Do any physical aspects of the computer have any bearing on the sound quality?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by oxenholme, Jan 3, 2018.

  1. oxenholme

    oxenholme High Quality Posts™ a speciality Thread Starter

    So I am happy with the WAV or FLAC on my external hard drive.

    I am happy with the USB DAC and the amplification / speakers.

    The hard drive and DAC are connected to USB 3 ports.

    I use Foobar2000, which buffers the music file before playback.

    Do any physical aspects of the computer (assume Windows) have any effect on the sound?

    Power supply? Sound card (is it even used in the playback?)? CPU speed? RAM? System hard drive?

    CrazyCatz likes this.
  2. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Only in the amount of EMI you could be encountering. For instance, I once ran into an issue where I could hear some a high-pitched squeal 100% of the time. Moving my mouse would make it even worse. Had to buy a USB device that filtered out EMI which solved the issue.

    Aside from that, *some* people claim to hear a difference between using something like ASIO which bypasses the Windows mixer entirely and DirectSound which does not... but I am extremely skeptical of that. Using ASIO or WASAPI would translate into bit-perfect playback bypassing the Windows mixer which sounds good in theory. In reality, my quick testing revealed no difference that I could detect whatsoever.
    Brother_Rael and CrazyCatz like this.
  3. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    No. If you are using a USB DAC, then you are bypassing your computer's internal sound card.

    Your computer is only being used as a transport to store 1's and 0's and pass them along to your external DAC, which re-clocks the timing information and sends the resulting analog along to the rest of your chain.

    While it is possible to have a computer that is too slow or faulty components or cables, as long as your DAC is correctly receiving the 1's and 0's, then it is performing its job correctly.

    In your case, since you are using Foobar2000 as a buffer, even a slow computer won't make much of a difference, it any.

    I have an Oppo CD player, a BDP-93, which has its own DAC to convert to analog. But I only use it as a transport for the 1's and 0's. I take them digitally out of the DAC and import them into a Peachtree iNova, where I am using the DAC inside of the iNova to perform the digital to analog conversion.
  4. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

  5. beppe

    beppe Forum Resident

    Venice, Italy
    But if you stop some Windows process, not needed for audio, your sound really improves
  6. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    I’ve heard the the power supply can make a difference.
    JNTEX, Grant and Ntotrar like this.
  7. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    Color me skeptic.
    daglesj, anorak2, audiomixer and 5 others like this.
  8. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    That is pure bologna.

    Only in that it will cut down on EMI if properly isolated within its box.
  9. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    The biggest thing that makes a difference, IMO, is usually the amount of physical noise coming from the computer -- from the fans, disk drives, and perhaps from coil whine in the monitor. If the computer is in the same room as playback (almost always true if using USB), improvement might come from swapping in quieter components or getting a computer built to be quiet from the start.
  10. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    If a PC is bought exclusively for audio playback, one can get away with purchasing what is known as a WinPC which is essentially a low-powered (in both current and horsepower manners) PC in a compact enclosure, about 5 inches by 8, sometimes even smaller. They're passively cooled so no fans are running and there is plenty of horsepower to do rudimentary computer tasks (browsing, email, MS Office, etc). They also often come with Windows 10 licenses for free and are pretty cheap at around $100-150.
    Litejazz53 and SandAndGlass like this.
  11. jkauff

    jkauff Putin-funded Forum Troll

    Akron, OH
    Very good point. If you're playing a resource-intensive game while you're listening to music, you're going to get fan noise and possibly coil whine from your graphics card (assuming you use a graphics card). Case and CPU fans can also get loud if you're pushing the CPU hard.

    Depending on your case configuration, you can use aftermarket noise-absorbing foam inside your case to reduce noise as well.
    David Cope, Grant and nosliw like this.
  12. Kyhl

    Kyhl formerly known

    I've thought about adding a linear power supply to my laptop but I'm skeptical. Maybe @toddrhodes can chime in. I think he went down that rabbit hole once.

    Btw, I'm using a Win10 laptop wired ethernet and USB2 out to the DAC. The laptop lid is closed. It's pretty quiet. No monitor whine when there is no monitor. Does anyone even make a boxed computer with separate monitor anymore. :laugh:
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
    toddrhodes likes this.
  13. nosliw

    nosliw Azunyan! にゃーーー!

