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View Full Version : Can you get audiophile data stream out of PC Notebook?



Timbo
2006-10-07, 06:14
I have just upgraded to iTunes 7 - love the album art scrolling view, not only that but scrolling through my album covers on screen makes me realise just how many great albums I haven't listened to in ages (years even!).

So now I stop work and cease listening to my music on my crappy PC speakers and go into my living room and fire up SB3 and think - amazing sound...but am I really limited to that little display with the basic info on it! Why can't I see my album cover when it is playing, why can't I click and access info on the artist, sample their latest album maybe, see similar artists and have my horizons stretched...ahh...of course for that I need to go back to the PC and fire-up iTunes (or something similar of course)!

So I had a thought (which is where it usually goes all wrong!:-)- what about if I utilise my notebook, dislodge the Squeezebox from atop my hi-fi rack and connect the notebook via same network to my collection of music on my server (and hence out into the Internet) and then...to my hi-fi...but this is where it all starts to falls down or so I am given to believe.

It seems that the output from your average soundcard is, er, not exactly bit perfect. So my question is guys and gals - just how does the SB3 manage to sound so good and how does it grab data from the PC in a different way to a soundcard?

Plus - is there a way of connecting your PC straight to your hi-fi (as in a Media PC for example or just playing from say iTunes) but still get that audiophile sound quality the SB3 manages - would be fascinated to gain any insight and knowledge into this as it seems an obvious step for someone who want to integrate their love of music with the wonderful things technology and the internet can offer now :-)

..

opaqueice
2006-10-07, 06:47
It seems that the output from your average soundcard is, er, not exactly bit perfect. So my question is guys and gals - just how does the SB3 manage to sound so good and how does it grab data from the PC in a different way to a soundcard?

Plus - is there a way of connecting your PC straight to your hi-fi (as in a Media PC for example or just playing from say iTunes) but still get that audiophile sound quality the SB3 manages - would be fascinated to gain any insight and knowledge into this as it seems an obvious step for someone who want to integrate their love of music with the wonderful things technology and the internet can offer now :-)

..


The SB is a small computer with an ethernet card inside. It grabs data from your server just like any other computer gets data off a TCP/IP network - as data packets, with error checking etc. That means errors essentially never occur. Once the data has arrived it plays out in a normal fashion (essentially in the same way a CD player works after it's read some data from the CD and filled its buffer).

PC soundcards are not designed with sound quality in mind, and often resample, among other sins (and can really sound awful sometimes). What you'll be able to do here depends on your card - does it have a digital out? If so, hook it up to an external DAC, and you should have pretty decent sound. If not you're stuck with the analogue outs: all you can do is connect that to an amp (probably with a Y RCA cable), and it will either sound acceptible to you or not.

CardinalFang
2006-10-07, 10:19
PC soundcards are not designed with sound quality in mind, and often resample, among other sins (and can really sound awful sometimes).

Before I had my SB2 I was using a M-audio Audiophile 2496, mainly for recording LPs, but the sound out of that was pretty damn good, certainly worth the £50 it cost me. I switch to an SB2 in the end because the PowerMac it was in was way too noisy, but I was playing music via iTunes and through my system it was mighty fine.

Timbo
2006-10-07, 11:26
Did hear you can get an external sound card (from Russ Andrews) and plug it into the USB port - but again you are left with a sound card between you and the music I suppose..:-/

CardinalFang
2006-10-07, 11:44
Did hear you can get an external sound card (from Russ Andrews) and plug it into the USB port - but again you are left with a sound card between you and the music I suppose..:-/

The problem most people have with sound cards is the (electrically) noisy environment that they operate in, namely a PC. However, given the cost of most of them, it's not much of a risk to try out a card or USB device.I have heard of a couple of audiophile ones too - M-audio do one and a quick google of USB DAC threw up quite a few.

tomsi42
2006-10-07, 13:25
The problem most people have with sound cards is the (electrically) noisy environment that they operate in, namely a PC. However, given the cost of most of them, it's not much of a risk to try out a card or USB device.I have heard of a couple of audiophile ones too - M-audio do one and a quick google of USB DAC threw up quite a few.

The USB cards should (theoretically) be better as they are outside the (electronically) noisy box.

radish
2006-10-07, 15:03
If all you want is to display cover art etc, why not just use the notebook with the slimserver interface?

tomsi42
2006-10-07, 15:53
If all you want is to display cover art etc, why not just use the notebook with the slimserver interface?

When I read Timbo's post the first time, I thought the same. But I wasn't smrat enough to ask that question...

vickibma
2006-10-08, 07:42
So.. to simplify for the simple (me):

Does the sound card in the computer I'm using as my Slim Server effect the quality of the signal being sent to my powered speakers?

I have an SB Live! wave card that is about 5 yrs. old. It seems to have some kind of integrated video as well, so maybe I chose it for my children's game-playing.

And to keep things in perspective- I'm using the I-Tunes format with powered speakers, so uber-audiophile perfection isn't sought or even possible. I just want to optimize what I've got without entering the realm of improvements that can only be measured by instruments.

Thanks to anyone who can give me a reasonably simple answer!

opaqueice
2006-10-08, 07:53
So.. to simplify for the simple (me):

Does the sound card in the computer I'm using as my Slim Server effect the quality of the signal being sent to my powered speakers?


That depends on how you're sending the signal to the speakers.

If you're asking whether the sound card affects the quality of a signal coming out of a squeezebox, the answer is no - they have nothing to do with one another. You could remove your server's sound card and the SB would work perfectly. Think of the SB as an additional computer connected to the server over a network - why would it care about the sound card in the server?

If you're asking does the sound card affect the quality of the signal coming out of the sound card, the answer is yes...

