Total beginner, what did I need and what to do !


New member
Aug 10, 2019
Can someone please give me a basic description on how and a list of equipment needed for downloading music and playing through stereo speakers.

I have tried to understand the basics, but confused even at this stage !

The only equipment I have is a laptop (wireless) and also desk top computer, no i pod or mp3. I do not require if to be portable.

I just want to download songs (not films) and then connect to a stereo amp and get a decent sound ! I would probably need an outside hard drive as the computer is years old, and the laptop does not have a very large hard drive.

I don't know where to begin.....

Thanks !


Well-known member
Jan 2, 2008
Step 1 - Music Manager for your PC.

Firstly you need a music manager for your computer. This is the programme that will import CDs and download music for you, create the music files, sort them and play them. The most well known programme is itunes. You can download it for free. Apple then hopes you go to their online store and purchase downloads from there. Itunes is a bit restrictive particularly with using an mp3 player, you can only use the ipod. (if you are a computer buff there are ways round this, but I will keep it simple) If you have a Windows PC then you have a music manager already installed, Windows Media Player. This will also allow downloading (but not directly from the Apple download store). There are other music managers such as Songbird, Foobar and Media Monkey. Google them and see if you find one more presentable and eaier to use than another. Simplest would be WMP or itunes.

Step 2 - Downloading music.

I have mentioned compatibility issues with downloading tracks off the internet. There are loads of different music files available - mp3, AAC, WMA, Apple Lossless, Vorbis etc etc. Different music files have different bit rates. Generally speaking the higher the bit rate the better the quality of sound. Apart from a few high end online music shops the majority of downloads are under 300kbps. To give you a comparison, a CD imported losslessly can have a bit rate of 450 to over 1000kbps. You need to decide how important sound quality is over the space needed to store files. The bigger the file to more space you need. Once you have decided your music manager then you are guided as to what type of file you can download. I use itunes and have download music from their store and the Amazon and eMusic online stores. With Window Media Player you can also download from Amazon and I presume the others (except itunes) without difficulty.

There are file converters to change the type of file to get round compatibility issues. But that gets complicated again.

The actual downloading of music involves setting up an account with an online store such as itunes or Amazon and then following the instructions to click on tracks. The tracks will automatically download into your music manager.

Step 3 - Storing Music Files.

You say you do not have enough memory on your PC. You can buy extra memory from £50 up and for example 80gb will store my 350 CDs and various downloads, though not all are at the highest lossless bit rates. The cheapest memory is hard drives which connect to your PC with a USB cable. You can also get Network Hard Drives, which wirelessly connect to your PC via your router and Network Assisted Storage NAS which can be run independently of the PC. I will not go into any more detail yet as it gets really confusing.

Step 4 - Playing your music files.

There are various ways to connect a PC to an amplifier. The simplest is a minjack in the headphone out put of the PC to phono cable where the phonos connect onto a spare phono input on your amp. This connection is not the best as the digital to analogue signal conversion is done by the PCs soundcard, which is usually not the greatest. The best way to connect a PC to an amp is with a digital to analogue converter or DAC. There are loads of DACs on the market and popular ones on the forum are from Beresford, Dacmagic, V-DAC and Firestone. They range from about £150 to £250. You connect the DAC to the PC with a digital or USB cable. The DAC then connects to the amp with phono cables. The DAC bypasses the PCs soundcard. When you connect a DAC it usually has a file which it installs intself onto the PC and away you go. Press play on your music manager and beautiful music is magically taken from the music file on your hard drive by the music manager, digitally sent to the DAC which the sends an analogue signal to your amp, which drives the speakers.


Wow, thanks alot idc! Very informative reply. Time to start putting a small shopping list together of equipment.