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DJ_Farid

How do I get better sound from computer?

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My computer is located more than 2 meters from my stereo.

I have a Soundblaster Live! PCI card hooked to my 2 channel amplifier with a 4 meters long RCA cable.

There is no digital input in my amplifier. The cable is a better quality cable, but still the signal is analog and the attenuation of the signal must be quite big travelling this long distance. The sound is not as good as I would get with a shorter cable.

What could I do to get better sound from my computer?

Moving my computer closer to the amplifier is not an option.

What about getting an external soundcard, and placing it on top of my amplifier. What would be the drawbacks of this setup? Would it be possible to have a 3 meters long USB cable going to the soundcard. How much does an external soundcard affect the computer performance? How good does an external soundcard work?

Are there any other solutions that I have not thought about?

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I have found the Sound Blaster Live 24-bit USB for a quite good price.

Does anyone here have any experience with this thing? I haven't found any reviews.

It uses USB 1.1, so having a 3 meter USB cable from my computer to the unit should be OK according to USB specifications.

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My computer is located more than 2 meters from my stereo.

I have a Soundblaster Live! PCI card hooked to my 2 channel amplifier with a 4 meters long RCA cable.

That's almost the same way I connect my computer to my amp, except I use two 6 foot (2 meter) RCA cables connected together, male to female, to bridge the distance, and I don't have any sound problems (or noticable signal attenuation in the cables).

I don't think there should be any significant sound degradation just because you are using 4 meters of RCA cables... so perhaps there is another problem (like a bad cable, bad connectors, or an impedance mismatch).

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I used to work as a studio soundengineer (as very long time ago, though) so let's see about your problem

My computer is located more than 2 meters from my stereo.

I have a Soundblaster Live! PCI card hooked to my 2 channel amplifier with a 4 meters long RCA cable.

There is no digital input in my amplifier. The cable is a better quality cable, but still the signal is analog and the attenuation of the signal must be quite big travelling this long distance.

Yes. Rule of thumb (in professional environments): unsymmetrical connections should not exceed 1,8 m.

However, i recommend to lighten up when it's about home usage.

The sound is not as good as I would get with a shorter cable.

Do you assume this or did you compare the sound by switching between longer/shorter cables?!

Because frankly i don't think one would notice a difference audible beyond the noise of your computer! However silent your PC may be, it is just loud enough to cover these details.

What about getting an external soundcard, and placing it on top of my amplifier. What would be the drawbacks of this setup?

In general USB generates higher system load, on top of being bit of a bottleneck for the audiosignal processing. Just my € 0,03: these ext. USB sounddevices are dedicated to notebooks etc. where int. soundcards (i.e.: changing of) are not an option. They are a makeshift solution when a decent soundcard cannot be used.

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Thanks for the input.

The soundblaster Live! card that I have now is actually a decent card. The only bad thing with Soundblaster (and Creative in general) is the software. Using Soundblaster with the "KX Project" drivers in Windows or Linux native drivers gives a very good sound. I know that there are better cards out there, but they would be a lot more expensive.

I know for a fact how long cables affects signals, especially analog low voltage signals with varying frequencies.

I would not call myself an audiophile, but almost :) My amplifier, speakers and cables inbetween them are good enough to show the difference. I have tried with a shorter cable signal is much louder and distinct with the shorter cable.

There are a lot of other physical factors that affects the signal in the cable than the power output being smaller than the power input. It's mainly these things that I would like to avoid.

The hum from the fans in the computer is not as annoying as the lack of "whoomp" in the music :D

I get even better sound from CDs with mp3s if I play them with my crappy DVD player. I am pretty sure that it is the shorter cable that does the difference. The D/A converter in my DVD is not as good as the one on my SB.

The external SoundBlaster has gold plated contacts, which my PCI does not have. I have no idea about the rest of the components in the thing.

I don't understand why USB should be a bottleneck, since the signal is all digital and I have no intentions of recording with it..

From http://www.creative.com/products/product.a...uct=10702&nav=2 :

* 24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion during playback in 16 or 24 bit with sampling rates of up to 48kHz in 5.1 mode and up to 96kHz in stereo mode.

* 24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion during recording in 16 or 24 bit with sampling rates up to 96kHz

* Due to data transfer limitations of the USB 1.1 connection, it may not be possible to play back, record or simultaneously record and play back content at the highest bit rate and/or frequency supported.

But then again. I have never touched an external soundcard in my life...

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The cable is a better quality cable, but still the signal is analog and the attenuation of the signal must be quite big travelling this long distance. The sound is not as good as I would get with a shorter cable.

With typical output/input impedance of soundcard/amplifier you do not get any noticable attenuation in the audio band with 4m of good quality RCA cable. You are deluding yourself. Try a blind test, get a 2m cable and a 4m cable and get an assistant to switch them at random while you judge how "punchy" the music is and hence pick which cable is being used. Try this and I'll bet you'll cant do it.

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The cable is a better quality cable, but still the signal is analog and the attenuation of the signal must be quite big travelling this long distance. The sound is not as good as I would get with a shorter cable.

