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New subscriber needs help with a good PC based audio solution!

kingnothing83

New member
Nov 16, 2007
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I spend far too many hours of my lift listening to music! I've always enjoyed some good in ear headphones for my ipod (currently waiting for my goldring cx200's to arrive, before that i had some shure e2c's and some panasonic hje70's) but my home set up is severely lacking. I have a soundblaster x-fi and logitech z560's.

I want to spend around £3-500 and get the best quality sound for music, im not bothered about dvd's or gaming. I listen to all my music in my room but like the idea of buying hi-fi seperates rather than pc speakers so that i can at some point move the music into the living room.

I've read online that people have suggested a logitech sqeezebox as a way of bypassing the pc soundcard. I will consider that (although it'll push up the cost of the system) but i dont see too much point getting it as it would sit right next to the pc. Perhaps that would be a good investment when i later move my music to the living room.

So could someone suggest a good amp, speakers and (if necessary) a new soundcard? Do i need a digital amp or an analogue one? Whats the best way to connect the soundcard to the amp, an optical connection?

Cheers
 

Andrew Everard

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May 30, 2007
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If you have an optical output, then that might seem like the ideal way to connect, but few if any affordable stereo amps have a digital input - most are analogue only.

Solutions? An upgraded soundcard maybe, or if you're happy with what you have, just an analogue lead from PC to amplifier. With your budget I'd be thinking in terms of a Rotel RA-04 amp (£250 or so) with a pair of Tannoy Mercury F1 Custom speakers (£110).

That set-up will comfortably outperform any computer speakers, and leave you some dosh in the kitty for a Squeezebox should you some day want to move the music system to the living room while leaving the PC where it is.
 

kingnothing83

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Nov 16, 2007
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Thanks very much for your reply that is very helpful. If i just connect it analogue will there be a noticible reduction in quality? I want to think about this from a futureproofing point of view as well, would you suggest i spent perhaps an extra £100 on a digital amp (if its possible to get a digital amp for £100 more?) if so could you suggest one?

Im sure they will comfortably out perform my pc speakers, however i may notice the lack of bass. Im not into heavy bass sounds but would those speakers give me a reasonable bass responce and moderate volume? Thanks again
 

kingnothing83

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Nov 16, 2007
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Actually, reading up on it the Rotel RA-04 looks extremely good, perhaps i should just go down the analogue route. The speakers have great reviews too, could anyone suggest a good place to buy them? I read on another thread that someone managed to get the speakers for £50 which sounds like an fantastic deal!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
with regards to connecting your PC to your amp, analogue is the best way to go - most hi-fi systems use an analogue connection between source and amp. i have my pc connected to my amp via a 3.5mm jack to 2 RCA cable. I bought a decent quality one but keep in mind you will probably need a longish cable unless your amp will be right next your PC. How is your music stored on you PC? if its MP3 then the quality of the cable probably wont come into play too much... i think spending 10% of your budget on cables is recommended.
 

kingnothing83

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Nov 16, 2007
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Thanks for the advice. My music is generally 320k mp3 or 256k aac although i do have some lossless music and will look to increase this as time goes on. I could have the amp next to the PC that would be fine, any cable recommendations would also be useful.

Would there be any problem buying the rotel amp second hand, ive seen a ra-05 which is 12 months old for sale? Thanks again
 

Andrew Everard

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May 30, 2007
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[quote user="kingnothing83"]
Would there be any problem buying the rotel amp second hand, ive seen a ra-05 which is 12 months old for sale? Thanks again

[/quote]

Provided you can hear it working, no problem at all. Check both channels work, that there are no nasty noises when you turn the volume up and down or switch inputs, and that all the inputs are functioning, and you should be fine.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="Andrew Everard"]Solutions? An upgraded soundcard maybe[/quote]

Andrew, what soundcards would you recommend for good quality playback with wav and mp3 files?

Brian
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Check out Creative Labs X-Fi soundcard

XtremeMusic
X-Fi Platinum
X-Fi Fatal1ty FPS
X-Fi Elite Pro
 

DNICE1

New member
Oct 30, 2007
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[quote user="Jolly Bodger"]

Andrew, what soundcards would you recommend for good quality playback with wav and mp3 files?

Brian

[/quote]

I am also looking to buy a good quality sound card for my PC to connect to my Rotel RA-04. I have seen two, M-Audio Audiophile 192 and EMU 1212M, which tick all the boxes for my requirements but haven't heard either so still undecided on which one to go for. There is a very little price difference between the two.

Has anyone got any experience with these sound cards or has anyone done a comparison of the two, sound quality wise? I will only use them to listen to music thorugh my hifi and maybe in the future when I get hold of a Nakamichi cassette deck I would like to record all my analog music to digital.

I use WinAmp with ASIO to play all my music on the PC. All my music files are either FLAC or Nero AAC 256kb and a few MP3 256kb.
 

Anton90125

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Sep 1, 2007
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I would recommend the squeezebox route for Three reasons:

1) The DAC in the squeezebox is pretty good. This will be better then the DAC in most sound cards. You can use standard phono connections (good quality).

2) Using an ethernet link between the PC and the Hifi. Realistically distance will not be a problem.

