hey CNO. I don't want to turn it into PC vs. streamer knockout. it's just you're using really demagogic arguments fuled with prejudice? in the end a streamer is nothing else but a stripped down computer designed to perform a single task.
- The PC has moving parts (motors / fans etc) which can introduce pollution eg. EMI
even if fans and motors could induce EMI pollution into PC's circuitry and even if it was harmful to digital data integrity you sill can get a passively colled PC if you want to. no moving part inside. just loads of heat tunnels and heat sinks just like in a class A amp. in this case your argument is redundant.
- As Busb has said, if the PC is doing other tasks, it may effect things.
you're forgetting the fact a PC is designed to perform multitude of tasks silmuteinously. not to mention processing power in a compuer is few magnitudes higher than in any streamer you could find around. meaning; it will not stress much a PC to play music and so something else. for instance in my ancient laptop I had the first generation dual core laptop processor. I guess it's around 1.6GHz per core. CPU usage rarely exceeded 5% in normal use. I could only hear it works hard when I was playing 3D graphics games.
- A PC has no form of clock, so the DAC ideally needs to be an asynchronous...which may, or may not work out as well as a single Master Clock..
but there is a single "Master Clock" in case of asynchronous data transfer. the one fitted in your DAC. in this configuration the PC only sends on the bits. and USB 2.0 spec offer a few magnitudes more bandwidth than what is needed to transfer even the highest resolution audio file.
- IMO. The Power supply makes a difference, even in the transport.
what you mean by that? the power supply can pollute the signal? I already told you galvanic isolation solves it. or is that power supply also influences data flow? computing accuracy?
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Have you heard a decent streamer?
I am not trying to argue at all, but am, to some degree, playing "Devil's Advocate" in order to show it's not as simple as it might first appear ie. by throwing out possible factors that may effect the sound quality if not correctly addressed (by either solution).
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." André Gide
have you heard a well sorted audio oriented PC feeding to a capable DAC? oh wait a second! isn't it what your Linn really is? there's no magic about what Linn is doing.
Yes........I've heard a DCS Debussy and a Bel Canto Dac fed by a well sorted PC.
I've even tried the DCS Debussy and Audio Note 2.1x signature fed by my Linn DS.
As I keep saying, I am only trying to be thought provoking in order to encourage people to go and listen for themselves, and take it from there.....as my subjective opinion is no more than that.....ie.personal.
Wow.. I think I managed to read most of this thread and hopefully I will be able to mark what I write below for future bookmark.
Until recently, I was living in the same world that I would not need a dedicated Streamer / Player and my Mac Mini does a great job! I have put an SSD in it and upgraded the RAM to 4GB on 2011 Mac Mini so everything is as per the needed specs. Music is played through iTunes.
However with Oppo BDP 105 acting as DAC or player / streamer (from NAS), I was able to see the differences. Mac Mini sounded thin and not right compared to Oppo playing directly from NAS (NAS acting as a Network Hard Disk). I had to fiddle settings on Mac Mini (Audio Midi Set Up), then installed Amarra software to ensure that everything is bit perfect and then the differences went away. I am now enjoying the 'fiddle free' 'assured SQ' from Oppo rather than remembering or checking if all the things are in place on Mac Mini to ensure that the output is really BIT PERFECT (?).
Coming back to difference in SQ by playing iTunes as is vs Amarra is a bit of debate for some but it is very apparent on my system. If I do not use iTunes and run music from XBMC (No Amarra) the sound is same as Oppo playing directly
As of today, with a substantial investment into the HiFi set up and if it is especially only digital, I would check out the streamer / player options to see if there is any added convenience or enhanced (observable) SQ.
I would agree with you that iTunes without something bolted on (BitPerfect, Amara, Pure etc.) doesn't sound very good.
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Living Room: Macbook Air (2012 - iTunes + Bit Perfect) → M2Tech HiFace 2→ Metrum Acoustics Octave DAC →Cyrus DAC XP with PSX-R + Cyrus Mono Xs→ Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grands
Hope you don't mind if I expand on a few points that you made earlier Cno.
If you're referring to the analogue output of a computer then yes I agree with you wholeheartedly. The inside of a computer is very 'EMI noisy' which can have a noticable effect on the sound quality. In some of the worst cases that I've heard you can even hear clicking or humming noises from a computers analogue output.
However EMI only effects the analogue output. EMI does not have any effect on the digital output from a computer at all. So if you're using an external DAC plugged into a digital output of a computer the sound quality will be completely uneffected by any EMI inside the computer case.
Also, many of the top of the range internal PC soundcards such as the Asus Xonar Essence STX have an EMI shield covering the analogue output section of the DAC which works very effectively. I've built several PCs over the years and in my experience the analogue output sound quality from a high end EMI shielded soundcard is every bit as good as the sound quality that you get from expensive hifi DACs.