With typical output/input impedance of soundcard/amplifier you do not get any noticable attenuation in the audio band with 4m of good quality RCA cable. You are deluding yourself. Try a blind test, get a 2m cable and a 4m cable and get an assistant to switch them at random while you judge how "punchy" the music is and hence pick which cable is being used. Try this and I'll bet you'll cant do it.

I have already done this with the RCA cable from my CD player to my amplifier. I know the difference with different cables and how the length affects the sound.

I know that this is a sensitive subject. I don't want to make this a flame war about cables.

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I have already done this with the RCA cable from my CD player to my amplifier. I know the difference with different cables and how the length affects the sound.

I know that this is a sensitive subject. I don't want to make this a flame war about cables.

I guess than there is no point in you actually asking here, if you want to ignore physics and reason, right?

Hint: if you computer has a single fan, no matter how silent, it will be at lest 10db more intense than any distortion ANY cable will give you at that distance.

DAC noise, random RFI from inside the computer and all those other influences are also orders of magnitude stronger.

And yeah, you could get an USB soundcard and place it next to your amp. Maybe the way audio works in your brain, you might think it will sound better.

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imsabbel, there is no need to be rude.

To me it sounds as if you are ignoring physics or you just don't know how signals in cables works.

I want the signal going into my amplifier to be as close as possible to the signal going out from the soundcard.

I am not concerned about different sounds coming from around my speakers. My livingroom is silent enough in my opinion. If there are some noise coming from a fan, DAC, RFI or someone shouting outside my window, I can just crank up the volume.

But I do want the sound coming from my speakers to be crisp and clear if the person that recorded the sound intended the sound to be crisp and clear. This is not what I am getting now.

I am quite sure that this is due to the fact that the RCA cable is so long. Use google to learn about how the length, thickness and material of a cable affects the signal, if you don't believe me.

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I am quite sure that this is due to the fact that the RCA cable is so long. Use google to learn about how the length, thickness and material of a cable affects the signal, if you don't believe me.

Could you please post some links that show any kind of quantitative effect (either measurements or double blind test results) that support the notion that an extra 2 meters of good quality shielded cable will give rise to noticeable detriment at audio frequencies in a line-out (or speaker-out) to line-in impedance situation. I've looked and can’t find any hard evidence to support this.

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The Live card no matter how you drive it is just a poor quality card to play music with; a Live's sound quality would make any audiophile cringe. You 'can' hear the difference if you get a decent sound card geared toward professional or hobbyist audiophile. I would consider the Onkyo SE-90PCI or one of the M-Audio selections.

Onkyo Link:

http://www.audiocubes.com/product/Onkyo_SE...udio_Board.html

onkyosoundpl1.jpg

M-Audio Link:

http://www.m-audio.com/index.php?do=produc...D=pciinterfaces

maudiocardkh5.jpg

Good Luck. :)

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I do understand that pretty much any audiophile card produces much better sound than a Soundblaster. I would probably get much better sound buying a new card for 5 times the money an external Live card costs.

I am a student and don't have that kind of money.

If I had huge amounts of money I would buy a firewire audiophile card that I could place near the amplifier.

I have read basic electronics in school several years ago. There I learned that an inductor is an inductor, and that was what I believed for a long time. I thought that all of that mumbo jumbo that audiophiles talk about cables is mumbo jumbo.

Then my cd player started acting weird. I did a lot of reading before I bought a new one. The new cd player made a huge difference in sound. Long story short, I ended up buying a new amplifier too. While I was in the shop and bought the amp, I bought new speaker cables. I didn't believe that the cables would do a difference, just wanted to try it anyway.

The difference was big (not only placebo because I had spent the money).

After that I made my own RCA cables from my CD to the amp (I am poor). This made a huge difference. Even my girlfriend can hear it (and I do believe her).

Note that I want from pretty crappy standard equipment to quite good stuff. The difference would not be as huge if you go from good to sligtly better.

The last two years I have been studying networking and communications more in depth. A couple of courses have been about signalling, telecommunications and such. Some of the audiophile talk can be found in my course litterature. Now I understand a little more about the theory, and I do believe that a cable makes a difference. But I am not saying that everything you read about cables is possible to detect with a human ear.

Anyway, music is composed of different frequencies. Different frequencies travel at different depth in the cable. This makes the signal to look a little different on the other end of the cable. I believe that this slight difference in time is audible. This is usually called the skin effect.

All cables changes the sound signal in some slight way. The shorter the cable, the more the signal in the other end of it will look like the original signal. This is a fact, audible or not.

Before you bash me down completely I want you to remember that all I want is better sound with a low budget.

What I have now is a 7 years old SB live 1024, with a not very very expensive RCA cable. That shouldn't be hard to beat in sound quality?

The external SB Live has gold plated connectors. I don't have that on my card right now for example...

http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~jcgl/Scots_Gu...fect/page1.html

http://www.jenving.se/ Click technical info, then "Directionality". They claim that there is a difference in which direction you plug your cable :)

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I used to go down that route, trying to get decent sound from a computer directy into the hifi system. After failing with a number of solutions (not very restricted by budget), I made the best decision yet - I got a Squeezebox. You will find lots of information online about this product if you care to research. The Audiophile community has slowly and unwillingly had to start realizing that the Squeezebox sounds equal to or better than dedicated transports from well known brands, costing more than 10 times as much.

