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Music PC or CD Player

Wharfedale EVO4.4 Speaker

apk

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Hi Everyone,

I have been spending the past few days reading through many of the threads here. There is a huge amount of information and knowledge here and I would like to thank all the members for that.

I had never through of using a PC as a source. I had always assumed that a dedicated CD player will provide better sound quality. But after reading the threads in this section, I am quite convinced that there is a strong case for Music PC.

I have a pure stereo setup (Enbee Sentinel Speakers & Enbee ZX80/ZX1 Pre-power amplifer). I currently use an LG DVD player as source, and am thinking of upgrading my source.

I would appreciate it if you could help me with answers to some of my doubts:

1. I have a budget of around 20 - 25 K (Rs). Will that be sufficient to build a Music PC with a good sound card. I am only interested in music and do not intend to use the PC for movies.

2. If the above is possible, will there be a significant difference in the sound quality quality of a 20-25K Music PC vs a 20-25K CD player

3. What should be the minimum configuration that I should be looking at if I build a music PC. I have around 400 CD today.

4. I use laptops at work and home. So I will have to build the PC from scratch. Can someone guide me on what all components need to be purchased, and some approximate cost of each.

5. My stereo system is kept in my living room. I do not fancy having a large monitor in my living room. Are there any small screen options for browsing and selecting files. I did see one thread on small screen LCDs but most of the options were outside of India. Are there any small screen options in India.

6. I have read from other posts that EAC is the best software to rip CDs to FLAC. The general agreement seems that cPlay is the best software to playback the files. Seems that I also need to use the ASIO driver. Are there any other software's that I need to use?

Do appreciate some inputs from all of you....

Anand.
 

spirovious

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I feel CDp which can play WMA/MP3 is better than PC as source ,
It can start fast than PC, It is dedicated & interference will be low, low power consumption.

PC has advantage as it has many options.Its storage,any format,networking etc.
 

iaudio

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Anand,

1. Yes you can build a good pc within 25k.

2. I cant vouch with first hand experience, but many of our senior members here have experienced it first hand that a pc with asus stx sound card, playing flac files using cPlay gives better quality than a budget cd player.

3. Minimum config: Imho, you need a P4/ amd equivalent of 2ghz, with 1 gb ram, and suitably a 250gb hdd( more the better, as flac files are quite large), and a pci e motherboard so that you can plug in the asus xonar stx. Alternatively, you can get a used pc with a pci e slot for cheap and add the asus sound card!

4,6. http://www.hifivision.com/home-theater-pc-htpc-media-pc/3796-final-components-htpc.html

5. Pass!
 

suprateep

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okay if you are just building a pc for music - I would say stay away from it (honestly coming from me it is a surprise!!!). Setting up a HTPC with Asus Xonar STX within 22K is possible (minus the display) and a normal cabinet - but in reality it is fun but a lot of hard work - you have to tinker with it a lot - that is where the fun is.

Pros
1.Plus you have a lot of flexibility wrt playback options etc.
2. Rip, Play do everything from a range of mp3, ape, flac etc - no rigidity wrt file formats handled.


Cons
1. Noise - can be fixed with some innovative engineering work and fan change
2. Good quality psu recommended

If you want to take this plunge - we can help you with specs, hw costs etc. Let us know.

PS: I am trying to find out how much those small touch screen LCDs cost (chinese brands) - they can just sit on top of your pc cabinet and voila play what you want.

Wait for details on this front.
 

anm

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if you have a laptop accessible when you want to listen to music - then use a usb soundcard/ dac. When you are not around, and others need to use the system, they can use the dvdp - unless they are as critical listeners as you are, or more.

regards
 

apk

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thanks anm, suprateep, iaudio & spiro for you replies.

I am looking at the best sound (from a source) that I can get within a budget (20-25k). If a PC based music setup can give me significantly better sound than an equivalent priced CD player, then I am definitely game. Though I am not an expert with computers, the process of putting one together seems exciting. I don't mind putting in time to fiddle around and tweak settings if the end result is worth it. Once set though, I would like to leave things that way.

But, if the difference in sound quality is only a bit, then I would prefer the convenience of a CD player.

Anand
 

moserw

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Hi Everyone,

I have been spending the past few days reading through many of the threads here. There is a huge amount of information and knowledge here and I would like to thank all the members for that.

You are welcome.

I had never through of using a PC as a source. I had always assumed that a dedicated CD player will provide better sound quality. But after reading the threads in this section, I am quite convinced that there is a strong case for Music PC.

If you are looking for the absolute best in terms of SQ then the PC is the way to go. It will easily trump a CDP any day. However, if you are looking for ease of use and good cosmetics and aesthetics then a CDP would be the way to go. So decide if sound is important or you are more bothered about what people see in your living room.

