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Getting High-Quality Audio From a PC

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the sounds-like dept.

Hardware Hacking 295

audiophile writes "Just because it's a PC doesn't mean it can't output good-sounding audio. In the same vein as specialty A/V products, you can find PC-based A/V systems with extensive audio processing and step-up performance specifications, including Signal-to-Noise ratio, which can make a significant difference when using the analog outputs. Media center manufacturer Niveus shares tips for getting high-quality audio from a PC."

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295 comments

Nice, just wish I could afford the equipment... (2, Insightful)

xystren (522982) | about 7 years ago | (#18719571)

Isn't that how it usually goes?

Cheers,
Xyst
FP??

Re:Nice, just wish I could afford the equipment... (5, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 7 years ago | (#18719991)

"Isn't that how it usually goes?"

Well, like most things...hardly anyone gets all the high end stuff all together, right off to bat!!

My stereo? I've been building it since I was about 12 years old. Right now it is all in storage as that I'm still a bit 'nomadic' since Katrina, but, I've built it starting with money I made back then babysitting, and doing yard work. Started with a Zenith stereo...el cheapo. I saved, and bought a Marantz reciever...then, my Dad found a good closeout sale on some pretty good sized Fisher speakers...I saved and couple years later, bought a pretty decent pioneer turntable. From there an Xmas present of a pretty decent at the time cassette deck (the sharp one which was one of the first to be able to skip songs, etc)...from there over the years, CD players when they came out in college....found a pair of 15 yr old Klipsch Cornwall speakers available just as I got a tax refund...later, Marantz gave out...found a Carver pre-amp with pro-logic, and their 4 channel cathedral amp...Klipsch got stolen...deal with insurance allowed me to spend $1800 and get Klipsch K-Horns (the same speakers I'd been drooling over since 12 yrs old). I've since gone to using the Decware tube amplifier...etc.

I run this system off a media box I've built, with my tunes ripped to FLAC...and I love the sound. But, while the system I have now (other equipment omitted), is in the multi-thousands of dollars, I didn't buy it all at once. Unless you are born into money, do like the rest of the world, and work hard and save and build slowly. Once you get to the point when older that your starting to pull down some serious bucks...well, you can splurge then...but, if you've been building all along, you'll find you have MOST of what you want by then.

I'm at the point now, of looking into higher end sound cards, I'm figuring that is probably the weak link in what I have now...when I buy a home, I'm gonna look into getting another set of some type Klipsch heritage speakers for the surround ones...as small as Heresy's, or maybe even LaScalla if the room is big enough.

See? you never have to quit dreaming and building your system...

I need more coffee (4, Funny)

StarvingSE (875139) | about 7 years ago | (#18719605)

Because at first glance I seriously thought that this article was going to be about smoking pot...

Re:I need more coffee (3, Funny)

darkvizier (703808) | about 7 years ago | (#18719855)

I need more coffee... because at first glance I seriously thought that this article was going to be about smoking pot...

Maybe it's not more coffee you need, but less pot?

Why has my submitted story been marked as "pending" for over 2 weeks now?

Don't call us, we'll call you.

Re:I need more coffee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719957)

Why has my submitted story been marked as "pending" for over 2 weeks now?

Don't call us, we'll call you.


Perhaps it's being saved for the next installment of Quickies [slashdot.org] or Backslash [slashdot.org]?

Re:I need more coffee (3, Funny)

enc0der (907267) | about 7 years ago | (#18720033)

You're not the only one. I saw it as "Getting High" "Quality music on a PC" I just had the visual of someone staring at Winamp with Milkdrop running and commented "Dude, this sounds AWESOME" :)

Re:I need more coffee (2, Funny)

zakezuke (229119) | about 7 years ago | (#18720303)

Because at first glance I seriously thought that this article was going to be about smoking pot...

Getting High - Quality Audio from the pc. I thought it was going to be about someone releasing an extended dance remix of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida [wikipedia.org] by Iron Butterfly.

Age considerations? (2, Interesting)

svendsen (1029716) | about 7 years ago | (#18719641)

I wonder if they have taken into consideration the age of the audience when doing stuff like this. What I mean as we get older our ability to clearly hear certain sounds diminishes. A sad fact of life.

So I wonder when they take specs like this to build systems they go well our target audience is X years old so 90% of them don't need as good of quality in the sound so we can build something still good but cheaper because we don't need to use the 80% of the time to get the final 5% of sound?

Re:Age considerations? (2, Insightful)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 7 years ago | (#18720143)

"I wonder if they have taken into consideration the age of the audience when doing stuff like this. What I mean as we get older our ability to clearly hear certain sounds diminishes. A sad fact of life. "

That's why you need better systems...and add some volume. Of course, this perpetuates the 'cycle' till all hearing is lost.

