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  1. #1
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Pssst, letting you in on a little secret: You Don't Need a CD Player!

    People are constantly asking for advice in these forums about what CD player to get. I understand lots of people really want the particular functionality of a CD player, but a lot of people don't realize this point:

    If you put your music on a computer, you can get far better sound quality and convenience at a fraction of the price! For anyone shopping for CD players, you *really* ought to consider this option.

    I honestly can't remember the last time I powered up my CD player. I'll never go back. It's completely outdated.

    I suppose this thread is more apropos to the computer audio section, but hardly anyone reads it -- particularly someone who doesn't yet realize they can completely bypass the CD player altogether.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  2. #2
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Wink Don't let people like Bernd hear you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Anderson
    People are constantly asking for advice in these forums about what CD player to get. I understand lots of people really want the particular functionality of a CD player, but a lot of people don't realize this point:

    If you put your music on a computer, you can get far better sound quality and convenience at a fraction of the price! For anyone shopping for CD players, you *really* ought to consider this option.

    I honestly can't remember the last time I powered up my CD player. I'll never go back. It's completely outdated.

    I suppose this thread is more apropos to the computer audio section, but hardly anyone reads it -- particularly someone who doesn't yet realize they can completely bypass the CD player altogether.
    Of course I totally agree. Really, I'm looking forward to the day when all functionality except final amplification is handed by standard computers and sound cards.

    And that day is already here for people with the interest and expertise to pull together such a system. The foobar program has plug-ins that will handle crossovers and equalization and also interface with suitable, multichannel sound cards. I just lack the time and patience to get into this, but more integrated, simpler to uses software will eventually come about.

    But wait!! Why isn't it here already? Simple: the high-end business model is to sell the audiophile expensive, high mark-up hardware. And audiophiles remain equipment aficionados in general.

  3. #3
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I just bought 2 new soundcards for my new and old PC's....hooked em' up briefly, but I have to admit, they sound pretty darn good...and that's just WMA and MP3 and decent bit rates. I tried this a few years ago, maybe 2001 or so back and it was pretty terrible. So I don't know if the MP3 and WMA compression algorithm improvments have been that dramatic, or the soundcards are just way, better (I suspect both)...it's at least as good as XM radio or whatever.

    Haven't actually tried a CD in them yet, so I can't comment on that, but I expect they'd sound more than good enough for most people.

    I'm in agreement...as compression techniques continue to improve, higher rez formats emerge, and storage capacity grows, the home PC is definitely going to becom a piece of the audio rig.

  4. #4
    Forum Regular N. Abstentia's Avatar
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    Interesting. How do you remotely control it from the couch?

  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    No need to wait

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    ....

    Haven't actually tried a CD in them yet, so I can't comment on that, but I expect they'd sound more than good enough for most people.

    I'm in agreement...as compression techniques continue to improve, higher rez formats emerge, and storage capacity grows, the home PC is definitely going to becom a piece of the audio rig.
    Kex, m'man, no need to wait for improvements. It's all here, now. I really can't tell the difference between Apple Lossless played on iTunes throught my M-Audio Audiophile USB, and the real thing thru my CDP. (Granted, no part of my system is really high-end.)

    And there's nothing to keep a person from using WAV format files, the native CD format; a 300 GB hard disk costs $120 and will hold >400 CD-equivalents in that format.

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Easy for me to say

    Quote Originally Posted by N. Abstentia
    Interesting. How do you remotely control it from the couch?
    My laptop running iTunes sits, you guessed it, on my lap or be side me. It's connected to a USB hub using a 15' cable that is connected to my Audiophile USB and 200 GB hard disk holding my music files; they are located with the rest of my system. Gads! couldn't be easier or simpler.

  7. #7
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by N. Abstentia
    Interesting. How do you remotely control it from the couch?
    That's the only drawback in the setup I'm putting together...But realistically, my receiver's remote controls the volume etc, and track flipping/disc switching aren't something I'd do if I'm running off the PC anyway. For some that will matter, not so much me. I usually listen to albums, not songs - for albums, I'll use my cd player, but for the times I do just want music in the house I'll use the computer. Then it's more for background music in the house, so I just set it on a playlist and use the random feature...

