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Dobbler
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Using USB from PC

I am currently working on getting my entire library ripped to Apple Lossless.  I am also looking at DACs.  I'll be using iTunes because I can use my iPhone as a remote and I already have all my files/organization/artwork there.

My question is: are there any settings on my computer that I need to be aware of to maximize the sound quality out of the USB?  Or is this just a plug and play operation?  Windows 7 Lenovo laptop.

My system is: Arcam amplification and Arcam CD Player.  Dali Helicon 400 speakers and Rel sub.  Audioquest cables throughout.  Goal is to use a laptop as a music server using my iPhone as a remote, as mentioned.

Thanks in advance!

jackfish
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I'd get a bit perfect add on for iTunes.

Amarra HiFi is one, there are others I imagine.

Or you can make sure the iTunes settings are correct. They have to be changed manually everytime you play music with a different bit depth and rate.

jazzfan
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ITunes on Windows
jackfish wrote:

Amarra HiFi is one, there are others I imagine.

Or you can make sure the iTunes settings are correct. They have to be changed manually everytime you play music with a different bit depth and rate.

I'm not sure if that issue with iTunes playback and differenct bit depth and sample rate happens only a Mac or if it also happens when using iTunes on a Windows PC.

Take a look at this link for further info:

http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=466157

And Amarra HiFi is for Mac not Windows.

Basically iTunes is a terrible program for playing back high quality audio and it also is not a very good music library management program. The really bad thing is that Windows Media Player is even worse.

Dobbler
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USB noise

Looks like I have a lot to learn.

 

Is it a forgone conclusion that I will have noise if I use USB for both my DAC connection and an external hard drive?  If so, I'll need a different computer!

jackfish
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Hopefully

you can connect them to different USB buses. USB ports on the front or side might be on a different USB bus than ports on the back.

Dobbler
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Good advice
jackfish wrote:

you can connect them to different USB buses. USB ports on the front or side might be on a different USB bus than ports on the back.

I'll give that a try, thanks.  Def. have ports on either side of the laptop.

Further, the more I read, the more I realize my Airport Express (vis optical to DAC) might be a good option for my application.  I am only doing Redbook CDs using Apple Lossless.  Seems that the AE is capable of that at its upper limit.  Thoughts?  Or am I still better off using USB?  I don't care either way because my iPhone will be my "server" remote.

 

Going back to the original question... Apple offers a "bitperfect" companion app for iTunes.  Are there better apps out there (for PC)?

jackfish
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Windows and iTunes

You can stream to an AirPort Express from iTunes. The audio data will be converted to Apple Lossless (if its not already) on the fly in iTunes, then streamed via WLAN (wireless network) to the AirPort Express. The AirPort Express can then output bit perfect to a DAC through its optical S/PDIF (digital) output. AirPort does not go through the kmixer bottleneck in Windows.

The other option is an ASIO or WASAPI extension or addon, but that I believe leaves iTunes out of the mix.

Dobbler
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This is great

Thanks, this has given me good information.  I like the AE streaming idea.  Now I just need to find a DAC and continue to rip my library to Apple Lossless.  It takes forever, especially with error correction on.

jackfish
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Lots of possibilities for a DAC...

What is your budget?

Bill B
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itunes

Good advice here.  I respectfully disagree w/ jazzfan when he said "Basically iTunes is a terrible program for playing back high quality audio and it also is not a very good music library management program. The really bad thing is that Windows Media Player is even worse."

I personally find iTunes a very good program for audio and as a music library management program.  I've had flawless experience with it and all the data is reliable and easy to find my music by track, by artist, using "Cover Flow", etc.  On my mac I also use Amarra HiFi for a useful (but not huge) improvement in audio quality (mostly in the sense of space or depth).  Amarra on the iTunes also gives me seamless playback of any bit depth/sampling rate music files.  (Amarra is for Mac but there are analagous products for Windows).

Dobbler
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iTunes

I, too, find iTunes to be a good organizer.  Once I learned to use the "Get Info" dialog box and manipulated data on tracks and whole albums it really came together.  I even organized albums by date of release so that artists like Rush or Yes appear from oldest to newest rather than alphabetical.  Makes it easier to peruse the catalogs of artists that have a lot of albums.  You can really do anything you want with it.

As far as quality, that remains to be seen.  If I can truly stream Apple Lossless as bit-perfect through my AE as Jackfish suggests, then it should be fine.

On the DAC front, I am seriously considering the Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus.  The twin Wolfson chips act similarly to the way my Arcam CD192 processes (although the Arcam is more advanced).  I like the sound of the Arcam... I know it might not translate across brands, but I've read good things.  I definitely want to stay sub $1000.

jazzfan
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"iTunes is good program" Not

"iTunes is good program" Not if you listen to jazz, classical, world or any other music not in the main stream. But if iTunes works for you then by all means stick with it. As far as streaming goes I've been using the Squeezebox line of streaming devices for five years and I find them to be easy to use and very flexible. Plus they can serve as the front end for a high end system when coupled with a high quality external DAC.

jackfish
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I've never been stuck on iTunes' genre designations.

