Advice on improving my computer based system

acalex

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Hi guys,

Sorry for the double posting (posted as well in hi-fi section) but I think this is the proper section where to post this one!

After a few days with my new system I am wondering if there is an easy way to improve the sound quality using any specifique software (I mean, the quality is already great, but I am wondering if there is any efftortless solution to further improve it). I do not have any CD player but playing 100% from internet (grooveshark, Accuradio and spotify) or local MP3s.

I read a lot of stuff on the forum and Internet on bit perfect, WASAPI, ASIO and so on...but just got very confused on the subject sicne I am still a rookie in this amazing hi-fi world. I am currently using a pretty modern pc (i7 2600k on Windows 7 64bit 8Gb RAM). My main player is usually VLC, I also downloaded I tunes, I have Windows Media Player of course.

I have an Arcam rDAC connected trhough USB....

1) Does really a bit perfect stream make any sensible (something I can hear) difference than just plugging the DAC and pressing play on VLC without pre-installing anything?

2) If so, what's the most stable solution to use on W7 64bit (woudn't mind changing player)

Thanks to everybody!

Alessandro
 

AnotherJoe

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I would suggest installing Winamp as your media manager/player, and downloading the wasapi output plugin from the winamp addons site.

Select this plugin (Options->Preferences->Plugins->Output) and set the DSP output to 24-bit and you're good to go.
 

acalex

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AnotherJoe said:
I would suggest installing Winamp as your media manager/player, and downloading the wasapi output plugin from the winamp addons site.

Select this plugin (Options->Preferences->Plugins->Output) and set the DSP output to 24-bit and you're good to go.

I will try, thanks a lot! Is there any other configuration I need to do on either winamp or pc?

Thanks again
 

acalex

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AnotherJoe said:
Just the steps above.

(You have to add the media to your library in winamp of course (File->Add Media To Library).

Are you sure the plug-in is WASAPI? because I can't find this plug-in on winamps plug-ins--> output

Thanks again
 

AnotherJoe

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Hmm - you are right the plugin has disappeared.

Never mind - you can achieve the same thing using asio.

Download and install the asio plugin from the winamps plugin site - http://www.winamp.com/plugin/asio-output-plugin/156466

Download and install ASIO4ALL - http://tippach.business.t-online.de/asio4all/downloads_1/ASIO4ALL_2_10_English.exe

Run winamp & change the output plugin to be ASIO and select configure. Select ASIO4ALL V2 as the driver, and click on control panel. Make sure your output device is the one highlighted.

Close the config panel, and then the plugins window.
 

steve_1979

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acalex said:
1) Does really a bit perfect stream make any sensible (something I can hear) difference than just plugging the DAC and pressing play on VLC without pre-installing anything?

I wouldn't worry too much about being 'bit perfect' I doubt you'll be able to hear any difference. The amount of distortion (if any) created by music playing software is miniscule compared to the relatively massive amounts of distortion created by the speakers and amplifier. MS Media Player, iTunes or any of the other more specialist music players are all so close to having perfect sound quality that I doubt you'll be able tell any differerance between them.

I expect that there'll be lots of people who dissagree with me so my advice is to try it out for yourself and make up your own mind. I'll be surprised if you hear any difference though.
 
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I agree with Steve. Always put the digital volume on your PC at 100 per cent, (use volume control of amp), and off you go, no worries. In Windows 7 it all works quite good, ASIO is not needed for this.

There are two ways I can suggest to improve your sound that will have a much bigger impact:

- Use high quality sources, uncompressed audio if you can (flac, or wma lossless, or apple lossless). Your system deserves it.

- If you really are missing something in the sound quality, especially with low quality files, internet radio etc, try using digital improvement, and have a look at http://youtu.be/vPLfCNcczjk The srs trial is free.
 

steve_1979

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acalex said:
playing 100% from internet (grooveshark, Accuradio and spotify)

This is what will have the biggest effect on the sound quality.

If you are paying to use Spotiy Premium make sure you check the option to 'enable high bit rates'. This will make Spotify stream music in 320kbps instead of 160kbsp. It's not a massive difference in sound quality but you will be able to hear a worthwhile improvement. However, a lot of the music in Spotify is only available in 160kbps so won't actually sound any better even if you do pay for their Premium service.

acalex said:
or local MP3s.

