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  1. #1
    nerd ericl's Avatar
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    Describe your PC Audio Server!

    Hey Guys,

    Let's use this thread to share our computer-based audio systems. Talk about what's worked for you and what hasn't what tricks you've learned, cool software, etc. It will become a good reference for people trying to put together their own systems.

    I'll start it off:

    I'm using a stock Dell destop PC with iTunes as my player. I am using Apple Lossless encoding with error correction ON. My soundcard is an M-Audio Audiophile USB connected via USB. I am using it as a transport, using the Coax digital output into a MSB Link DAC. The sound is really great. I have never heard this DAC sound so smooth and crisp. I am really loving its sound. I've also used the analog outputs of the Audiophile USB and they are really good too. I like it as a transport better though. Another great thing about it is the headphone jack, it is great. very solid and powerful sound. I'm very happy with this setup.

    This system is in the bedroom, and I wanted get my computer audio into the main room, so last week I got an Airport Express. I got it setup friday. I am using the optical out to my Panny receiver. So far, the sound is really impressive. Saturday and Sunday I did start experiencing audio dropouts which i need to troubleshoot. Very promising though, very cool.

    -Eric

  2. #2
    Big science. Hallelujah. noddin0ff's Avatar
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    Ok, sure. I've got a Mac Powerbook G3/500 (aka Pismo) with an external 80G firewire drive running iTunes. Connected to the local network via both ethernet and airport. I'm in a large network and I get more shared server coverage if both are used. Serves approximately 50 gigs of tunes ripped at 192kbps using Apples encoder residing on the 7200rpm external. The network is solid, seldom have drops. The Powerbook outputs to my system via USB to a Griffin iMic to a Cambrigde 540A integrated and Paradigm Minimonitors. About 8 other groups access the library (limit 5 unique users per day set by iTunes).

    I'm looking to also set up an airport express at home, Maybe get another larger external drive and re-import my CD's in lossless format (this'll take me months and a calculated 120G) and just hook up the external whenever I have my other laptop (G4) at home. Not sure if I'll iMic that one or go optical to my simple Yamaha A/V receiver. Yammies probably got better DACs.

  3. #3
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    I have a great,big,pile of SH$T Gateway.
    Look & Listen

  4. #4
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    I've got a 200gb hd in my computer. I rip my cds using variable bitrate with a minimum of 192kb/s & a max of 320. Sometimes I use mp3PRO. I rip my dvds to my hd using AutoGK. It allows 2 audio streams, so I pick the AC3 track & DTS if there is one. Subtitles are either on or off, so I set 'Use forced subs only'. These are the subs during foreign/alien language.
    I play both with a chipped xbox running XBox Media Center, over a wired network. Great app! Plays everything, easy to set up, plenty of skins, constantly updated & free! I have 2 wireless gamepads, but for XBMC, I use a Microsoft remote. Music playlists can be set up & shuffled.
    The only problem is that the Xbox is kinda noisy. It's a version 1, so I did a fan mod to it, but it's still noisy. I'm going to replace the gpu fan with a heatsink & see if that helps.

  5. #5
    Cylon Centurian Rycher's Avatar
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    I have a dedicated PC in my closet upstairs connected to a wirelessG network. The PC is an Athlon 2800xp and housesa 200 gig 7200 rpm drive that is almost full of 320K mp3's. I have 2 series2 Tivo's (one in my theater system and one in my bedroom system) that can access the music and pictures on my main PC and play them through my sound system. Very cool and I can use the Tivo remote to select songs. I also have a 1gig Athlon PC in my garage that accesses the server through a wirelessG USB card and outputs the audio through a Creative Soundblaster2 Audigy card into a Denon reciever for my tunes while I work. My wife's Dell laptop also has access to the music server wirelessly.
    Visit my site for more stereos:
    www.jimmyneutron.org

  6. #6
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    Audio Server in Evolution: Advice Appreciated

    At the moment, I have a Dell desktop with an M-Audio card output via analog to a Harman/Kardon 3380 stereo receiver. I've tried digital out to a H/K A/V receiver but I'm not appreciating a huge difference (if anything, the analog setup was "more musical"). Speakers are a pair of JBL S38IIs (incredible speakers).

