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  1. #1

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    Default Computer hi-fi system

    In thinking about how I listen to my music at work, I realized that just about any way you slice it the source components are my biggest issue. Most iPod's either are old and dont allow lots of flexibility for navigating easy (compared to the Touch or iPhone), or are limited in HDD space. Even with expensive doc's you still need lossless files which are large by nature.

    So I thought in my head, why not just build a nice small powered HTPC that uses a touchscreen for your source. Pair that with a decent USB DAC to a headphone amp and you can have a very small stack of components capable of very good sound. Best part is you can scale up the HDD's as needed. Now I do realize I could just get a Squeezebox Touch and connect a HDD to it, but thats no fun

    In looking at the market I know some folks would just add in a soundcard with a built in headphone amp and then just let the PC do all the work, but I know that separating out your components allows you the most flexibility to swap things in and out. That and a soundcard in a computer isnt the most ideal setting for ensuring you dont have any noise.

    So I am embarking upon a little quest to build a nice small mini-itx computer. I decided upon the ATX Hudson platform because its a total CPU, GPU setup and in theory it can run HD video, but I dont need that. Its got a dual core CPU and uses DDR3 memory. I am not totally locked in on the platform so feel free to make some suggestions, but keep it mini itx or smaller.

    Here is what I have so far for components:

    Motherboard:
    ASRock E35LM1 - I like this because its got a small heatsink fan (which I would replace with a more quiet one) and has SPDIF out so I have more options later on for a DAC. Its also got support for 6 gig per second HDD for future use.
    ASUS C60M1-I - I like this one because its passive, but I lose the SPDIF output so I would be stuck using USB DAC's unless I were to add a soundcard on using the PCI Express x 16

    Memory:
    Crucial 2GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066

    Hard drive:
    I will be reusing a 320 gig HDD I have currently for this project to save a buck or two.

    Accessories:
    SilenX LX-HDSS - I am not necessarily stuck on this particular one, but I will be incorporating one to cut down on any seeking noise as well as keep the HDD cool so I can keep any fans running low.

    Cases: Here is where I am having trouble. I want to keep the cost low initially and later on get a good case with a good power-supply but for now I am trying to go cheap here. I need a 5.25 bay for the HDD cooler initially as well as the fact that having a 5.25 bay opens up the option later on of adding a burner to copy music direct to the device rather than having to transfer it. Here are the cases that currently meet my criteria

    APEX MI-008
    Thermaltake Element Q - I like this one as I know you can modify it to hold a 120mm fan which would provide more than adequate cooling at a v
    IN WIN BP655.200BL
    APEVIA X-FIT-200

    Most of these configurations come in at under 150 bucks not including shipping. For what I get out of it I dont think thats a bad idea.

    Now the most expensive part will be the touchscreen and I am looking at some of the 7" options as I dont need it to be super big. Those seem to be almost as much as the actual system itself.

    I will still need to acquire a Operating system and I haven't decided if I want to stick with the Windows OS and go Windows 7 or if I want to go more open source and go with XMBC. Both motherboards should be able to handle that with no problem, but I am not sure how the output will look over a USB touchscreen.

    I am curious as to everyone's thoughts out there on just this aspect of it, building the computer based storage part.
    Last edited by EndersShadow; 08-06-2012 at 12:44 AM.
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  2. #2

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    Default

    Anyone??
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  3. #3

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    Go USB and forget the soundcard, unless that is something you need for headphones.

    If it were me, I'd still ditch the soundcard and go with this. A headphone amp/USB dac. And be done with it. Using this in conjucttion with a small PC via USB should produce stellar results provided you are using FLAC files.

    http://www.acoustic-fun.com/catalog/...products_id=32

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  4. #4

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    Also "stuck using USB Dac's" isn't necessarily a bad thing. If this for computer based audio in a modest rig, in my experience USB is an excellent choice. Be sure to settle on a play back program like Media Monkey........or.......

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Go USB and forget the soundcard, unless that is something you need for headphones.

    If it were me, I'd still ditch the soundcard and go with this. A headphone amp/USB dac. And be done with it. Using this in conjucttion with a small PC via USB should produce stellar results provided you are using FLAC files.

    http://www.acoustic-fun.com/catalog/...products_id=32
    Thanks for that info. I had seen that before. The dedicated soundcard was honestly something I wasnt planning on using. The motheboard I am looking at has both USB and a optical out so I could use either a USB DAC or something like a dedicated pre for instance something bigger like a B&K type deal. I dont need that flexibility but if its there thats not necessarily a bad thing. I do know some of the USB DAC's can handle higher bitrates than you can get via Optical though.