    Ottawa, ON, Canada
    Some PC cases do come with soundproofing foam inside, like my Corsair Carbide 600Q. Replacing the CPU and case fans with something better like Noctua or Be Quiet! will work as well. Switching the mechanical hard drives to solid-state works as well. Other people went into greater lengths by installing liquid cooling solutions to replace the fans not only for lesser noise (the pump do generate some noise, depending on the quality), but to overclock their systems.
  14. Claude Benshaul

    Claude Benshaul Forum Resident

    I'm using a NUC as a dedicated media PC and it's dead quiet. I also tried an Ockel Sirius B pocket PC, which worked flawlessly but has been relegated to the be an OpenHAB smarthome controller. Media playing isn't very resource demanding, basically any PC which is a bit better than an original ATOM processor should be able to do without without drama and without adding anything exotic or expensive to the mix.
    Rolltide and nosliw like this.
  15. TVC15

    TVC15 Forum Resident

    New Jersey
    In what way? Not buying.
    Grant likes this.
  16. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    South Bend, IN
    Wow, great memory. I did use LPSUs inside and outside my old audio PC. I was getting what I can only describe as "electrical interference noise" from that system and it was really only apparent when the volume was up but nothing was playing. Still, I can confirm that for that system, the two LPSU's (Can't remember the brand, Ultraplex or something?) did cure that noise. Was dead, completely silent and that's in a room with, at the time, a noise floor of around 14 db with nothing happening. Talk about a "black background..."
    Kyhl likes this.
  17. oxenholme

    oxenholme High Quality Posts™ a speciality Thread Starter

    I am using a desktop (box) with separate monitor. Using HDMI connection as a lead came with the monitor.
  18. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

    Apparently it ain't warm, like analog........ :doh:
    CrazyCatz likes this.
  19. nopedals

    nopedals Forum Resident

    Columbia SC
    I have a ten year old Asus 701 XP in my living room system. Plays through and powers an inexpensive nuforce DAC. The tunes are on an SD card. Plays quietly without a hiccup. 7 inch screen, but mostly have it autostart in shuffle mode.
  20. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 District Champ

    I do, I built my tower myself. Bought the case, mother board, power supply ect. all for a media player. I don't do much computing other than playing files from the HD or streaming video. I like to be able to open a case and change a video card, add memory or whatever. Keeps me out of the Apple univesere of equipment other than my phone.
    Wngnt90, Grant, Kyhl and 1 other person like this.
  21. ralf11

    ralf11 Forum Resident

    This is a very controversial area. (There is even some crazy old guy who escaped from his institution and is running around the internet claiming that bit identical files sound different from each other...)

    First - assume the DAC is outboard and NOT near the computer. Second, assume galvanic isolation is provided for so that no noise can travel along a USB cable.

    Then, there is the question of what mechanism could possibly cause a difference in SQ - no one has ever been able to propose a mechanism.

    Finally, assume there is something that no one has thought of - something that none of the hundreds of engineers I have communicated with or the several scientists either have been able to think of, even when plied with various psychedelics...

    In the latter case, we would do a valid listening test to see if anyone can hear a difference. It has never been done.

    So, yes, add me to the skeptic list on this one. Get back to me if there is any data (while I work on isolation transformers, better DACs, speakers, room treatments, sbetter source material... stuff that we know makes a difference).
    Grant and russk like this.
  22. hvbias

    hvbias Forum Resident

    You guys would have a stroke if you visited Computer Audiophile :angel:

    I am thinking about trying out Ryzen passively cooled with that heatsink that is biggerthan some adult's heads. My future build will need the cores/processor speed for FIR convolution. Using HQPlayer to upsample to DSD is also popular with my Merging NADAC, but I'm skeptical of this.
  23. Old Audiophool

    Old Audiophool Well-Known Member

    Melbourne, Fl.
    You guys are all missing the logical answer to the problem as I see it: use something like a Bluesound Node 2 or any good streamer and you will bypass any computer head aches you could possibly have and stream wirelessly.
  24. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    I don't know that anyone is missing the logical answer. I'm a big fan of network audio myself -- in part to get the computer out of the listening room -- but sometimes you want music in the room where the computer resides. Then a simple USB connection is the logical way.

    (I have a networked system in one room & a USB system in the other, both using the same music library on a NAS.)
    Grant and Tim S like this.
  25. oxenholme

    oxenholme High Quality Posts™ a speciality Thread Starter

    No, not that way.

    As it happens the computer is networked to the disc player, but that is solely for ripping audio from SACDs.

    But there isn't any streaming going on or any NAS drive or music server in the house, neither will there ever be.

    I just want a nice sound system for use when I'm sat at the computer. I am pleasantly surprised just how good digital files can sound, and wondered whether the computer itself had much effect on the sound.
    Tim S likes this.

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