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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After toying with the idea for a while, I've decided to rip my CD collection and use my HTPC as an audio server. So far I'm amazed at how easy this is -- using Media Center 9.1 and ripping the disks as APE files -- and I'm optimistic that the audio quality will live up to my expectations.


The problem is that I use an Arcam FMJ A32 integrated (analog) amp and don't have an HT processor. If I use the HTPC as my source for music, I'd like ensure that the analog signal into the amp matches the quality of my Arcam FMJ CD23T, which is a relatively high-end CD player.


So my options for connecting the HTPC are to:


* Go from the analog outs of a good sound card to the integrated amp. I have several M-Audio cards, but I think the DAC quality is suspect. What card would output the best analog signal? RME?

* Go digitally from the sound card to an external DAC to the amp. Can anyone recommend a DAC that compares to my CD player? How much do I have to spend?


Another option is to get rid of the integrated amp and get a good HT processor. Can I get something as clean as refined as my Arcam integrated amp in the $3k range? I've avoided this path because I'm not really into multichannel.


Any thoughts appreciated.
 

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One option you should look into is the Benchmark Media DAC1. Its DAC section is likely superior to your FMJ CD23T and it comes at a very attractive price.


The benefit is that you can use the digital output fron any sound card that allows for bit perfect output at native sample rates (no creative labs cards but any M-audio, RME with digital out). The DAC1 has a very effective dejitter stage and extremely clean DACs. Look around the WEB for rave reviews.


Cheers


Thomas
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the tip. The DAC1 looks promising -- and surprisingly inexpensive.


Question: is it preferable to input to the DAC via the coaxial, optical, or XLR connection?
 

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If you believe that the dejitter circuit is actually working the way Benchmark media has it described the only difference should be that you can safely avoid any random electric noise or loops by connecting the PC and the DAC only by an optical fiber. These different digital conection methods also have different restrictions in length.


The biggest issue is in my experience fan noise from the PC. There is not much point in buying a DAC with a dynamic range of 117db if your PC has an idle noise of 30db.


So you either have to build a fanless PC and put the DAC close to it or you need to run a long digital cable which limits your choices and would probably drive you to a solution with differential digital connection. Although the dejitter boxes from Monarchy audio have a atrong signal on their coaxial ouptus. They it can safely driver claim over 100 feet of cable.


Good luck and let us know what you end up doing.


Cheers


Thomas
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My thinking is that I would have the PC/DAC in another room and connect to the integrated amp via 30' RCA cables (I have these already). In any case I live in NYC, so tranquility is tough to come by.


Here's another question: when playing a DVD on the PC, can the DAC1 accept the digital audio feed? I assume that it would but want to make sure.


Thanks.
 

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The DAC1 decodes stereo PCM stream only. It will not decode Dolby Digitl or DTS but if you configure the software DVD player on your PC to output a stereo signal you are fine.


Cheers


Thomas
 

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This is a AD/DA unit. Do you want to record? Otherwise you end up paying for this AD section without ever using it. You also will need an additional external power supply.


If you are generally interested in professional 2-channel converters you might also have a look at the Mini-DAC from Apogee. Apogee converters seem to have good reputation as well. As an addition the mini-DAC comes with USB.

http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/minidac.php


Cheers


Thomas
 
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