    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Also "stuck using USB Dac's" isn't necessarily a bad thing. If this for computer based audio in a modest rig, in my experience USB is an excellent choice. Be sure to settle on a play back program like Media Monkey........or.......
    Yeah USB is where I will start. I will be looking to use iTunes with lossless AIFF files and whatever USB DAC I start with.

    The reason I mentioned going with a DAC & headphone amp seperate is that I am probably going to be buying a Schiit Asgard here in the next couple days along with a set of heaphones. As such I wouldnt need a headphone + DAC at that point.

    And I may end up going with the motherboard thats a bit more expensive that doesnt have spdif as its passive so less noise to add to the system.

    So I would either be adding something like a Bitfrost (if I keep this Schiit in the family) or a Keces USB DAC.

    Eitherway the headphone amp and headphones will already be here before I get this itx system up and running.
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    If you want to skip the touchscreen, look at the splashtop app for your iphone. Now to use without a wireless network you would have to set-up an ad hoc network with both your pc and iphone. The only real problem that I have had with it is that when somehow lost the connection I would have to connect to my work monitor to sort things out. The tiny screen can be a little maddening (definitely works better on in iPad.)

    I also have tried the RemoteHD app which is a little less buggy sometimes, but I don't think works quite as well.

  7. #7

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    I would NOT use the optical out from the motherboard. But I understand sometimes budget constraints and how the system will be used determines what's best. For my main rig pretty much the sky's the limit as far as gear and goodies, etc (wihtin reason). The office rig has a certain $$$ threshold no matter what the audio consequences or compromises are.

    I'd try and go with the Keces head amp/dac but it is pricey. I just know the design and quality is well above it's price point.

    Personally I hate iTunes and AIFF files, but again we are all different. I wouldn't spend $450 to listen to AIFF files thru iTunes. Maybe opto from the MB is the better route for this instance.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  8. #8

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    I bet the Keces would outdo the Asgard and another dac.

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by nwohlford View Post
    If you want to skip the touchscreen, look at the splashtop app for your iphone. Now to use without a wireless network you would have to set-up an ad hoc network with both your pc and iphone. The only real problem that I have had with it is that when somehow lost the connection I would have to connect to my work monitor to sort things out. The tiny screen can be a little maddening (definitely works better on in iPad.)

    I also have tried the RemoteHD app which is a little less buggy sometimes, but I don't think works quite as well.
    Yeah I have been looking into those kinds of options, but I dont want to open my computer up for others to connect to at all at work . I am still seeing whats out there. I have a Windows Media Center remote and I believe a IR adaptor for USB to use with it somewhere. Going that route would save me a Touchscreen and I could save some bucks and just get a small VGA monitor.

    I am trying to make this something thats NOT going to have to be constantly tweaked at work to get it going so I am going to take my time on the software aspect.

    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    I would NOT use the optical out from the motherboard. But I understand sometimes budget constraints and how the system will be used determines what's best. For my main rig pretty much the sky's the limit as far as gear and goodies, etc (wihtin reason). The office rig has a certain $$$ threshold no matter what the audio consequences or compromises are.
    Yeah its honestly not that big a deal in the end, since I am wanting to go as silent as possible more than likely I will be looking to go with the more expensive mobo as it is passively cooled. Even if I go with the cheaper one that has optical, doesnt mean I have to use it.

    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    I'd try and go with the Keces head amp/dac but it is pricey. I just know the design and quality is well above it's price point.
    Yeah its outside my pricepoint right now. I will consider it down the road when I finally get the source built and start looking at dac's. It would be one less component in the mix.

    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Personally I hate iTunes and AIFF files, but again we are all different. I wouldn't spend $450 to listen to AIFF files thru iTunes.
    I listened to both FLAC and AIFF files of the same song and personally couldnt tell any difference between them sound wise. It also is nice as honestly I gave up fighting iTunes as its just much easier to manage 1 library for everything rather than having to constantly convert FLAC to AIFF for use with my iPhone and vice versa.

    Who knows maybe I will load this machine with FLAC only and leave my home computer on iTunes....
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    Quote Originally Posted by EndersShadow View Post
    I listened to both FLAC and AIFF files of the same song and personally couldnt tell any difference between them sound wise. It also is nice as honestly I gave up fighting iTunes as its just much easier to manage 1 library for everything rather than having to constantly convert FLAC to AIFF for use with my iPhone and vice.
    WTF... I thought I'd never hear such beautiful words from you, Dan.

