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Topic: how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio (Read 6241 times) previous topic - next topic
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how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Hi,

Recently I have encoded my sister's huge cd collection to mp3s on her laptop using lame 3.90. She wants to use her laptop to play music by plugging it to her home audio system instead of using her cd player and always having to switch CDs and not having the possibility to shuffle a huge collection of songs.

The setup looks like this:

-Toshiba laptop (one of the recent satellites) connected to Arcam alpha 7R amp using a RCA jack out of the laptop headphone jack. Her set of speakers are very good BMC speakers.

The sound quality is not bad but far from what she gets by playing the CD directly from the cd player.

She wants the best quality possible and I would like suggestions and informations on how to get the best possible quality using the current setup.

Do i need an external audio card to get better sound quality? Which one should i use? What is the best way to connect the laptop to the amp without losing quality?  How high should i fix the sound level on the laptop? Is a music player better than an other for that? etc.

Im also open to any other questions related to the subject which would help me get better sound.

I hope someone with a similar setup or with some good knowledge can help me I would really apprectiate it  !

Thanks

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #1
My laptop has digital sound out, optical and coaxial (RCA).
Dunno about the Toshiba satellite, iirc, they don't have digital out.

But unfortuentaly, even my laptop resamples internally to 48 kHz, if source was eg. 44.1 kHz CD.

The analogue out of normal laptops will be crappy sound.

An external soundcard will solve all the problems.

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #2
I personally would say that getting an external soundcard is the best solution as well.

Am not that well informed about the current external soundcard market, but I am sure others can help out.

Try looking into products by m-audio or maybe Terratec. Although the latter are known to maybe have a few driver issues from time to time. Their hardware however tends to be quite good.

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #3
Quote
My laptop has digital sound out, optical and coaxial (RCA).
Dunno about the Toshiba satellite, iirc, they don't have digital out.

But unfortuentaly, even my laptop resamples internally to 48 kHz, if source was eg. 44.1 kHz CD.

The analogue out of normal laptops will be crappy sound.

An external soundcard will solve all the problems.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]



One of these should do the trick.  Nice and simple, cheap too.  These should sound fantastic.

[a href="http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Transit-main.html]http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Transit-main.html[/url]

or

http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Soni...eater-main.html

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #4
Thanks for the posts that helped alot.

I must say I still have some questions.

The amp i need to connect to only has RCA analog inputs. Most of these external soundcard only have digital outputs. Would I need to buy a standalone audio DAC decoder?

The M-audio Transit has a 1/8" stereo output. I could use a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter then use a splitter to connect it to the amp or I could just plug one of the digital outputs to one of the unused television digital input (tv is connected to the amp). Which one of these 2 scenarios should give the best quality?

What is the best external soundcard M-Audio Sonica Theater, M-audio Transit, Creative Audigy 2 NX and Yamaha DP-U50 CAVIT?

Thanks.

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #5
Quote
The sound quality is not bad but far from what she gets by playing the CD directly from the cd player.

She wants the best quality possible and I would like suggestions and informations on how to get the best possible quality using the current setup.


If you want to consider a high quality internal sound card for the laptop, I know of exactly one(are there any others of high quality yet?) that is very high quality: Echo Indigo Audio IO.

Review/Measurements
http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1325723,00.asp

Example Retailer/Price
http://www.samedaymusic.com/product--ECHINDIGOIO

-Chris

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #6
I just gave a try using a external soundblaster live! 24bits

I used a Y splitter 1/8" to RCA gold plated monster cable to connect from the headphone jack on the external soundblaster live! to the home audio amp.

The bass quality was poor and far from what I get from playing directly from the home audio cd player.

Playing with the equalizer and bass setting didnt help much. It just made the bass sound more distorted and boomy. It was a total deception. Sometimes I think that the headphone jack output doesnt contain "all" the sound and thats why i lose so much quality on the bass. I cant verify that by trying one of the digital outputs because the amp only has analog RCA inputs and i dont have a standalone DAC decoder. So i cant figure out what is causing the loss of quality, it could be the whole card, the analog output jacks but i doubt its the connection (monster y splitter RCA cable).

I dont know where to go from here. I would like to try the Echo Indigo Audio. But i dont want to spend money on something that would give me less quality than playing directly from the cd player of the home audio system.