Timbo
2006-10-08, 12:12
radish: If all you want is to display cover art etc, why not just use the notebook with the slimserver interface?

I thought along those lines too, but Slimserver is a bit basic compared to software like iTunes although I know it isn't meant to the job of something like iTunes. What I would like is the iTunes 7 scrolling cover art interface and all the interactive functionality the software delivers - but I don't want to give up the sound quality of the Squeezebox way of getting data to my DAC :-)

Now what say you about this idea: say we had a low battery consumption (so you can leave it on a fair bit), small sub-notebook PC running iTunes and connected to a NAS via wi-fi for its music folder. A sort of interactive and highly capable 'remote control' for iTunes served audio? Now what if Squeezebox could get its data from iTunes instead of Slimserver (like Roku Soundbridge if I remember - could be wrong here?). You could cue up a playlist or click album art or whatever on your little notebook on the coffee table and low and behold the Squeezebox would start playing it.

Or: perhaps if somebody wrote a 'push' function script to force Slimserver to deliver what iTunes is playing? Slimserver could still run dishing data to the SB as usual - all you would be doing is using iTunes as your front end to Slimserver?

Ahh! As if it were that simple I know :-)

I suppose we will all have Media PC's in our living room in a few years time (as some do now!) and they will serve up everything and connect your audio, video, internet, telephone etc. - it simply doesnít make sense to have separate dedicated boxes to perform very basic tasks that a single computer with the appropriate software and cards inside can deal with. Streaming devices may well be fondly remembered as 'bridge' products that filled an important gap in those days when the PC was stored elsewhere and living room technology came up to speed.

Of course there is still the problem of delivering the data from the Media Centre to the screen, surround sound processor and hi-fi amp in the most accurate way - a future Meridian Media Centre is definitely on my Xmas List when I win the Lottery ...(or maybe a Slim Devices one if it gets to market first :-)

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tomjtx
2006-10-08, 12:28
If all you want is to display cover art etc, why not just use the notebook with the slimserver interface?

I use my macbook with Ben's nokia 770 interface, it works great. But itunes 7 stores the album art cover i a different place. I you can figure out how to put the artwork in your itunes music folder you can do all you want.Just use your wi-fi to go to slimserver.
I can't figure out how to put the album art where I need it however :-(
If it takes more than pushing a button I get lost...............

radish
2006-10-08, 12:50
I suppose we will all have Media PC's in our living room in a few years time (as some do now!)

I did - replaced it with a squeezebox and then a transporter.



it simply doesnít make sense to have separate dedicated boxes to perform very basic tasks that a single computer with the appropriate software and cards inside can deal with.

It does if the dedicated boxes do the job so much better than a general purpose unit.

pfarrell
2006-10-08, 13:07
Timbo wrote:
> I suppose we will all have Media PC's in our living room in a few years
> time (as some do now!) and they will serve up everything and connect
> your audio, video, internet, telephone etc.

That is a vision that Microsoft, Intel and others have.
I don't share it, for a couple of reasons:

I loved my SqueezeBox and am liking my Transporter.

A PC is a terrible place to have analog signals. In my recording studio,
and most other folks' recording studios, you use outboard boxes to
contain the DACs, to keep the important signals away from all the hash
inside a PC. (two sets of M-Audio Delta 1010s is what I use).

I don't have any interesting in being more wed to MS software.

PCs use far too much power relative to what they deliver. A good Media
Center PC draws 250 watts, a Transporter draws 10.

PCs make too damn much noise, mostly because they draw too much power.
Have too many fans, moving parts, disk drives, etc.

I much prefer having my SlimServer in a box in the basement where I
never have to look at it, touch it, or listen to it.

I will grant that the Cable companies share your view. What is a
Set-top-box other than a computer that sits between your cable and TV?

--
Pat
http://www.pfarrell.com/music/slimserver/slimsoftware.html

Timbo
2006-10-08, 14:46
I think it is obvious that the 'media centre' thing just isn't there yet - I agree it isn't for me either at the moment - but I don't think this is how it will always be. I embrace technology (I suppose I am one of those early adopters, I bet many of us here are!) I strive to understand it when it isn't obvious (hence loads of questions in excellent learning centres like here :-) and use it every day when I can.

I don't want a boring rectangular box that I have to insert a single silver disc, in order to watch a film or listen to an album - then get up and change the disc when I fancy listening/watching something else. I get part way to where I want to go with Squeezebox and Slimserver and I love it.

Where else do I want to go, well I want to choose my media from an interactive menu, graphical and entertaining - probably on my TV screen or a dedicated remote control with a decent LCD display. I want to click on a film whilst it is playing and pause the action, hover over a character and get bio details, links to other films featuring this actor, director and so on. Same goes for listening to an album, I want links to similar types of music, other albums by this artist - videos accompanying the album to play on my screen if I choose (one day you know folks are gonna say Ďdid they really listen to just sounds with no video!í in real life there are always pictures, even if itís an orchestra playing).

All these things might still happen in separate boxes actually, but so long as they talk to each other thatís ok, and so long as they can all go out into the ether and get information to accompany what they are doing separately that also is fine - I personally reckon however it will be a one box affair, and probably centred around the telly (that being where most stuff happens in most households these days) but that is just my tidy mind I suppose :-)

Still if itís box removal I am after then my faithful and trusty Meridian 508-24 bit CD player has been the first casualty, replaced by my Squeezebox 3 - which is a probably 85% as good in some cases and better in others. Not so smooth perhaps, but definitely as detailed - perhaps it is all in the delivery! Now I want the rest of the stuff...now...just being wholly unrealistic and trying to push the envelope a bit probably :-)

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