Author Topic: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?  (Read 10335 times)

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Offline dm1179

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #30 on: Jul 04, 2015 at 05:18 PM »
My PC is connected to my Marantz receiver via HDMI cable. Will there be improvement in SQ if I use USB DAC?
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Offline majoe

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #31 on: Jul 06, 2015 at 04:43 PM »
mukhang fanless talaga ang kailangan sa system ko...

try mo din tablet o smartphone.

Offline sientobente

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #32 on: Jul 08, 2015 at 09:08 AM »
My PC is connected to my Marantz receiver via HDMI cable. Will there be improvement in SQ if I use USB DAC?
It actually will be dependent on the synergy between the amp section of your reciever and DAC.

Offline sleepygeepy

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #33 on: Jul 12, 2015 at 08:39 PM »
This is a very interesting topic.  I have listened from both sources (laptop and desktop) but could not find any differences in sound when my DAC/AMP is connected to either source :)

What I can say is the laptop can offer lower levels of EMI since it is using a battery as a power source instead of a switching PSU common to desktop PC's.  Plus the low clock speeds of the processor and the use of only 1-2 fans help reduce EMI significantly.  I think a tablet or laptop or Intel NUC style desktop that is cooled passively will even have less EMI emissions.  Take a look at ASUS Transformer Book T100TA or the Zotac ZBOX Nano to get an idea.  Both are powered by Intel quad-core Celeron / Atom processors and are passively cooled.  Plus they can be equipped with SSD's so there are absolutely no motors or moving parts that can cause EMI.

For desktops you can lessen EMI by using few fans as possible and connecting them directly to the PSU and not the motherboard fan headers.  Also if you enable spread spectrum control in the BIOS it will further reduce EMI and noise.  Running the processor at a lower speed also helps as modern processors running in Turbo mode produces EMI due to the higher clock frequency.

Hope this information helps! :)

Offline JoeyGS

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #34 on: Jul 12, 2015 at 09:21 PM »
To effectively use a PC for hi-end audio application, IMO the following must be met:

1.  The PC shall be solely be used to audio playback
2.  Processor is fanless.   Use passive cooling similar to the Streacom CPU cases.  Newer and more efficient processors consumes less power which generates less heat.
3.  PSU is fanless.  Pico power supply and batteries can be used.
4.  OS needs to be configured for audio playback only.  All resources not needed for audio playback needs to be shut down or disabled.  Windows Server 2012 or Linux/Fedora are good candidates.  Audiophile Oprimizer or Fidelizer are some softwares that further tweak the OS to minimally operate for audio function only.
5.  Headless operation with remote controllers are preferred since video operation can induce noise into the system.
6.  Audio grade cables for SATA/HDD, power and USB help a lot to provide blacker background
7.  SSD for OS and if possible for music playback is desired as HDD are noisier
8.  Audio grade USB cards also provide big improvement in SQ output. Paul Pang Audio Grade USB cards is an example which had provided my system with major improvement versus the ones on the motherboard.
9. Intel i3 is the minimum processor needed in case you will also use DSD music files.  DSD files require some amount of complex processing. 
10.  16gb RAM memory is recommended as a minimum to ensure smooth playback

Not all of the above can be implemented in a laptop.




Offline deist

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #35 on: Jul 12, 2015 at 10:34 PM »
If you can't hear a difference between a laptop & desktop then it is good for you, no need for upgrades so easy on the wallet. But my experience is otherwise hence the quest for a "noiseless" pc source  ;)

This is a very interesting topic.  I have listened from both sources (laptop and desktop) but could not find any differences in sound when my DAC/AMP is connected to either source :)

What I can say is the laptop can offer lower levels of EMI since it is using a battery as a power source instead of a switching PSU common to desktop PC's.  Plus the low clock speeds of the processor and the use of only 1-2 fans help reduce EMI significantly.  I think a tablet or laptop or Intel NUC style desktop that is cooled passively will even have less EMI emissions.  Take a look at ASUS Transformer Book T100TA or the Zotac ZBOX Nano to get an idea.  Both are powered by Intel quad-core Celeron / Atom processors and are passively cooled.  Plus they can be equipped with SSD's so there are absolutely no motors or moving parts that can cause EMI.

For desktops you can lessen EMI by using few fans as possible and connecting them directly to the PSU and not the motherboard fan headers.  Also if you enable spread spectrum control in the BIOS it will further reduce EMI and noise.  Running the processor at a lower speed also helps as modern processors running in Turbo mode produces EMI due to the higher clock frequency.

