc noise i recommend you check out www.endpcnoise.com. i made my pc just about silent with some products from them. i have to be in front if it and really listen to hear it now. i have my pc in my listening room and got tired of the added background noise. my friends thought i was nuts doing this at first but they all followed suit once they came over and experienced the lack of pc noise for themselves.
Nice one - I've used the QuietPC site, and have a Zalman video card heatsink but have yet to work up the nerve to crowbar the fan assembly off the chip.
Nice to see a site that highlights standard quiet components.
I have heard that Hard Drive CD playback can be better than other
methods. The following might be helpful:
1. Large, very fast hard drives with big buffers
2. Computer with quality, low noise power supplies
3. A VERY HIGH quality adaptor card (or better still, perhaps
a 2.0 USB external card system to avoid internal PC noise)
for outputting the digital signal stream from a computer
to get it to the DAC unit.
4. Properly matched PC output/cable/DAC input system
Hope this is food for thought. I have heard very good things
about hard drive playback, primarily because it skips the normal
spinning CD to analog eye pattern signal conversion issues.
Somewhere (maybe the IAR website) there is discussion about
the eye pattern issue.
Hard drive speed really isn't a concern -- remember that standard CD data rate is 150kb/s (modulo some error correction). Any hard drive you can buy today will support transfer speeds of at least a hundred times that.
but I haven't seen one yet. There are a growing number of Digital Audio Receivers out there, but nothing that I've found so far that could be classified as 'audiophile'. With this technology instead of using an audio card, the file is sent digitally via a network cable, wireless or via phone lines (HPNA) to a box that connects to your audio equipment. This allows you to keep that noisy computer away from your audio system. Some of these boxes are called Digital Jukeboxes. Unfortunately most of what I've seen only deal with .mp3 or .wma. There is a wide variance of features including hard drives, CD-R/RW's, and internet radio capability. Some examples are -
SonicBlue RioCentral http://www.diamondmm.com/audio/rio/rio_audiocenter.asp
TerraTec CAR 4000
Turtle Beach Audiotron
I'm sorry I can't provide any specific solution. The Escient Fireball line looks promising though. I do monthly searches for "Digial Audio Receivers" and "Digital Jukeboxes". I'm sure something better will emerge. This is where the future is. But, I'll never give up my vinyl - something you can really "feel".
I asked this question on this forum a couple of weeks ago. After some research, my understanding is that a hard-drive is a better "transport" mechanism than a CD, because a CD has a more challenging effort of turning an optical signal into electric (vs. going from magnetic to electric), so you are really reducing jitter issues. The primary problem becomes finding a soundcard that has a good digital-out. M-Audio apparently has some good soundcards to do this...
Have you checked out http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PAMS (PC-based Audiophile Media Servers)?
They have a lot of experience here, tho their definition of audiophile quality may differ from ours.
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