unless you know you have a problem, you don't.
plug everything important into this gizmo. It's capacitors's provide enough clean juice for any musical peaks. You can fill it with bad juice, it doesn't care. garbage in/clean out,
If it's 60 Hz hum (assuming you live in North America) then it's a power supply issue. Anything else is most likely interference coming from a PC component or perhaps a wi-fi router that's close by.
Try to write down the conditions when you notice any noise coming from your headphones or speakers. Were you moving your mouse? Playing a game? Accessing something from the disk drive? Note the nature of the noise too - is it steady (hiss, white noise) or intermittent (bursts of static).
Try moving sources of interference away from your setup or turning them off entirely. This includes mobile phones, Bluetooth transmitters, and wi-fi access points.
How important is it to make sure an audio PC is built specifically for that purpose. Is cross talk between PC parts common in terms of creating noise that will be audible through monitors or headphones.
What steps would you guys reccomend to figure out if noise is being generated by components rather than a power outlet?
Is it very expensive to hire an electrician to install audio friendly outlets in your home/studio?
I got this,...
The conventional wisdom (as I have noted elsewhere) is that PCs are so electrically noisy that they degrade sound quality. When Stereophile reviewed a PC sound card they found no evidence of this. The way I look at it is if they can't hear it with their audiophile ears and better equipment than I can't either.
Sound quality varies among motherboards. Try for a gaming board as they tend to be more expensive but better SQ.
Yes, it can be very expensive to install dedicated circuits for audio. Especially on newer homes built on a concrete slab. If you have a crawlspace under your house and the outlet is on the first floor then it might not be too bad. If you decide to do this ask the electrician to install a 3-wire circuit using metal clad cable. That will give you metal shielding and 2-120V circuits instead of one. It only requires one more conductor in the cable and one more circuit breaker but will double your power and reduce the voltage drop. This is especially nice if it's along way from the outlet to the electrical panel.
I personally think that the so-called audio grade receptacles are ridiculous. If you are concerned about this I would suggest a good Hubbell receptacle. They are bulletproof.
How to tell where interference is coming from is to move your audio and power cable around and see what makes the sound go away. Worked for me anyway.
I think we need some context to be helpful. For high quality audio you need a streamer… which is technically a PC, but designed around being nothing else… a great steamer will weigh 30 lbs or more, look like an audio component and do nothing else. The one I own is unbelievable sounding…. and cost $22K. On the other end of the spectrum is a very good sounding streamer like the BlueSound… for around what you would pay for a PC.
Unless you are an audio engineer I am not sure you are goinging to,be building a PC that sounds “good”. I have used many variants of PCs, laptops, amd Macbooks. They only get you to not sounding quit as good as a Bluesound streamer.
But all this is dependent on your amp, preamp, speakers… etc. so, to be helpful. We really need to know what you have, your interest, and goals. My system has two direct lines (dedicated electrical lines from the breaker box to my audio system) and special duplex receptacles. The average cost of my electrical components is $20K… you can see my system under my user ID. Is your system worth $1K, $5K, $10K…etc. What level are you aspiring to?
I'll take that as a challenge. A lot of streamers sold in the same range as the bluesound are not much more than a Raspberry PIs with some linear power supplies and an adapter hat. like PI2AES. (which is no longer being made.)
The reason expensive ones weigh so much are the power supplies are built into the box.
This is WAY overkill to me but the components are available and can be purchased pretty inexpensively.
I'm going to try to build one this winter but will probably just use Chinese linear power supplies.
I currently use a the USB out of an I5 fanless PC running Windows, Foobar and Fidelizer and it sounds better than my PI streamer running an Allo digione both are using switching power supplies.
I have started looking for components to build a player/streamer myself. I will be using a Intel i7-12700 CPU in a Streamcom FC10 fanless case. I have already purchased the hard-to-find ST-ZF240 passive power supply to be used within this build. Now looking for an appropriate motherboard and RAM. Eventually will look for a audiophile USB card. I have never built a PC before. So will be interested in knowing what configuration you would be using.
I'm currently listening to Qobuz on a Raspberry Pi 4 running PiCorePlayer. Power supply is the switching wall wart that came with the Canakit RPi 4. Total cost less than $100. USB connection to a Schiit Modi 3 DAC, driving a STAX earspeaker system.
It sounds very nice, with no noise that I can detect. I haven't tried it with a linear power supply, so can't say if that would be better, but it's perfectly fine as it is.
I appears to me that the Streacom ST-ZF240 ZeroFlex 240W Passive PSU is a switching power supply. It is fanless but from what I’ve gleaned from the specs of the high end streamers is that they all use linear power supplies to reduce electrical noise.
In one of the reviews of the PINK FAUN STREAMER 2.16X
“For example, the ATX to the motherboard contains 5 different voltage levels all having their own linear regulation. Pink Faun has designed a full linear PSU and makes no use of any DC to ATX converter. “
That’s a little overkill for my skill level but there is an ATX converter that separates a 12V input 160 Watt to the ATX voltage adapter.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005TWE6B8/?coliid=I3GUHXMM4WM2Z&colid=19SGDZ5EOZ98N&psc=1&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_ita large 12V linear PS should provide enough to power it.