Hope this information helps! :)

Offline deist

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #36 on: Jul 12, 2015 at 10:36 PM »
I totally agree with this, same reasons why I'm not recommending tablets or mobile phones for hi-fi audio playback

To effectively use a PC for hi-end audio application, IMO the following must be met:

1.  The PC shall be solely be used to audio playback
2.  Processor is fanless.   Use passive cooling similar to the Streacom CPU cases.  Newer and more efficient processors consumes less power which generates less heat.
3.  PSU is fanless.  Pico power supply and batteries can be used.
4.  OS needs to be configured for audio playback only.  All resources not needed for audio playback needs to be shut down or disabled.  Windows Server 2012 or Linux/Fedora are good candidates.  Audiophile Oprimizer or Fidelizer are some softwares that further tweak the OS to minimally operate for audio function only.
5.  Headless operation with remote controllers are preferred since video operation can induce noise into the system.
6.  Audio grade cables for SATA/HDD, power and USB help a lot to provide blacker background
7.  SSD for OS and if possible for music playback is desired as HDD are noisier
8.  Audio grade USB cards also provide big improvement in SQ output. Paul Pang Audio Grade USB cards is an example which had provided my system with major improvement versus the ones on the motherboard.
9. Intel i3 is the minimum processor needed in case you will also use DSD music files.  DSD files require some amount of complex processing. 
10.  16gb RAM memory is recommended as a minimum to ensure smooth playback

Not all of the above can be implemented in a laptop.
« Last Edit: Jul 13, 2015 at 01:35 AM by deist »

Offline dm1179

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #37 on: Jul 13, 2015 at 10:34 AM »
To effectively use a PC for hi-end audio application, IMO the following must be met:

1.  The PC shall be solely be used to audio playback
2.  Processor is fanless.   Use passive cooling similar to the Streacom CPU cases.  Newer and more efficient processors consumes less power which generates less heat.
3.  PSU is fanless.  Pico power supply and batteries can be used.
4.  OS needs to be configured for audio playback only.  All resources not needed for audio playback needs to be shut down or disabled.  Windows Server 2012 or Linux/Fedora are good candidates.  Audiophile Oprimizer or Fidelizer are some softwares that further tweak the OS to minimally operate for audio function only.
5.  Headless operation with remote controllers are preferred since video operation can induce noise into the system.
6.  Audio grade cables for SATA/HDD, power and USB help a lot to provide blacker background
7.  SSD for OS and if possible for music playback is desired as HDD are noisier
8.  Audio grade USB cards also provide big improvement in SQ output. Paul Pang Audio Grade USB cards is an example which had provided my system with major improvement versus the ones on the motherboard.
9. Intel i3 is the minimum processor needed in case you will also use DSD music files.  DSD files require some amount of complex processing. 
10.  16gb RAM memory is recommended as a minimum to ensure smooth playback

Not all of the above can be implemented in a laptop.

+1 on this. I just want to emphasize above setup is for "high-end" audio. Going high-end burns cash so it's a good thing that my ears are fine with "mid-range" audio. :)
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Offline [email protected]

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #38 on: Jul 13, 2015 at 12:41 PM »
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Offline timber715

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #39 on: Jul 13, 2015 at 09:20 PM »
To effectively use a PC for hi-end audio application, IMO the following must be met:

1.  The PC shall be solely be used to audio playback
2.  Processor is fanless.   Use passive cooling similar to the Streacom CPU cases.  Newer and more efficient processors consumes less power which generates less heat.
3.  PSU is fanless.  Pico power supply and batteries can be used.
4.  OS needs to be configured for audio playback only.  All resources not needed for audio playback needs to be shut down or disabled.  Windows Server 2012 or Linux/Fedora are good candidates.  Audiophile Oprimizer or Fidelizer are some softwares that further tweak the OS to minimally operate for audio function only.
5.  Headless operation with remote controllers are preferred since video operation can induce noise into the system.
6.  Audio grade cables for SATA/HDD, power and USB help a lot to provide blacker background
7.  SSD for OS and if possible for music playback is desired as HDD are noisier
8.  Audio grade USB cards also provide big improvement in SQ output. Paul Pang Audio Grade USB cards is an example which had provided my system with major improvement versus the ones on the motherboard.
9. Intel i3 is the minimum processor needed in case you will also use DSD music files.  DSD files require some amount of complex processing. 
10.  16gb RAM memory is recommended as a minimum to ensure smooth playback

