How to make the most of your PC based setup
I've asked a number of questions lately and been very impressed by the help i've been given from the site. To some this will be irrelevant but ive just had a quick search of the forum and this doesn't seem to have been discussed before so hopefully this will be some help to someone out there.
I have a reasonable soundcard in a soundblaster xfi xtreme music and some reasonable pc speakers in some logitech z560's. Obviously it wont come close to a separates setup but it gives reasonable quality. With having my ipod i'd been using itunes for music playback solely for convenience and didn't see any reason to change. However after looking into it theres other players out there that can make a surprisingly dramatic difference.
Its all to do with the audio drivers and windows direct sound. Itunes routes your audio through the windows k-mixer and direct sound. So the k-mixer resamples the audio from 44kHz (assuming you're playing a cd or mp3 etc) up to 48kHz and then back to 44kHz.
This can be avoided by using foobar2000 a really simple audio player from here. You can get an asio plugin from here. Now, in order for asio to work you need to have an asio driver for your soundcard, my soundcard already had one so that was fine, but if not theres a generic one you can use that might work. If not, another way is to goto the same plugin page as i linked to above and download the kernel streaming support. This produces similar effects to using the asio driver - namely bypassing the k-mixer. I have no idea which ones best, i honestly cant hear a difference with my setup, but id presume the asio is better as it cuts out the k-mixer and windows direct sound altogether.
Once i installed them and put them into the components directory of foobar2000 i selected preferences, output and selected the asio virtual device. To me music sounds cleaner especially with high quality or lossless audio. I also never get the crackling sound that occasionally (hardly ever but annoying when it happens) comes in when i listen to itunes
Foobar2000 is a pretty basic player so i later found there is a winamp asio plugin you can download. All you need to do is download out_asio(dll).dll (google it) and pop it in your winamp plugin directory. From winamp you can select it from preferences as your preferred output, the settings are pretty obvious. It sounds identical to foobar as far as im concerned and has the advantage of winamp being a graphically superior player. There is also a kernel streaming one for soundcards that cant take asio.
Can't wait to see what this sounds like when i get my new separates system, i think i'll hear a pretty dramatic difference then.
Anyway, if anyone was looking to increase their pc output quality without spending a penny i hope this was some use.