MP3's are good - you probley won't notice any loss in quality if you stick to 320kbps. But with hard drive space being so cheap now a days you might as well use lossless files whenever possible. Also bare in mind that MP3's ripped from a CD will sound better than MP3's that have been downloaded.
 

acalex

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Guys, thanks a lot! I indeed spending too much time trying to find the right plugin for the right software...I will just stick with Itunes and player volumes at 100% (I use only the amp's volume).

Indeed I play a lot from Accuradio (quality is not that bad) and from MP3. I just realized my MP3 are not that great...I don't have problem on my hard drive (I am anyway planning to buy a NAS soon) so I am planning to get all my music in FLAC...there are different types of FLAC? Do I need to download everything in 24/96 or not need to do that?

Another question on this subject...I saw that there are some files in 24/192...but since I connected my DAC through USB, the max I can use is 96 KHz, right? I think only the COAX connection support the 192...so it is useless to use this level of quality for me, right?

Thanks for all the advices...you are really helping me a lot!
 

AnotherJoe

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You dont really want to be using Itunes on a windows system. Winamp has a far better built-in codec support including flac. No point limiting yourself unless you have an Apple ecosystem.

Use something like dbpoweramp to rip cds to flac - its fast and makes use of however many cores u have. There are different levels of compression available in FLAC - but you dont need to worry about that - just use default.

Yes the Rdac is limited to 24/96 over USB - but I doubt you could tell the difference between 24/96 and 24/192 - it can be hard to tell the difference between lossless and high quality lossy in fact.
 

steve_1979

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acalex said:
I just realized my MP3 are not that great

MP3's should sound very good if they're ripped from a CD at 320kbps. What bit rate are your MP3's and where did they come from?

acalex said:
I am planning to get all my music in FLAC...there are different types of FLAC?

FLAC is just one of several types of lossless codec. Other common lossless codecs are ALAC which is used by Apple and WMA lossless which is used by Microsoft.

Not all computer music players or portable MP3 players will support all of these codecs so it's worth checking compatability. Which codec you choose will depend on which music player you want to use. You've said that you like iTunes which would mean you'll need to rip your CD's to ALAC because iTunes isn't compatible with FLAC or WMA files.

acalex said:
Do I need to download everything in 24/96 or not need to do that?

The first number is bit rate and the second number is the sample rate (check wikipedia or google for a detailed explanation). The higher these numbers the better the quality. For reference, CD's are 16/44 which is very high quality and is better than any MP3.

acalex said:
I saw that there are some files in 24/192...but since I connected my DAC through USB, the max I can use is 96 KHz, right? I think only the COAX connection support the 192...so it is useless to use this level of quality for me, right?

Your rDac specs says it supports upto 24/96kHz via the USB and optical inputs. If you want to use 24/192 you will need to use the coaxial input. Don't worry about not being able to use 24/192 though because 24/96 is more than good enough.
 

acalex

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Thanks again for all your explanations/advices.

Steve, to respond your question...my MP3 come mainly from the web...so not sure what bit rate are they...is there any software which allows to check?

Regarding the player, true that iTunes is not the best solution under Windows, but I have an hybrid system...my main pc is windows based and I have iphone and planning to buy Ipad soon (to use with Sonos Z90 for a multizone). So as you can see it is an hybrid system...I am wondering if it's not best to buy a Mac as main music player....

Funny..I installed dbpoweramp but the CD ripper functionality does not find my CD drive....
 

MajorFubar

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steve_1979 said:
....CD's are 16/44 which is very high quality and is better than any MP3.
Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stop it!!!! You'll have the worms crawling out of the can again after it took AGES to get them all back in!! :rofl: ;)
 

steve_1979

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MajorFubar said:
Noooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!! Stop it!!!! You'll have the worms crawling out of the can again after it took AGES to get them all back in!! :rofl: ;)

Hehe. :silenced:

MajorFubar's quite right though - A well recorded 320kbps MP3 has exellent sound quality and you probably won't notice any improvement by using ultra hi-rez lossless music files. Even if you can hear a difference it'll only be a very very very small improvement.
 

acalex

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OK, just verified my MP3 are 256 Kbps...so I guess I have to restart again my collection...I wanted to do that anyway...will try to download FLAC/ALAC whenwver I will decide which one will be my final player...still would like to hear a 320Kbps MP3 compared to a 24/96...even if I don't think my system is still good enough to hear any sensible difference...

Ah btw Steve, I opened a thread on hi-fi section regarding background noise...would you be so kind to have a look at that also? :)

Thanks for all your help!
 

steve_1979

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acalex said:
...still would like to hear a 320Kbps MP3 compared to a 24/96...even if I don't think my system is still good enough to hear any sensible difference...

