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

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Paul E Condon wrote:
> 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? 

It depends on the quality of the sound card, just as much as on the
quality of the amplifier, speakers or any other component you use for
your music playback.

>                                                                   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? 

Yes. You might get better sound quality with a better sound card and/or
better cables, though. The cable, however, is a cheap solution (compared
to buying better equipment), though you might just give it a try and
find out whether it suits your needs.

> 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? 

Certainly not. At best it is equally bad. (On the other hand, apparently
most people don't mind listening to music at low sound quality).
I use *professional* grade sound cards, because I like good sound quality.

>                                                               If it is
> not, how can I avoid wasting time and money on a computer with
> inferior sound? 

Buy a high quality sound card. Since I mostly use laptops for this, I
prefer external usb sound cards. Nowadays some have DA-converters
matching those of the best high end CD players at a fraction of the price.

>                 Are there other technical issues with the quality of
> 'ripped' music from CDs? What are they? 

It depends how you rip them (what format). mp3 has some qualtiy loss,
but at the higher quality settings this won't matter on most hifi
equipment. There's the option to rip it lossless as well, ie. with
exactly the same digital quality as on CD.

>                                         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
> marks?

Purely digital at constant timing.


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