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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Now that i have an AP 24/96 soundcard i am willing to see what the HTPC can do in terms of sound quality by using the M-Audio as a transport to my processor. This would allow my HTPC to be the main component in my system in terms of dvd and now cd playback as well. Right now, i am using a Toshiba SD 2109 dvd player as my cd player.


What is the mp3/cd software of choice that yeilds the best SQ and PQ. Also, does anyone have a Pronto CCF for the said software to use in conjunction with girder for full remote capability?


What can be expected with the HTPC as a cd player? Is the SPDIF output or the analog L+R output from the M-Audio the most desireable and why? Anyone compare this set-up vs a standalone higher end cd player and what are your findings? I have read threads on this subject in the past but i am interested in those who use this configuration primarily. If indeed the HTPC can do to cd's what it does for dvd playback then it is certainly possible that i'm in for a treat. We'll see.
 

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For two channel audio, use the M-Audio card analog output with Windows Media Player 7.1. I find this works better than the DVD programs.

If you have the 1010 card, use Power DVD 4.0 with the Dolby pro logic II enabled. for ambiance recovery with single or dual mike recordings.

Bill
 

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I have ripped about 400 of my cd's at high quality to one of my 60 gig disks and use a juke box program for selection. I out put using the spidf on the m-audio to my lexicon. It works very well. It is not high high end-but it is still sweet and very convenient. The jukebox progam (visitrax) also is a data base for my cds and dvds. I also use winamp sometimes to tune things.


Joel
 

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As far as a stand-alone transport, the PC seems to be quite lacking for that last 1% of quality. The SPDIF just doesn't seem to be up to the standards of high-end transports. I'm assuming that Analog outputs from the PC would be plagued with the same electronically muddied singal as the SPDIF is...


Keep in mind that I'm comparing the PC to $8000 transports. If you're interested in comparing to a consumer grade CD player, you're probably right on track with the PC.
 

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I'd disconnect all the internal 4- and 2-pin cables inside your computer to make sure you are "ripping" audio directly over the ATAPI bus. While it's now a global option in 2K/XP, Media Jukebox is the only software I know of that does this in secure mode (a la EAC) for *playback*. This combo yields results that are provably "as good as it gets;" the biggest downside I can see is that the sound of a CD-ROM spinning up to the speeds required for secure mode is not silent.


The rest of the signal chain is almost irrelevant if using an external DAC. For convenience, nothing beats ripping your entire collection in secure mode and compressing with Monkey's Audio (whose format is also supported by MJ as well as Winamp). We know that the AP2496 doesn't do any nasty resampling tricks on its SP/DIF output so no worries there.


Yes, it's certainly got some jitter - but that's ultimately the DAC's problem, not the transport's. There's no loss of *data* from a jittery signal. If you're worried about the "quality" of the M-Audio's digital output, use a jitter remover or a DAC that reclocks the incoming signal instead of deriving it directly from the stream via PLL.


The analog outputs are very good, of course, but nobody should expect them to match the quality of a fine outboard component. It IS more than possible to engineer around the "electrically muddied signals" present in a PC, but not for the $10 I imagine their DACs' output stages cost. Moreover, a switched power supply handling multiple, dynamic high-current loads isn't the most ideal source for driving top-quality analog circuitry.
 

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Quote:
Analog outputs from the PC would be plagued with the same electronically muddied singal as the SPDIF is...
The SPDIF signal would not be electronically muddied. Its a digital signal. You can argue that it might have some jitter according to the sound card you use, and whether your processor has de-jittering. But there is nothing about it being inside a PC per se that will affect the quality of the SPDIF signal, the issues would be about the same as from any standalone player.


I doubt very seriously if anyone could pick out an HTPC with an M-Audio card feeding a digital signal to a good processor vs some high end CD player.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
There are 3 software players that i know of, Media player, Sonic Foundry and Winamp.


Which is best for cd/mp3 playback or is there another player that is better than the ones above. Again, remote/girder compatibility is important, there is no need for a fancy on-screen display since i don't plan on having my projector on when playing music through my HTPC. Just a few Pronto codes for all the functions is all i need and of course everything must work flawlessly together.


I know there a quite a few people using their HTPC's as dedicated cd players/music jukeboxes and i'm interested in knowing if the overall performance is on par with an average standalone player or if this configuration is higher up on the performance scale. I certainly don't expect my HTPC to equal that of an $8000 transport but i'm hoping to better my Toshiba sd 2109 dvd player (good average performance) and be on par with a good standalone $1000-$1500 cd player like a Rotel or similar.


Can i expect entry level high end performance with a HTPC as a cd player, that is the question.
 

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I have an Hi-end hifi...expanded in an home theatre system.

The musical quality of my HTPC build with a Terratec EWX96/24 ( similar to m-audio) is quite far even from the one I can push out from my old Pioneer 717 DVD....and don't try a comparison w/ my hi-end cd player.... :).

This both with analog and optical/digital connection using an external DAC.

The difference is noticeable also in dolby digital ( e.g. movies and soundtracks...)..and it is just a bit less on DTS material.

I think that the problem is in jitter caused from the DVD driver and from the electronic "ambient" inside a pc case.....


ciao

Alberto
 

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Quote:
I doubt very seriously if anyone could pick out an HTPC with an M-Audio card feeding a digital signal to a good processor vs some high end CD player.
Incorrect. I recently tested my MAudio Delta DiO against a Tag Mclaren with both systems running on Revel all the way around including 2 B15 subs. Amps are Levinson.


