Computer audio seems to generate emotions when discussing what products to use that really are odd. Why do people get so wound up? I’d be interested in your comments. Ideally one would take a computer, connect a good DAC and play one’s favourite music using one’s favourite app.
If only it were that simple to get a great sound from CA. The more I experiment the more I realise that CA is absolutely similar to analog audio or indeed any audio when taken seriously. Every change is audible. Assuming one has a good enough system.
Of course, just because a change is audible doesn’t mean it matters.
The expression bandied about on forums about Computer Audio is bit transparent. The theory is simple: it’s getting the bits from the Hard Drive out of the computer without them being manipulated/changed in any way.
I’ve tried many music playing apps and they all seem to sound subtly different. Even different releases of iTunes are reported to sort different. Life is far to short to bother to try different releases. As they say, I tried it once and didn’t like it.
For convenience for quick playback I tend to use VLC www.videolan.org. It seems to play almost everything audio and video and can even stream stuff over my network. It works well for Radio Paradise too.
If I want to get serious say when I’m comparing DACs I tend to use Foobar. It’s not my favourite user experience but it is easily configurable. For use under Win XP it’s possible to use the ASIO add in to bypass the K Mixer (assuming you have a suitable sound card). I use the M-Audio Transit. For Vista the WASAPI add in also bypasses the Windows (Kernel Mixer aka K Mixer) mixer. With volumes set at 100% one should be achieving bit transparency and the sound should be just that little bit cleaner, less splashy and the space between notes will be greater somehow.
CA still never gets truly close to good CD playback. Not yet for me anyway. And it’s not ’cause I haven’t tried hard.
It’s a bit simpler with a Mac (the classic Mac and a DAC route) assuming you remember to set the right bit depth and bit rate in the Midi settings but I can’t say it sounds any better.