    In my setup, the computer will output to the TV, and I'll have my wireless mouse near the couch actually...guess that's as close as I can get it. I'm sure someone will invent a remote setup for soundcards etc, if there isn't one already.

  8. #8
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    I am sorry, but this is silly. Maybe in a sub 400$ range, but a good dedicated CD player will run circles around a computer setup. Even if you dont compress it!
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  9. #9
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    I am sorry, but this is silly. Maybe in a sub 400$ range, but a good dedicated CD player will run circles around a computer setup. Even if you dont compress it!
    If you use a digital output to a quality DAC, how so?

  10. #10
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    If you use a digital output to a quality DAC, how so?
    First its the ripping which you will loose information on. Then the encoding, and the Jitter thats not removed. You can hear certain section of the electronics inside the computer or the laptop through the sound card and you have voltage fluctuations.

    There is most likely a whole range for and against it, but the simple fact is that you can hear it. We ran music from a Apple Ibook to a TagMcLaren Preamp here and while it was practical it did suffer in resolution, harmonic correctness and texture. Now given, you could possibly hear it on the Maggies, but it will be very obvious on Apogees, Magnepans and Electrostatics.

    -Flo

    PS: I am willing to do a blind test!
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  11. #11
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    First its the ripping which you will loose information on. Then the encoding, and the Jitter thats not removed. You can hear certain section of the electronics inside the computer or the laptop through the sound card and you have voltage fluctuations.
    Very interesting...
    For any compressed format there always will be some loss of sound quality for sure...but I have absolutely no degradation due to voltage fluctuations or other other electronics interfering with the transport of digital data to my DAC. I can only assume my M-Audio card protects against it then?
    I've never tried it, but one would think if the CD player reads the data and it's properly transmitted to a DAC by the computer, it would be doing the same job a CD player does.
    Jitter would be a concern, but even the most expensive Krell or ARC players I've heard didn't completely solve this...$18,000 DACs aside. - as long as crystals continue to be piezoelectic jitter will exist. Half the time the circuitry designed to eliminate jitter does more bad than good anyway...I'm usually so into the music that I never really notice any jitter effects except on the worst CD players. Same with pops or crackles on my turn table. Until they make a perfect format there's always gonna be something.

    Anyway, as far as using a PC goes...I think it's coming - it may or may not be the best sounding - but then, there will be audiophile companies that try to address that someday too.
    I certainly wouldn't expect my PC to play CD's as well as my Arcam, but as I said, I'm usually just using it as a programmable DJ for parties or for background music...it's not even hooked up to my stereo system, just my HT. Most people won't even own a $2000 system, so using their PC probably makes sense to them. It's gonna be handy in my case, I only have 2 CD players and 5 rooms with speakers in them in my house.

  12. #12
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    I think its a great choice for many people and encourage the IT Technology growing togehter with Audio and HT system. But i also heard some CD Transports that "only read 0 and 1's" with staggering differences! For most its great but i think that this is highly system and resolution dependand.

    For instance the Tact users (room correction) upgrade the voltage regulation on their DSP chips and get a big improvement in the sound. So there are affects but you will not hear them on moderate systems.

    So i recommend it, but i would be VERY carefull givin it a A+ for those addicted to audio at a certain level.

    -Flo
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  13. #13
    BooBs are elitist jerks shokhead's Avatar
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    Computers and A/V are seperate in my home. Why somebody would watch a movie on the computer or use it as part of a home theather is by me. Guess i'm old school when it come to this.
    Look & Listen

  14. #14
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by N. Abstentia
    Interesting. How do you remotely control it from the couch?
    With this thing:

    http://www.slimdevices.com/index.html
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

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  15. #15
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    First its the ripping which you will loose information on. Then the encoding, and the Jitter thats not removed. You can hear certain section of the electronics inside the computer or the laptop through the sound card and you have voltage fluctuations.
    I'm sorry Florian, but you're dead wrong about this:

    1) Ripping: Using a program like Exact Audio Copy, you can get completely error-free rips out of 99.99% of the CDs you buy. Perhaps 1 in 1,000 is damaged to the point where you get an error.