1. I have a budget of around 20 - 25 K (Rs). Will that be sufficient to build a Music PC with a good sound card. I am only interested in music and do not intend to use the PC for movies.

Yes and you can indeed build a PC that will be good for the movies too in case that's what you will want in the future. The idea of a used PC does look good too as suggested by iaudio.

2. If the above is possible, will there be a significant difference in the sound quality quality of a 20-25K Music PC vs a 20-25K CD player

I have already answered it. The PC will definitely sound better. Even if you go for a good CDP with a good DAC vs. a PC with an Asus Xonar, the PC with the Asus Xonar will definitely sound better.

3. What should be the minimum configuration that I should be looking at if I build a music PC. I have around 400 CD today.

You will need at least dual-core (preferably more), lots of HDD space (1 TB), an Asus Essence STX SC and you are all set.

4. I use laptops at work and home. So I will have to build the PC from scratch. Can someone guide me on what all components need to be purchased, and some approximate cost of each.

You can look to using an existing laptop too, otherwise you can look at Computer Warehouse Online - Build your PC yourself to get a basic idea about specs and configuration. Once you decide on the future course of action, lots of specific inputs can be given.

5. My stereo system is kept in my living room. I do not fancy having a large monitor in my living room. Are there any small screen options for browsing and selecting files. I did see one thread on small screen LCDs but most of the options were outside of India. Are there any small screen options in India.

I've already answered about this too. If you really want the best in terms of SQ then PC is the answer, if aesthetics and cosmetics are more important then go with a CDP. Coming to a small screen, really no idea but I'm sure a solution can be found at the local PC hardware store.

6. I have read from other posts that EAC is the best software to rip CDs to FLAC. The general agreement seems that cPlay is the best software to playback the files. Seems that I also need to use the ASIO driver. Are there any other software's that I need to use?

These are the best of the lot and the top of the line and free too. EAC, cPlay and ASIO4ALL are all you need. Also good antivirus and firewall (both free) in case your PC is going to be connected to the internet.
 

anm

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Stupid question to ask - but have you experienced the difference a 25k cdp will make to your setup compared to the dvdp? Are you able to hear and quantify the difference?

In the PC hardware, the most contributing factor is the sound card/ DAC IMHO. One way to take baby steps is to get a good USB sound card or a dac. If you can borrow one from someone, and feel the difference using your laptop, you know the answer and you can go ahead with building a dedicate one with internal sound card (less cables to manage + less conversions happening), fancy power supply etc.
Convenience is a very personal matter. Someone who sits in front of a comp all the time, and uses the same comp to play music, it is the most convenient solution. Someone who is afraid of comp, it doesn't get better than a CDP.

regards

thanks anm, suprateep, iaudio & spiro for you replies.

I am looking at the best sound (from a source) that I can get within a budget (20-25k). If a PC based music setup can give me significantly better sound than an equivalent priced CD player, then I am definitely game. Though I am not an expert with computers, the process of putting one together seems exciting. I don't mind putting in time to fiddle around and tweak settings if the end result is worth it. Once set though, I would like to leave things that way.

But, if the difference in sound quality is only a bit, then I would prefer the convenience of a CD player.

Anand
 

marsilians

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if you have a laptop accessible when you want to listen to music - then use a usb soundcard/ dac. When you are not around, and others need to use the system, they can use the dvdp - unless they are as critical listeners as you are, or more.

regards

I am being nit picky. I don't believe that PCs are at a point where critical listening can be done. A good quality dedicated CDP will beat it even though it may be unifunctional
 

moserw

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I am being nit picky. I don't believe that PCs are at a point where critical listening can be done. A good quality dedicated CDP will beat it even though it may be unifunctional

You are right bro. If a PC is just being used to play music then yeah a CDP will beat it for sure but then even a DVDP is just used to play music too. However, a PC built up to be a CDP will perform better than a CDP. Recently a friend has gone about and done just that and built a PC on the cMP platform and using cPlay coupled with a good DAC in the Asus Xonar SC and with improved SMPS (Corsair). The entire cost was less than 45K. The sound has really opened up in this machine. There is more detail, more soundstage, imaging and warmth too.

I know sound is subjective but at least that's what it sounded to both our ears (however we might be wrong and biased too because of the time we spent assembling our baby PC). We are planning to do more comparisons with other CDPs and other equipment, will be having a couple of members from this forum too over and then we can have our own "Audio Source Shootout" but with a PC based source too.
 

thevortex

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I am being nit picky. I don't believe that PCs are at a point where critical listening can be done. A good quality dedicated CDP will beat it even though it may be unifunctional

I wonder why you say that, Marsilians. Any particular reason why PCs cant be used for critical listening?
 

suprateep

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I wonder why you say that, Marsilians. Any particular reason why PCs cant be used for critical listening?

it is possible to make a music PC (with a capable processor with passive cooling and good SMPS and soundcard to achieve audiograde performance - but generally speaking setting up a PC for stereo only will take a lot of effort. Setting up one for movies is a different ball game altogether - but when you need almost pin drop silence an aggressive processor with active cooling solutions will make too much of a racket that may hamper critical listening. Other than that SW is available t bypass windows driver problems and play music "as-is"
 

apk

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Thanks everyone for your continued inputs.

