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

Paul E Condon wrote:

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.

You are certainly right to think about this carefully. Don't even think about playing straight out of a computer card, and the motherboard sound ports are even worse. Signal-to-noise ratio is very poor and it's a devil of a job to keep the hum down to manageable levels. My best results so far are from a USB 'card' with extra earthing and short audio cables. Oddly enough, I can't tell the difference between a Creative Live box and a very cheap VOIP USB handset with line in and out, apart from the fact that the cheap one causes occasional USB problems on Debian (both Etch and Lenny) which the Creative one manages to avoid. Even the Creative one has poor PCB layout and, of course, unbalanced inputs and outputs.

It's OK for background listening to MP3s. Being married, I'm not too concerned about dynamic range, but it's certainly not good enough for 'real' listening. I still buy CDs, and I keep the computers off if I'm listening 'properly'. But I listen mostly while I'm working, usually a few feet from a couple of fans, and the computer system is good enough for that.

And as to recording... again, the USB card has produced the best signal-to-noise ratio I've managed so far, about 45dB, which is just about acceptable for background listening, but a long, long way short of the theoretical 96dB dynamic range that 16 bits should deliver.

I would assume there are professional sound cards or boxes which offer decent quality, but I have no expectation of finding out about them. Like you, I spent some money in the 1970s and 80s, but can't afford to do so now. Probably a music shop would be a better place to ask than a computer store.

But ah, the convenience... I've learned what most people probably learn, which is that assembling my favourite tracks, even a couple of hundred, leads to repetition and boredom, especially if I'm not paying full attention to it.

I now generally play random selections of music by genre, varying as far as some I don't like much at all. It makes the good ones sound better still, and avoids the anticipation of the next track. I know it sounds decadent, but if I'm busy I don't like to have to stop to think about what particular music I want next, or to pick a CD off the shelf. It's like good radio without the boring people in between...

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