The Tag transports audio was MUCH clearer, with better detail definition, and more dynamic range. It's NOT hard to hear the difference.


Sure the Delto DiO sounds great, and unless you're comparing it side by side on a very high end system you would think it's great... but I'm here to say, along with the owner of the system on which we did the demo, that the audio from the PC is NOT on the same level as a $6000 transport.
 

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I would be very interested in how a $500 1010 would stack up against that $6000 transport....
 

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Richard:

Quote:
to make sure you are "ripping" audio directly over the ATAPI bus. While it's now a global option in 2K/XP, Media Jukebox is the only software I know of that does this in secure mode (a la EAC) for *playback*. This combo yields results that are provably "as good as it gets;"
Can you explain this statement more thoroughly? I've ripped all of my stored media to *.wav files using EAC, but have been using Musicmatch Jukebox to play it back. Are you saying that there is a difference in sound quality from one software player to another?


All:


And for a second question: is there a dimunition in sound quality when reducing the volume of a software player using the software controls (e.g., using the Windows Mixer to adjust volume)? I've heard reports of "bit shaving" when the volume is attenuated digitally -- is that happening here? In other words, is it always preferable (from a SQ standpoint) to adjust the software volume control to its highest level and then make all of your volume adjustments in the analog domain, post-PC?


Thanks,

Ken
 

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Regardless of how well HTPC sounds, let's not over look the fact that a PC puts out a good weight of noise into the listening room. A good transport would be hardly heard in a well damped environment. During quiet passages all I hear is my PC.:D
 

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Ok, if a sound card that's just passing digital does not sound as good as an expensive CD player, it has to be jitter right??


I think we can eliminate the jitter of the transport itself (DVD-ROM, CD-ROM) since usually the files have been ripped and stored on the hard-drive.


Therefore the jitter introduced has to be a product of either:

- real clock jitter ontroduced by the clock source on the sound card.

- jitter in the form of electrical noise which effects the switching point of the digital signal.


It seems like the first one can be eliminated simply by replacing the oscillator on the sound card with a high quality one with low jitter and frequency variation specs.


The second one is tougher and would require either cleaning up the GND and supply on the PCI bus or filtering the supply on the sound card.


Anyone ever measured jitter from a PC sound card or tried any of the above?? (sounds like a good home-project!) :)


Cary
 

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I agree with duell. When I compared the sound of the HTPC with M-audio 24/96 I didn't use a 6k system, I used a $1500 system consisting of a CAL Delta/sigmaII combo. It sounded better than the HTPC, but you had to be focusing your full attention on listening. Compared to your basic $300-500 CD player the M-audio/DAC processor is just as good.


I disagree with the notion that just because a SPDIF signal is digital is can't be electronically "muddied". Of course it can be electronically muddied and may result in an audible difference because electronic noise can also produce jitter.


John Moschella
 

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What software player did you use for this test?

Quote:
Originally posted by duell



Incorrect. I recently tested my MAudio Delta DiO against a Tag Mclaren with both systems running on Revel all the way around including 2 B15 subs. Amps are Levinson.


The Tag transports audio was MUCH clearer, with better detail definition, and more dynamic range. It's NOT hard to hear the difference.


Sure the Delto DiO sounds great, and unless you're comparing it side by side on a very high end system you would think it's great... but I'm here to say, along with the owner of the system on which we did the demo, that the audio from the PC is NOT on the same level as a $6000 transport.
 

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I was using the WinDVD audio filters... since they are trouble free for SPDIF output on my HTPC. I'm getting ready for another test using the PowerDVD XP audio filters. Hopefully in 2 weeks the reference systems owner is in Europe for a while (avoiding the Olympics and their associated logistic nightmares).


I've heard that the WinDVD SPDIF output isn't great compared to others, but the PowerDVD SPDIF output would have to be a very significant increase in SQ to compete with the Tag.


I would love NOTHING more that to get an SPDIF output that competes with reference transports. I've stated that this was my Holy Grail for HTPC. Unfortunately after hearing Cliff Watsons technical description as to why the SPDIF has become so colored, I've grown a bit disheartened.

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...hreadid=110051


and

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...threadid=99987
 

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There is 1 VERY important difference between high end players and a PC playing a CD that will account for a good part of the easily heard difference between them.

Expensive CD transports resample the stream to at least double the sample rate, and add more bits in the process. They are thus playng back something more like 24bit 96Khz than the lowly level of information on the CD.

I am not aware of any PC based direct player that will do this today, although it is quite possible to rip the CD to the PC and then resample and store the output for later playback.

With a high end soundcard, this should make a real improvement to the resultant sound.
 

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Hey Oz, I read the two threads but didn't see any technical explanation regardinf SPDIF from Cliff. Another thread maybe?


Cary
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by duell



I've heard that the WinDVD SPDIF output isn't great compared to others, but the PowerDVD SPDIF output would have to be a very significant increase in SQ to compete with the Tag.

duell, You heard right. There is a very big difference between WinDVD and PowerDVD audio. When I did my listening tests I used both those SW player to make comparisons. WinDVD sounded very thin and lacked any sense of dynamics compared to PowerDVD. PowerDVD was as good as an average CD player, but I wouldn't say that about WinDVD.


John Moschella
 

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In my opinion, the difference in sound quality through the SPDIF is not related to jitter but primarily related to the resampling action by the soundcard. A SB live for example does everything in 48KHz and always has sample rate conversion on. I have done some measurements on this and the results are actually quite bad. So except a possible difference in software player, there is also a difference in soundcard used.
 
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