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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, I've been lurking until now, and really felt a need to post on this issue...


This forum has been very helpful in learning about all this home theater stuff, and I've planned on building a HTPC for personal use in my room (just on a computer monitor, albeit dedicated to video games and movies) for some time now. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to building a system yet due primarily to cash restraints.


The application that I'm really interested in, however, is high-quality music reproduction. The "HTPC as high-end CD player" thread was very helpful here, although it's diverted from its original intentions lately.


Now I've recently come across these new VIA ITX motherboards, and salivated over these things due to their small size, low temperature playback, and the possiblity of completely fan-free systems, when used with the appropriate cases (which are also just emerging on the market). However, these mobos do have their limits in terms of speed and expandability, which make a full-fledged HTPC somewhat impractical.


It struck me, however, that this platform could make for an awesome dedicated music system. As I said, the whole solution (going with the 566 processor) is fanless, including the power supply, using the case seen here and here . $200 buys everything everything save memory and drives, and it may be had even cheaper if you buy the case separately at iDot. The one PCI slot would be used for an M-Audio 24/96, and I would rip CDs to a Barracuda IV 40GB hard drive. The one minor problem is the CD slot -- it requires a slim laptop-style drive, which would, in turn, require an adaptor to the standard IDE connector.


The nice thing about that case is, not only is the power supply fanless, it's actually an external laptop-style unit. Aside from the silent operation, my thinking is that this would help with the EMI/RFI issues (although I'm rather ignorant on such things; I'm not even sure if the power supply is the culprit here), and vibration is obviously very low in the case -- this could seat the sound card in an environment more similar to the external boxes that the more expensive M-Audio cards use.


Aside from comments on the above proposal, it would be nice to see people's comments on the best way to store and play back CD-ripped music. I haven't seen a good thread on this since the first part of the aforementioned "HTPC as high-end CD player" thread, and people were throwing back and forth different solutions for music storage (whether to store a whole CD as one track with .cue files, or to split the tracks apart, which makes it easier to mix tracks from different albums) and playback (it seems that Winamp was determined to offer pure unadulterated music delivery when configured properly, though I haven't read the recent Media Jukebox 8.0 thread yet). Also there was debate as to how much upsampling affected sound quality. How is everything working out, for those of you who participated in or followed the "CD player" thread?


One more thing: is there an EAC equivalent for Linux? What about playback? It seems that movie playback is a bit behind on Linux as of yet, but is high-quality music playback any closer to the available programs on Windows?


Just one more comment on my setup: I would be running the 24/96 through a headphone amp to Sennheiser HD580 headphones. I don't know if that makes a difference in the discussion, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Hmm, I just realized something that could complicate matters, to say the least -- that case does not accept full-size PCI cards... I'm not sure it even works with half-height cards, in fact. There's always the possibility of going with another case, but that introduces noisy power supplies again.


Is there a USB sound box that has a DAC comparable to the M-Audio's?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Those receivers are a bit over my budget... I've seen USB audio options (like the stereo-link) that go for $100-$150, and I was just wondering if anything like that was comparable to the M-Audio 2496 in terms of the DAC for straight stereo output. Hopefully more (fanless) case options will be available soon, so I can just go with the M-Audio card in the PCI slot.
 
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