:-)

I find it nice however, that someone IS talking about the merits of building for good sound reproduction!! It seems that so many of the past couple generations have grown up with no knowing what good sound or home stereo can be like...possibly due to growing up listening only to lossy sound files, many that are often poorly ripped if downloaded for free off the 'net. I guess if you've never listened to anything but portable players with earbuds (although good ones CAN be bought for a pretty good $$)..or only listen to music in a car (worst listening environment evar)...you wouldn't know what good sound CAN be...and wouldn't know that you could/should be discerning about how you reproduce it.

ON the other hand...possibly newer music popular today, has a lot to do with it. When I hear kids cars coming down the street, with the trunk literally about to vibrate open with massive subs blowing...I wonder if there is no midrange or treble in the song at all....? I mean, ALL you can hear is the thump of the bass...are there no other instruments out there today? Heck, all you hear in more rock today is a drop D guitar drone....

I like a good riff as much as anyone...but, music needs some balance, melody...something in the other tone frequencies. I guess if the music is missing all these 'colors'....maybe you don't need to have an interest in higher quality sound reproduction...if there is nothing there to reproduce.

[ramble mode off]

Re:Age considerations? (1)

Doctor Memory (6336) | about 7 years ago | (#18720653)

I wonder if there is no midrange or treble in the song at all.
There is, you just can't hear it because it gets filtered down before the whole thing is compressed to about 50dB of dynamic range. Almost a waste of plastic to put them on CDs, cassettes would sound about the same (and wouldn't have a skipping problem, which I've noticed on some cars with [presumably] CD players co-located in the trunk along with the four woofers and two "800 watt" (16 clean) amps...)

NICE SPAMVERTISEMENT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719659)

So much for Slashdot being the bastions of anti-corporate shilling.

Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sample (2, Interesting)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | about 7 years ago | (#18719661)


This is some serious sampling hardware [no affiliation]:

http://www.lynxstudio.com/products.html [lynxstudio.com]

Re:Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719859)

And the point of a 192kHz sampling frequency is what exactly?

Re:Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719925)

Wild guess: Maybe you can do shitloads of processing before you downsample to 44, and still be happy with the result. Maybe you can be more effective with filters at a higher samplerate.

Re:Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sam (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 7 years ago | (#18719929)

To be able to reproduce sounds of up to 100khz. duh.

Re:Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18720315)

Believe it or not, that's the most sensible answer given ;-) You've done Nyquist proud.

Re:Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sam (2, Funny)

CaseyB (1105) | about 7 years ago | (#18719973)

So that it still sounds perfect on those occasions when you choose to play your music back at 1/4 speed.

Re:Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sam (3, Funny)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 7 years ago | (#18720123)

You can use an assortment of filters that use the ultra high frequencies essentially as a garbage dump. All the errors are placed in the inaudible region.

Re:Lynx Studio: 200K samples/sec @ 24/bits per sam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18720715)

That's a new one on me.

Please link to implementations of said filters with source code if possible.

My answer (4, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | about 7 years ago | (#18719663)

Audio should not be done inside a PC. Well, not the analog portion, anyway. Ever looked at anything inside a PC with an oscilloscope? The noise environment is awful. You should not be trying to clean up the power the PC provides to the point you can use it for analog work; it's just not worth it. Especially when you'll just get hit by all the radiated EMI inside the case.

The solution? Simple -- ship the data out digitally and do the analog work elsewhere. Fortunately this has become very easy, with S/PDIF and the availability of good amplifiers with digital inputs. Amplifier power supplies are designed to be clean, and there aren't high current noisy loads on them -- they're designed for analog work. I have a fully digital amplifier from Panasonic that I'm very happy with. (Fully digital meaning all the way to the output FETs -- it does a delta-sigma pulse density modulation directly on the output signal, which turns out to be a very low noise, inexpensive way to get high quality output.)

Re:My answer (0, Offtopic)

SeattleGameboy (641456) | about 7 years ago | (#18719727)

I am going to have to deduct some mods from you for being too logical for a /. post.

You have to remember, when it come to "high-end" audio, logic has no place. "High-end" audio lives by a very simple rule - more expensive the gadget, the better - it does not matter if makes sense or if it really even make things better (because it is all about psychology and not physics), the cost of the gadget is what matters.

Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (2, Informative)

sebol (112743) | about 7 years ago | (#18720089)

You have to remember, when it come to "high-end" audio, logic has no place. "High-end" audio lives by a very simple rule - more expensive the gadget, the better - it does not matter if makes sense or if it really even make things better (because it is all about psychology and not physics), the cost of the gadget is what matters.

In my oppinion, Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker ar important to determine audio quality.
if we know sound card contained with very poor DAC, dont let PC doing the DAC job.
so that's why i strongly suggest just get optical spdif from computer.

in my real life situation, my macmini (with flac & alac audio) spdif to yamaha amp, the B&W speaker.
it sound just great.