I created my own when needed. Everything organized as I want and use it.

jazzfan
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No flac support

Since iTunes has never, does not now nor plan to in the future provide support for flac files I have never and will never have any use for the program.

I think different and therefore do not fit into the Apple universe. Just like I prefer using a keyboard instead of a touch screen. I realize that in the eyes of many I am be a fool but at least I'm a happy fool.

jackfish
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Why then are many of the Windows 8

implements going touchscreen? What's so special about FLAC? Apple isn't for you, who cares? 

jazzfan
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Ouch
jackfish wrote:

implements going touchscreen? What's so special about FLAC? Apple isn't for you, who cares? 

Looks like I've run into an Apple fanboy. Sorry about that I didn't know that you are a fanboy because if I did I would not have said anything knowing how much it hurts when anyone says anything negative about Saint Jobs and his sacred creations. Again my deepest apologies. All things Apple are always great and prefect, my mistake.

jackfish
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Never said Apple is perfect, but with my 40 years of experience

with computers, I also know the horrors of the Bill Gates sacred creations. I use both PCs and Macs, and have for 31 and 28 years, respectively. Both are tools with utility, nothing more. You are the one who seems to curse the devil in Cupertino, while I do not praise the lord in either Cupertino or Redmond.

Bill B
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FLAC in iTunes yes

I'm listening to FLAC music files (24/96) now, in iTunes, running through Amarra HiFi (which seamlessly converts them).  Sounds great!

jazzfan
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Flac files
Bill B wrote:

I'm listening to FLAC music files (24/96) now, in iTunes, running through Amarra HiFi (which seamlessly converts them).  Sounds great!

And I've been listening to flac files with many different bit depths and sample rates for over 5 years now using various Squeezebox streaming devices which doesn't convert them - they are streamed as flac files up to 24bit/96kHz (192kHz flac files are downsampled to 96kHz and 176.4kHz is downsampled to 88.2kHz). And I have never had to use iTunes.

By the way I actually agree with jackfish in that neither Windows nor iOS is perfect, particularly when it comes to playing music, which is why I chose to bypass the whole issue and go with a server based system, which is basically how the Squeezebox devices work. Bit perfect streaming without all the issues of either Windows or Apple. I even said as much in an earlier post: "Basically iTunes is a terrible program for playing back high quality audio and it also is not a very good music library management program. The really bad thing is that Windows Media Player is even worse."

Plus I didn't have to wait around for asynchronous USB to get low jitter since the files are streamed via ethernet or wifi.

In any event we are having last year's argument since now the hot digital audio topic is PCM versus DSD. It never, ever ends.

struts
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Okay, let's get back on topic..

Hi dobbler,

For general hints on setting up a PC for audio on a Windows laptop I would start here.  Regarding needing a dedicated computer for audio, unfortunately your suspicion is not totally unfounded.   You start of with a PC that is a general purpose computing tool and by the time you're done "optimizing" you have something that is essentially only usable for audio or close to it.  Each incremental improvement is small in and of itself but the cumulative effect is quite significant.

On your second point, yes, USB and Airplay are both means to the same end, i.e. getting music from a hard disk to a DAC via iTunes, at least as far as "standard" resolution 16/44.1 is source material is concerned.  Airplay has the convenience of being wireless but also the drawback of being, well, wireless.  If you live in an appartment block with lots of WiFi access points within range or a house with very thick brick or stone walls you might experience problems with interference or dropouts.  Might be worth surveying your radio environment before going that route.

Regarding choice of DAC, for $1k you have plenty of options.  If you decide to go the USB route I would definitely check out the Wavelength Proton.  Gordon Rankin pretty much "wrote the book" on getting good sound out of USB and his superb products deserve all the success they can get.

Good luck, and do let us know where you end up!

Dobbler
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Great input, all

Its coming down to this:

Using an external hard drive to store all my Apple Lossless files (maybe one day I'll have my step-brother build me a dedicated tower), I'll use my laptop connected to my wireless which is repeated using Airport Express.  I have great reception, and it actually originates from my behind my stereo!  The AE will connect to a DAC (yet to be named) via optical.

Using iTunes, basically because of the convenience of it all.  I've spent hours organizing the library already, it syncs with my iPhone so I always have my entire library, the iPhone will also act as a remote for the "server", and it already streams to the AE.  I also use a program called Airfoil that lets me stream anything to the AE, which frees me from Apple only sources.

I'll keep you informed which DAC I use.  Also wanting to update/upgrade my amplification so its all a process.

struts
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DAC Options

Three DACs around $1000 that you should probably have on your list are the Mytek Stereo 96, Lavry DA10 and the Benchmark DAC1, all of them have come in for praise on this board and others and some (maybe all) of them can be had on a 30-day no obligation home trial.  None of these would disgrace themselves in a good system and arguably represent a point on the law of diminishing returns curve where you need to spend about twice as much to get a really worthwhile improvement.

Good luck!

jackfish
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Schiit Gungnir should also get consideration.
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