I just hope hope its the soundblaster live! that is making the sound crappy. But afterall, most card are 24 bits/96khz so why should it make such a difference?

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #7
Quote
I just hope hope its the soundblaster live! that is making the sound crappy. But afterall, most card are 24 bits/96khz so why should it make such a difference?
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=290345"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

The 24 bit/96 khz part is completely irrelevant. For good stereo sound you need 16 bit, 44.1 khz (like the source material from your CDs), no more and no less. What makes a difference is the DAC in the card, and Soundblaster cards are not especially known for having good DACs. What is more, they upsample your 44.1 khz audio to 48 khz, which, at least with older Soundblaster models, led to additional distortions, because the upsampling was done in a crappy way.
Proverb for Paranoids: "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers."
-T. Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow)

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #8
Quote
I dont know where to go from here. I would like to try the Echo Indigo Audio. But i dont want to spend money on something that would give me less quality than playing directly from the cd player of the home audio system.


The 3rd party(not manufacturer) measurements strongly suggest this is a very high quality soundcard(Echo Indigo Audio IO) for both playback and recording. Note that the card was designed and marketed towards the professional audio market. Samedaymusic(the retail link I provided) allows returns for full refund(minus shipping) for up to 60 days.  I have used their return policy before when I did not like a product, and it was not any problem(just go online to your account and get a RMA number and address to ship it back to).

-Chris

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #9
I got a Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro for $26.70 with free shipping for my laptop. It has an optical out which is perfect for plugging into my home stereo.  The analog output is OK, but you'd probably be better off with another sound card if you're going the analog route.

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #10
I've used an Echo Indigo for three years now.  In fact, I use it with my home theater (notebook PC --> Echo Indigo --> home theater receiver).  I've been very satisfied with the sound quality, complete lack of noise with volume up/no signal, and its ease of use.

Although some people may not like its lack of features, I actually prefer this.  There's nothing else I wish it had and nothing superfluous in the way...only an op/amp, DAC, two output ports, a volume pot and a power light.

It provides a decent power level for headphones that have medium-to-high sensitivity.  Plenty for earbuds, but marginal for my HD590s (I usually plug them into my Klipsh 2.1 PC speakers for the extra boost).

I've only tried the Indigo so I can't speak for any other model, but this one I'd highly recommend.

Good luck finding a discount price, though.  List is around US$130, and I only found deals of a few dollars less.
Sometimes you have to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #11
All your replies have been really helpful thanks. I have located a local audio provider that sells Echo Indigo products so im gonna see if I can get a good deal for it.

If the price is too expensive then I think i might just try the M-Audio transit. Hopefuly the DAC is much better than on the creative soundblaster live! external.

Most of my questions have been answered but still, one remains. The source of the loss of quality on most external soundcard seems to be caused by low-quality DACs they use for the ouput RCA jacks. I was wondering if using for example a soundblaster live! digital outputs instead of the poor quality RCA 1/8" jack, then plug it to a high quality standalone external audio DAC to get decent quality and bypass the problem.

I found this guide on the net and figure 14 shows that exact same setup : See figure 14 (link doesn't always work)

From the article :
Quote
A good external digital-to-analog converter can give you better quality than the D/A converters in most consumer sound cards


Theoricaly this sound like a good solution. Though I have absolutely no knowledge about standalone DACs quality or price. So I dont know if that sounds like a good solution. Anybody knows anything about standalone audio DACs?

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #12
I am planning to use a laptop as the central element for a mobile home multimedia-station later this year, so i did read the Echo Audio Indigo IO review with great interest. Too bad that it does not support 5.1 and has no digital out. Otherwise, that would have been my dream-solution.

- Lyx
I am arrogant and I can afford it because I deliver.

how to get best sound quality laptop+home audio

Reply #13
Quote
I am planning to use a laptop as the central element for a mobile home multimedia-station later this year, so i did read the Echo Audio Indigo IO review with great interest. Too bad that it does not support 5.1 and has no digital out. Otherwise, that would have been my dream-solution.

- Lyx
[a href="index.php?act=findpost&pid=290733"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Would the TerraTec Phase 28 USB be a solution for you? FW version seems pretty good also.

 
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