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OT question about sound cards/chip-sets and high-end music systems

Years ago (~35y), I spent a lot of money to get a really good sound
system to play my CDs. It was fully transistorized. The loud speakers
are big, with woofer, mid-range and tweeter, and are driven by a
really heavy power amplifier box. Because of the solid-state
internals, it has worked without interruption or servicing of any

It still works entirely to my satisfaction except for one issue: I
have trouble with the physical handling and storage of the CDs. When
several CDs get separated from their jewel-cases, it is tedious to get
them back in the correct case and the case back in the correct place
on the storage shelf.

A decade or more ago, I was toying with the idea of getting a robotic
mechanical CD handler/player, but decided to wait a while for the
price to go down. Instead, they seem to have disappeared from the
market. And the whole napster thing happened. And the iPod with music
delivered via ear-buds...

Now, it is quite feasible to store my entire CD collection on hard
disk, even without compression, and all computers have audio
output. But what is the audio quality of the analog sound signal? I
went to the local Best Buy store on Saturday to ask questions. The
clerk, who was quite self assured, told me that it is easy to connect
one's computer to one's home sound system, and showed me a short cable
that they have for sale that has a triaxial plug on one end and two
RCA jacks on the other and assured me that this was what he used at
home and that this was all that I needed. This is very reassuring, if
I can believe it, but ... Is it true? 

He was oblivious to my concern that the analog audio signal is
generated in the computer box and that it is analog audio that travels
over the special cable, and if *my* computer has an inferior
sound-card or sound-chip-set, then maybe I would not have as good
sound as he has. So I ask here - Is the analog audio signal at the
output socket of *all* consumer-grade computers equally good? If it is
not, how can I avoid wasting time and money on a computer with
inferior sound? Are there other technical issues with the quality of
'ripped' music from CDs? What are they? As I write this, I am
wondering how the analog music is actually encoded on the CD. Is is
purely digital, or are there analog timing variations in the optical

I don't want to just hook it up and listen, because the cable run from
where I have computers to where I have my hi-fi is ~100ft and that
distance precludes listening to different CD copies on HD in quick
succession. And maybe it really is a good way to go, but my test
indicates it is bad because I make mistakes in my test setup. ...

Please, help with this perplexity.
Paul E Condon           

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