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Best way of getting CD sound out to amp... (PC vs. dedicated player)

Discussion in 'Home Cinema & Hi-Fi' started by jhmaeng, 12 May 2006.

  1. jhmaeng

    Wise Guy

    Joined: 6 May 2004

    Posts: 2,060

    Location: London, UK

    Hi guys.

    In a bit of a conundrum at the moment. Basically, I listen to a lot of classical CDs and I'm looking for a better way to store/manage/listen to those.

    As many of you would know, putting classical music onto MP3s are both frustrating (ID3 tags for one, impossible to categorize, you always think of them in terms of whole CDs whereas the music organiser might want to organise them another way, etc) and sonically challenged (classical music seems to suffer the most after MP3 compression - perhaps it's the dynamic range or the sheer volume of information).

    With that in mind, I'm not going to bother putting my classical CDs into MP3 format - instead, I have a choice of either playing them from my PC, or buying a separates CD deck.

    I have an M-Audio Revo 5.1 which I am very happy with, and it also has Coax out so if I wanted something better, I could get an external DAC to hook it up to.

    So far, I've tried putting some CDs onto the hard disk in image form (using Alcohol 52) and choosing the CD to listen to by mounting the right image onto the virtual CD drive.

    - Not having to swap physical CDs around
    - Gapless playback (true CD style)
    - Truthful recreation of the CD information, sounds pretty good
    - Optical drive doesn't make any noise while CD is playing from image
    - Sound quality already not bad, and could be even better with external DAC
    - More space on desk (I use Videologic Sirocco for all music, on the computer desk) - having a separates deck would involve kicking out a lot of stuff off the desk, which is never really tidy to begin with.

    - Pretty crude interface for choosing/mounting which CD to listen to (windows explorer, right-click... not going to win any awards)
    - My Raptor makes intermittent seek noises - could be easily solved by getting a quieter hard drive, but still an annoyance
    - Having to leave computer on while listening to music - though admittedly, I have it on more or less all the time anyway
    - But most importantly, could the PC setup described above really compete in any way with dedicated CD players (say, around £150 range)? If the answer is
    a resounding no, then how about if I added an external DAC? Would that improve things by a lot?

    It's one of those threads where I'm just looking for people's opinions and ideas... if you have experience of what I'm trying to do or use an alternative method etc, I'd be interested to hear from you.

    Lastly, if you had an opportunity to buy the Sony SCD-XB940 SACD player for £85 second-hand, would you?

    Thanks for all the help in advance, guys (and gals!)
  2. Alex_L


    Joined: 18 Oct 2002

    Posts: 3,025

    on the pc front, rather than taking images of the cds, why don't you try a lossless format like FLAC/Apple lossless/WMA lossless, identical to cd quality but about 50% of the size of the original and you can have tags and play them using media players like itunes, foobar or WMP. Certainly better than mounting and unmounting disk images.

    Other than that I can't comment as I know very little about hifi
  3. Mr_Sukebe

    Man of Honour

    Joined: 23 Dec 2002

    Posts: 9,150

    Location: London

    As Bush has already suggested, using something like Itunes might be a good idea, and compressing the music using a lossless format like AAC. That would reduce space requirements by 50%.

    Ref your other questions, depends on the rest of your setup. If you have a decent amp and pair of speakers, I'd expect that a decent DAC would improve things.
    Just one point, PCs are not noted for being able to compete very well against a good CD transport, certainly not in the context of a good system. So you need to make a judgement call of going for absolute music quality (dedicated transport), or for much better convenience.
  4. DRZ


    Joined: 2 Jun 2003

    Posts: 6,837

    Location: In the top 1%

    A lot of classical is fairly easy to compress in terms of making it sound good - its not easy to drive file sizes down though due to the lack of percussion and distortion (ie high frequency content that can be removed!).

    Unless you are willing to go overboard, there is no significant advantage to a PC over a £150 CDP - the CDP will wipe the floor sonically and the rest all doesnt really matter does it :p

    If you were to spend as much on a CDP as you did in total on the PC, well, things get rather better indeed :)