Just bought a mini PC for Hi Fi music, what next?

Gareth82

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Hi everyone, i have just bought a custom build mini PC foe music playback with the following spec:
DVD-Rom, 500GB stat Hard drive, 2GB ddr2 Ram 6xUSB, 2 front 4 rear, micro sd card reader, Window 7 ultimate, anti-virus & photoshopalso has office 2010 but 30 days trial only
I need help to choose which would be the best way to get the music stored on it to my Hi Fi.

Would i be best to

(A) Get a Squeezebox Touch and run squeezebox server from the mini PC? (quiet a few people have advised that this way is better than a NAS).

(B) Buy a external DAC and play the music back with a media play from the PC like iTunes of Winamp?

I am not interested in multi room as i only need the music in one room, all i ask is that it can playback Lossless files and is reliable.

Thanks, look forward to your opinions and recommendations.
 
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Anonymous

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If your mini PC is in your listening room, then use it with an external DAC.

Otherwise I would personally recommend a squeezebox. The current version (touch) is supposed not to need an external DAC to sound great.

By the way, there is no advantage using a mini-PC over a NAS, unless the NAS is an old and slow one. My NAS is a 1.6 atom linux powered job, that sits in another room (so no noise). And the advantage is that it's on all the time. ie instant playback from a smartphone app, regardless of whether the PC is on.
 

Gareth82

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Thanks for thr replies.

Yes the PC would be in the same room as my Hi Fi. I chose a mini pc over a NAS drive as it would be used to rip my music to FLAC and also used for web browsing and other things.

If i chose a SB Touch would it be best to hardwire it or use the wireless option?

Which DAC would be recommended to use?
 
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Anonymous

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Gareth82 said:
If i chose a SB Touch would it be best to hardwire it or use the wireless option?

Which DAC would be recommended to use?

I can only comment on my own experience. Hardwiring/wifi make no difference in sound quality IMO, but if you can hardwire it I would, simply to avoid dropouts if other people are using the wifi. I haven't personally had a single dropout in the last year and I stream FLAC. So I use wireless.

There are other people who will tell you better (on this forum) that the DAC in the touch is at least as good as the Cambridge DACmagic, so no external DAC needed.
 

Overdose

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I use a cheap nebook to remotely control my mini Pc over ethernet, when there is no need for the TV to be on. If I am surfing or generally doing Pc things, I use the Pc remote to control playback via XBMC. The remotes supplied or available separately work out of the box for WMP, but are configurable for other applications, such as XBMC.

My 'DAC' is a UA-25 audio interface, which doubles as a preamp, it is bus powered and more than adequate for my needs.

The Squeezebox solution works well if you do not want to have your TV on to play music back, but then, for the cost of the Touch, you could get a tablet to remotely control the PC. Whichever way you go, the Pc will need to be on, so it all boils down to how you want control over playback.

For office applications, you could do much worse than look at Open Office or Libre Office, both very comprehensive office suites that are very easy to use and cross compatible with MS Office, they are also free. :)
 

Overdose

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snivilisationism said:
I can only comment on my own experience. Hardwiring/wifi make no difference in sound quality IMO, but if you can hardwire it I would, simply to avoid dropouts if other people are using the wifi.

I'll second that, but I have had glitches or momentary dropouts when accessing my NAS over wireless. My wired connection has up to 10 times the bandwidth of the wireless connection and data transfer is visibly faster, so my house is now fully wired downstairs.
 
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Overdose said:
snivilisationism said:
I can only comment on my own experience. Hardwiring/wifi make no difference in sound quality IMO, but if you can hardwire it I would, simply to avoid dropouts if other people are using the wifi.

I'll second that, but I have had glitches or momentary dropouts when accessing my NAS over wireless. My wired connection has up to 10 times the bandwidth of the wireless connection and data transfer is visibly faster, so my house is now fully wired downstairs.

If wiring is easy, as I said, I'd recommend it. Speed (for computer stuff). Wifi has been glitch free for me, so I don't worry, but yes, backing up and transferring files is very slow, even with Wireless N
 

MajorFubar

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I think a lot of wireless dropouts boil down to how 'busy' your neighbourhood is, with competing networks. My laptop can see seven different networks as I sit here typing this. What might help is going into the router setup screen and changing it to a different channel (I think you can pick something like 1-13, default is often 11). Changing the channel on mine helped a lot.
 

tino

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If you can (or want to) afford it ... why not get both and experiment ... a Squeezebox Touch (SBT) and a DAC with USB + SPDIF inputs.