Not all of the above can be implemented in a laptop.
I beg to differ brader... 
I do use a laptop with an i7 processor solely dedicated as a music source only. Compared it with a fanless and headless i3 and besides the convinience, I find the laptop to sound better. Of course the processor is better. Though both had 4gb of ram and had the same os (mine heavily configured at the root to use nothing else but what is needed to play music). The pico power supply is a bit of a hit and miss still while the laptop can use its battery which has the proper juice. And then the wireless or wired connection. A laptop can be controlled via its own keyboard and keeping the wifi turn off, latency is affected when this is On which in the case of the headless one is a requirement.
The nice thing about a fanless unit is that you can tweak it to your heart's delight. Get a server board with two processors (use two i7's) install 32gb ram plus use only ssd hhds, then add the special wires but do use a power source that has more power than the machine needs. Then the difference might even be small that I think it isn't really worth the cost and trouble.

Offline sleepygeepy

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #40 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 02:59 AM »
If you can't hear a difference between a laptop & desktop then it is good for you, no need for upgrades so easy on the wallet. But my experience is otherwise hence the quest for a "noiseless" pc source

Sadly my audio components are not resolving enough so I can't tell the difference.  I even tried playing back a DSD audio file on an SMSL M8 DAC connected to either laptop or PC and I could not differentiate between the two using HD600 or HE-400i headphones.  I'm limited to my budget-fi setup unfortunately :)

But having said that, I think the new "Intel NUC" style PC's can help in building a noiseless PC source that won't break your bank account.  They do meet some of the requirements that JoeyGS mentioned:

- Processor is fanless and cooled passively (especially for Baytrail quad-core CPUs)
- PSU is fanless and uses a Pico PSU with separate adapter.
- Can use an SSD
- Can be upgraded to 16GB of memory
- Headless operation is possible (I think?) as they are designed to be used as HTPC with remote.

The only requirements they don't meet are the audio grade SATA/HDD cables and the Paul Pang audio grade USB card.  Very specialized components that have to ordered from abroad I guess.  The passive cases like Streacom are also very expensive.  A good alternative to Streacom are the Akasa passive cases.

But having mentioned the above...

Wouldn't an HD Audio media player be more practical like the Dune HD Smart D1 or Popcorn Hour C300?  They can use SSD's for storage, can be controlled remotely, and you can connect them to an external DAC or audiophile grade receiver.  The only drawback I see is they don't have support for DSD audio files ^-^

Offline sleepygeepy

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #41 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 03:09 AM »
Saw this guide in building a CAPS PC on your own, very informative:

C.A.P.S. v2.0
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/405-computer-audiophile-pocket-server-caps-v20/
« Last Edit: Jul 14, 2015 at 03:10 AM by sleepygeepy »

Offline JoeyGS

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #42 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 10:25 AM »
I totally agree brader.  It's highly possible to use a laptop as a music server.  Performance wise, I really have not compared my music server with a tweaked laptop solely for audio playback.  But I am sure your laptop is very good.

But in your case, the OS has been manually tweaked to allow minimum operations, at least for audio use only.  You have made the processor work to a minimum which probably made the fan to work less or none at all during playback. This has an impact in better sound quality which you are achieving.

The approach I suggested is from a point of view that one would start to either purchase or assemble a music server. Starting from zero, assembling a CAPS server similar to what I have suggested would give one a hi-fi music server.  Purchasing a loptop would require one to either change the OS and purchase softwares that would manage the OS operations to be efficient for audio application; or, go to the path you have taken which is to tweak the OS, shut down all processes not needed for audio playback.   I guess majority of the users are not capable of manually tweaking the OS ....... but it is possible if one can dedicate time to study and implement.

Sana I can also learn your skills in tweaking OS .....  ;D >:D  .... mas matipid yan eh ;D




I beg to differ brader... 
I do use a laptop with an i7 processor solely dedicated as a music source only. Compared it with a fanless and headless i3 and besides the convinience, I find the laptop to sound better. Of course the processor is better. Though both had 4gb of ram and had the same os (mine heavily configured at the root to use nothing else but what is needed to play music). The pico power supply is a bit of a hit and miss still while the laptop can use its battery which has the proper juice. And then the wireless or wired connection. A laptop can be controlled via its own keyboard and keeping the wifi turn off, latency is affected when this is On which in the case of the headless one is a requirement.
The nice thing about a fanless unit is that you can tweak it to your heart's delight. Get a server board with two processors (use two i7's) install 32gb ram plus use only ssd hhds, then add the special wires but do use a power source that has more power than the machine needs. Then the difference might even be small that I think it isn't really worth the cost and trouble.
« Last Edit: Jul 14, 2015 at 10:55 AM by JoeyGS »

Offline JoeyGS

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #43 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 10:43 AM »
In my experience, the entire audio component, from source to speakers should be transparent enough so that you can hear the subtle differences in the music playback whether it be different types or version of music files or material; or maybe different types of cables; or tubes or whatever you insert or change in the music component chain.

