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Offline Mr.Fantasy

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Audiophile PC Build
« on: July 05, 2017, 01:36:49 PM »
I have a relative who can build PCs...and it is WAY PAST time to get a new PC.

Just wanted to throw a line out and see if anyone has a nice audio/video focused PC build they really like.....or any tips on components. Soundcards, etc.?

Probably throwing a grand or so at the project....we mainly some basic audio and video processing...nothing super intense.

This deal from Dell caught my eye... http://deals.dell.com/mpp/productdetail/f98
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Online heathen

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2017, 02:20:27 PM »
Is the PC going to be in the same room as your stereo, hooked directly up to the stereo?  Or can you have the PC in a different room acting as a server to send music to something hooked up to your stereo?

Edit to add: Either way, I think you can do this for well under $1,000.  Need more details though.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2017, 02:22:32 PM by heathen »
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Offline morst

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2017, 02:35:57 PM »
  Or can you have the PC in a different room acting as a server to send music to something hooked up to your stereo?
Great question. In the same room, you'll want a quiet machine. Think low power, no fans, no moving parts...
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Online heathen

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2017, 02:40:18 PM »
You can have fans in a quiet machine, it's just that you'll probably need aftermarket fans like Noctuas.

If the actual data isn't going to be stored in the listening room, it's MUCH easier to make an "audiophile" PC for the listening room.  It can be as simple as a Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry board, which has zero moving parts and takes up virtually no space.
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Online voltronic

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2017, 03:40:55 PM »
I agree with heathen.  If you just want high quality audio / video in your living room / home theater with all of the files on another system or NAS box, then there's no need to build a "home theater PC" as you would in the past.  That Dell you linked is way beyond what you need based on your description.

The Pi with aftermarket DAC board as suggested is a great route.  Even less expensive is the Chromecast + Foobar setup posted here - keep in mind this is for audio only.
You also might have a home theater receiver that does remote streaming.  I prefer to stream all of my media through my smart TV using Plex, which in turn streams lossless audio to my home theater via HDMI.  Incredibly easy to set up, and this works with audio, video, pictures, whatever.

If you really want a new full-out PC that is quiet, you'll be looking into aftermarket CPU coolers, fans, and power supplies made for high efficiency and low noise.  Back when I was working as a computer repair tech 15-20 years ago and building my own systems, I started my obsession with this and it has continued to this day. 

Though rarely updated, Silent PC Review is a huge wealth of info on this topic.  It's what started me on the path years ago.

Either way, I would put said new PC (no matter how quiet it is) in another room and use one of the above methods to stream your media elsewhere.
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Online heathen

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Offline Mr.Fantasy

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2017, 05:04:23 PM »
Thanks for the replies so far...good ideas and things to consider.

My current goal looks like this:

This is for my dad's "man cave" (read: mom has put up with dead shows since 78 and wants Dad to contain his sprawling hobby into a single room). So everything is going to be in the same room (bedroom, so I could stick the actual CPU in the closet for noise concerns???)

We do the following things:
-Digitize cassettes and vinyl (Nakamichi deck or turntable > a (yet to be received) SD MixPre3
-Record live streams online and then produce (for immediate family use only) nice little Blu-ray discs of the shows we "couch tour". Simple setup, but I do some amount of video editing and DVD/BluRay menu creation. And the BluRay burns themselves.
-I use Audition to play with my live recordings, but Dad usually uses simpler programs and does less editing than I do.
-Playback
-Internet, Word, Excel, etc.

We have a lot of old equipment, but mainly I want this PC to run out to a DAC (benchmark maybe) and then out to Dad's Silver-face Pioneer Receiver into his JBL L-100s for his playback.

I really want to get this computer outfitted, hardware-wise, to where it will last him for several years....so yeah, I realize that the specs of that Dell are much more than we really "need"...I just figured it might help this machine "last" longer. On the same page, I like having the extra expansion slots so I could change/upgrade later on.

One thing I thought of today....I keep an eye on craigslist a lot, and I see lots of these kids that spend 3K on a "gaming PC" and then they lose interest and sell it for like $500 bucks.....there are a few of these in my area right now.....seems like these have much more attention to fans, cooling, etc....but I don't know if they are supposed to be "quiet" or not.

Now to read that article Heathen shared...
"I read somewhere that 77 percent of all the mentally ill live in poverty. Actually, I'm more intrigued by the 23 percent who are apparently doing quite well for themselves" ---Jerry Garcia

Modified Nak 300's -> PS2 -> R-09 (looking for a pre-amp but am very indecisive)

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2017, 06:00:31 PM »
There is a lot I can say on this, but a quick thought regarding how powerful of a machine you use is that some of the gaming rigs you mention will be overkill for your purposes, which is a problem because they will probably have things like beefy graphics cards (which means more fans). To give you a comparison, in my living room I have a very small PC running Windows 10. It has a Pentium CPU and no graphics card, with a wall wart power supply. The only fan in the entire thing is the CPU fan. That PC has plenty of power for audio playback (24/96 flac is no sweat), streaming HD video,  etc. Because it doesn't have unnecessary bells and whistles, it stays lean and quiet. Now, in my case all the actual data is stored in another room.

Anyway, I will probably have more to add when I'm at an actual computer instead of on my phone.
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Offline anr

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #8 on: July 06, 2017, 02:03:26 AM »
An interesting subject, as I was thinking of an upgrade.  But...

