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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey guys:

My CD player and receiver have seen better days so I thought about another visit to the local electronic store. Fortunately, before then, I picked up a copy of The Absolute Sound August edition (The Digital Issue). There were some interesting articles about "Music servers for audiophiles." Technology has really moved forward in the last few yeas...

By combining your MacBook (or any PC), free iTunes software, a $10 Toslink optical cable and your home theatre processor's D/A converter, you can create your own audiophile music server. With this music server, you can instantly access your entire music collection, which is stored on your computer's Hard Drive, and listen to audiophile quality music reproduction.

You can also access internet radio; although this is at lower quality, given that the signal is sent bit-perfect to your home theatre processor's D/A section, sound quality can be surprisingly good. Obviously if you have a terrible Home Theatre processor, you probably will not enjoy audiophile music reproduction, but it might be better than that of your CD player.

My "new" set up follows:

*Macbook Pro
*iTunes music software (using high quality AIFF format to store music)
*12' Toslink fiber optic cable (3.5mm - Toslink ends) ($10)
*Sunfire TGII

==> Total cash outlay for audiophile CD player & home music server = $10

Newer MacBooks are especially easy to implement as audiophile music servers because:
*Bit perfect transmission of information is a no-brainer (automatic)
*MacBooks include an optical Mini-Toslink port (3.5mm) to transmit digital data to your home theater processor (the headphone jack doubles as an optical port and turns on automatically - I didn't know that before!)
* Some argue that a properly set up Windows machine with a Coax cable could provide even better quality sound, although that may take some effort

Advanced users utilize a wireless home network to avoid cables and clutter in the listening room, and some use the iPhone or iPod Touch connected to their home network as a fun visual remote to iTunes. I my go that way in the future.

In summary, for a paultry $10 (ten!), you get an audiophile quality CD player, a great music jukebox with all your music in one place and access to internet radio on your home theater system. More details:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/

Best,

:p


Special note for those who like to spend lots of money on cables:

Not possible here. High quality fiber optic Toslink-Toslink Mini 3.5mm cable does not exist. I found only low end Monster Cable and Audio Research cables, which due to lack of disclosure appear to utilize low-end optics. I used a toslink cable with a 3.5mm adapter and that worked fine for now. Given the massive bandwith of fiber optic cable, I will not lose any sleep with respect to cables for now.
 

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Elite Shackster
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Add one of these for 100 bucks and you get the same audio quality without having to hook up your laptop. And you can have your music where you are, like at the poker table, ping pong table, couch.... :bigsmile: Works with pc's too:whistling:

 

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The Airport Express (pictured above) is a good choice although has limited resolution (16/44.1)...
What about using an external sound card (I have SounBlaster Live 24) that I connect from ly laptop to my DJ equipment (if I want to play really loud at home) ... I copied all my CD's to laptop, so I have around 1600+ songs :huh:

I think it can be used anywhere with the analog or digital output from sound card, Right???
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Hi Salvasol:

Thanks for the inquiry.

You can use the Soundblaster sound card to connect to your audio system as you are doing now. Unfortunately the soundblaster's D/A converter (like most computer based DACs) is far from audiophile quality. The DAC inside a CD player, home theater receiver/processor or dedicated DAC box will likely sound much better, so you should try to utilize these where available. I purchased an old Sunfire processor specifically for this purpose.

I suspect you will get better playback if you use a USB cable or coax digital cable (real coax cable not a lousy RCA) out from your computer/Soundblaster to your Home Theater Receiver's DAC. If the Soundblaster does not have digital coax out, you can try a good quality optical cable. If you use the USB option you can probably bypass the Soundblaster and plug directly to your computer. If you have a mac, you might be able to bypass the soundblaster using the mac's optical out (hidden in the headphone out jack!). You can research jitter and interference issues with each of these options elsewhere.

That's a lot of CDs. Hopefully you have copied your CDs in AIFF or similar format so there is no loss of quality.

By the way, you will want to make sure your computer is sending out "bit perfect" digital information to the DAC. A Mac does that automatically, but you need to do "some" tweaking to a Windows based system to get there.

More info at computeraudiophile.com. Hope this note helps.

:p
 
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Alot of the intel based notebooks (obviously mac since they are all intel) also have the hidden toslink in the headphone, check your manual. As far as destops alot of motherboards these days are including coax at a min and sometimes both optical as well, but that really depends on the manufacter. The external soundblasters are pretty bad both processer and DAC wise (even the new X-Fi's, they're actually still the same they just updated the name). Internal ones should have the combo or dedicated mini Toslink port (Creative always use mini toslink unless you have the front bay).
A new and cheap (can be expensive but not for the sound) is the new Radeon 48XX series of graphices cards, of course this is only for HDMI. However all 48XX series from the cheapest $40 4350 to the most expensive $500 4870 X2 output 8 channel LPCM over HDMI. They have two DVI ports for output and use an HDMI adapter to change the ports to HDMI. This could be a nice solution for those with HDMI adapters

Oh and if you want audiphile sound cards check out Auzentech.
 
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