    BTW, my freebie dell will be here this week, but I just spend the HD budget on scuba classes, damn.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Also "stuck using USB Dac's" isn't necessarily a bad thing. If this for computer based audio in a modest rig, in my experience USB is an excellent choice. Be sure to settle on a play back program like Media Monkey........or.......

    H9
    I wouldn't consider using J. River via USB settling on anything.
    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Good thing I don't use J. River then

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    I bet the Keces would outdo the Asgard and another dac.

    H9
    I'd like to know what experience that is based on. I like Keces and have one sitting right here beside me, and would agree that their stuff is really well built. The Asgard is a very capable headphone amp though and sounds superb. I can tell you from my own personal experience that my Keces USB DAC and Asgard sound very good. I don't have the integrated you linked to compare them, but I doubt a solution with a compromised design will sound better.
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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by heiney9 View Post
    Good thing I don't use J. River then

    H9
    Your loss.
    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Face, your two posts don't make any sense, appear contradictory
    Main HT
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  16. #16

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    Found a VERY interesting looking little case. I am seriously debating purchasing this little fella if I can figure how how much it friggin costs lol

    Attachment 73746

    P.S. that link wouldnt load the full page unless in IE, you would think they would make it work in other browsers but oh well..

    My only concern is if a 80mm fan would be enough to cool the Hudson platform. I have read it works good with the Atom platform so I would hope it works for the Hudson...
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    Anyone ever heard of a company called Realan? Seems they are based out of China....

    Case looks bogus given the gramattical errors all over but their case looks like exactly what I am wanting. Plus even Lian-Li has grammar issues on their English site and they are known and trusted.
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    That's a sexy case.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Face View Post
    I wouldn't consider using J. River via USB settling on anything.
    Sorry if I wasn't clear, I meant using J. River is far from a compromise.
    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

  20. #20

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    So this J. River is good stuff eh?

    I've heard it takes the look of the Zune software. As a MM user, it may be time for a change.

  21. #21

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    It has many different views and most are customizable.
    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drenis View Post
    That's a sexy case.
    Yeah, available in Europe only now lol. Been discontinued for years..

    Well I got it down to my base components.

    Case: APEX MI-008

    This case has the flexibility to let me mount my 3.5 HDD in a 5.25 bay using a cooler/silencer, or to start with just suspending it via hairbands (ghetto I know but it works ). In addition as shown in this review it allows you to use a 120mm fan on the side to keep temps low without adding tons of noise.

    Motherboard: ASRock E350M1

    This board was chosen because its got a faster processor than the other option I had listed. This may come into play and its not something you can augment later on. Its technically capable of HD playback and all sorts of other things I wont need right now, but may want to add later. Specifically its got a PCI express slot to add things like graphic cards, wireless cards, ect. I plan to replace the stock heatsink fan with this one and possibly under-volt it as well to lower the noise level.

    Memory: Crucial 2GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1066

    Its cheap and I like the brand. Thats about it on that lol.

    Hard Drive: 320 gig 7200 RPM

    Re-using an existing drive. At a later date I may consider replacing it with a bigger size 2.5" HDD since they produce less overall noise.

    40mm CPU replacement fan: Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilentFan XM1 40mmx10mm Ultra Quiet Fan - 2800 RPM - 11 dBA

    Noctua 120mm side fan: I will be re-using an existing fan I have for this and then eventually purchasing this fan to add in to see if its better

    In addition I plan to add Acoustipak noise dampening material to all sides of the case and any other places possible. I have enough existing scraps to do this I believe. This will quite the PC down even more.

    For just building the PC this is a pretty good little monster.

    Total cost for the parts (not including the replacement CPU fan) 172 to my door. Time to start saving my pennies again .

    So side notes: I was debating switching to a Pico PSU and going fanless but I dont know how I would work that since the case doesnt have a cover piece for where the powersupply is. Doing that would help both the overall system draw as well as giving me more room for better airflow.
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    What about the Wesena cases?

    http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.c...2.qscstrfrnt06



    You could leave the PCI-E open to experiment down the road with a SOtM USB card; many good reports across the web and they can make a difference.



