Want To Hear How Amazing Computer Audio Can Be?

At the end of last year I decided to make the leap of faith from CD to computer audio, the results have been staggering! I am now 100% convinced this is the best option to achieve studio quality sound in the home.

If you want to hear just how good computer audio can be, download the, for free, HD Tracks 2013 24/96 FLAC sampler and listen to tracks 1 and 5 (all 10 tracks are amazing, these just happen to be my favorites). I have never heard my HiFi system sound this good, every bit as good as anything I have heard before at various HiFi shows over the years. I am not going to get into a subjective discussion on why my system sounds so good (bass extension, dynamic range, resolution etc., etc.), just listen for yourself.

My system is comprised of a MacBook Air (2012 MY running OSX 10.8.3) with Audirvana Plus, via USB to a MF V-Link 24/96 USB to S/PDIF converter, feeding a Krell HTS 7.1 (DAC and volume control) into a Krell KSA-250 power amp and B&W N801 speakers. I could not be happier, OK I exaggerate somewhat, if money were no object I am sure some changes would be made!

Forgot to mention, the cable to the Krell HTS 7.1 from the MF V-Link is Toslink, sounds better than digital coax to me.
I picked Lenovo Q190 mini desktop and replaced original HDD with SSD right after I've unpacked it. Next my upgrade is placing PC components onto the heatsink and removing processor fan which is not even audible 4' away.
Windows give me possibility to browse torrents and download piles of music at a time.
Nice system, homeboy! I've been into PC-based playback for a few years now, and I use it as an adjunct to playing shiny discs on my Oppo BDP-93. I fully agree with you, the sound quality that is available via 24 bit, 96/192 kHz is astonishing.

And when you factor in the incredible dynamic range and extended frequency response - far exceeding that available with vinyl playback - as well as the vanishingly low noise floor and absolutely "black" inter-track silence, it all adds up to what I find to be a very enjoyable experience.

BTW, it may be that you prefer TOSLINK because of its absolute rejection of RFI-induced gremlins, unlike the antenna that is a coax cable.

Anyway, keep on plugging away with new additions to your digital library, there is more and more quality music to be found with each passing day...

The chain of hook ups and components needed to get there always just sounds ridiculous. I don't even know what those things are, or what they do. Why can't I just plug the computer into the old school HiFi. I guess I can understand that a DAC might be needed, but, still? Maybe a "music server" is what I could use, but why do they cost thousands. Digital should be cheap, I thought. I know I am sounding ignorent, so, please enlighten me.

I had the same concern when initially thinking about getting into computer audio, looks complicated, it is not. All you need, in addition to a computer, is software to manage the computer audio files (FLAC, AIFF etc.), I use Audirvana Plus, there are several others programs available, including iTunes if you are prepared to limit yourself to AIFF/ALAC downloads. Next you need some method of getting the digital file out of your computer to a DAC. I use a USB to S/PDIF converter. Some DACs will now accept the USB signal direct. That's it. HD Tracks have a good tutorial on what is required to download and play HD audio files.

Just in case anyone thinks I have an affiliation with HD Tracks, I do not. I just happen to like their site for learning about HD audio and as a source for HD audio (24 bit, 96kHz FLAC in my case; higher resolution formats are now becoming available) files.
There will always be new ways to sell us the old music, but lots of new music too to keep us from living to much in the past.
Computer audio newbies can go from refined LINN/Meridian/Lumin systems to Mac Mini to diy C.A.P.S. system. We're early days for music selection and shakeout of early music server/streamer devices. Will be exciting to watch our kids get better audio system than we had as kids at a fraction of the cost.
Hifiharv - how much do you want to spend - does that include the computer or do you have one?

A very simple implementation would be to plug you computers speaker jack into you hi-fi - load iTunes (or one of many others) to play the music or stream internet radio - voila!

If it's a more recent computer, it may have an optical output or USB, so you could progress to the next level.

Next level would be to include a DAC - affordable/quality units like the schiit bifrost at $350 - see review - will give you pretty good quality sound


And from there the world is YOUR oyster

Then you can get into the hi-def stuff - but ensure the DAC you choose supports the sample rate you want to get to.

Also, some dacs support different maximum sample rates for optical vs s/pdif vs USB - just be sure to check before you buy

And yes - cable quality does matter - I like DH Labs - great quality at reasonable price.

You have to decide what you want - simple, or better sound, or even for ultimate portability - Bluetooth from your cell phone

Your choice
This is an old old thread but I enjoyed reading it because I’m just in the middle stages of getting into streaming.  It’s been COMPLICATED in the overall sense because I have three stereo systems in my house to convert to digital and I think there’s a lot to learn mainly because there are so many choices, 
The computer was pretty easy in comparison.  It’s a Windows 7 desktop and the internal ASUS Xonar Essence STX sound card, pricey and very highly rated,  has never been compatible with my power supply and I’ve never been able to keep it working.    So I bought an external USB DAC which will be delivered on Monday  a not so cheap Audio Alchemy DDP-1 with upgraded power supply and I VERY  much hope it will be a much better performer than my internal sound card was.  I’m now looking for a decent USB cable and RCA cables and then I hope it will sing on the wonderful hi res music now available.
The stereo components at my computer are oldies but mostly goodies, a Musical Fidelity A3cr Preamp and an Adcom Amp and Spendor S3/5 Monitor Speakers.  Would like to upgrade the Amp and I’ll be set for awhile.

Want to take it to the next level?

Change from USB to Ethernet playback using a good player software like Linn Kinsky and Minimserver.  This smokes anything USB and optimizations are simpler than with USB.  Here is my comparison:


Interchange is one way to get there:


Also, try comparing your FLAC file to the same wav file.  Change it to wav using DBpoweramp on PC or XLD on Mac.  If your system is up to it you should be able to easily hear the difference.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I have been using a AOIP solution for two years the Focusrite Red Net 3 with the Dante virtual soundcard  installed on my Mac Mini.
  I love to hear about musically better ways to do things, but I am too technically challenged to figure how to use your idea.
   Let’s start with my soon to arrive Audio Alchemy USB DAC.  It doesn’t have an Ethernet port.  It does have a USB port.   Theoretically, how would I “take it to the next level”?

It's actually easier to use Ethernet than USB.  You just plug and play.  The player software finds the players on the network automatically.

If you want to improve your USB, then you have a couple of options:

1) get a USB isolator (USB port hub) for the USB cable


2) convert USB to Ethernet by putting an Ethernet to USB converter ahead of the DAC - see:


This is a very popular solution with multiple levels of upgrade.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio