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Good ways to hook up PC to home audio system?
Conger
post Jul 19 2002, 12:26
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I am trying to find a good way to hook up my PC which is about 40' of cable run, away from my home audio AV amp. My PC soundcard is an SBLive and the amp does not have any optical inputs. I tried making up a decent quality cable to run from the rear speaker o/p on the SBLive to the AUX i/p on the amp, but sound quality was not good enough.

The choices I have considered are:
1. Get an amp with a digital I/P and use the dig o/p from the SBLive or an alternative card. Then run a 40' optical or copper cable to the amp. So far I have not found such a long cable.
2. Move my PC close to the amp - not possible.
3. Build a stripped down derated processor clock PC system with Ethernet or use a local disc for mp3 starage (2500+) next to the amp - not ideal because the PC PSU and processor fan will be noisy. This system will be difficult to hide from my wife's view - this is technicaly not good.
4. Get a HD based mp3 player and just connect up directly to the amp.

However, each of these options have their advantages and disadvantages.

I was wondering there are other ways to do this that migt be easier and cheaper?
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kennedyb4
post Jul 19 2002, 13:05
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My amp/DAC is about 20 feet from my computer. I was advised to use shielded rg 59 coax cable for the run from the spdif out.

I have used a variety of cables for this and they all sounded the same to me, although I am told that the cable can make a huge difference with spdif.

Make sure you audition any new amp with an onboard DAC because some do not sound good. I have a Yamaha RX 795 and it is very clear and smooth.
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Saint
post Jul 19 2002, 13:18
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I use an AV Video Sender to do this. The one i have just plugs into the phono ports on the back of my Hi-FI. Very good quality i'm quite impressed. I was expecting to have alot of interference and noise but i haven't noticed any (only when you turn the microwave on smile.gif )

http://www.oneforall-int.com/

The one i use is the SV-1700 but i'm sure other company's that make them to.
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godzilla525
post Jul 19 2002, 13:56
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I also recommend RG-59 or even RG-6 for S/PDIF. RG-6 has a slightly lower signal loss than '59 and can make a difference over long distances, however that may not matter as much due to the higher signal levels and lower frequencies involved compared to TV signals.

There are stand-alone DAC units available that could be used between the computer and receiver, but those tend to be expensive (but will most likely perform better than most digital receivers). If you do decide to get one, be sure that it supports the 48kHz sampling rate that the SBLive operates at. (Shouldn't be too hard considering DAT decks and DVD players use that PCM standard)

Building a small, quiet computer isn't difficult with the correct parts. A small form factor motherboard with integrated video would be ideal. VIA C3 processors need only a decent heatsink (but no fan) and have more than enough power to decode compressed music formats. 5400RPM harddisks also run cooler and quieter than equivalent 7200RPM units. The only fan that would still remain would be the one in the power supply. With most modern PSUs, the fans are thermally controlled and only operate as fast as needed, and will continue to do so with a power-conscious CPU and HDD. However, controlling it without a monitor or keyboard/mouse is beyond me. biggrin.gif Maybe a laptop (with an external sound device) would be better suited for this?


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Conger
post Jul 19 2002, 16:31
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godzilla525 - The idea I had with the PC close to the amp is to use Winamp as the player and use 2 plugins - there is a serial port driver for 2 line LCD displays and also another for simple buttons or Remote Control units. Alternatively, the control could come from a default auto played playlist that you could "control" by editing from a remote PC. The laptop idea is good but most low cost used laptops come with small HD's. I would want at least 20Mb. But you know, when you start to add up the cost of all this, you get close to a DAP or iPod price.
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Conger
post Jul 19 2002, 16:35
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Saint - I like the AV Video Sender idea. I had always thought these were poor quality transission. What does the SV-1700 cost in ?
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JimH
post Jul 19 2002, 16:47
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Here's a thread that might help on long runs of cable:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread....threadid=155520

My home solution for the same problem is to network two PC's. A very small Sony Vaio sitting next to the amp feeds it with sound. My wife thought it was weird for a few days and then thought it was OK and now she uses it all the time.

I use Media Jukebox (which is our software) and run in a client server mode. So the music is stored on the desktop PC in my office and is served out to the Vaio by running Media Server (part of MJ).

The connection is 802.11b wireless Ethernet.

