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Topic: does the computer matter to the audio quality (Read 1365 times) previous topic - next topic
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does the computer matter to the audio quality

Hi all

Excuse if this has been asked already - I can't find my answer.

Of course once the signal leaves the computer all manner of variables are introduced. I won't detract by naming my setup.
My question is, at the computer - assuming EAC has reported a good rip, or assuming I have obtained a great .wav from the artist themselves - will the file leaving the computer be the same, irrespective of the quality of the PC?

While I am here, may I assume - again with EAC reporting a good (.wav) rip - that the quality of the burner is not critical either?

I am keen,  would not profess to be the absolute most sensitive audiophile.

Thanks for any kindly thoughts for this newbie and their first post.


Re: does the computer matter to the audio quality

Reply #1
The .wav is the .wav is the .wav.  It is a grab of the data on the CD as is, will be the same wherever it comes from, and the drive used to read it is immaterial.

Any difference in reproduction will be down to the audio conversion in the player PC (or whatever).  The quality of the resulting audio depends on the quality of the sound card and the analogue signal path.

While the audio remains uncompressed digital, there will be no difference whatever is handling it.  The problems occur in the conversion from digital to analogue and then routing to the audio jack, because (ignoring problems which are universal to D-to-A):

  • The digital to analogue conversion circuit may not be precise to 16 bits and introduce errors in the analogue value;
  • Sample timing jitter;
  • Noise (hiss) introduced by the components in the analogue path;
  • Noise picked up from the rest of the computer circuity - high speed processing, power supply hum;
  • Hum loops created between the computer and audio equipment downstream.

Items 1-3 are a function of the quality (cost) of the sound card.  CD audio is two channels of 16-bits at 41kHz, but using a 24-bit card should ensure a cleaner output because the interpolation of values for over-sampling gets rid of even 16-bit quantization, and the DAC is more accurate anyway.  Also, higher quality op amps or whatever have less inherent noise.

Item 4 is inherent to the construction of the PC itself - how careful has the manufacturer been to isolate the audio output path from sources of induced noise?

I've had trouble with item 5 with a notebook PC feeding a mixer, using a specific power brick (and not another).  I discovered the OK brick did not connect the earth through to the PC itself, but the not-OK brick did.

One way to avoid items 1-4 is to use an external USB sound card.  That way the digital audio leaves the PC in the digital domain, and you can choose a specialist DAC/sound card with specifications to suit your budget, and operate it well away from noise sources.

All that said, not being an audiophile I have no problem with the audio output jacks from my notebook and netbooks.
It's your privilege to disagree, but that doesn't make you right and me wrong.

Re: does the computer matter to the audio quality

Reply #2
Quote
assuming EAC has reported a good rip, or assuming I have obtained a great .wav from the artist themselves.
Error detection on audio CDs isn't as good as regular computer files so when EAC itself reports "no errors" there is still a possibility of errors.   But personally I've NEVER had an AUDIBLE error when EAC shows no errors.

If you are using AccurateRip, that's virtually foolproof.

If I get ripping errors, first I'll clean the disc and it that doesn't help I'll try a different computer.    If I'm still getting errors but they are not audible I'll just ignore them and eventually I'll forget which rips had errors.  ;)

CueRipper/CueTools has a feature where it can make a bit-perfect repair with data from the Internet.   (I haven't tried it because I haven't had any errors since that became available.)  

If I get a small audible error, like a little "tick" or something, I'll try to fix it with an audio editor.   That won't make it "bit-perfect" but it can sometimes be audibly perfect.   If I can't fix-it, I'll look for a work-around.     Once, I was able to borrow a CD from someone else.    It's usually just one song so another time I downloaded the MP3 from Amazon (again obviously not "bit-perfect").    I remember buying a new replacement CD once, but it was badly damaged and wouldn't even play properly.   

Oh...   Most CD players and CD player software have pretty good error-correction and error-hiding so in a couple of cases I made a digital-to-analog-to-digital copy.   Audiograbber had this feature built-in so you didn't have to use player-software or analog connections, etc.   Audiograbber still seems to be around but I don't know if it still has that feature.

If you have "computer files" (WAV files or Excel files, etc.) errors almost never sneak-through...   If you are playing WAV files from a CD and there is an error your computer will usually stop and report an error.  An audio CD will normally just keep-on playing unless it's a very-badly damaged disc.

Quote
again with EAC reporting a good (.wav) rip - that the quality of the burner is not critical either?
If you can rip the burned disc and EAC shows no-errors the data is probably good.    I don't really know if you can verity a burned disc with AccurateRip...   Someone else here will know that.  (Maybe I'll try an experiment sometime.)   ...There can be an offsets, which means you can have the same identical data shifted in location by a few bits/bytes and I don't know if AccurateRip can deal with that on burned discs.