Re:Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 7 years ago | (#18720225)

"in my real life situation, my macmini (with flac & alac audio) spdif to yamaha amp, the B&W speaker."

I take it your yamaha amp is an integrated amp...with the DAC built into it?

Do you know of any stand alone DAC's that would be good? Right now, my linux media box, with FLAC, is going out of the soundcard, to a SET Tube amp...I'd like to go the spdif route, but would need an exernal, dedicated DAC.

Re:Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (2, Informative)

TPJ-Basin (763596) | about 7 years ago | (#18720329)

Try the DAC [headphone.com] from HeadRoom. They're an outstanding company. I first purchased from them probably 10+ years ago and have used them 4 or 5 times since. They're good folks and make outstanding products.

Re:Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (1)

jrockway (229604) | about 7 years ago | (#18720741)

Seconded. I have their "cheap" Micro DAC and Micro Amp and the sound is phenomenal. It's an amazing difference compared with my iPod (or my work laptop, but you know that's crap). I'm planning on getting one of their tube systems soon, and bringing the Micro stack to work. Should be enjoyable :)

Re:Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (1)

sebol (112743) | about 7 years ago | (#18720449)

I take it your yamaha amp is an integrated amp...with the DAC built into it?

Do you know of any stand alone DAC's that would be good? Right now, my linux media box, with FLAC, is going out of the soundcard, to a SET Tube amp...I'd like to go the spdif route, but would need an exernal, dedicated DAC.


Yup i know, with stand alone DAC, the quality would be better.
i just dont see the need of stand alone DAC yet.

from what i knew, for each model of same brand amp, the DAC chip might be different.
there're many company producing DAC, if our amp is using the good one it might sound better too.

burr brown PCM 17xx is just an example of good DAC, it might be reside on your CD Player or amp.

Re:Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (1)

bloosqr (33593) | about 7 years ago | (#18720549)

I use a behringer deq -2496 as a poor peoples graphic equalizer / DAC .. the DAC in this is actually a high end pro DAC .. the entire thing only costs $300 .. you can also use it as a room equalizer (w/ a mike) which is only really available on really high end equipment .. (note this is a 2 channel dac)..

http://www.zzounds.com/item--BEHDEQ2496 [zzounds.com]

sometimes ignoring consumer equipment and just going w/ pro equipment is actually both (ironically) much cheaper and *much* better in quality

Re:Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about 7 years ago | (#18720697)

Thanks!!!

This looks VERY interesting...I may start out with one...for the front two stereo channels, and see how I like it. If good...I may go for a 2nd or third to fill out for surround sound...

Re:Source + DAC + Amp +Speaker (1)

TheMeuge (645043) | about 7 years ago | (#18720797)

Go used!

I am using an M-Audio 24/96 card to output 24bit/44.1kHz via spdif into an MSB LinkIII DAC that I got for ~$300 on audiogon.com.... the signal then goes to an Aragon 28K preamp ($450 on audiogon.com) out of the preamp the signal goes to the Outlaw ICBM crossover ($150 on outlawaudio.com) which uses a 36dB crossover to separate 80Hz and above to the B&K reference 200.2 amp ($450 on audiogon.com) and 80Hz and below to my sub (Dayton Titanic MkIII 15" 1000W sealed sub kit; $700 at partsexpress.com).

Re:My answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719759)

Agreed. If you don't have S/PDIF, you'll still be able to get higher quality audio via a FireWire (or USB) breakout box than you would from any of the onboard analog connections (assuming it's a decent quality breakout box).

Re:My answer (2, Insightful)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 7 years ago | (#18720415)

I find it amusing that the writers chose to illustrate their article with a Denon 5805 receiver (which has every conceivable connection, and is quite expensive) but neglected to mention Firewire, HDMI, DenonLink, or ethernet. No, it's either analogue 5.1 or spdif, both of which have been out for some time.

Re:My answer (2, Insightful)

Banzai042 (948220) | about 7 years ago | (#18719767)

The difficulty in this comes from the DRM restrictions on where digital audio can be sent. It's starting to look like the only way to get digital audio out will be via HDMI or some other encrypted digital audio interface, because of course we're going to use a digital out to make a perfect copy. Analog output is more popular with the MAFIAA because it can't create perfect copies.

Re:My answer (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 7 years ago | (#18720597)

Well, to wander off on a non-topical rant...

I won't be finding it any more difficult to get digital audio out than I do now. I run Linux, and I'm not about to pay for DRM'ed music. A lot of the artists I listen to publish online, and they certainly don't DRM their CDs. I'll keep watching DVDs and listening to CDs (or my ogg vorbis/flac rips of them), and I don't yet see any sign of a need for me to change that. If it limits my selection somewhat, then I'll continue to quietly vote with my wallet.

