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Stephen Mejias
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Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

Thinking about integrating a computer into your hi-fi? Please check out John Atkinson's essay, "Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC" for everything you need to get going.

John covers the basics and links to other pieces to provide more in-depth information. Read the essay and follow the links, and you'll be prepared to set up a computer-based music server.

Skellum
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

Oh no! I promised somebody in the Domestic Duties department I'd not fool around with tunes, except to listen, this weekend and paint a room....hmmmmmmmmmmm

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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

The least expensive asynchronous USB solution is not the $3500 Wavelength Cosecant, but the $200 E-MU 0404 USB. This device also uses the AKM AK4396 DAC chip - the same one used in the $2000 Slim Devices Transporter.

Elk
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

Neat critter.

How does it sound?

andy_c
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

It sounds a lot better than it has any right to, given its low price tag. What I don't like about it is that, with a laptop having a single core CPU (Pentium M 1.6 GHz), it uses up about 40 percent CPU just playing back music. This caused the fan of the laptop to run very fast, making an ordinarily silent laptop quite noisy.

But, I've also found other USB audio solutions not much better in this regard. CPU usage with the M-Audio Transit was over 30 percent with the same laptop. I've grown to dislike USB audio for this reason.

I eventually went with the E-MU 0404 PCI and a dedicated desktop computer. This uses about 3 percent CPU and is completely silent with the components of the desktop PC chosen for silent operation (fanless PSU, etc). The coaxial S/PDIF output of the E-MU 0404 PCI is transformer-coupled, giving galvanic isolation without having to go with Toslink. I am a happy camper now.

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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

I hesitate to add to this thread because some may see it as heresy; I don't use a preamp at all. I am using an RME Multiface II. I have posted it here: http://forum.stereophile.com/forum/showf...art=14&vc=1 #50004

Let the roasting begin...

andy_c
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

Oh, that makes sense. Just about any DAC with a solid-state output stage should be able to put out about 6VRMS - way more than enough to drive any power amp into clipping. I use a preamp, but that's only because I like to have a remote volume control, given the widely varying perceived loudness of all my music tracks. I like to mix up the music a lot, which means I'm constantly adjusting the volume.

scottgardner
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

Yea, me too. I wrote a small utility that "watches" the Windows master volume and translates it into MIDI then sends this to the RME. I use a Microsoft wireless keyboard to adjust the volume. Since the RME is adjusting the volume (via MIDI control) and it does all its calculations at 40 bits this should be lossless. (unlike windows kmixer)

The utility can be downloaded here: http://www.rme-audio.de/forum/viewtopic.php?id=3780

The RME with the PCI card is expensive but I have tried many different cards and outboard DACs and it is the best one I've heard. The Lynx is also very good, some say better, but it is(or was) not controllable via the master volume and it doesn't have enough channels for crossover and 5.1(eventually 7.1). I am currently using 20 of the RME's 36 channels (29 of 56 if you count internal routing channels).

Elk
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

Andy, thanks for the detailed response.

I didn't expect the heavy CPU load. This is really interesting.

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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC


Quote:
The least expensive asynchronous USB solution is not the $3500 Wavelength Cosecant, but the $200 E-MU 0404 USB. This device also uses the AKM AK4396 DAC chip - the same one used in the $2000 Slim Devices Transporter.

Thanks for the info. I guess my high-end audio bias was showing. I'll check the EMU out and report what I find in the magazine or on our website.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

scottgardner
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

"Thesycon's DPC Latency Checker is a Windows tool that analyses the capabilities of a computer system to handle real-time data streams properly. It may help to find the cause for interruptions in real-time audio..."

"If any kernel-mode device driver in your Windows system is implemented improperly and causes excessive latencies of Deferred Procedure Calls (DPCs) then probably drop-outs will occur when you use real-time audio..."

http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml

andy_c
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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC


Quote:

Thanks for the info. I guess my high-end audio bias was showing. I'll check the EMU out and report what I find in the magazine or on our website.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Thanks for your response John. FYI, here's a post that describes my trials and tribulations with this device under Windows:

post in AA PC audio forum

I have since found the problem with MediaPortal and Symphy's PureAudio ASIO plugin. It turned out to be a problem with my software firewall, unrelated to either MediaPortal or the E-MU drivers. Everything works fine under MediaPortal now. Also, Symphy has been made responsible for the audio subsystem of MediaPortal, which can only be good.

OTOH, I had a rather unpleasant experience with the Foobar2000 developer when I reported the problems I had with that program, the E-MU 0404 USB and ASIO. Here is the thread:

Foobar developer on E-MU 0404 USB ASIO problem

Edit: John Swenson was the guy that originally discovered that the E-MU 0404 USB operated in async mode.

Also, the J.River Media Jukebox (freeware version of Media Center) would be a good alternative to check out for ASIO behavior with the 0404 USB.

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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC


Quote:

Quote:
The least expensive asynchronous USB solution is not the $3500 Wavelength Cosecant, but the $200 E-MU 0404 USB. This device also uses the AKM AK4396 DAC chip - the same one used in the $2000 Slim Devices Transporter.

Thanks for the info. I guess my high-end audio bias was showing. I'll check the EMU out and report what I find in the magazine or on our website.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

The Wavelength Audio Brick, in its current version, runs its USB controller in asynchronous mode as well. Priced well below the Cosecant at $1750. Gordon Rankin can upgrade older version 1 Brick DAC's to version to for $250.

Interested audiophiles can snag a used Brick, when they pop up on Audiogon, for about $800 to$1000 USD.

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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC


Quote:
The least expensive asynchronous USB solution is not the $3500 Wavelength Cosecant, but the $200 E-MU 0404 USB. This device also uses the AKM AK4396 DAC chip - the same one used in the $2000 Slim Devices Transporter.

Actually, the Tascam US-144 is around $130 and is true Asynch USB 2.0. Supports 24/96 on the digital out. It can be clocked from a reclocker with some minor mods. Another option is to upgrade the internal oscillators for better performance. It is powered from the USB cable, so another improvement would be to add an external 5V supply instead of using the USB power.

It seems to me that I read that the EMU 0404 actually uses block-transfer mode, not async. Accomplishes the same thing though.

Steve N.

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Re: Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC

Does this mean if you have an optical out from your Mac or S/PDIF out from your PC -- then you can directly feed a DAC without jitter correction being necessary?

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Can't read the essay...

Everytime I click on the link to get to John's essay "Music Served: Extracting Music from your PC", it just brings me back to the top of the page. What's up with that? Can someone provide the proper link?

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