Just to ramble on a little, I have a third PC on an Ethernet cable next to the TV in my TV room. It feeds both audio and video into the home theater amp. I use it to play DVD's and as a TV tuner, as well as for playing APE files and mpeg video clips.
All 3 PC's can play files from each other.

Now if I can just get da5id or WickedEwok to get their programs finished, I'll be able to control these PC's with a wireless Pocket PC. Then there's a web tablet on the horizon. I haven't had so much to play with since I packed up my Lionel train set when we moved back in 1956. Still wondering where it is.
rolleyes.gif
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Conger
post Jul 19 2002, 17:29
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JimH - Thanks for the link, that's very useful. You're right about having a lot of fun with so much to play with. It's just that that there are so many different ways to hook up all the fun stuff to enjoy it at its best in the right location.

I didn't know that MJ did client server. It's good SW - keep up the good work.
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Pio2001
post Jul 19 2002, 18:08
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Where can I get a description of RG-6 and RG-59 cables ? I guess the RG-59 is like the RG-58, but in 75 Ohm version.

I have some KX-8, I've seen KX-6, and I have also RG-179, but I don't know the equivalent name of the KX in the RG series.

Also, what does A/U, B/U, and C/U mean ? All I know is that it has to do with their bandwidth.
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godzilla525
post Jul 19 2002, 19:30
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try http://www.belden.com/

Follow to the products section, then cable college, then technical papers. They have a list sorted by application. You will then need to look them up in the A/V catalog (pdf).

http://bwcecom.belden.com/college/Catalogs/AV%20catalog.pdf

RG/U = abbrev. for 'Radio Guide' (military designation), U for 'Utility.'

(they have a nice glossary on page 70)


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bronco30
post Jul 19 2002, 20:00
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I have been in your same boat - I have used a few different options -

including the remote sender (I got one from radio shack that did both audio and video for about 100 dollars and they have one that can also send remote control signals also for about 140). This is a great item for superbowl parties where you want to put tv's outside or in places where you aren't wired for cable/sat. Some of the pitfalls to these types of things include interference (microwaves, ceiling fans, etc). And sound quality is not too great.

I just recently got an audiotron from turtle beach and this thing is (seems) pretty cool - haven't had much time to mess around with it. Currently it only supports the following file types: mp3, wma, m3u, pls, and wav unsecured file (needs ethernet line to play wav files) and I think there is talk about eventual ogg support. You place it by your audio system (it looks like a stereo component) and hook it up via HPNA (phone line) or ethernet. It has both analog and digital out which you hook to your stereo. It then access's your computer (which acts like a server) and can play all of the mentioned files (I think the current firmware only supports 30,000 files - but there is a work around for this). It has a LED display that shows the title, artist, etc. that is playing. It includes a remote and 99% of the features can be accessed through the front of the player and remote - it can also be controlled by your computer. You can also receive internet radio stations via the web on this thing (which is cool - because I have no reception where I live). I picked mine up from gateway for about 300 including shipping.

Like I said earlier - I just got it and haven't had much time to use it - and from reading the board at turtle beach - it seems like there is some problem with lock up after an hour of use - but I haven't expereinced this and who knows what is going on on someone elses computer.

By the way I have no affiliation with turtle beach. So sorry if I sound like a commercial but I looked around for a long time to find a similar product and went with this over a hard drive based system (due to price and lack of space), and there are other similar products out there but none of them had a digital out.

Probably not 'audiophile' quality - (not expensive enough smile.gif ) but it does solve that problem (and if you don't have a phone line nearby they have these remote things for about 45 dollars where you plug one end into an outlet (near a phone in the house) and then you plug the other end into an outlet and it allows you to have a phone line wherever (these are about 45 dollars). Hope that helps.
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KikeG
post Jul 19 2002, 20:18
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My advice is that you just buy or make a good quality shielded cable, not audiophile (expensive) type, for example, from Belden or Canare, and just hook it up to the analog outputs and inputs of the your devices. It's cheap, and the sonic degradation will be nearly inexistent, the only issue might be a little picked background noise or hum, but if you can't hear it on silence (most probabily), it will be no problem.

Using a remote sender you will get far more degradation.
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nebuchadnezzar
post Jul 19 2002, 20:19
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I'd look into the Stereo-Link (www.stereo-link.com). I just got one and it's great. Here's why it would work for you...