Re:My answer (1)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#18720599)

So just keep buying CDs. Unlike DVDs for video, they are actually good enough to do the job for 99% of all music out there (*really*-well-recorded acoustic rock/pop/etc., anything with a harpsichord, and certain chamber music being IMHO the exceptions).

If you're running a reasonable operating system, no CD has DRM.

The ubiquity of CDs is also why I don't understand TFA's concern about standard SPDIF not being able to handle multichannel at high sampling rates. It's pure pie-in-the-sky. Who actually has 8-channel 24-bit 96kHz audio content and how do they get it? My entire music collection is losslessly compressed 44.1kHz 16-bit 2-channel audio, ripped from CDs. Running a SPDIF output to a high-quality receiver (a Sony DA5000ES, incidentally, which does not do D/A conversion at all in the conventional sense) is a perfect solution for me.

Even for those mythical people with high quality content, I expect downsampling to CD-quality will always be better than trying to deal with an analog audio signal inside a box as noisy as a PC.

Re:My answer (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 7 years ago | (#18720811)

Who actually has 8-channel 24-bit 96kHz audio content and how do they get it?


DVD-Audio is 6 channel, 96 KHz. Of course, it failed in the marketplace. (SACD is kind of similar, but doesn't use PCM, and Sony's paranoia prevents the widespread use of external DSD decoders anyway).

Both HD-DVD and Bluray support 8 channel 192 Khz audio, which might prove useful for concert recordings. Conceivably, you could use your computer as a glorified graphic equalizer for room connection. But copy protection paranoia will limit the usefulness of such software.

Re:My answer (1)

FreddieKing (994298) | about 7 years ago | (#18719863)

True. Basically power is not clean enough to get real HQ out of the PC. I run optical out of my e-mu 1212m (which I also use for home recordings) to a external DAC made by HeadRoom. Check out http://head-fi.org/ [head-fi.org]; tons of people who very enthusiastic/nerdily obsessed with great audio, there is even a computer-as-source forum!

Re:My answer (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 years ago | (#18720163)

I'm not disagreeing or criticizing, just chiming in but-- who the hell is doing analog work in a PC anyway? You're right, the EM fields inside PCs are ridiculous-- to the point where some hardware will actually make mouse movements and big changes to your display audible in your speakers-- but the whole point of doing any audio/video on a PC is to make it digital!

So really it's a pretty simple principle: whatever you're doing, focus on making the analog->digital and digital->analog conversions as cleanly as possible, and make those conversions as rarely as possible. If you're going to go digital, go digital as early as possible so you aren't gathering analog noise as you go, keep it digital, and be aware of whatever conversions and processing you're doing to the digital signal. Then, output to analog as late as possible, again to avoid gathering noise, and use good analog equipment (amps and speakers and such).

I mean, WTF, I've only been peripherally involved with audio work, but that's just common sense. But sometimes, if you listen to audiophiles, you'll hear totally retarded things like how some brand of CD-Rs will provide clearer-sounding recordings.

Re:My answer (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 7 years ago | (#18720429)

I completely agree. I just go as far as to say you should get *all* the analog bits out of the PC. PCs aren't designed for analog, and they're not good at it. Ship the audio outside the case in digital form to something that's designed to handle the analog half. And besides, most PC users don't have to do the A/D half *ever* -- they get their audio in digital form, so the goal should be to keep it that way until it's as close to the speakers as possible and then only do the conversion once.

Re:My answer (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 7 years ago | (#18720659)

Personally, I find it slightly confusing as to why we have soundcards convert to analog at all instead of having the analog conversion take place in the speakers (for consumer-grade speakers where you aren't going to have a separate amp anyway). I guess it's useful for headphones (and backwards compatibility), but it'd be better to put the headphone jack in the speakers anyway.

Huh? (1)

heybiff (519445) | about 7 years ago | (#18720187)

After reading this I realize that I must be dumb after all. That girl in 5th grade across the table from me was right.

heybiff -- modded Troll for your protection

Re:My answer (1)

mrcubehead (693754) | about 7 years ago | (#18720273)

What about the claim from TFA that "... the highest resolution sound is generally available via 5.1 or 7.1 analog connections. This is due to the limitations of most digital connections, which can at best provide a Dolby Digital or DTS signal ... Today's better PC systems can decode 24-bit audio in all its high resolution sweetness and output it via 7.1 analog outputs directly to a multi-channel amplifier or to the multi-channel inputs of a pre/pro or surround receiver." In other words, can S/PDIF not carry high throughput signals for some reason? I was not aware of this myself, and I think the article might be wrong here?

My answer too (1)

jimmyfergus (726978) | about 7 years ago | (#18720317)

...except for not understanding the "delta-sigma pulse density modulation" bit. In my quest for understanding, Wikipedia (which knows all things) tells me [wikipedia.org] that's a technique for analog to digital?