Also, the data on a burned disc can be a little "fuzzy".   You might get errors when playing on one drive but no errors on another drive.    This sometimes happens with commercial discs too...   Sometimes you get errors with one drive/computer and no errors on a different drive computer.  

The quality of blank discs varies too.  And, sometimes you get a more reliable burn if you don't burn at your drive's maximum speed.   

I just do a quick-check all of my CD & DVD burns with Nero DiscSpeed.   It makes a graph of read speed and if the drive detects an error it will go-back and try to re-read.   That shows-up as a "glitch" on the graph.     Again, it's not 100% foolproof but it's still useful.   

Quote
but using a 24-bit card should ensure a cleaner output because the interpolation of values for over-sampling gets rid of even 16-bit quantization, and the DAC is more accurate anyway. 
Not really...   The output from a DAC is filtered-smooth-continuous analog (essentially "infinitely interpolated" between samples).

Quote
One way to avoid items 1-4 is to use an external USB sound card.  That way the digital audio leaves the PC in the digital domain, and you can choose a specialist DAC/sound card with specifications to suit your budget, and operate it well away from noise sources.
"Mostly true."   But with a USB-powered interface, noise from the USB power (which is usually noisy) can sometimes leak-into the analog-side of the soundcard/interface. 

It's rare to get (audible) noise from a DAC but it's not that unusual on an ADC with a microphone input since the noise gets amplified by the mic preamp.    An interface with its own power supply avoids that possibility.   

 

Re: does the computer matter to the audio quality

Reply #3
Hi and thanks for the replies. I think I'm hearing correct that you're agreeing with me in principle, the digital file will be the same irrespective of the computer used. Yes of course the first interface after that starts the potential degredation. For the record I have invested well (not insane) on interconnects and similarly with DAC.
External sound card was mentioned. If I'm using a DAC then an external sound card is of no advantage, correct? (I use USB & don't use the audio jack out).
I must correct my use of 'burner', that was sloppy of me, I did not mean I was using burned discs, only the reading of manufactured discs through a reader/burner.
Interesting what is said about hum loops. I know that too well from guitar, but happily have never detected that with my audio set up.
Yes, I use AccuratteRip. Great to hear you say you've never had an AUDIBLE error when EAC shows no errors.
The suggestions for bit-perfect repair read like a real labour of love. Happily I have not needed that level of commitment!
Many thanks again

Re: does the computer matter to the audio quality

Reply #4
Quote
External sound card was mentioned. If I'm using a DAC then an external sound card is of no advantage, correct?
Correct.   The soundcard is a DAC for playback and an ADC for recording from analog.

Quote
I must correct my use of 'burner', that was sloppy of me, I did not mean I was using burned discs, only the reading of manufactured discs through a reader/burner.
Then you won't care too much about this but I went-ahead and did the experiment.   I ripped a commercial CD and it verified with AccurateRip.    I burned a copy, ripped that, and it also verified with AccurateRip.

Then I ripped another CD yesterday and AccurateRip showed errors but EAC itself did not.    I haven't listened to the rip yet...  I haven't actually tried playing the CD either.     But this will be a good time for me to learn how to use Cue Tools repair feature.   But, I'll try a different drive first.  (I have more than one computer.)

Oh....  When I did the rip-and-burn experiment I tried CueRipper first.   It was getting errors.   It said 29 retries and was taking a long tome so I stopped it switched to EAC (same computer & drive) and it went OK except for the AccurateRip mis-match.

Re: does the computer matter to the audio quality

Reply #5
Hopefully irrelevant point:
For burning CDs, there was - uh, fifteen to twenty years ago - a recurring problem that two-second gaps were inserted. At least, relevant web forum places were full of questions on how to avoid these gaps.
I cannot imagine that applications are that dumb anymore, but it is easy to test.

Re: does the computer matter to the audio quality

Reply #6
Hopefully irrelevant point:
For burning CDs, there was - uh, fifteen to twenty years ago - a recurring problem that two-second gaps were inserted. At least, relevant web forum places were full of questions on how to avoid these gaps.
I cannot imagine that applications are that dumb anymore, but it is easy to test.

[a bit off topic]
Wow, that is indeed a blast from the past. Track At Once burning vs Disc At Once if I remember well. Especially in the early days of burning not only the software mattered, but you also had to buy the right burner, because a lot of the early ones only supported Track At Once burning on a hardware level.

 

Re: does the computer matter to the audio quality

Reply #7
thanks so much for the extra info!