A carefully made music server or music source may not necessarily output the natural presentation of a music material if any of the components is not able to process or convey the music signal  in a transparent or natural way by how the music material was recorded (good or bad).  In simple words, if a music file or material is good, the output should be good; and if it is bad then the output should be bad.  That's what I meant by transparency.

If you think your music server has been properly built to a certain level, maybe check out the other components in your audio chain which may be the link that does not provide the transparency.

In my case, when I started to use Magnepan (planar) speakers and Mark Audio fullrange diy speakers, I was able to tune my audio components better and also found which of my music materials were recorded good or bad.  The aforementioned speakers, for me, are regarded as transparent and resolving.  It will output what you feed them (good or bad) and will sound good or bad as originally intended.  So I realized that all the while, my previous speakers were 'forgiving' and did not provide me the actual sound that my components were producing.

But please do take note that YMMV and I hope my experience can provide some insight in your audio journey.

Oh, and BTW, the Paul Pang cables can be sourced locally too thru a local distributor.  (Victor Sow - 0917-855-0668; PDVD handle rotciv64)



Sadly my audio components are not resolving enough so I can't tell the difference.  I even tried playing back a DSD audio file on an SMSL M8 DAC connected to either laptop or PC and I could not differentiate between the two using HD600 or HE-400i headphones.  I'm limited to my budget-fi setup unfortunately :)

But having said that, I think the new "Intel NUC" style PC's can help in building a noiseless PC source that won't break your bank account.  They do meet some of the requirements that JoeyGS mentioned:

- Processor is fanless and cooled passively (especially for Baytrail quad-core CPUs)
- PSU is fanless and uses a Pico PSU with separate adapter.
- Can use an SSD
- Can be upgraded to 16GB of memory
- Headless operation is possible (I think?) as they are designed to be used as HTPC with remote.

The only requirements they don't meet are the audio grade SATA/HDD cables and the Paul Pang audio grade USB card.  Very specialized components that have to ordered from abroad I guess.  The passive cases like Streacom are also very expensive.  A good alternative to Streacom are the Akasa passive cases.

But having mentioned the above...

Wouldn't an HD Audio media player be more practical like the Dune HD Smart D1 or Popcorn Hour C300?  They can use SSD's for storage, can be controlled remotely, and you can connect them to an external DAC or audiophile grade receiver.  The only drawback I see is they don't have support for DSD audio files ^-^
« Last Edit: Jul 14, 2015 at 10:51 AM by JoeyGS »

Offline deist

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #44 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 01:12 PM »
I'm also using sa budget-fi system of mostly DIY components but I can hear the difference that even changing usb cable has a very noticeable alteration in sound. Like what JoeyGS said, it's the resolution of the entire system.

The Intel NUC is not fanless, the fan is located underneath the board, below is an internal pic of an i5 Intel NUC:



To make it fanless, you need to buy a whole new case like the one from Akasa.

The restriction with HD audio media players aside from the limited hardware capability is the player software, it is not tweakable unlike the ones made for PC like Foobar, JRiver, HQPlayer etc. These software are capable of maximizing the PC resources for exclusive playback especially if you are into upsampling. And can even handle third party EQ, Convolution, Mid-side processing etc...

But, let me also put here the usual caveat; YMMV (your mileage may vary)  ;)

Sadly my audio components are not resolving enough so I can't tell the difference.  I even tried playing back a DSD audio file on an SMSL M8 DAC connected to either laptop or PC and I could not differentiate between the two using HD600 or HE-400i headphones.  I'm limited to my budget-fi setup unfortunately :)

But having said that, I think the new "Intel NUC" style PC's can help in building a noiseless PC source that won't break your bank account.  They do meet some of the requirements that JoeyGS mentioned:

- Processor is fanless and cooled passively (especially for Baytrail quad-core CPUs)
- PSU is fanless and uses a Pico PSU with separate adapter.
- Can use an SSD
- Can be upgraded to 16GB of memory
- Headless operation is possible (I think?) as they are designed to be used as HTPC with remote.

The only requirements they don't meet are the audio grade SATA/HDD cables and the Paul Pang audio grade USB card.  Very specialized components that have to ordered from abroad I guess.  The passive cases like Streacom are also very expensive.  A good alternative to Streacom are the Akasa passive cases.

But having mentioned the above...