1) It replaces your cheaper SB card and doesn't have the issues associated with the resampling from 44 to 48 that SB cards have, so you'll get cleaner sound.

2) The Stereo-Link is an external card connected by USB, so you can use a hub and get the stereo link extended long distances. I'd check with them but I'd think you could get two hubs with 20' cables between the two... and a 6' cable from the computer to the first hub.

3) Being external, it doesn't get a lot of "noise" like your internal card

Check it out...
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clintb
post Jul 19 2002, 21:15
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Either the Turtle Beach Audiotron. http://www.turtlebeach.com
or
Slim Devices SliMP3 http://www.slimdevices.com

Both of these hook up via Ethernet and use your computer as the storage medium. I don't have either one, but am leaning towards the SliMP3 due to the open source nature and extremely nice display.
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Conger
post Jul 20 2002, 09:40
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nebuchadnezzar - This is a great idea. I'm going to look into this further. I think Abit do some interesting USB sound cards.

If WinXP can use 2 sound cards then I could keep the SBLive for the PC audio and switch to the remote USB "Card" when I want to use the Home Audio.

Some questions about these USB sound cards.
Is the quality OK?
What about processor loading when using the card, can the sound o/p be interupted by other USB tasks or other processor activity?
I asume that a USB cable would be immune form audio interference.

I will have a look around at USB 2 and Firewire to see if the cable lengths are longer, h/w available, etc.
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Trelane
post Jul 20 2002, 10:29
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Conger
Some questions about these USB sound cards.
Is the quality OK?
What about processor loading when using the card, can the sound o/p be interupted by other USB tasks or other processor activity?
I asume that a USB cable would be immune form audio interference. 


The quality of the Stereo-Link is excellent. Your second concern depends on the machine. I am able to play games with absolutely no skipping. If you have XP and do end up getting a USB sound device, make sure you grab the "Windows Messenger Update for Audio" from Windows Update. It contains some important USB audio updates.
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David Nordin
post Jul 20 2002, 12:27
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QUOTE
Originally posted by Conger
I am trying to find a good way to hook up my PC which is about 40' of cable run, away from my home audio AV amp.  My PC soundcard is an SBLive and the amp does not have any optical inputs.  I tried making up a decent quality cable to run from the rear speaker o/p on the SBLive to the AUX i/p on the amp, but sound quality was not good enough.

The choices I have considered are:
1.  Get an amp with a digital I/P and use the dig o/p from the SBLive or an alternative card.  Then run a 40' optical or copper cable to the amp.  So far I have not found such a long cable.
2.  Move my PC close to the amp - not possible.
3.  Build a stripped down derated processor clock PC system with Ethernet or use a local disc for mp3 starage (2500+) next to the amp - not ideal because the PC PSU and processor fan will be noisy.  This system will be difficult to hide from my wife's view - this is technicaly not good.
4.  Get a HD based mp3 player and just connect up directly to the amp.

However, each of these options have their advantages and disadvantages.

I was wondering there are other ways to do this that migt be easier and cheaper?


Depends on what amount you are willing to put out.
it would be nice if you had a soundcard that doesn't resample -> optical/digital -> amp with support for that & let it's DAs work instead, then there should be some nice cheap cards available.


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nebuchadnezzar
post Jul 20 2002, 17:54
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Your computer can use two sound cards, but you must manually switch between 'em. I've noticed that when I plug in the USB Stereo Link, it becomes the main card, and when I unplug it, the build in sound card takes over, so you may just plug and unplug as needed. Also, you could just get a long RCA cable run with high quality sheilded cable to run from your where your computer is to the stereo. You could then use the Stereo Link and have it placed very close to your computer. You can plug in computer speaker cables via the headphone out port and have both your computer speakers and stereo system hooked up simultaneously.

The sound quality is excellent... no buzz, pops or hisses. I don't have trained ears, but I'd swear it sounds much better than a sound card with a 1/8" jack to RCA adapter. But maybe it's just my wallet that is missing $149 that is telling me that. wink.gif

I personally use the Stereo Link plugged into a headless (monitor-less) computer in my living room where my stereo is. I use WinXP, so I use Microsoft's Remote Desktop to remote control the computer from my bedroom to queue up songs, or use the wireless IR keyboard in the living room. The Living Room PC is hooked up using a ATI video card with TV out, so I'm running S Video from the computer to my 35" TV. I run the computer at 640x480 to get the best picture. Winamp in "double size" mode takes up a good portion of the screen and it's a fairly good picture.

