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Thread: Computer Audio: Is isolation as good as optimization?

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  1. #1

    Computer Audio: Is isolation as good as optimization?

    There is a pretty lively discussion going on at a computer audio forum I frequent. A gentleman there who sells, among other things, computers optimized as audio sources, firmly believes that the only way to remove the noise from a computer music source is to hunt it down everywhere it occurs and get rid of it: minimize OS operations, hard disk drive, linear power supply, etc. He upgrades computers for this purpose, so he has a stake in it, but I believe he is sincere. The thing is, I've gotten great results from simple isolation. Well, not really simple. I send USB out of my MacBook Pro to a Trends UD 10.1. The Trends galvanically isolates, re-clocks then puts out coax, toslink, AES/EBU and BNC. I believe it is working for two reasons: 1) It sounds great; I'm getting a super clean signal to my active speakers and my headphone system. 2) it makes sense. By isolating and re-clocking outside of the MacBook, I have left behind all the noise, interference and jitter that is in my Mac. Right? Or am I missing something?

    Tim
    In high-end audio, you can't even fight an opinion with the facts.

  2. #2
    [WBF Founding Member] Moderator RBFC's Avatar
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    Until you've been able to compare your own listening experience with and without the various alterations, it's only a guess.

    Lee
    Lee Aldridge

    I post my own opinions except when posting as a moderator in green.

  3. #3
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    Couple of points: can you shut down the internal DAC of the Trends while passing the digital through to your actives; and have you tried driving it on battery power, as is possible?

    Frank

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    Unless you can modify the operating system and have equipment to confirm the effects of such modifications, the person is shooting in the dark. Here is an example. Let's say you a have a thousand things running in your PC. You optimize it now and it is only two things. Is the latter better? Not necessarily. The many things being different may regenerate a random signature whereas the other, predictable sources of timing jitter. This is the opposite of what someone thinks may be the case.

    While we can argue about the audible effects of such tweaks, the measurements should give us useful data. I realize the equipment is expensive but at some point, there needs to be a data point for us to use as the starting point. Wonder if Stereophile would be open to measuring a few of these systems.

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    What sort of equipment are you thinking of, Amir? For measuring jitter only, or for other forms of noise and interference as well?

    Frank

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    Jitter and electrical isolation. Can't think of anything else that would impact downstream analog conversion.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
    Couple of points: can you shut down the internal DAC of the Trends while passing the digital through to your actives; and have you tried driving it on battery power, as is possible?

    Frank
    It is isolated, anyway, but I don't believe it turns on until you plug something into the analog output.

    Tim
    In high-end audio, you can't even fight an opinion with the facts.

  8. #8
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    A good thread, Tim.

    > Computer Audio: Is isolation as good as optimization?

    If you want to make some informed choices for gear and software and use that system to listen to music for several years, then establishing good isolation in the path to the DAC (or in the DAC itself) that lets you use a standard computer is a smart choice.

    If you want to hear differences, make tweaks and hear more differences, then messing around to create a minimal hardware and OS configuration opens new possibilities. It is a lot cheaper than buying and selling gear like interconnect cables to provide subject matter for hearing differences.

    Bill

  9. #9
    [WBF Founding Member] Moderator RBFC's Avatar
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    I thought Toslink wasn't able to handle the high-res files. Any changes to this?

    Lee
    Lee Aldridge

    I post my own opinions except when posting as a moderator in green.

  10. #10
    Computer Audio [Technical Expert]
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    Acording to http://www.semicon.toshiba.co.jp/ope...77A%28F%2CT%29
    The audio modules have a data rate up to 15 Mb/s

    SPDIF
    Sample rate 96000 Hz
    Word length 32 Bit
    Channels 2 Stereo
    biphase-mark-code 2 Twice the sample rate

    = 12288000 b/s=12 Mb/s

    96 KHz should fit in.
    96 is indeed the limitation in Audio Midi in OSX

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