Wouldn't an HD Audio media player be more practical like the Dune HD Smart D1 or Popcorn Hour C300?  They can use SSD's for storage, can be controlled remotely, and you can connect them to an external DAC or audiophile grade receiver.  The only drawback I see is they don't have support for DSD audio files ^-^
« Last Edit: Jul 14, 2015 at 01:14 PM by deist »

Offline shrek7

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #45 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 07:50 PM »
Wow!!! Haba na ng discussion ah!!! Thank you for all your insights, I do have a very cheap system with just full range speakers, a miniscule class d amp and a near obsolete NOS dac, but this combination gives me joy, though its a very resolving system that is vsensitive to changes, and my weak link is my digital source,  the discussion here would really be helpful to guys like me who is searching for a better digital source may it be a laptop or a PC.

Offline AC

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #46 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 08:16 PM »
my latest setup.. completely silent.. no moving parts:D

asrock itx j1900
aluminum case with psu (hubey yata ang brand)
8gbram
120gb ssd
cdrking wifi

so happy with this setup.. im upgrading all our core2 last decade office PCs to j1900... :D
not powerful but... sabi ng programmer... namin... akala niya daw i5 or i7... dahil mabilis daw.. i think its the ssd.. hehe kaya mabilis lahat


my old htpc kayalang parted out na..
Server Torrent Rig HTPC (passive cooling) (around 21watts idle 45watts loaded)
intel i3-2100T
gigabyte h67 itx mobo
4gb ddr3 OCZ
3X samsung 2TB HD
pico psu
Thermalright HR-02 cpu cooler
custom copper chipset cooler
custom acrylic case


my friend's htpc (same specs as mine.. sabay namin binili parts)
intel i3-2100T (same)
gigabyte h67 itx mobo (same)
4gb ddr3 OCZ (same)
4X samsung 2TB HD (same)
pico psu (same)
Noctua NH-C12 cpu cooler
custom copper chipset cooler (same) actually.. donate niya din yung akin.. hehe.. malaking block yun na copper na hinati namin..
custom acrylic/aluminum case

both also fanless.. but may moving parts... yung terabyte hard disks.. since these were intended to be htpcs media players

« Last Edit: Jul 14, 2015 at 08:33 PM by AC »

Offline shoktongxxx

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #47 on: Jul 14, 2015 at 10:16 PM »
It actually will be dependent on the synergy between the amp section of your reciever and DAC.
very well said! :D

Offline timber715

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #48 on: Jul 15, 2015 at 12:30 AM »
Actually, the sound quality will be dependent on the synergy of ALL the parts used in the system. Hence a weak link no matter if it is a wire or a hdd or a process in the OS will affect the bottomline. IMHO....

Offline rotciv64

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #49 on: Jul 15, 2015 at 12:35 AM »
Hi Joey,

AO already installed on your system?

Offline rotciv64

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #50 on: Jul 15, 2015 at 12:40 AM »
Hi brader, lighter workload na ako pwede na mag drop by next week. :)

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #51 on: Jul 15, 2015 at 12:57 AM »
Hi brader, lighter workload na ako pwede na mag drop by next week. :)
Ako ba yan brad? Text mo lang ako...

Offline JoeyGS

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #52 on: Jul 15, 2015 at 09:35 AM »
Still finding time ..... quite busy (or intense) at work.  Too tired to do it at night time.  AO needs some reading before actual installation.

But am excited to hear what AO offers.  Been running my CAPS for so many months with just JRiver and its time to see what AO does to SQ.

 
Hi Joey,

AO already installed on your system?


Offline timber715

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #53 on: Jul 15, 2015 at 06:36 PM »
Still finding time ..... quite busy (or intense) at work.  Too tired to do it at night time.  AO needs some reading before actual installation.

But am excited to hear what AO offers.  Been running my CAPS for so many months with just JRiver and its time to see what AO does to SQ.

 
I would highly recommend you try Hqplayer brader... unfortunately you will need a keyboard and a monitor. headless just won't cut it.
It has a terrible interface imo but the sq... those using AO seem to like the hq enough to downgrade in cost, so to say....
« Last Edit: Jul 15, 2015 at 10:25 PM by timber715 »

Offline JoeyGS

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Re: Which is better??? Laptop or PC as audio source?
« Reply #54 on: Jul 17, 2015 at 10:26 PM »
Will definitely do that brader ..... Thanks for the advise

I would highly recommend you try Hqplayer brader... unfortunately you will need a keyboard and a monitor. headless just won't cut it.
It has a terrible interface imo but the sq... those using AO seem to like the hq enough to downgrade in cost, so to say....