    2) Encoding and computer electronics: I'm not sure what you're talking about re encoding (if you mean compression, you can rip w/lossless compression), but if you use an off-board DAC you can move the whole process off the computer. The computer than serves as storage, and as a means to manage your collection.

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    There is most likely a whole range for and against it, but the simple fact is that you can hear it. We ran music from a Apple Ibook to a TagMcLaren Preamp here and while it was practical it did suffer in resolution, harmonic correctness and texture.
    With that kind of setup, absolutely you will hear it. But come listen to mine, where I stream a pure digital signal to a hign-quality DAC that's sitting far away from the computer.

    Sorry Flo, you're behind the times on this one.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  16. #16
    Forum Regular Florian's Avatar
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    You know i like you Mike, so i wont get upfront with this. Your Maggies are a great start and so is the Pathos, but you wont hear the difference. Its simply a lack of resolution!

    I wont get into this, and i will not argue. I am, once again comparing two different realms of HIFI. If this works for you, thats fine but i can blindly say that E-Stat, Joe, Bernd, Y-S and myself would never do this because of the lack of resolution, downward dynamic range, and none-harmonic correctness that we can hear on our systems.

    -Flo

    PS: As a designer of Phase Changed cooled computers, watercooled multiprocessor systems i am right in the time, but my level of musical fideliy along with others wont allow us such toys-
    Lots of music but not enough time for it all

  17. #17
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Here's my setup, BTW:

    1) Music is all stored in lossless format (FLAC) on a 500-GB external drive.

    2) The music can be managed with any number of software setups (like iTunes, if you aren't using FLAC), but I'm OK using the Slimserver software that comes free with the Squeezebox I linked to above. That can be accessed from any computer that's on the network, or you can use a remote control to control it through the Squeezebox. You can have any number of these things throughout your house, hooked wirelessly to your network if you like.

    3) The computer sends a network signal to the Squeezebox, which outputs a 44.1/16 bit PCM stream to a DAC. My Squeezebox is hooked to the computer via CAT5 cable, but wireless is also an option.

    4) In my case, I'm using a Benchmark DAC1, which puts jitter at a below-audible level. Of course this makes the setup slightly more expensive, but then I'm getting sound quality that will rival a CD player many times more expensive than this.

    5) The Benchmark outputs the analog signal to my Pathos Logos amp via balanced XLR cables.

    That's it! I can control my music without touching a computer, via the Squeezebox. Or, I can use the laptop that's often sitting right in my lap, if I prefer.

    The other nice part about it is that the Squeezebox makes Internet radio extremely convenient. You can even access it without having your computer on, via the Squeezenetwork. And through this setup, Internet radio actually sounds pretty good (about as good as you can make a 128k signal sound, which is good enough to fool most people).
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  18. #18
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    You know i like you Mike, so i wont get upfront with this. Your Maggies are a great start and so is the Pathos, but you wont hear the difference. Its simply a lack of resolution!

    I wont get into this, and i will not argue. I am, once again comparing two different realms of HIFI. If this works for you, thats fine but i can blindly say that E-Stat, Joe, Bernd, Y-S and myself would never do this because of the lack of resolution, downward dynamic range, and none-harmonic correctness that we can hear on our systems.

    -Flo

    PS: As a designer of Phase Changed cooled computers, watercooled multiprocessor systems i am right in the time, but my level of musical fideliy along with others wont allow us such toys-
    Have you listened to a computer setup with an offboard DAC?

    I fully agree that if you just take the sound signal out of a laptop, it's going to suffer big time. But in my case, the analog signal is coming not from the computer, but a Benchmark DAC1. And you can make your DAC as fancy as you like.