    Quote Originally Posted by EndersShadow View Post
    Anyone??
    For Sale:
    Intel NIC Pro PT 1000
    Oyaide USB 5S .5m
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    (8) Herbies fat square dots
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  24. #24

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    LOL, I didn't see this post. I have one of these sitting right here that I used to use. They weren't cheap. Fun little case because the height allowed you some serious flexibility with higher powered CPU/cooling.

    I just sold my OrigenAE M10; was a very nice one. But I have moved on to a larger PC in another room as master.



    I think the PSILE was $300! The M10 is about $180.

    You mentioned the Squeezebox Touch upthread. I'm still waiting to find some firsthand reports on how well they work with JRMC now that they will show as a Zone; meaning you can control it from JRMC. I think they allow 192kHZ now too on ST?

    Quote Originally Posted by EndersShadow View Post
    Found a VERY interesting looking little case. I am seriously debating purchasing this little fella if I can figure how how much it friggin costs lol

    Attachment 73746

    P.S. that link wouldnt load the full page unless in IE, you would think they would make it work in other browsers but oh well..

    My only concern is if a 80mm fan would be enough to cool the Hudson platform. I have read it works good with the Atom platform so I would hope it works for the Hudson...
    For Sale:
    Intel NIC Pro PT 1000
    Oyaide USB 5S .5m
    1.3m Discovery Essence DIN RCA cable
    (8) Herbies fat square dots
    (8) CF speaker pads

  25. #25

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    I think it is the other way around. Zune release 2006. I've been using J. River since 2003?

    Quote Originally Posted by Drenis View Post
    So this J. River is good stuff eh?

    I've heard it takes the look of the Zune software. As a MM user, it may be time for a change.
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    (8) CF speaker pads

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    Quote Originally Posted by doctorcilantro View Post
    LOL, I didn't see this post. I have one of these sitting right here that I used to use. They weren't cheap. Fun little case because the height allowed you some serious flexibility with higher powered CPU/cooling.
    Which case does "these" mean lol...

    Those cases look REALLY nice.... my ONLY concern is adequate airflow with only a 40mm fan in the case and a 40mm fan on the heatsink by default. That and it would force me to purchase a 2.5 HDD to start with as right now I just have a 3.5 320 gig.
    Advice is free, the Flea Market is earned - F1Nut

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  27. #27

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    Doc:

    Thank you for those links! The HTPC-ITX4 looks VERY interesting especially with the pico PSU option. So do the HTPC-ITX6 and HTPC-ITX7.

    I am totally ok with the fact they use a 80mm case fan as that gives me better options for aftermarket fans, and all these have the option of using a 3.5 drive AND a 2.5 drive and the ITX6 & ITX7 can use a cd drive. They are all about 4" tall which IMHO is totally acceptable.

    I like the ITX6 and ITX4 the best, but the ITX7 has all the same features + some other options and is 10 bucks cheaper than the ITX6... but those USB and card readers kinda muck up the front of the unit....

    The ITX6 comes in at around 150 which may not include shipping. However it looks MUCH better than all the other options I have looked at case wise so it might be a worthwhile investment...

    Some pics for everyone.

    ITX4
    Attachment 73823

    ITX6

    Attachment 73825Attachment 73826

    ITX7

    Attachment 73827Attachment 73828
    Advice is free, the Flea Market is earned - F1Nut

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drenis View Post
    As a MM user, it may be time for a change.
    What don't you like about MM?

    H9
    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass

    Pass Aleph 30; Eastern Electric Mini Max; Adcom GDA600; MIT S3/Z Pc; SDA 1C; Squeezebox; Tubes add soul!

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    Anyone have any thoughts on the Atom D2700 platform v. the AMD Hudson M1? I know this isnt the best forum for this (I have feelers out elsewhere) but know there are some other computer geeks here besides me
    Advice is free, the Flea Market is earned - F1Nut

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    Found a better solution . Allows for better processing (re encoding FLAC) for not much more than the Hudson platform .

    Now to start buying the parts....

    Motherboard (65): Foxconn H67S
    CPU (50): Intel Celeron G530 Sandy Bridge 2.4GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop
    Memory (15): Crucial 2GB 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333
    CPU Cooler (40): Scythe SCKZT-1000 80mm Kozuti
    Case (150): HTPC-ITX6
    Hard Drive (0): Resused 320 gig 7200 RPM something lol

    Total cost: 300
    Last edited by EndersShadow; 08-07-2012 at 11:52 PM.
    Advice is free, the Flea Market is earned - F1Nut

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