This limits me to MicroITX but I’m hoping this configuration will work for my purpose as I only need one PCIe slot. I still researching power requirements but hopefully the ASRock Z690M-ITX/ax board will fit the bill. I’m looking for I2S only and there is a Pink Faun I2S board (they also make a USB board). It appears to have a DC input. I haven’t contacted them yet but if I can power it with a separate power supply I should be OK with only 160 Watts but will need two power supplies.
In the middle of writing this I did find a TeraDack ATX linear power supply. For around $1600 820 Watts of linear ATX power
I’ve built a lot of computers in my day but that was years ago and not only has a lot changed, this is a very different beast. Making sure all the components will fit with the correct orientation in a fanless case that has a PCIe adapter location. (Streacom st-fc8s-alpha ???) A low power CPU that won’t overheat with only 87 Watts of cooling. I probably won’t know if all this is going to work until I build it and I’m sure I missed something but it’s still just a motherboard, power supply, ram, hard disk storage and OS.
If there is anybody out there that has some tips or pointers or additional information PLEASE let me know.
The Raspberry PI solution sure seems a lot more strait forward and while I’ve used Volumio I’ve never used LMS . A I2S hat with a linear power supply that would allow me to play Qobuz and my stored music files from my listening chair may be all I need. I’m using USB now and at times it sounds pretty good but as you know it can always be better.
You are absolutely right. It is indeed a switching power supply. My goal for the current build is to "build my first desktop". I have never done this before. But after 2 days of searching the internet, I am almost ready once the parts come in and I have to order a few more.
As for LSP, that will be in the future. If you need a really good LPS, then check out the following link:
These LPS are made in the US and have "ripple: of 0.25 to 1.5mV, which I understand is fantastic.
Thanks,. I do have some USB PCIe cards in mind and JCAT is one of them. But that will happen later. Current focus is to build a desktop because the laptop is getting old and I cannot do DSD 512 in the Foobar because of processing capability of that old laptop.
Thanks @lalitk ,
But tonight I got a message that the compact power supply I ordered is cancelled because it became "out of stock". I was initially disappointed a bit. But then I thought - things happen for good. So now I will look to use a Linear Power Supply to power up the PC. Also will go with a ATX mothernoard instead of micro-ATX motherboard. The goal is to use a Nano160 PSU (DC-DC) and power it with a Linear Power Supply. So the build is going to take some time to start.
I have successfully built the Audio Server to replace my aging laptop. I replaced the laptop with the server this past weekend. I have no idea how much of a profound effect a server has on the audio system. I used to think that the DAC would be more important than the server. But this has opened up my eyes (or rather ears). For now all I will say is that it is like going from a 1999 Honda Civic to a 2022 BMW 5 Series.
I am so thrilled with this build that I have set a goal to create a separate system page specifically for the the server build so that it encourages others to see how easy it is and how they can improve the sound of their system drastically. I will be including all the components and the pictures of each stage. I hope to get this done in the next couple of weeks.
Thank You @danager
Your input played an important role in my build. It was the power supply. I am glad I did not go with the AC-DC converter inside the box. It is done using a Delll brick outside the box. I forgot to mention that and take a picture.
In my limited experience with PC audio, I found a guy who takes a laptop, and reconfigures it for best audio. I know little other than this: The laptop used is a Lenovo ThinkPad, Windows is NOT used in the setup, and because it has a disc drive, I can rip CDs 'bit perfect' onto the SS drive. Playback is so much more impressive than I thought that it would be. I am using a USB port out to a Dragonfly Red DAC.
If you are up to an inexpensive experiment I'd like to get your feedback. Scrounging the forums Ted Smith (the designer of the PSAudio PerfectWave DAC) suggested that the issue with USB as a connection is the 5V power included within the signal cable. His suggestion was to insert a linear powered USB hub to clean up the signal. I haven't purchased the 5V linear power supply yet but just blocking the power from the computer and using a powered hub I was able to make a significant change to my system.
Power blocker to remove the 5V from the source
Powered USB 2.0 hub.
So for about $30 I was able to improve separation and add low base.
Both items are returnable if your experience isn't positive but I've got to get my head around the changes before I spend the additional $90 for a LPS.
Yes, I have read the same. In fact high end USB cards have separate power inputs for the same reason. At this point, I am happy with the setup. I am sure the itch will come at some point in time. I will most likely experiment at that point, when I decide to upgrade to a high end USB card.
@milpai I completely understand and really envious of being completely happy with your system. It never seems to last more than a week for me until I'm trying to identify the weakest link after an upgrade. I do feel I'm pretty lucky with the PSAudio DAC as it does all the reclocking internally, so I probably wouldn't notice the full benefits of a high end USB card, isolation on the other hand is the key for me in my current setup. I've read here on the forum where members have said the server upgrade was more substantial than the DAC upgrade. I now believe it as all I did was filter out the computers 5V power and I swear to you it completely changes my system for the better.
Be sure to post your experiences with the USB card as your journey can provide answers to many, including me.
Based on the years of experiences I gained in the audio journey, I can easily trust what you are saying. Personal experiences and an open mind (and ears, of course) are all that you need to learn in this hobby. All you need to do now is to focus on the music and have fun with the newly upgraded system.
I don't think the USB card is going to happen anytime soon. In fact I gained more musicality and dynamism when I removed the SSD drive that had the music files. Now the drive is connected to the NAS via USB. Obviously I removed the SATA cables and the "tray" that you see in the system, where the SSD was placed. Small changes do make meaningful impact on the listening experiences.