I have one of those Panasonic devices (SA-XR55), and it's very good indeed.

So here's a pointless bit of pedantry: is it technically fair to call the Panasonic devices "amplifiers" (when taking digital input). As I understand it, what they do is take the PCM [wikipedia.org] input, convert it to PWM [wikipedia.org] entirely in the digital domain, and then use a low-pass filter to convert that to the analog speaker output. So, the classic definition of an amplifier - which applies gain from the input to the output - does not apply. There's no element of the device, logical or physical, where a low level analog signal is converted into a higher level copy of the signal... (the bits that input low level digital and output a high level digital signal surely aren't amps - they're switches). It's more of a DAC with direct speaker level outputs.

If you feed these "amps" an analog signal, they run the input through an ADC to make PCM and then through the digital input path, so the whole unit acts as a logical amp.

I got grief for posing this pedantic question elsewhere (mostly along the lines of "of course it's an amplifier - it sits in the spot where a DAC + amplifier would be") - I'm only presenting it as a quirky, pedantic issue of semantics.

Re:My answer too (1)

evanbd (210358) | about 7 years ago | (#18720689)

An analog engineer would agree with you, an audio one wouldn't :) (my guess, anyway -- when thinking about my sound system it's the amp, when designing electronics I'd agree with you).

They actually don't do simple PWM -- it turns out that doing so requires much more time-domain precision than is available. You may be right about the delta-sigma bit, it's not something I know very well. I do know that what these sorts of amplifiers (ADCs, whatever ;) ) do is pulse density modulation, as opposed to pulse width modulation, which is normally associated with DS converters at least on the input.

Re:My answer too (2, Funny)

dal20402 (895630) | about 7 years ago | (#18720705)

As an owner of one Sony and one Panasonic digital "amp" owner who is equally happy...

Just see what happens when you are sitting around eating BBQ in the backyard and you try to tell people about your kick-ass PCM-PWM converter and amplitude modulator.

(On second thought, /. readers are probably inured to the resulting reaction. Never mind.)

Re:My answer (1)

zakezuke (229119) | about 7 years ago | (#18720485)

Audio should not be done inside a PC. Well, not the analog portion, anyway. Ever looked at anything inside a PC with an oscilloscope? The noise environment is awful. You should not be trying to clean up the power the PC provides to the point you can use it for analog work; it's just not worth it. Especially when you'll just get hit by all the radiated EMI inside the case.

You don't need an oscilloscope to notice the noise. You can hear it even on headphones. It makes me wonder why sound cards are not shielded.

As for your advice, it is sound. However, given the relative low cost of 2 channel amplifiers, and the relative noise level generated from a PC, you have what I like to call "good enough".

Re:My answer (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#18720645)

The USB power source for my LTB headphones used to produce HUGE amounts of noise until I bought and external USB power source for them. I can still hear the sound of my mouse cursor moving sometimes when my headphones are quiet. When I have something playing though those background noises are so low that they never interfere from a practical standpoint.

Re:My answer (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 years ago | (#18720553)

unfortunately your answer is wrong though. Most high end sound cards are PCI. 24 channel recording cards for pro tools do a GREAT job at rejecting and shielding against PC noises.

these guys have been doing this for quite a while now. and if you only want "good audio" from a pc for your hom theater, get something with spdif and toslink and call it done. Let a high end reciever/processor do the work converting the AC3 track to analog instead of the garbage consumer level PC audio cards.

Re:My answer (1)

hcdejong (561314) | about 7 years ago | (#18720773)

High-end and pro sound 'cards' often have a PCI board that handles the interface to the computer, plus AD/DA converters in a separate, shielded box to keep the analog circuits away from the computer's EM fields.

Re:My answer (1)

WarwickRyan (780794) | about 7 years ago | (#18720733)

Which amp?

I'm looking at buying a complete A/V setup this year and have no idea what I'll get for the audio side (other than x.1)..

Digital audio in Linux (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 years ago | (#18720737)

Audio should not be done inside a PC. Well, not the analog portion, anyway.
Ideally. A couple years ago when I built my HTPC, I had a horrible time finding a cheap digital sound card that was linux-compatible. I finally found one. But there are still glitches, such as low sample rate / bit depth audio (from webcasts, youtube, etc) not playing because the ALSA driver does NOT automatically convert it to something the card can handle. (Or maybe it's my Denon receiver that can't handle it, who knows?)

So anyways, I'm wondering if Linux has good out-of-box support for digital audio on most motherboards these days?

Yes but does it support... (1)

ruffnsc (895839) | about 7 years ago | (#18719701)

The Jackhammer (see Pimp my Ride)

Re:Yes but does it support... (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 7 years ago | (#18720117)

The day I can have 369 pounds of subwoofer hooked up to my computer will be the day the SWAT team gets called to my house in full force the moment I start playing COD2.

