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  1. #1
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    Newbie seeking the best sound quality

    Would the SB3, or the Transporter, be a sonic improvement over my current setup? I play WAV files directly from my PC to a digital input on a Theta Casablanca 3 with Extreme DACs.

    My "sound card" is a Realtek AC '97 chip on the motherboard, and its only digital output is coax. I don't know whether it resamples or not.

    The cable is a 50ft 2X shielded OFC RG6 cable with gold-plated connectors from monoPrice.com. There is no hum or audible noise.

    The Theta is plugged into an EquiTek balanced power conditioner and is (I think) isolated from the AC circuit into which the PC is plugged.

    Because the Theta DACs are so good, I would expect to use the S/PDIF output on the SB3 or Transporter.

    Any advice will be gratefully received. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member tomsi42's Avatar
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    If you are using windows, it is a big possibility that you aren't getting the best sound possible. Windows does some processing to the files before they go the the DAC.

    In your case, I would recommend the SB3, and that you convert your music files to FLAC or Apple lossless. This is to embed the artist name, track, name etc into the music files (as well as takes less disc space). Use Apple lossless if you are using iTunes, otherwise use FLAC.

    Another benefit is that you don't have to place the PC near your stereo.

    Tom
    SB3, Rotel RC-1070/RB-1070, dynaBel Exact, Kimber Kable 4TC and Timbre.

  3. #3
    Senior Member peejay's Avatar
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    Move away fromt he PC

    Generally. moving audio reproduction circuits away from any possible interference is a first move to improving sound quality.
    The humble act of moving power cables away from source or speaker cables in a stereo setup, for example, can in some cases make an audible difference. In the case of a PC, the RF (Radio Frequency) influence on the soundcard is likely to be significant, and an on-board chip and audio stage is likely to suffer even more so.
    I echo Tom's advice of the Squeezebox setup, as a first measure.
    I've got a fever above my waist
    You got a squeeze box on your knee
    I know the truth is in between the 1st and 40th drink - Tori Amos
    Squeezebox Classic -> NAD T743 -> Krix Phoenix
    Oh, and a BOOM...

  4. #4
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    As far as I'm aware AC'97 requires that all signals are mixed to 16-bit 48KHz? In windows it's possible to bypass kmixer which does this nasty stuff but it maybe that your onboard sound does this as well...i.e. all Creative cards do this in hardware.

    Unless you're doing things like bypassing kmixer I doubt your PC is passing untouched digital signals to your DAC.

    I'd say the squeezebox will give better quality, but like everything it's subjective as to whether or not you can actually tell the difference.

  5. #5
    Senior Member peejay's Avatar
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    Subjective indeed

    Quote Originally Posted by probedb View Post
    As far as I'm aware AC'97 requires that all signals are mixed to 16-bit 48KHz? In windows it's possible to bypass kmixer which does this nasty stuff but it maybe that your onboard sound does this as well...i.e. all Creative cards do this in hardware.

    Unless you're doing things like bypassing kmixer I doubt your PC is passing untouched digital signals to your DAC.

    I'd say the squeezebox will give better quality, but like everything it's subjective as to whether or not you can actually tell the difference.
    I Agree, it is all subjective - in the ears of the beholder, so to speak. Computer and audio delivery technologies are inevitably merging, but discreet audio devices such as the squeezebox, still have the edge, IMHO.
    I've got a fever above my waist
    You got a squeeze box on your knee
    I know the truth is in between the 1st and 40th drink - Tori Amos
    Squeezebox Classic -> NAD T743 -> Krix Phoenix
    Oh, and a BOOM...

  6. #6
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by DirectViewer View Post
    Would the SB3, or the Transporter, be a sonic improvement over my current setup? I play WAV files directly from my PC to a digital input on a Theta Casablanca 3 with Extreme DACs.

    Any advice will be gratefully received. Thanks!
    Why not buy a TP direct and get a free SB3?
    That way you can compare both. If you don't think the TP is better, sell it for 1,700
    and break even. There are plenty of people who have SB's that would love to get a TP for 1,700.
    But please try the TP without the Theta for at least a week. Don't assume the Theta is better. You might be surprised and end up selling the Theta.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by peejay View Post
    I Agree, it is all subjective - in the ears of the beholder, so to speak. Computer and audio delivery technologies are inevitably merging, but discreet audio devices such as the squeezebox, still have the edge, IMHO.
    I agree with you there. Takes some very high quality sound cards to get the quality analogue out from a PC Digital is easier but usually a bit messier due to Windows messing with the audio without you asking.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tomsi42 View Post
    If you are using windows, it is a big possibility that you aren't getting the best sound possible. Windows does some processing to the files before they go the the DAC.

    In your case, I would recommend the SB3, and that you convert your music files to FLAC or Apple lossless. This is to embed the artist name, track, name etc into the music files (as well as takes less disc space). Use Apple lossless if you are using iTunes, otherwise use FLAC.

    Another benefit is that you don't have to place the PC near your stereo.

    Tom
    Thanks, Tom. I play WAV files with Foobar2000 (http://www.foobar2000.org/) using the "kernel streaming" option, which bypasses Windows and sends the output directly to the sound chip.

    FLAC sounds like a great idea. I will definitely look into it.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by peejay View Post
    Generally. moving audio reproduction circuits away from any possible interference is a first move to improving sound quality.
    The humble act of moving power cables away from source or speaker cables in a stereo setup, for example, can in some cases make an audible difference. In the case of a PC, the RF (Radio Frequency) influence on the soundcard is likely to be significant, and an on-board chip and audio stage is likely to suffer even more so.
    I echo Tom's advice of the Squeezebox setup, as a first measure.
    Thanks, peejay!
    Last edited by DirectViewer; 2006-11-02 at 21:02.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by probedb View Post
    As far as I'm aware AC'97 requires that all signals are mixed to 16-bit 48KHz? In windows it's possible to bypass kmixer which does this nasty stuff but it maybe that your onboard sound does this as well...i.e. all Creative cards do this in hardware.

    Unless you're doing things like bypassing kmixer I doubt your PC is passing untouched digital signals to your DAC.

    I'd say the squeezebox will give better quality, but like everything it's subjective as to whether or not you can actually tell the difference.
    As I replied to tomsi42, I seem to be bypassing kmixer, at least for WAV files. (I didn't know it until I saw your postings and checked.) Of course, that doesn't apply to Pandora.

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