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HiFi Solution for Flac Library

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Joined: 6 Apr 2013
Posts: 5

Hey there folks,

I'm going round in circles, so any advice would be appreciated.

All of my music has been painstakingly ripped to flac using EAC. I currently play it using foobar on a dedicated desktop PC with an m-audio 2496 PCI card with RCA outs to a Sony HiFi and speakers. I am now looking for a high quality hifi solution. I was initially looking to purchase a traditional separates solution, starting with a stereo amplifier such as a Marantz PM6004 and perhaps some Monitor Audio BX2's or Wharfedale Diamond 9.1's. Then I thought a stereo amplifier might be overkill for my needs, as I do not plan to use a turntable, tuner, CD player etc. So I started looking at smaller systems such as the Denon DM39, Marantz MCR603 or Denon DF109. I am not at all interested in streaming from the internet, itunes or wireless capabilities, but after reading about USB flac playback, I wondered if I might be better off ditching the PC and M-audio card and connecting an external hard drive straight to one of the smaller systems? Does anybody have experience of doing this? I wondered if the drive has to be solid state, if there is a maximum capacity (ie. smaller thumb drives only), will they support gapless flac playback and is it easy to navigate through your music using the hifi system. Would a direct connection from a usb drive to a system provide better quality playback, or is the computer > RCA inputs of an amplifier preferable?

I am a bit lost and am just looking for the best quality solution.

Many thanks.

pauln's picture
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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

supersonicscotty wrote:

....... and am just looking for the best quality solution.

Many thanks.

At what price? That's the crucial deciding factor.

I would go USB from PC to DAC ( or DAC/Headphone amp if you need cans) to active monitors.

Two components to buy - as good as you can afford; sell the pci card. I have heard that you can even get active speakers with USB input...

Also, replace your HDD's with SSD's, get better quality (quieter) fans on the PC and run them on a low setting or undervolt them. This will reduce the annoying noise from your PC.

BTW - IMHO a PC with a decent DAC, done properly, is a just as good, or better, a source than any CD Player.

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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

Running usb from your pc/mac to an asynchronous usb dac is great SQ wise, or even to a micro system, active speakers or mini amp/dac with asynchronous usb input and dac built in.

Joined: 6 Apr 2013
Posts: 5
RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

Thanks for the replies guys.

What's the difference between my PCI soundcard and a DAC? Are they not doing the same thing? I thought the M-audio 2496 was one of the best built in PC soundcards you could get, especially with the RCA connection instead of minijack. I'm not really familar with what a DAC is or how it works.

ID.
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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

You don't mention a price, but 2 products that came to mind were the Kef X300A and Onkyo TX-8050.

I think the KEFs can be regarded as more than just computer speakers. You'd want to feed them files from your computer via USB, but put them on stands and you've got yourself a great little set up with the DAC in the speakers handling the digital to analogue conversion rather than your sound card.

For the Onkyo you'd also need to buy some speakers, but from what I understand you can set it up to stream from a NAS, feed it files from your PC or even connect a HD or memory stick as a source so is more flexible in many ways.

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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

The m-audio 2496 PCI card is a Pro Quality Card designed for professional music production, so there is no need to change it.

If you are happy to use your computer (As you are now) all you need is a Power Amp and a set of Passive Speakers, or a pair of active speakers (Amps built in) as all the control can be done via your computer.

For active speakers go to Music Stores (Look for active studio monitors) not Hi Fi dealers as they will have a better selection, and won’t come out with as much bull as most Hi Fi dealers.

Here is a range I find to be of good quality http://www.krksys.com/krk-studio-monitor-speakers/rokit/rokit-5.html however there are many others at all prices, so have a listen to a few.

Hope this helps

Bill

Joined: 6 Apr 2013
Posts: 5
RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

Sorry for all the questions. I come from a music production background, so I have another system running ProTools with RME audio interface and Adam studio monitors.I suppose that's how I ended up with a M-audio card on my music playback system.

However, I know nothing about HiFi and thought that for listening to music, a stereo amp and passive speakers were preferred. From the advice so far, I think sticking with the PC seems to be the consensus. I got slightly sidetracked by the idea of getting flac into the hifi without a PC, but it seems to be a bit of a pain in the backside.

So if I stick with PC and soundcard, what are people's thoughts on amps and speakers?

I could get a Denon DM39 and Wharfdale 9.1's for £250.

A Marantz PM6004 with Monitor Audio BX2's is £400.

The Denon DF109 system (just the amp and CD decks) with 9.1's is also £400, although I can't see much on whathifi about that system. The DM39 seems to be favoured.

I would be happy to spend up to £500 for the hifi system. I have the same concerns as others on these forums about sounding too bright, or not enough bass etc. Any recommendations on good pairings?

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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

Near-field studio monitors like Rokits are probably not a good idea for HiFi.  Amp + speakers or 'HiFi' active speakers is where you should be going. If you buy a set of active speakers with a decent DAC in them, then I guess you could sell the M-Audio, but I agree as it stands it's not a weak link.

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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

>but it seems to be a bit of a pain in the backside.<

That's the opinion of the posters, but many, many folks do well with a NAS (or PC), a Sonos CONNECT AMP integrated streamer/amp and a set of speakers.

But, if you're happy to keep using the soundcard, active speakers like AudioEngine 5+ are well regarded.

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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

Edited: The card is internal, does it have 'pre out' connections?

 

I see that later you post about having ADAM monitors. It is quite likely that you will be disappointed if you go for budget hifi. Unless you just want a second system somewhere other than where you work with your music and want to spend £500, I'd stick with actives and maybe put your money into getting better monitors.

Obviously if you want to listen to your music elsewhere, then a small micro system such as the Marantz with some suitable speakers would be ideal. You could also consider a Roku box to stream to from your Pc, this would give you a better user interface for browsing your library.

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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

supersonicscotty wrote:

Thanks for the replies guys.

What's the difference between my PCI soundcard and a DAC? Are they not doing the same thing? I thought the M-audio 2496 was one of the best built in PC soundcards you could get, especially with the RCA connection instead of minijack. I'm not really familar with what a DAC is or how it works.

Some purists would say that the inside of a PC is a "noisy"  place and opt do the digital to analogue conversion outside the PC by using a stand alone DAC. Depending what you get, this would incorporate a decent to very good headphome amp and perhaps coax and optical digital inputs allowing you to plug other things into it - TV/CD etc. giving you more options.

Anyway, as you want to keep the M-Audio card, best option is some powered/active speakers - best you can afford.

 

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RE: HiFi Solution for Flac Library

supersonicscotty wrote:

I would be happy to spend up to £500 for the hifi system. I have the same concerns as others on these forums about sounding too bright, or not enough bass etc. Any recommendations on good pairings?

 

If it was my money and you were to go down the hifi separates route, I'd point you to the Onkyo TX8050 as ID mentioned earlier.  Mind-bogglingly flexible, performance way out there for what you'll pay.  Works a treat as an amp, a source, more inputs than you will reasonably need (including four digital - two apiece for coax and optical).  No HDMI, but this is not an AV amp.  Here's the link to Onkyo's site for your reference:-

http://www.uk.onkyo.com/en/products/tx-8050-43158.html

 

You might be able to land one for £300, if so, there's plenty of speakers out there for £200 or under (shop around) that'll deliver the goods.  

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