You will still need a computer in one form or another to store your music but you don't have to care much about the distance since you will use wired or wireless network. If you can affort $250 for this kind of convenience and sound quality, do yourself a big favour.

And btw.

Focus on room acoustics rather than cables if you are interested in real improvements.

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Before you bash me down completely I want you to remember that all I want is better sound with a low budget.

What I have now is a 7 years old SB live 1024, with a not very very expensive RCA cable. That shouldn't be hard to beat in sound quality?

DJ, I'm not trying to bash you down, :) consider this as some constructive advice. You're looking in the wrong place to increase your audio quality. If changing your cables makes a very noticeable difference then there was likely a fault in either your old cables or system configuration. In particular make sure that your system grounding is optimal (see details given below).

1. Speaker cables. : Skin effect causes the cable resistance to increase with frequency and this causes the group delay to also change slightly with frequency. Typically this amounts to a variation over 20Hz to 20kHz which is some tens of nano-seconds. Since sound only travels at about 300 m/s in air then this differential group delay amounts to spatially displacing the high frequencies by about 0.01 millimetres or less. In blind tests nobody has ever been able to pick this and there is little wonder why.

If you really could hear a noticeable difference when you changed your speaker cables then please consider the possibility that you had inadvertently connected your old cables with incorrect polarity (phasing). That mistake will cause a real detriment to sound quality, particularly to the bass.

2. Line interconnect cables : While the result of skin effects causes differential group delays too small to hear in speaker cables it is far less pronounced in line interconnect cables as the output and load resistances are much higher than in the speaker case.

If you really hear a noticeable improvement in sound quality with 2 meter line interconnect cables as compared with 4 meter cables then please consider the possibility that your system is poorly grounded causing circulating ground loop currents in the shield of the interconnect. This can cause a significant "pick up" or "hum" in the interconnection. To eliminate the possibility of circulating ground currents please be sure to connect your AC power to all components as follows. Get yourself a large power-board with as many AC outlets as required to run your computer and your stereo and all peripherals connected to either. That is, your entire computer system and your entire stereo system and absolutely everything connect to either (unless the connection is wireless or optical) should all come back to the one single AC power outlet!. If you can't get a large enough power-board for this then cascade a second power-board onto the first so that it still comes back though a single AC outlet at the wall. Don’t worry about overloading it, computer and stereo equipment don’t draw all that much power when compared with large loads like a room heaters and air conditioners etc.

Edited by uart

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Thanks both!

I will add the Squeezebox to my wishlist. Hopefully santa clause will get me one. I have ben looking at similar solutions. But all seemes to be of bad quality and complicated to use to browse my large mp3 collection.

The Squeezebox really looks neat. It would probably cost atleast the double here in Sweden, if it can be found here.

I admit that the RCA cable I have now is not the best cable you can have. But a new cable costs the same as the Live. I know that there is something that I hear (or lack hearing) with my setup that I have now. I really do believe that it is mostly due to the cable. I don't have a word for it. It could be the capacitance getting too high, or most probably just a combination of many factors. I don't think that it has to do with grounding. That would sound different, I think.

This is an highly pessimistic article about interconnects: http://sound.westhost.com/cables-p3.htm#interconnects

He tests 1 meter cables, and can see differences in the cables. My cable is probably not as good as his examples, and is 4 times longer...

When I changed my speaker cables the thing was that I went from semi crappy to good cables. Nothing else.

I doubt that there is an audible difference in very good cables and very good cables.

I can't do much more about the room accoustics (unless I kick my girlfriend her sofa out).

There is a door opening between the computer and sterao. That is the reason why my computer is so far from the amp in the first place.

I could probably move the computer to the other side of the room if santa comes with a Squeezebox to me :rolleyes:

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This is an highly pessimistic article about interconnects: http://sound.westhost.com/cables-p3.htm#interconnects

He tests 1 meter cables, and can see differences in the cables. My cable is probably not as good as his examples, and is 4 times longer...

OK at this point I give up. I'm sorry to say this but you are just not able to read and interpret information on this subject and make sensible conclusions. I'm not trying to be inflammatory or anything but you just don’t know enough about how this stuff works to make sense of it. That linked article does not conclude that interconnect cables sound different but it actually concludes the complete opposite. Only in the case of the turntable to phono-in connect did the article suggest that excessive cable capacitance can be a problem. This is common knowledge to anyone familiar with audio equipment and has absolutely nothing to do with your situation of connecting a soundcard output to an amplifier line-in.

A turntable output is an un-amplified, high impedance passive circuit! Your soundcard output is a low impedance amplified circuit, there is just no comparison between these two cases in relation to cable capacitance. If I told you that the output resistance of your soundcard is probably less than 32 ohms and your 4m cable capacitance is probably less than 2nF would that mean anything to you? Well it actually means that the effect of cable capacitance won’t kick in until about a MHz in this circuit! It’s just not relevant at 0-20kHz end of story. I'm out of here.

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