Some people will tell you there's no difference between MP3's and lossless and others will say that the difference is like night and day. It's a very controversial subject which is guarenteed to start arguments on forums. Your best bet is to rip some music at different bit rates and make your own mind up if you can hear any difference.

At the moment my music is stored as 320kbps MP3's but soon I'm going to re-rip my CD collection into a 16/44 lossless format. I don't really expect to hear any improvement in quality it's mostly just to get rid of that nagging feeling at the back of my mind - "Does this sound as good as it could?".

I suppose this is what separates us audiophiles from rational sane normal human beings. Next thing you know I'll be buying cables that cost more than the speakers and expecting to hear a difference. :twisted: :poke:
 

acalex

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steve_1979 said:
acalex said:
...still would like to hear a 320Kbps MP3 compared to a 24/96...even if I don't think my system is still good enough to hear any sensible difference...

Some people will tell you there's no difference between MP3's and lossless and others will say that the difference is like night and day. It's a very controversial subject which is guarenteed to start arguments on forums. Your best bet is to rip some music at different bit rates and make your own mind up if you can hear any difference.

At the moment my music is stored as 320kbps MP3's but soon I'm going to re-rip my CD collection into a 16/44 lossless format. I don't really expect to hear any improvement in quality it's mostly just to get rid of that nagging feeling at the back of my mind - "Does this sound as good as it could?".

I suppose this is what separates us audiophiles from rational sane normal human beings. Next thing you know I'll be buying cables that cost more than the speakers and expecting to hear a difference. :twisted: :poke:

It is what I am doing now...ripping anything into FLAC uncompressed format...just to make sure! :)
I would like to get some 24/96 and try to feel the difference...where can I get this format?

Yes cables...I guess is another big controversial thing...let me know when you plan to buy them so I can learn something more! :)
 

steve_1979

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acalex said:
Yes cables...I guess is another big controversial thing...let me know when you plan to buy them so I can learn something more! :)

Just kidding, I'm not really getting new cables. Just playing devils advocate and trying to provoke a response from other forum users. :)

Any good quality oxygen free copper cable will do, so long as they're of a thick enough gauge and not too long. There's no need to spend a fortune on cables like some people do.
 

acalex

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steve_1979 said:
acalex said:
Yes cables...I guess is another big controversial thing...let me know when you plan to buy them so I can learn something more! :)

Just kidding, I'm not really getting new cables. Just playing devils advocate and trying to provoke a response from other forum users. :)

Any good quality oxygen free copper cable will do, so long as they're of a thick enough gauge and not too long. There's no need to spend a fortune on cables like some people do.

So on speaker cable you think there is not really need to spend a lot of money...just to have a rough guide, how thick should a cable be and how long should be max approximatively?

Around cables what do you think would really make a difference? Mains cable? Interconnects? Signal cable?

Thanks!
 
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I would like to get some 24/96 and try to feel the difference...where can I get this format?

HDtracks.com. BUT you need to pay by Paypal not devbit/credit card. Technically they shouldn't sell them to anyone outside the US but Paypal kind of makes you anonymous so your geographical location is shielded.

Also remember when you start ripping music that if the original recording is garbage/poor quality your rip will be also.
 

steve_1979

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acalex said:
So on speaker cable you think there is not really need to spend a lot of money...just to have a rough guide, how thick should a cable be and how long should be max approximatively?

Around cables what do you think would really make a difference? Mains cable? Interconnects? Signal cable?

I'm no expert so these are just my opinions. Cables and interconnects are a bit of a minefield here because everybody has different ideas about what's best. The experts at WHF magazine recommend that you spend about 10% of the overall cost of your system on cables.

As for what gauge to use depends on various factors such as how long the cables are and how much current they will need to carry. Most people use very thick 10 or 12 guage for their home hifi which is probably an unnessary overkill. However using cables that are too thick won't cause any problems and will give you piece of mind but using cables that are too thin will effect the sound quality.

As for cable length the shorter the better, try and keep them below 10 meters if possible. Most people say you should use identical length cables for both speakers but I've used unequal lengths before didn't notice any difference.

As for interconnects there's no need to spend loads of money but don't go for the cheapest either. If there's any analogue interconnects (like the one that goes from your DAC to the amp) having a cable that's electro-magnetically shielded is a bonus but not a necessity.
 

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