The general feeling that I seem to be getting is that
1. If I am only looking at a music PC (not HTPC), then it might be wiser to stay with a good CDP. For critical listening, I will need components that are very quiet (eg fans, etc) and a good quality power supply. While this is not impossible, there is a lot more work involved.
2. For HTPC, the recommendations are mostly that HTPC is the way to go. However, I'm interested only in music, so I'll pass HTPC.

Are there any forum members who are using a PC only for music listening (and nothing else......no browsing, movies, excel or anything). If there is anyone, appreciate it if you can share your thoughts on using PC as a music source.

Anand.
 

apk

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moserw,

Thanks for your inputs.

If you are looking for the absolute best in terms of SQ then the PC is the way to go. It will easily trump a CDP any day. However, if you are looking for ease of use and good cosmetics and aesthetics then a CDP would be the way to go. So decide if sound is important or you are more bothered about what people see in your living room.

Yes, sound quality and not aesthetics is more important for me. I can live with a PC in the living room. However, the better half will have an objection to a 15 inch monitor in the living room. Hence the thought of a small size screen.

You will need at least dual-core (preferably more), lots of HDD space (1 TB), an Asus Essence STX SC and you are all set.

So you suggest that I should have atleast an Intel Dual Core and lots of hard disk space. Obvously the Asus Essence STX is a given. Any other sound cards that I should looks at for music only.
What about other components for a music only PC - power supply, any special cooling requirements, CD/DVD burner etc ?


Anm,
Stupid question to ask - but have you experienced the difference a 25k cdp will make to your setup compared to the dvdp? Are you able to hear and quantify the difference?

Have heard a borrowed Marantz CD6002 in my setup, and there was a marked improvement in the sound quality compared to the DVD player I am using now.
Even if the Music PC option does not work out, I'm still upgrading to a CDP!!

Anand.
 

suprateep

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So you suggest that I should have atleast an Intel Dual Core and lots of hard disk space. Obvously the Asus Essence STX is a given. Any other sound cards that I should looks at for music only.
What about other components for a music only PC - power supply, any special cooling requirements, CD/DVD burner etc ?

i suggest at least a dula core or triple core AMD (e series which is energy efficient and less noisy) on a Asus m3n series mobo. Use Xonar STX/Maduio 2496 as sound card.

Te main problem is the processor and SMPS fan - an aftermarket fan and a good smps and periodic cleanign will take care of that problem.

Please remember that CPlay and CMP combined together and with highest settings will require a lot of processing power and a lowly proccy may not do the job.

I use AMD 7750BE + xonar STX (htpc for movies and music only, no surfing) - the noise is bearable, but still when suddenly the noise gets louder, opening up the cabinet and cleaning the fan becomes a challenging task for a simpleton like me)
 

anm

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maybe you can borrow a USB soundcard/ dac from someone and try with your laptop in your system. I am expecting a DAC in few days (weeks or months, depends on Indian postal service) - not sure how good or bad it is. I will myself be doing some comparisons with cdp, dvdp and dvd+dac and cdp+dac. Though my amp is good, I am not sure if the speakers are. I don't find anything lacking, except maybe some lowest end bass.
I was in the same dilemma - music pc or cdp? Well, I went ahead with a CDP. There are just too many variables to fix in assembling a dedicate music only PC. It was easy for me to get reviews of a cdp, order is and just see that it works. Saved me a lot of time. But I have not yet given up on a music only PC.
There are some other options too - rumored squeezebox touch, archos players, vortex box etc
comp + iphone/ ipod/ squeezebox controller are extremely convenience in storing, finding and playing music.
regards

moserw,

Thanks for your inputs.



Yes, sound quality and not aesthetics is more important for me. I can live with a PC in the living room. However, the better half will have an objection to a 15 inch monitor in the living room. Hence the thought of a small size screen.



So you suggest that I should have atleast an Intel Dual Core and lots of hard disk space. Obvously the Asus Essence STX is a given. Any other sound cards that I should looks at for music only.
What about other components for a music only PC - power supply, any special cooling requirements, CD/DVD burner etc ?


Anm,


Have heard a borrowed Marantz CD6002 in my setup, and there was a marked improvement in the sound quality compared to the DVD player I am using now.
Even if the Music PC option does not work out, I'm still upgrading to a CDP!!