If you need to listen to your stored music your options are:

PC + Music Player (e.g. Foobar 2000) -> USB DAC -> Amp

PC + SB Server -> SBT -> Analogue Out -> Amp

PC + SB Server -> SBT -> SPDIF DAC -> Amp

Having the standalone SBT option to listen to internet radio without switching on the PC is a great plus. However having a PC will allow you to listen to certain streaming services for free (albeit with ads and reduced bit rate), whereas with an SBT you will have to pay for these services*

And having a DAC might be useful if one day you want to attach it to your CD player or other item of your AV equipment?

PS How noisy is your new PC? You might want to put it in a place where fan noise is less obtrusive
 

dannycanham

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The DAC chip in the squeezebox is as good as the DAC chip in allot of DACs but the squeezebox is not as good as most standalone DACs. The power supply is not as quiet, the clock isn't as accurate and the other components such as capacitors aren’t as high audio grade as in most DACs. It is a very good product and it may compare to the budget (I would guess around £100) DACs but the chip alone certainly won’t make it comparable to more expensive DACs.

If it is just about getting the music into your hi fi get a DAC.

If it is about getting music to your hi-fi conveniently then stream with a squeezebox.
 

Overdose

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dannycanham said:
The DAC chip in the squeezebox is as good as the DAC chip in allot of DACs but the squeezebox is not as good as most standalone DACs. The power supply is not as quiet, the clock isn't as accurate and the other components such as capacitors aren’t as high audio grade as in most DACs. It is a very good product and it may compare to the budget (I would guess around £100) DACs but the chip alone certainly won’t make it comparable to more expensive DACs.

My experience in building DACs is at odds with this statement. I have found that power supplies and components in general have little effect on sound quality as long as the design criteria is met. A PSU needs to be adequate and that is all. There are several people that have tried the supposed upgrade of replacing the rDAC PSU for example, but have noticed no discernable difference in sound quality

What DACs have you compared with the squeezebox to come to such a conclusion by the way?
 

Gareth82

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Thanks for all of the replies and opinions.

To be honest it is really about getting the music to my Hi Fi at the best and most reliable sound for my budget. At the moment my budget would only stretch to a budget DAC so i'm thinking that would i be best getting a SB Touch at first and then adding a dac later or forgetting about the SB Touch and waiting a little longer and buying a better quality DAC.

The PC is pritty quiet in operation but i obviously haven't had a chance to try it with music playback yet so i'm not sure yet how noisey it would be when playing back my music. I know that i can set it up to hibernate and only come on when it recieves a signal from the SB Touch but if if chose not to use one i would have to either leave it on all day or turn it on when i get up and off when i go to bed.

I have had a check with the other Wi Fi traffic in my area and changed my router to a channel that it only works on but my internet service provider did send me a letter the other week that said there is alot of people in my area using their service and that too many people have been downloading stuff in the peak times which has affected their service and made it slower etc during peak times and to try and download etc at off peak times. I haven't really experienced any problems with drop outs and i have got 30meg broadband, i just wounderd if what my service provider is saying will effect my reliability with a SB Touch.
 

Crocodile

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I too would disagree that the Touch is only the equivilent of a £100 DAC. As I've posted before, I found it on a par with a Beresford Caiman. But then Beresford have upgraded the Caiman has since I sold mine. I do find the DAC in the Leema Pulse III to be an improvement though.

Internet speeds have no bearing on the Touch when playing your own music as network traffic is entirely in-house.

There's no way of knowing how wireless will perform other than by trying it. As others have said, if running an ethernet cable is viable then by all means do that. If not & wireless proves flaky, there's always homeplugs.
 

Overdose

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Why not just run a 3.5mm Jack to twin phono cable from the Pc for now and see how it sounds? You might be suprised at how good it does sound. If you can live with this, then you have all the time in the world to save for something that you really want, rather than a half measure.

This connection is the most basic, using the Pc DAC and provides a useful base level from which to easily compare other DAC options at a later date.
 

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