Modern processors are very fast and are designed to be able to perform multiple tasks at once so this isn't an issue. As Ben said earlier "If it's bit perfect then it's bit perfect" simple as that.
1. A small amount of jitter is inaudiable anyway so it's not really an issue to start with (I've done the listening tests and you'd be suprised by just how much jitter is needed before it becomes audiable).
2. Most modern DACs will reclock the digital audio stream and remove any jitter before converting it to an analogue signal anyway. So even if there is a bit of jitter going into the DAC there still won't be any jitter coming out of it.
3. Some DACs are able to synchronise the computer with their clock when they're connected via a USB cable. This means that there will be no jitter at all to start with.
PC > AVI Neutron Five 2.1
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Why do you think that?
Coming back to difference in SQ by playing iTunes as is vs Amarra is a bit of debate for some but it is very apparent on my system.
I'd be very interested if you could describe what improvement you hear with, say, Amarra, over straight iTunes. And do all versions sound the same?
Hi-Fi: Krell KAV-300cd, Michell TecnoDec/RB250/Grado Prestige Black1, KAV-300i amp, Transparent balanced interconnects and bi-wire to Sonus faber Concerto grand piano speakers, Nakamichi ZX-7 cassette deck, Logitech Squeezebox Touch, Hitachi FT-5500 and Sony S570ES tuners, BCD Engineering stand, RA Powerlink, Chord powerchord, Grado SR60i cans.
AV: Sony Bravia KDL-32EX503 telly, BDP-S370 player with QED HDMI. Currently unused: Denon AVR-1705, DVD-1710, KEF KHT1005.2
I'm sure that a PC can produce a bit-perfect S/PDIF feed up to 24/192 into a DAC, as can a dedicated streamer. But a reasnable amount of knowledge of Windows/Mac is needed to ensure no resampling etc.
Usabilty of a good dedicated music streamer is far, far better. UPnP AV Streamer, usability as bad as the PC.
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I'm afraid I'm not very good at describing these things (not a cop out I can assure you). More detail, greater 'presence', sharper? I've only had experience with BitPerfect and Pure and all I can say is that I probably wouldn't listen to iTunes if it weren't for the bolted-on software. Maybe it's something to do with the unforgiving nature (I'm told) of my DAC. The difference between the two I couldn't say (I've stuck with BitPerfect and I'm happy with it).
OK, that's fair enough. But since you are using an external DAC, how are the bits becoming better-sounding? Or am I missing summat here? (I could understand if it gave a better analogue output)
Again, I'm probably not the best person to ask. If it really is all just bits (and pieces), why does my Sonos not sound that great (tbh) compared to my Mac with BitPerfect? Same DAC, noticeably different sound. The software is supposed to reduce iTunes 'intervention' (I'm told). That's about as much as I know.
I still maintain, if at some point you build a hi-res library a standalone streamer is the way to go, otherwise you'll be doing a lot of faffing on a PC. I too don't disagree that in SQ terms there may be no difference, but personally I'd be more comfy without a PC.
I agree 100%.
Or you get something like Onkyo's TX8050, use its' many inputs or network capabilities and go from there. Simples.
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AVI Lab Series CD player / various cables
OK. If this is true, please explain why when I run my Sony laptop off its power supply when I connect it through USB to my DAC, I hear mush superimposed on the music being played. This noise is at the same level regardless of the volume setting on my DAC. If I remove the Sony's PSU, the noise disappears.
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ON THE HOOF: iPhone 5S/Sennheiser MM450.
I'm not saying PCs will be obsolete before streamers - I'm saying if it did happen, I'd not be surprised. Why wouldn't I be surprised?
1. I know very few people who still use a PC
2. Most people now use a laptop (at home at least).
3. If I go into a shop like John Lewis, the number of PCs for sale is minimal - I'd say that there are more Apple desktops machines for sale than Windows-based machines & vastly more laptops or Macbooks available.
4. A great deal of what was once done on a PC (or laptop for that matter) can now be done from an iPad, tablet or phone.
5. My own experience of using my iPad or iPhone is that they rarely crash, lockup etc but I cannot say the same about Windows-based machines. My main reason for running Windows is for photo editing. My beef regarding running iTunes via Airplay (my chosen method) is not the effect on SQ but the fact that iTunes sometimes refuses to start, usually due to something else hogging resources.
PCs have so much more competition from other devices these days. Although I don't own a streamer & don't plan on owning one, I can understand that many people prefer them. I can understand why many people don't care that they can't send emails from their streamer & I understand why many people like the idea of a streamer precisely because its a single purpose deviice & feel that's a strength, not a weakness. I don't take streamer ownership by anyone personally!
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