Anand.
 

thevortex

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it is possible to make a music PC (with a capable processor with passive cooling and good SMPS and soundcard to achieve audiograde performance - but generally speaking setting up a PC for stereo only will take a lot of effort. Setting up one for movies is a different ball game altogether - but when you need almost pin drop silence an aggressive processor with active cooling solutions will make too much of a racket that may hamper critical listening. Other than that SW is available t bypass windows driver problems and play music "as-is"

A solid case coupled with a quality power supply will ensure that noise levels are kept down. I will not say that a computer can ever be as quiet as a CD player. But I can say with experience that a HTPC can be configured such that not even the minutest noise disturbs your enjoyment of music.

The key of course is to not cram up the motherboard with gadgetry like graphic cards - in which case cooling gets taken care of and we may not need aggressive cooling solutions which in turn would cause a racket.

Also as you know a middling processor which can run cool would be just fine in a music PC.
 

moserw

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Hi apk,

You seem to have some confusion (misinformation rather) so let me clarify.

Firstly let me tell you there is no such thing as a HTPC and/or a Music PC. For me a PC is a PC and it will do everything and anything and way better than anything else. In terms of audio it will play any format and way better than anything else and in terms of video too it will again play anything and everything and yes way better than anything else.

A Music PC is a PC that you will use to only play music on and not use it for anything else. I on the other hand use my PC for everything and also for playing music. There is no such a PC that will only play music and do nothing else and neither is there such a HTPC too. So what I'm saying is either you have a PC or you don't. If you want to use it only for music or only for movies and nothing else then that's up to you, but such a PC will not differ from any other PC so there is no such thing as HTPC or a Music PC. In other words if you have the same components as me then your PC is not going to sound better than mine just because you use it only for playing music and I use it for browsing, blogging, chatting, emails, etc. Both will sound the same and do the same functions. I just use mine for everything while others don't.

Also I'm no audiophile, but I know my music and enjoy my music (and my 1200 odd CDs and albums are enough proof of that). I really don't bother about noise and other such stuff, I listen to the music coming out of my PC and not the noise coming from the fan. If a fan can and or will disturb you then my friend the audiophile bug has bitten you and nothing will satisfy you. I have friends like that who will never enjoy any music but want to fix that hiss (which I cannot hear) coming from the loudspeaker. Maybe there is hiss but once the music starts and I'm lost in the guitar, the drums and the vocals nothing else matters to me personally.

Coming to my PCs I have both a dual core and a quad core at home, but I personally use the dual core. I have an Asus Essence STX card, about 1 TB of HDDs, 3 GB RAM, and whatever else is necessary to run a PC. To my ears its the best rig for playing music that I have ever owned (and I've owned quite a few expensive imported musical rigs the last 25 odd years).

I hope this clarifies your doubts.

Thanks everyone for your continued inputs.

The general feeling that I seem to be getting is that
1. If I am only looking at a music PC (not HTPC), then it might be wiser to stay with a good CDP. For critical listening, I will need components that are very quiet (eg fans, etc) and a good quality power supply. While this is not impossible, there is a lot more work involved.
2. For HTPC, the recommendations are mostly that HTPC is the way to go. However, I'm interested only in music, so I'll pass HTPC.

Are there any forum members who are using a PC only for music listening (and nothing else......no browsing, movies, excel or anything). If there is anyone, appreciate it if you can share your thoughts on using PC as a music source.
 

suprateep

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A solid case coupled with a quality power supply will ensure that noise levels are kept down. I will not say that a computer can ever be as quiet as a CD player. But I can say with experience that a HTPC can be configured such that not even the minutest noise disturbs your enjoyment of music.

The key of course is to not cram up the motherboard with gadgetry like graphic cards - in which case cooling gets taken care of and we may not need aggressive cooling solutions which in turn would cause a racket.

Also as you know a middling processor which can run cool would be just fine in a music PC.

i do actually and I have been using my PC for music listening for over 6 months now and the xonar stx over the last 2 months has improved things a lot. And no graphics cards for me but inbuilt graphics of nvidia 8300 is great for h264 playing (12% cpu usage avg) and ripping.

But you will also agree that setting up a music pc is not everyones cup of tea - tinkering is the order of the day here.
 

moserw

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That is so true. Only a PC lover and one who spends time on the PC and one who will try out different types of players and see what's best will end up having one killer rig.

If you have all the right equipment like an Asus and NVIDIA but use WMP for audio and video then its going to be pathetic anyways.

i do actually and I have been using my PC for music listening for over 6 months now and the xonar stx over the last 2 months has improved things a lot. And no graphics cards for me but inbuilt graphics of nvidia 8300 is great for h264 playing (12% cpu usage avg) and ripping.

But you will also agree that setting up a music pc is not everyones cup of tea - tinkering is the order of the day here.
 
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