3) You can use a remote control while sitting in front of your Hifi (not your PC) to access the tracks/albums you want to listen to
 

kingnothing83

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Nov 16, 2007
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Please forgive my inexperience here but could someone please explain to me why the rotel ra-04 would be better than an av amp such as the Denon AVR-1507 which is similarly priced? I presume thats its because that amp is there to handle movies rather than primarily music but would really appreciate an answer.

Also, what kind of bass would i get from the tannoy f1 customs? If i found it lacking could i plug in a sub into the ra-04? Thanks again
 

DNICE1

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Oct 30, 2007
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[quote user="Anton90125"]I would recommend the squeezebox route for Three reasons:

1) The DAC in the squeezebox is pretty good. This will be better then the DAC in most sound cards. You can use standard phono connections (good quality).

2) Using an ethernet link between the PC and the Hifi. Realistically distance will not be a problem.

3) You can use a remote control while sitting in front of your Hifi (not your PC) to access the tracks/albums you want to listen to

[/quote]

Thanks Anton! I did consider the Squeezebox and also its advantages but my problem is not sitting in front of the PC as I can use my XDA Exec as a remote controller for operating WinAmp on my PC.

Secondly, distance is also not a problem as my PC sits quite close to my HiFi gear. My only problem is that I want to get the best possible sound quality out of my PC without having to spend a lot of money. The DAC on Squeezebox, though quite good, may not be as good as the semi-pro sound cards I mentioned in my previous post.

So taking this in view which of the two sound cards would you recommend for my setup?
 

Anton90125

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Sep 1, 2007
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[quote user="DNICE1"]So taking this in view which of the two sound cards would you recommend for my setup?[/quote]

I am always a bit suspicious of sound cards in that some of them are internally changing the sampling rates to do all their various process tricks .

I did alot of "reading up" about the dangers of changing the sample rates when I looked at the Roku family of products. The new Roku M1001 upsamples the 44.1K cd rate to 48K before being processed then it feed to a Internal DAC or downsampled to be feed to an external DAC.

While reading the various forums and web pages, I became aware that Creative and a number of of other card manufactures did the same sort of thing in their cards.

The main problem is when directly upsample/downsample to frequencies that are not integer ratios is you get digital artefacts which translates to distortion or noise. It seems that the best way to do this is to have an analogue stage between. I don't know how the semi pro card operate but I think it would be wise to investigate this prior to purchasing.

My solution was to get a second hand (old) roku M2000 which has a older chip set that does not upsample. I personally don't like the idea of needing my PC on when I want to listen to music. I use a NAS drive with a music server installed on it. All my FLAC files are sitting on this NAS drive. I simply select what I want through the Roku which gets the data straight from the NAS via my home LAN (Ethernet) . I only use the PC to create the FLAC files and save them on the NAS.
 

kingnothing83

New member
Nov 16, 2007
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Just spotted a Marantz PM4001 selling new (but ex demo) on ebay for £80. Was tempted for that price but i think i should wait for the rotel ra-04 because thats really the one im after, would like to find it second hand for £150 ideally though but there doesnt seem to be any around at the moment!
 

kingnothing83

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Nov 16, 2007
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I think i might take a trip to my local richer sounds and have a listen to the tannoy custom f1's. I am a little concerned that i'll find them lacking in bass as in upgrade to a seperates hifi system i'll lose my pc speaker's monster subwoofer. I dont like too much bass and have the sub on a very low setting but am worried i'll miss is when its gone.

Could someone give me any feedback to what the bass is like with the custom f1's? Perhaps some floor stand speakers would be better for me but because of space and the extra expense i'd be happier with a bookshelf solution. Thanks again
 

Andy Clough

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Apr 27, 2004
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Well, here's what we said when we tested the Tannoy Fis:

"There's better bass than you might expect from a speaker of this size - and not the woolly stuff, but a tight, tuneful presentation of low-frequency information that never pretends to extend further than that small cabinet allows."

In other words, the bass is tight and well controlled, but obviously the speakers' small dimensions means that their bass doesn't delve as deep as bigger rivals. Still, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
 

kingnothing83

New member
Nov 16, 2007
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Great thanks a lot, i think i'll definitely go with that setup then. Seem to be able to get the speakers for £80-90 online or in richer sounds so i might go pick them up in person. For the amp tho i might wait a couple weeks and see if one turns up second hand. Any recommendations on good stereo to phono and speaker wire? Someone advised me to spend 10% of the system price on cables, so i guess my total budget would be £30ish £40 at a push, only need about 2m of wire for each speaker possibly 1.5m each. Cheers
 

Andy Clough

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Apr 27, 2004
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QED Silver Anniversary XT speaker cable is a great budget buy at £5/m, and for the stereo interconnect I'd go with is the £38 Chord Company Crimson.
 

kingnothing83

New member
Nov 16, 2007
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Great, i'd heard those speaker cables mentioned before. As for the chord crimson though, it seems to be rca-rca, and the amp will be plugged into my pc soundcard which doesnt have an rca output, any ideas on a rca-3.5mm stereo jack? Thanks again
 

kingnothing83

New member
Nov 16, 2007
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Or perhaps something like the QED quenex j2p interconnect would be better? Would this do the job of going from my soundcard to my amp? http://www.hifibitz.co.uk/product.asp?id=3397

Thanks again!
 

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