Why? (2, Funny)

Stavr0 (35032) | about 7 years ago | (#18719703)

Wouldn't it be simpler to use a recent sound card, and redirect all audio to the bitstream output? , or use a stream-capture driver that redirects the sound card output to a disk file?

Unless you happen to be on a DRM-encumbered OS like Vista where this is no longer poss---Ohhhh I see what's going on here...

Right. Move along. Nothing to see here.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18720009)

One of the reasons i am not getting Vista is because S-PDIF is disabled when playing HD-DVD or Blu-Ray (hey! i wanna do that in the future) Im sorry, but my 700 euro Harman/Kardon amplifier goes before Vista any day of the week and it will probably last 20 years just like my Klipsh speakers.

And I stopped reading right after .... (5, Insightful)

vivaoporto (1064484) | about 7 years ago | (#18719709)

Like most CE products, the audio performance levels of PC-based products run the gamut, starting with basic devices like standard desktop or laptop PCs with sound that could be compared to commodity CE A/V gear such as compact systems or portable radios.M


Come on! Didn't some editor read it before posting it to Slashdot front page? This is nothing but advertisement for their A/V product line, and their summary is ridiculous. I will spare you people the trouble to read it in TFA:

- Pay attention to available connections
- Consider the effects of bass management
- Analog offers the highest performance soundtracks
- Digital connections generally work best set to Dolby Digital Live or DTS Connect
- Choose High Quality ripping settings


And, look at this pearl:

Lossless CODECs preserve all of the detail of the original media. For example, the WMA lossless CODEC is recommended for storing music which will be played back on a hi-fidelity home audio system.


I rest my case. Anyone advocating WMA lossless codec (specially to Slashdot target audience) is not worth your time. Nothing to see here, move along.

Of course they read it... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719939)

...it was inline in the corporate directive to run this advertisement as soon as the check clears.

Re:And I stopped reading right after .... (0, Offtopic)

Wabbit Wabbit (828630) | about 7 years ago | (#18720491)

Holy crap! PC World called, they want their article back!

I tagged this as a slashvertisement because like you I honestly don't know what this is doing here.

Re:And I stopped reading right after .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18720527)

Analog offers the highest performance soundtracks

That by itself means they have no basic understanding of what they're talking about in the first place!

How are analog connections from the usual cheapo DACs found on the average sound card -- located inside the extremely noisy PC environment no less -- then going thru filters, plugs and lots of wiring picking up interference and hum along the way, going to an amp better than sending a digital signal?

The sound is already digital in the first place (mp3's, wav files, whatever -- 1's and 0's) and is sent as-is (via ASIO, Kernel Streaming or whatever) directly to an amp (over spdif or toslink) either as a untouched AC3 stream or linear PCM or whatever. No crap from the EMI inside the PC, no interference picked up by the cables. Then it's processed either by your amp's DACs (which aren't too bad usually -- and at least are in a non-noisy environment) or a standalone high-quality DAC if you want.

Don't give me that "jitter" BS either (it's extremely minimal, has much less influence on the sound than using crappy analog paths, and can easily be compensated for by a simple circuit). The way these folks talk, listening to Audio CDs on normal CD decks should be totally unbearable due to the jitter (the pits/lands aren't read at a perfectly constant speed).

Sounds like it was written by some marketdroid who thinks stuff sounds as good as it costs (I'd say that's ~95% of the audiophile market) instead of someone with technical knowledge.

Besides, good-quality audio is dead-simple even for the village idiot: have a good sound source (like an AudioCD, FLAC, whatever), use a good player or sound card (more or less anything not made by Creative), a good amp and good speakers (nevermind 99% of the folks can't afford this, or wouldn't want to spend that much even if they could afford it -- that's pretty much always been *the* main problem), and a good listening environment (room size, etc). Ain't rocket science, and it sure ain't about highly-overpriced gold-plated acoustic research/monster cables!

Actually it's pretty easy.. (0)

bruno.fatia (989391) | about 7 years ago | (#18719717)

Get a good sound card (I heard Audigy 2 is really good) and a decent speaker/headset. Edifier [edifier.com] has nice speakers for PCs and I guess Sennheiser does a good job with headsets.

Re:Actually it's pretty easy.. (4, Informative)

mrjb (547783) | about 7 years ago | (#18720223)

Audigy 2 and other EMU10k1 chipsets are locked to 48khz internally, which has caused me a lot of grief when wanting to play back stuff at other rates. If you're playing back 48k exclusively this is fine, otherwise better get a soundcard that supports the different sample rates of your choice natively.

Audiophiles really are the ultimate suckers (4, Insightful)

Jason1729 (561790) | about 7 years ago | (#18719737)

audiophile writes "Just because it's a PC doesn't mean it can't output good-sounding audio.