    Thus the computer is not acting as a sound signal generator, it's merely a storage and management device. My Squeezebox is acting as a "transport", and the DAC deals with any jitter problems.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  19. #19
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Re ripping CDs, here is Exact Audio Copy, which will give you error-free rips on the vast majority of CDs:

    http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/

    Here's info on the jitter level of the Benchmark DAC1:

    http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/

    I seriously doubt even the most golden ears listening to the world's best setup can here the level of jitter this thing puts out. It simply isn't an issue.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  20. #20
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    Hi Mike,
    When I first read your post this morning I thought it was a wind-up, but it turned into a debate. So here are my 2cts.
    My wife bought last week an i-pod Nano to use on her long car journeys and got bitten by the PC jukebox bug. So out we went and bought an offboard DAC "Perreaux Silhoutte SXD".
    It sounds acceptable through the living room system. We then made an experiment and took the PC into the listening room and have the DAC run through the Main System. Believe me the sound is nowhere near as good with the PC in the chain. We then used the CDP as transport only and the sound was a lot better.
    Just my findings as of yesterday.
    We all like different presentations and have different expectations.

    Peace

    Bernd
    "Let The Earth Bear Witness."

  21. #21
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernd
    Hi Mike,
    When I first read your post this morning I thought it was a wind-up, but it turned into a debate. So here are my 2cts.
    My wife bought last week an i-pod Nano to use on her long car journeys and got bitten by the PC jukebox bug. So out we went and bought an offboard DAC "Perreaux Silhoutte SXD".
    It sounds acceptable through the living room system. We then made an experiment and took the PC into the listening room and have the DAC run through the Main System. Believe me the sound is nowhere near as good with the PC in the chain. We then used the CDP as transport only and the sound was a lot better.
    Just my findings as of yesterday.
    We all like different presentations and have different expectations.

    Peace

    Bernd

    1) What's the source for your digital signal? If it's the computer's internal soundcard, you can easily do better. My Squeezebox puts out a digital signal with inaudible jitter (in the double-digit picosecond range).

    2) It's best not to put the PC in the room where you do your listening, because the noise from the PC itself (fan etc) will corrupt your listening experience. Note that you can easily run 50 feet of CAT5 cable before you have a problem with network signal, or you can stream wirelessly to something like the Squeezebox.
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  22. #22
    If you can't run-walk. Bernd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Anderson
    1) What's the source for your digital signal? If it's the computer's internal soundcard, you can easily do better. My Squeezebox puts out a digital signal with inaudible jitter (in the double-digit picosecond range).

    2) It's best not to put the PC in the room where you do your listening, because the noise from the PC itself (fan etc) will corrupt your listening experience. Note that you can easily run 50 feet of CAT5 cable before you have a problem with network signal, or you can stream wirelessly to something like the Squeezebox.
    Mike, I am not a PC techno guy, so can't really answer your questions with knowledge. We used the PC from its usb port. We didn't have the machine in the room as the usb lead is long enough to reach the Living room but not quite the Listening room. We just needed to move it a little closer.
    How is everything with you? Hope you're doing well.

    Peace

    Bernd
    Last edited by Bernd; 06-11-2006 at 09:39 AM.
    "Let The Earth Bear Witness."

  23. #23
    Forum Regular Mike Anderson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bernd
    Mike, I am not a PC techno guy, so can't really answer your questions with knowledge. We used the PC from its usb port. We didn't have the machine in the room as the usb lead is long enough to reach the Living room but not quiet the Listening room. We just needed to move it a little closer.
    How is everything with you? Hope you're doing well.

    Peace

    Bernd
    Everything's great here, thanks -- still enjoying your tubes in my amp!
    There's an audiophile born every minute. Congratulations; you're right on time.

    FREE RADICAL RADIO: Hours of free, radical MP3s!

  24. #24
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    And here's mine

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Anderson
    Here's my setup, BTW:
    ...

    Mine is really simple & managable ...The M-Audio Audiophile USB:
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  25. #25
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Hello! A bit is a bit is a bit

    Quote Originally Posted by Florian
    First its the ripping which you will loose information on. Then the encoding, and the Jitter thats not removed. You can hear certain section of the electronics inside the computer or the laptop through the sound card and you have voltage fluctuations.

    ...!
    If you are concerned about exact, jitter-free copies, use Exact Copy ...
    Reputedly, external USB-connected sound cards such as I use, reduce the effect of EMI/RFI found inside the computer.

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