Play around and find out what works for you... this setup is working out pretty good for me.
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tonderai
post Jul 20 2002, 23:54
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usb sound cards are a great idea. For one thing they can be at a distance from your hifi [as far as you like using a chain of powered hubs], plus they can be plugged in and out at will.

however i wouldn't go for the stereo-link. i looked into this and there are much better products available from m-audio or edirol - a decent set of ins and outs for example. i have an edirol ua-5 and it has digital [coaxial and optical] and line-level in and outs, plus its 24/96 and you can resample to 44.1, 48 and 96 kHz in and out. i'd recommend it biggrin.gif the stereo-link only gives you one line-level out. maybe you don't need all this, but you'd be surprised.

enough from me wink.gif enjoy, whatever you get smile.gif
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nebuchadnezzar
post Jul 21 2002, 03:27
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Yeah, I had no need for digital recording in. An optical digital input would've been nice, but I'm very happy with the Stereo Link. The other stuff that the Edirol features while nice for a musician or true audio geek, would go unused by the majority of people who just want good sound out of their computers to play MP3s.

And remember the Stereo Link is only $149, not $399 like the Edirol.

The only real competitor to the Stereo Link is the Sound Blaster Extigy... but then you're right back with the Sound Blaster automatically upsampling EVERYTHING to 48 from 44... and it's just not possible to do it well with anything costing less than many thousands of dollars. I'm curious to know how well your Edirol does this.

I'm not saying that the Stereo Link is the end all product... but it's a great solution that is affordable, is available now and works.

But definitely, USB is the way to go for now...
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Leto Atreides II
post Jul 21 2002, 08:15
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Clearly the comparison between the Stereo Link and a $399 Edirol is unfair.. They're in different markets. But what about the Stereo Link compared to the $90 Sonica?

Or compared to any of the portable Edirol products?
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Conger
post Jul 22 2002, 11:53
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Thanks for all the help and suggestions.

The most interesting and viable solution for my situation, appears to be using an external USB sound card close to my home audio system downstairs and connect via chained self powered USB cables to my PC upstairs.

I have found that 5m Repeater self powered USB cables are avaiable here for 11.75 and up to 5 of these can be chained together.

Of the USB sound cards available I read good things about the Stereo Link, conflicting things about the Extigy and nothing at all about the Abit UA10 or 11. The Stereo Link is not available in the UK directly, so this raises issues about the support, getting it repaired and high cost (in the UK). The Extigy is available for 122 here and also has a remote control and a full set of I/O for future needs. From the same place you can also get the Abit UA10 with a G9 5.1 O/P for abour 45.

I will start a new thread about the current USB sound cards.
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Conger
post Jul 29 2002, 14:46
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Here is the solution I found. I got an Autiotrak Optoplay USB sound card 24-bit 96KHz (will do 44KHz) and 2 x 5m USB repeater cables. I use the analogue 1/8" O/P to connect to my amp. The Audiotrak also has an optical O/P using the same 1/8" socket. I hooked it all up (WinXP) and it worked first time using my onboard SiS7001 USB controller and also an NEC one in a USB 2.0 pci card.

The Audiotrak was detected and Windows installed the USB Audio Driver without problem. I found that the best way (for me) was to leave both my main sound card and USB card installed and connected and to either select the card through the music application or select a music application for the USB card only. I use myMP3 pro to play through the USB card, and Winamp and everything else plays through the default sound card, in my case my SBLive, and PC speakers. This works very well, in fact I can play one track "downstairs" on my home audio system via the USB card, and play another track and maintain all system sounds on the PC speakers.

The sound via the USB card is superb and so far I have not heard any sound degradation due to the PC doing other stuff. I would highly recomend this to anyone wanting to extend their PC sound to a remote location. There is an added advantage in that I can use the Audiotrak with my LaptopPC for garden parties, etc. and due to the small size of the Optoplay, use the USB sound when listening to music on my laptop.

If you are interested, the Audiotrak Optoplay uses an AK4353 24-Bit 96KHz DAC.

Thanks for everyone's help.
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KikeG
post Jul 29 2002, 19:20
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For people interested, there's a new USB alternative, from M-Audio:

http://www.m-audio.com/products/consumer/s...tent/about.html
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