    Should I go back to an A/V receiver and tweak for better performance? Files are Apple lossless played back through iTunes.

  7. #7
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    I have a Mac G5 & Shuttle XPC w/ a E-MU 1820 sound card & PatchMix DSP. Currently, I'm using a Sonic Impact T-amp to power my B&W 601's, but I have a older Denon receiver I use otherwise. I'm really impressed at how that lil' t-amp performs.

    My mp3 (m4p actually) collection is mostly iTunes downloaded, the rest of my collection is mostly ripped to ogg's. My favorite software is Ogg Drop X, Audiograbber, iTunes, OggdropXPd, and VideoLAN.

  8. #8
    Forum Regular Modernaire's Avatar
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    Hardware
    Dedicated iBook G3 500 solely for music listening, digital recording. An iPod Extreme if you will!

    Then I use the iBook audio out headphone jack straight into my hi-end AKAI amp analogs in. I don't hear too much of a difference between 320 and Lossless. I have a pretty decent setup with a great soundstage and the amp has a great sound overall.

    I may get a digital out box because sometimes on an occasion, especially when listening to low volume sections of music, I can hear the putter and ding of the OS coming through, but just barely. It was worse on a Powerbook G4, the iBook stock headphone out sounds pretty darn good to me.

    Storage I use an 80 GB LaCie (solid HD!) firewire drive right next to my Standesign component stand. I need to upgrade to either a bigger LaCie or G-Tech drive, around 200GB.

    Transfer/ripping/organizing method
    Basically rripping CD and AIFF recording of rare audio/vinyl, etc.

    I double rip my most favorite tracks or a whole favorite album into Apple Lossless and MP3. One as a 320 MP3 for mobile listening and Apple Lossless for quality and compression (drive storage) and for music room/home listening.

    So I either rip in 192 kbps for so-so songs and 320 for favorites and 320/Apple Lossless for most favorites and CD for ultra favorites. Nothing under 192 and inbetween 192 and 320.

    I set up those ACC files with an ID tag for album as "Audiophile", so its album tag reads "Dark Side Of The Moon .:. Remastered (Audiophile)".


    Software
    I use iTunes and utilize the iTunes Smart Playlist feature to list only tracks or albums with Audiophile in the album title only. OR just listen in shuffle mode.

    I use You Control: Tunes (Mac only) from http://www.yousoftware.com/itunes/ which is great for the display of album information and artwork! You can customize the font size and information and its freeware now (was $60).

    Combine this and utility that hides your desktop icons and maybe menu bar and you have one heck of a music server! The scanning of covers is a bit tedious but its a great to look over and see the cover and other booklet images along with big titles displayed! So that makes the work worth it. I like to enjoy the cover when listening to music.

    Set up looks very similar to this:

    &



    Other methods
    For my most, most favorite artists, I just listen to the CD. I also listen and use MiniDisc and Vinyl, so I kind of choose formats based on how much I dig an artist/song/album and use that as my primary criteria. Live albums I like to listen to as a whole and record to MD. Love that MD deck and Sony CD-ES display too!

  9. #9
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    My main dedicated audio server is based around the DFI Lanparty 250gb mobo (it's fanless), Radeon 9250 GPU (once again, fanless and doesn't turn into a space heater like higher-end fanless GPUs), S754 Athlon64 3000+ in an Antec Sonata case. It runs four 100Gb 2.5" drives from a Promise IDE controller. Not silent, but very quiet. All my music at home comes from this machine, and it has lots of different formats stored on it... everything from FLAC to 64K ATRAC3+. It's loaded with iRiver Plus, Sony Sonicstage, iTunes, Rio Music Manager, Creative Mediasource, EAC, dbPoweramp, Notmad Explorer, Slimserver, J.River Media Center and other ripping / conversion / sync software. The server is also used to load up the Rio / Apple / Sony / Creative / iRiver / iAudio portables. I can sync most of the portables at other PC's but its slower so I stick everything on the server.


