Computer as source

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by shivasage, Jun 30, 2020.

  1. shivasage

    shivasage Member Thread Starter

    Hey guys. I want to connect my new laptop to the optical input (either coaxial or S/PDIF) on my Yamaha A-S501 integrated amp, which supports 2-ch PCM. The laptop only has USB-C ports, so it seems like I have two options:

    1) Use a USB audio interface such as the Roland Quad-Capture which has an optical output, or an even more straightforward USB-to-optical stick
    2) Buy a simple USB-to-HDMI converter and then use an HDMI audio extractor with an optical output

    There are pricier versions of option 1, such as the Topping D10, but considering I'm not using these products for their DAC, it seems pointless.

    I'm leaning towards option 2, even if it requires an extra conversion, if only because I think HDMI cables are more common than long USB cables. But I'm not totally sure if converting USB to HDMI and then extracting the audio is somehow worse than converting USB straight to optical audio. My intuition tells me that it shouldn't matter, as the amp is doing the actual DA conversion, so all the rest shouldn't affect audio quality.

    Any advice? Thanks!
  2. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member

    East Tennessee
    You have a good built in DAC, use something cheap like the stick. No need for anything more.
  3. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROƑOSO

    Absolutely. Same here.
  4. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    San Diego
    I used a Creative XFi HD for a long time to convert to toslink to vintage Adcom GDA-700 D/A. Finally got sick of that and picked up a Schiit Modi 3 DAC so I could run USB directly. Smooth sounding D/A and ridiculous bargain for $100.
    The Pinhead likes this.
  5. pacvr

    pacvr Well-Known Member

    Tim S likes this.
  6. shivasage

    shivasage Member Thread Starter

    I saw that one as well. I prefer getting the stick because it will make it easier to plug and unplug. I'm hoping there is no difference in 'quality' as I can't imagine there is any room for such a thing when all these things are doing is converting data from one format to another.
    timind likes this.
  7. Another option is to use a Raspberry Pi to connect to your DAC instead of connecting your laptop directly to the DAC. A Raspberry Pi based solution will be a little more expensive than the solutions you're looking at. But I figured I'd mention it just in case you like the idea or others like the idea.

    With a Raspberry Pi solution the Pi works as a upnp/dlna server and renderer. You connect a SPDIF output from the Pi to your DAC. Then use a tablet or phone or your laptop or a web browser as the upnp/dlna controller to act as a fancy remote with a nice screen that lets you control what plays and see the album art of what is playing.

    With the Raspberry Pi solution you don't have to have your laptop physically connected to your DAC. You're free to carry the laptop around.
    shivasage and ampguy like this.
  8. This is my preferred solution (Volumio os on Rpi) as plugging and unplugging PC's and devices to and from the amp got old fast. For me, it was less expensive than cables, as my Marantz int amp has a USB DAC, so it was just $35 or so for the rasp pi.

    If I had to get another DAC like a $99 Modi, I'd still go this route. Have a Modi Multibit for the CD Player, and a couple of other DACs on other systems. More Rasp. Pis on the way to expand the sound to other systems in the house.

  9. beowulf

    beowulf Forum Resident

    Chula Vista, CA
    I just use an HTPC that I built as I enjoy both music, streaming Netflix and movies on the same system/source and I don't want to use multiple sources to do both of those things when one source can do it all.

    One thing I've never looked into is the Raspberry Pi though ...

    Are they similar to the microRendu type stuff and limited to music only or can the RP also stream movies as well?
  10. The Raspberry Pi solutions are going to be like the microRendu. Both the Pi and the microRendu are acting as UPnP/DLNA servers and renderers. It is possible to stream video using UPnP/DLNA but I'm not familiar with exactly how to do that with the Raspberry Pi setups. It's probably possible. I assume you'd need to connect a monitor or TV to the Raspberry Pi and may need a better spec'ed Raspberry Pi to handle the CPU and RAM needs for video. Most of the audiophile solutions with the Raspberry Pi are focused just on audio.

    The Raspberry Pi solutions will make video playback and things like YouTube playback more complicated. Can be done. Just gets more complicated than the solutions that involve plugging a USB cable in on the laptop for sending audio to the DAC, and playing YouTube on the laptop.
    beowulf and shivasage like this.
  11. shivasage

    shivasage Member Thread Starter

    That's a very cool idea! Unfortunately I do indeed watch a lot of YouTube, so if it's complicated as you say, I might try my luck with one of the USB converters.
  12. Unfortunately the DLNA video casting from YouTube and such does get complicated and confusing.
    Best for ease of use and setup is to stick you doing local playback using a locally connected USB or locally connected SPDIF connection to your DAC.

    If you were doing audio only (no video) the UPnP/DLNA devices like the Raspberry Pi are easier and more appropriate. But once you want to play YouTube on your laptop and have that audio go to your UPnP/DLNA connected DAC then things get complicated.
  13. anorak2

    anorak2 Forum Resident

    Berlin, Germany
  14. shivasage

    shivasage Member Thread Starter

    Just to clarify, for using audio only, the audio files would have to be located on the Raspberry Pi itself (or at least an external HD connected to it), correct?

    Also, regarding YouTube playback, would it be possible to have an internet browser on the Pi, and then somehow remotely control the Pi's browser on the laptop?
  15. Tim S

    Tim S Senior Member

    East Tennessee
    How did this get so complicated?

    Any standard DAC or stick will route your audio to your yamaha. This includes the audio from any youtube or video you are watching on your laptop.

    All files reside on your laptop.

    Just get the cheap converter and be done with it.
  16. The audio files would be stored on a USB hard drive connected directly to the Raspberry Pi, or the files would be stored on a network share that the Raspberry Pi can access. The network share can be a folder on your laptop that is shared to your local network. Or some routers have an option to connect a USB hard drive to the router and create a network share to share files from that drive. Or you can go big and use a NAS.

    Think of the Raspberry Pi solution as similar to a Bluesound Node or similar streamer. The Pi solution will have similar features, similar use, and similar limitations. For example, you don't get a Bluesound Node and expect to play YouTube on it (though it can play the YouTube Music service, just not the video part).

    I mentioned the Raspberry Pi as an option. An advantage to that is similar to the advantages for using a Bluesound Node. You move the music playing responsibilities from your laptop to a dedicated device that exists just to play your music files and to stream from Spotify or Tidal or Qobuz or other similar streaming service.

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