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jmall's picture
Last seen: 3 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Oct 14 2005 - 10:14am
Audio Card or Outboard DAC?


I am considering setting up a music server using an existing spare PC. I was considering doing one of the following:

-> Get a high end PCI audio card (like Azuntech's X-Meridian) and feeding it directly to my preamp. I'm open to better sound card options here as there were only a few that seemed to fit the bill. And even then I wonder...

-> use the onboard S/PDIF output from my motherboard to a good used DAC (~$1000).

What is everyone's experience with this?
What software should I use to rip my CDs for best sound quality (space really isn't an issue)?
What is the best for playback (I assume that iTunes and/or WMP are really the best out there)?
Obviously the cheapest solution is the sound card. But how would it compare to my Rotel RCD-1072 for sound?

I'm open to some suggestions and experiences!


Jeff Malloch
Elora, ON, Canada

jazzfan's picture
Last seen: 1 year 8 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 8:55am
Re: Audio Card or Outboard DAC?

Hi Jeff,

Outboard DAC is the definitely the way to go at this point. Try and get one that has as many different types of digital inputs as possible, including USB. By going with an outboard DAC you're not locked into any given computer or computer operating system and you can use the DAC with all different types of digital sources. A good used/new DAC with a USB input can be had for around $200 to $300.

As for the ripping, storage, playback questions. The gold standard for ripping CDs is Exact Audio Copy, a freeware program that puts everything else to shame. For storage many people use the FLAC codec, another freeware program which is a lossless audio compression program and is widely supported. For playback where audio quality is important, the program to use is Foobar2000, another freeware program which is ugly as sin, completely user unfriendly and totally lacking in bells and whistles (at least until one customizes it a bit) but enables the music to come through with the least amount of distortion.

Google and Wiki any and all of the above for more information.

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