Why would anyone even think that? Just because you have a processor that can perform gigaflops you'd think you can't output good quality sound? The only reason such a perception would exist is to get so-called audiophiles to spend more on garbage that doesn't make a difference to sound quality but they can pretend it does.

For proof, just look at this $1200 Power Cable [psaudio.com]. How stupid does one have to be to spend $1200 on a power cable. What do you think conducts the power from the breaker box to the wall outlet? Why would someone build a $3000+ amp and not properly condition the power inside the power supply?

Re:Audiophiles really are the ultimate suckers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719909)

Why would anyone even think that?

Because there is a whole ton of noise and EM going on inside a PC that can and will interfere with analog signals (you do realize that most PCs still use analog outputs, right?).

Re:Audiophiles really are the ultimate suckers (1)

Jason1729 (561790) | about 7 years ago | (#18719997)

The implicattion from the summary was the PC's automatically can't generate good audio. Digital outputs aren't that all uncommon right now. USB headsets and notebook speakers are becoming fairly common, and while they're not the greatest quality yet, it's absolute idiocy to say *because they're PC based* they won't sound good. Even your own statement that *most* PCs still use analog implies you can get good audio by going digital, so to make the distinction that PC audio = bad is foolish.

Re:Audiophiles really are the ultimate suckers (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 7 years ago | (#18720657)

how about directional speaker cable. Yes this crap does exist and costs insane prices.

Remember audiophile/videophile almost ALWAYS will = rich guy with too much money and no audio/video education.

Unfortunately there are some EE degree holders that believe the crap like spewed from some of the power conditioner companies... my favorite is " it wont sound better right away. it will take a couple of weeks for your capacitors to re-train to the new cleaner power".

This is for a Richard Gray power conditioner... Only $4500.00 for a 125 pound power strip.

Re:Audiophiles really are the ultimate suckers (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 7 years ago | (#18720731)

I never did understand how anyone would think that directional cables was a legit product. What, as if there is a diode effect in copper? The fact that an audio signal in electrical form is basically AC makes me wonder if anyone that buys this stuff even had a high school physics class.

Re:Audiophiles really are the ultimate suckers (3, Funny)

hairykrishna (740240) | about 7 years ago | (#18720663)

That's the funniest product description I ever read. It honestly looks like something off the Onion.

"Better clarity and resolution for video

Guess I don't need no stinkin' high def TV, it's just my low-quality power cable that is lowering my TV's resolution.

FORGET Audigy !! (0)

unity100 (970058) | about 7 years ago | (#18719739)

New Creative Xtreme music is THE Card. i put this in, got an altec lansing fx6021, and its gold.

Creative Sucks (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18720105)

Everything they make is a piece of crap.

If you want a really good soundcard that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and is about as "audiophile" as you can possibly achieve with a wintel PC, then look no further than an M-Audio Audiophile 192 [m-audio.com]

Re:Creative Sucks (1)

unity100 (970058) | about 7 years ago | (#18720297)

im getting quite spectacular sound with this card. maybe its your speakers that are not fitting well with the card.

its so that i stopped listening to my pioneer music set with 3 way 2 column speakers and started listening these.

Funny ideas about sound quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719787)

It is clear that XLR connections for balanced audio offer improvements in sound quality over mini-pin connections.

No it isn't. XLR connectors are robust which is why they are found on PRO kit. The advantage to a balanced signal is reduced RF; important on long runs with low voltage signals (microphone cables). Very few audio circuits are balanced internally, meaning the balanced signal must be converted to unbalanced. This step alone colors the sound depending on which technique is used, high end units may use audio transformers because they impart a sonic character many find desirable. Coloration isn't an improvement in audio "quality", it might sound subjectively better but that's a whole different ballgame.

Olde Sound Cards (2, Insightful)

CompMD (522020) | about 7 years ago | (#18719803)

I miss the old Sound Blaster 16s. They were pretty decent cards. I still have a couple of them around, but the lack of ISA slots in most machines is keeping them out of service. My mp3 playback computer uses an old Diamond Monster Sound MX300 (Vortex2) card, and its pretty awesome. Old, but awesome.

MP3 (3, Insightful)

rlp (11898) | about 7 years ago | (#18719923)

Given the proliferation of MP3 as a standard audio format, I wonder how many people actually care about high quality audio?

Re:MP3 (1)

EggyToast (858951) | about 7 years ago | (#18720237)

who cares about mp3, what about the people using built-in soundcards played through tinny computer speakers? "Oh, but there's a subwoofer, so it's not tinny!"