    I have various ways of getting audio out of the server. The Slim Devices Squeezebox is great and I'll recommend it to anyone with small rooms. (the display is fairly small). Other general purpose and HTPC's I have dotted aroud my home to listen with range from quiet to totally silent, and all with the exception of the laptops were recently re/built from the ground up after a long look at silentpcreview.com, not to mention lots of trial and error. I use a range of soundcards, from an Audiotrak Optoplay to an RME HDSP9632. 'Front ends' (i.e. speakers / amps) range from a Musical Fidelity A308 integrated going into Wilson Benesch Arcs to Stax Omega II headphones. As far as playback software goes, I use Meedio, Media Portal, iTunes, Foobar and Winamp.


    I run wired gigabit and G networks. The laptops connect through G, all the desktops are wired. The Squeezeboxes sit on a separate low-speed wired LAN for efficiency reasons. I'm still experimenting with a Mac Mini and seeing where it fits in my set-up. So far, hugely impressed.
    Last edited by spago; 05-23-2005 at 02:21 AM.

  10. #10
    nerd ericl's Avatar
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    Great Posts!

    Great posts everybody, its interesting to hear everybody's setup. At some point I want to install two giant raided HDs into my old g4 tower and use that as an audio server/archive. The Airport Express I am using is proving to be a real nice unit for piping music into my stereo. Just wish I could stream otehr sources (like real player) from my PC.

    I also want to turn my PC into tivo.. any suggestions for a complete solution (tuner card + pvr software)?

    Also, can anyone point me to any articles on how to quiet down my G4 tower? It's freakin loud!

    keep the posts coming!

  11. #11
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    SilentPCreview as I pointed out is a great place to go for all things silence related. And not to cast a bad light on things or anything, but a pretty dead subforum, eh?

  12. #12
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    I use Foobar in Kernal output mode with an Egosys Juil@ which is a studio grade soundcard that sells for under $200.
    http://www.esi-pro.com/viewProduct.php?pid=43&page=1
    I use the optical connector. Here is a test to try in order to see if you are losing any information before it is decoded later in your chain: Rip wav files from a DTS encoded CD, and see if it works and has 5.1 channel audio. If you get static, you know your system sucks (by my standards, no offence). If it works, you know your music is being delivered flawlessly and uncorrupted. I rip my wav files with EAC or Exact Audio Copy software. For any "audiophiles" with $1000s in their sound gear who feel that using a PC or other computer for their music is beneath them and offers only crap quailty sound, this is how I did it and there should be no difference between this and playing a CD directly. I'm not saying I never listen to mp3s, and that they aren't fun to listen to, but higher fidelity is found by avoiding compressed audio regardless of the bitrate. I have even found monkey audio's lossless compression to mess with the sound quality. It is a documented problem, so I know it's not just my ears, and when you uncompress the monkey audio files you get the wav back and when it plays it sounds better. Very wierd, I know. I have not managed to rip DVD-A disks yet, but I don't have very many since it's still pretty slim pickings to buy them. Has anyone here had experience at ripping DVD-A to your hard drive and playing it back? It would be nice if it would store it in a wav format so I could still use Foobar and integrate it in with my playlist. Size isn't an issue because hard drives are so cheap these days.

  13. #13
    nerd ericl's Avatar
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    thanks for the post cturcott

    a question:

    Can you tell me more about this static issue? What causes this? I occasionally get static from my PC based system and can't figure out why. I use iTunes ripping to Apple Lossless with error correction on. I never thought it had to do with the quality of the rip, because it doesn't seem to happen all the time - although maybe I should pay attention to which tracks have it.

    thanks,
    eric

  14. #14
    Forum Regular Modernaire's Avatar
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    I wanted to add an afterthought to my post.

    Just an opinion or suggestion. But even when listening to music, you have to be careful not to let the computer fascinate you more than the music. My iBook setup is kept as geekless as possible. No big computer boxes and over the top computer gear. Just music ripped and enjoyed.

    I think with the iPod fad, the general public seems to think that using computers to enjoy music is the new or better way. In other words, My stereo setup is larger and more obvious than my computer set up.


