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

On Mon, Oct 05, 2009 at 11:18:10AM -0600, 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? 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
> marks?
> 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. ...
I do it, and it's great.  I put an old computer or laptop anywhere I
want music and access it over the network.  Put the computer right next
to the stereo and use short audio cables to minimize losses.

Since you care about the sound quality, I'd recommend encoding with
flac.  That's lossless, so there is no sound quality difference between
flac-encoded music and music straight from the CD.  Forget about mp3.
It sounds horrible, in my opinion.  High pitch sounds like cymbals sound
"swishy".  Ogg vorbis is a lot better sounding than mp3, but flac is
still the best.  I can here the difference and I'm using my onboard
audio and consumer-grade equipment from the late '90s.

Vorbis and mp3 are "lossy", which means that they approximate the sound
on the original recording.  Kinda like zip compression that doesn't
exactly reproduce what you compressed.  Flac is lossless.

Somebody mentioned wav format.  As far as I know, wav doesn't hold meta
tags.  Meta tags are information that gets "bundled" with the music.
Music players use this to tell the artist, album, track, year, etc.
Flac, vorbis, and mp3 can all contain meta tags.

The only reason I can think of to use mp3 format is because just about
all portable music players will play it.  Many will play ogg vorbis and
flac, but not all.  If you want to experiment with mp3 and ogg vorbis,
start at a bitrate of 192 or 224 kbps.  I wouldn't bother, though.  Just
use flac. 


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