Re:MP3 (1)

misanthrope101 (253915) | about 7 years ago | (#18720533)

Even with headphones, I can't tell the difference between, say, 224kbit (or whatever it is) mp3 and lossless codecs. Some people may have phenomenally good ears, but most are pretending, I'd bet. When minidisc was big I remember blind tests that showed that people couldn't reliably pick out which one was the minidisc (which uses a lossy codec) and the actual CD. I'm happy with 320 or even 224kbit vbr files. Yeah, I wish I could go back in time and re-rip everything in OGG, but that isn't really going to happen. I can pick out 128kbit mp3 and yes I can hear the chirps and so on, but much better than that it's all the same to my ears.

So who do I have to bribe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18719953)

to get my snake oil advertisement posted on slashdot?

Garbage In Garbage Out... uh well, no.... (2, Insightful)

rueger (210566) | about 7 years ago | (#18719965)

Just because it's a PC doesn't mean it can't output good-sounding audio.

I guess it didn't occur to him that virtually all audio today is recorded and edited using some form of computer, whether Mac or PC. The statement above is really rather pointless.

Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro works GREAT! (1, Informative)

jlseagull (106472) | about 7 years ago | (#18720041)

It's a USB audio card the size of a thumb drive. Its ground is completely isolated from the computer, and as such it is dead quiet - this is especially great in laptops. I have Shure e3 headphones and if you ran them directly into my laptop you'd hear clicks and pops as the HDD was operating.

Here's a link:

http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=2 788 [notebookreview.com]

The TBAAM is pretty much the best value upgrade for a laptop's audio out.

Re:Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro works GREAT! (1)

darjen (879890) | about 7 years ago | (#18720585)

I have one of those cards and have used it to dj with my laptop in the past. It works great to preview what I will play on my laptop output and actually play the music on that one.

Compensating for something much? (1)

Sitnalta (1051230) | about 7 years ago | (#18720057)

Pfft. I have a SB Audigy and a set of creative 7.1 speakers. The audio quality from that's is better than most $1,000+ systems found in some greasy Best Buy. I feel that's good enough for listening to MP3's and casual movie watching. The only difference comes in recording. That's when I'd want condenser mics and mixing equipment. The bill for such a system could blow the monocle right off of John D. Rockefeller's mummified corpse.

Re:Compensating for something much? (1)

neersign (956437) | about 7 years ago | (#18720709)

just to note, audiophiles don't buy speakers from Best Buy...not even that new section in some Best Buys that are geared towards audiophiles.

Laptops (1)

DG (989) | about 7 years ago | (#18720065)

I just wish the SoundMax drivers for my m9700 would stop BSOD-ing.

DG

higher frequency formats and bit depth? (1)

five star reject (1087983) | about 7 years ago | (#18720279)

Don't listen to the consumer marketed crap that these companies feed you. If you have a basic home setup with happy pc speakers and such you're never going to notice a difference between a 16bit or 24bit encoded file. the only time 24bit is even an issue is when you're in a pro studio recording tracks. cd's are 16bit at 44.1hz. if you rip it as a uncompressed wav you'll get that same quality. anything else is just a compressed likeness to the cd's quality. hell, HD radio is just now able to give you the capablity to listen to FM transmission at CD quality. What makes you think that your home pc is going to out perform an industry standard recording format? If you have a home studio my best advise is to get a rack based audio interface. The M-Audio Delta 1010 isn't a bad place to start especially since you can put four of them to a box with a max of 32 analog ins/outs. It'll set you back about $500 but what else do you want for 8 ins/outs in a home production studio. For home users. Its all about the quality of the equipment you use. There is always a step above what you have and if you have the best there is always something coming out tomorrow to top it. Get what you can afford and enjoy life.

I know how to get Uber-Quality Audio!! (1)

JimXugle (921609) | about 7 years ago | (#18720313)

Re-rip your CDs at 192Kbps MP3 and delete the old-skool 128kbps MP3s. Then, go to Wal*Mart and search around for the 98 cent headphones... I swear that they're the best I've ever heard!!

Re:I know how to get Uber-Quality Audio!! (1)

darjen (879890) | about 7 years ago | (#18720629)

The majority of my mp3 collection is ripped at 192Kbps. They sound fine to me, but then again my hearing isn't all that great. But I do have a pair of nice etymotic headphones.

WWOT f4? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18720419)

have the energy are /there? Let's about a project Nearly two years a GAY NIGGER Fun to be again.

Buy a professional audio card (3, Insightful)

Saffaya (702234) | about 7 years ago | (#18720521)

When I built my home theater system 2 years ago, I decided to invest in a professional audio card.
[For example, after reading buyers reviews and critics, I settled on the Terratec phase 28. http://audioen.terratec.net/modules.php?op=modload &name=News&file=article&sid=7 [terratec.net] ]

Its output is directly connected to my Hi-Fi amplifier (no pre-amp).

The only thing to be careful about with such a setup is to not shut down your PC (reset/reboot is fine) while your amp is still on.

Investing in a high grade sound card is the same as investing in a good amplifier or speakers : you are likely to use it for a long time (unlike a graphics card for example).

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