  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericl
    thanks for the post cturcott

    a question:

    Can you tell me more about this static issue? What causes this? I occasionally get static from my PC based system and can't figure out why. I use iTunes ripping to Apple Lossless with error correction on. I never thought it had to do with the quality of the rip, because it doesn't seem to happen all the time - although maybe I should pay attention to which tracks have it.

    thanks,
    eric
    It depends on the soundcard I imagine, as well as the selected method of playback I.E. directsound or wave out isn't likely to work well but kernal output does as long as you don't attenuate the volume-leave that for your downstream components to adjust volume. On creative labs cards, they tend to resample the music and that alters the music in a way that most people can't hear but altered is altered and the DTS encoding doesn't survive even when using the SPDIF out. Because DTS encoding is apparently thus fragile, I trust it as an indication of whether the PC hardware, driver, or some software layer is screwing your music playback up in some way. I also know that I enjoy listening to a pro audio card more, but I do miss gaming features that are lacking in a musician's card.

  16. #16
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    Slimdevices.com

    http://www.slimdevices.com/ Squeezebox2 FREAKIN ROCKS!!!!!!

    500 GB of storage space on my pc. All the tunes I want in my livingroom. Run through cat5 to the Squeezebox and digital out to my Denon 3803. Exellent sound quality. CD quality.


    Check out the link above

    Stewrt
    Mains: B+W 703 in cherry
    Surrounds: B+W HTM7
    Center: B+W DS7
    Sub: Def Tech Pro 80 On HFE through center channel
    Sub: DefTech 12" in back of room
    Reciever: Denon 3803
    Amp : B+K Reference 200.2
    CD: Denon DCM 370
    DVD: Denon DVD1600
    TV: Toshiba 32 inch Cinema Series FST Pure Flat
    Cables: Audioquest CV-6's, CV-4's, Diamondbacks
    Rack: BDI
    Power: Brickwall

  17. #17
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    +1 on the Squeezebox2: This thing is AWESOME. It inspired me to go out and buy a 500GB hard drive to put all my music on in lossless FLAC.

    Plus, you get hundreds of internet radio stations from the convenience of a remote. It's one killer little box, all for $200.

  18. #18
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    Hi Guys, this is my setup...

    Dedicated PC running Win XP with 500GB storage on 2*250GB hdd@7200RPM.. Dedicated meaning it's never been turned off in 3 yrs and is dedicated to file serving/music serving. It's wired to a 108Mbps WiFi G+ Network. The network consists of 108Mbps Nic in pc and one 108Mbps WiFi Router which sits on top of my TV. I have a modded Xbox which is plugged into the Wifi Router. The Xbox is modded with XBMC ( Xbox Media Center ) and has also had a 120GB hdd@7200RPM added. I also replaced the stock fan in the Xbox for a very quite 12volt pc fan and added an aluminum exhaust fan that spins at 1000Rpm. All in all the Xbox is much quiter than it was when I bought it and is hardly noticeable when on. XBMC is great software and is updated every day by a tireless team of developers. What I like about the Xbox and XBMC is that the Xbox sits snugly under your TV just like a DVD player does and the fact that XBMC can play any file format over the Network. The Xbox is plugged into my amp of course. Here are some pictures from XBMC for any one thats interested. BTW XBMC beats any current simlar file server on the market today even M$ XP Media Server and as far as I know XBMC was developed way before it and alot of ideas for M$ Media Server have been stolen from XBMC.


    XBMC
    Pioneer DVD 535
    Musical Fidelity A3 PreAmp
    Musical Fidelity A3 Amp
    B&W DM604 S3
    AIV Kaleidoscope Triple Mix Speaker Cable
    AIV Triple Sheilded Interconnects

  19. #19
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    Hi,

    Just wondering what u guys here think of the Logitech Z-5500 5.1 system? Price vs quality wise?

  20. #20
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    OK, I've just got to put in another plug for the Squeezebox2. God I love this thing.

    Even the wife is impressed. The tipping point was when I discovered a plugin that lets you browse the Live Music Archive with the convenience of a remote control. The wife is an old deadhead, see, and now she has access to literally hundreds of live shows, all browsable by date/location and set list!

    Absolutely incredible... This thing is going to change the way people listen to music.

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