I have a Phenom X4 965 BE based system (AM3 socket) on an Asus board, 8GB DDR3 RAM.  That's the bit that's getting old.  I have two SSDs (OS, plus files).  A new Zalman case (most models are fine, important thing is they provide excellent, silent cooling fans).  I have a 600W power supply, which the Zalman allows to be mounted at the bottom, which helps stability and airflow.  Nearly 20 years ago I spent a lot of money on an M-Audio sound card.  Superb, but the PCI interface limits motherboard selection these days.  I have a pair of KRK R6 monitors.  The loudest noise in my "office" is the desktop fan when I'm too hot.

This is for audio editing, browsing, e-mail, and general office work; but nothing else.  I thought it was getting a bit sluggish, or perhaps my expectations were raised simply by the Phenom being about 8 years old.  I was about to press buy on a new AMD Ryzen set up but decided to give overclocking a go; my theory being if I screw up I was prepared to upgrade anyway.  The 965 is a 3.4GHz CPU, RAM 1600Hz; and the whole feel became suddenly snappier at 3.7/1480. 

I'll probably still go for the upgrade sometime this year, but I hope that's given you a few things to consider.  I won't be buying an Asus board - very poor support and awful USB3 implementation; although admittedly I have one of the first USB3 boards. 
« Last Edit: July 06, 2017, 02:04:58 AM by anr »

Offline rocksuitcase

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2017, 10:43:23 AM »
OK, kindms is my PC guru, being he taught/coerced me into becoming a Windows IT person for my income; BUT I will add to the OP regarding the Dell:
I buy a few Dells each year, managing about 50 or so PC's at my job. That Dell XPS is high quality, they do not put the crap parts in those builds. IMO, in your (Dad's) situation You would buy Dell for the warranty. Purchase the 3 year warranty to start with and XPS' are able to be extended for 2 more years (5 years total).

OTH, I agree with volt, even though I do not go this route, go the Raspberry Pi style set up for pure playback only (assuming you have a NAS or storage drives).

Finally, MY opinion for your dad- Seems like I am about his age, have been taping since 1982, with many cassette masters, and have been slowly taking them off the cassettes in various ways since 2000:
Buy a NAS box for storage, place it in the closet (with ventilation) out of the listening room with the PC, Raspberry Pi, or other.
I talked myself into buying a Synology DSM1515+ 5 bay with 5 x 4 TB drives. I feel this has been an incredible evolution in my transferring and processing capabilities in that I no longer have to worry about juggling external drives for space and it allows me to store many versions of edits from same filesets- truly expands the concept of what we do. For sharing, it is even cooler. it can run Plex, and has so many of its own playback and conversion tools. For instance, I received a video of the Col Bruce Bday and had no software on my PC which would play it. The Synology has internal software (video station is one) which handled it seamlessly and allowed me to playback and watch on my laptop which would have not been able to play it with my current playback software. (full disclosure- I RARELY watch video, I'm an audio guy)   
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Offline Mr.Fantasy

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2017, 11:15:16 AM »
Man...this has gotten pretty deep pretty quick. I love it! Using technology is cool!

The article that Heathen posted (which I am just a few pages into) has revealed that I am more out of touch with some of this stuff that I thought. Example: I just googled what an NAS box is (network attached storage) - that makes sense, I just wasn't hip to the term.

Not being an IT professional, the idea of setting up a network is a bit foreign to me. I might have to find some resources to "spoon feed" some of this stuff. But I am totally confident that I can get it going if I decide that is the best bet. Now, at dad's house I could network with actual cable, but I am very interested in the idea of a remotely accessible network.

The idea of having a Server computer at dad's house, and being able to have all of our (my dad, brother, and I) audio, video, and pictures in a form that is 1. together and 2. accessible remotely.......is very cool.

So I need to get the new PC, then I imagine the first thing to do is establish the network and NAS and start filling it up with content. After than I can work on getting some streamer PCs setup at my house and my brother's house so we can all access the network. Is this were this Plex comes into play?

One thing I am completely missing (one of many I should say) is the concept of this Raspberry Pi deal. WTF? So this is like a very small computer? What does it run? How do you control it? Set it up? I think, as far as I understand, that once I establish the network (which I understand the consensus is that the main server PC needs to be either silent or in a different room) that you are saying that all I need to "access" the network and play music is this Raspberry and some other bit? Not an actual computer?

Sorry for all the questions. I really appreciate the help. I am not an idiot, I just need to do some catching up....I feel like I can figure this all out.
"I read somewhere that 77 percent of all the mentally ill live in poverty. Actually, I'm more intrigued by the 23 percent who are apparently doing quite well for themselves" ---Jerry Garcia

Modified Nak 300's -> PS2 -> R-09 (looking for a pre-amp but am very indecisive)

Online heathen

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2017, 11:16:25 AM »
To add to what rocksuitcase said, if you already have storage drives, a Synology NAS would be an excellent choice.  A quick Amazon search shows a 4 bay Synology box (without drives) for $600.  You could then put your existing drive(s) in it and add drives over time as you need them.

You could then get an Intel NUC, RAM, and SSD for about $250, and have that hooked up to your stereo (and monitor, keyboard, and mouse).  The one I'm looking at right now (Intel NUC NUC5CPYH) is more than capable for what you'd want to do with it.  Hook that up via USB to your DAC and you're in business.

A note about overclocking: generally when you overclock a CPU you'll need more cooling than the stock fan.  This can be water cooling, or an aftermarket fan.  I don't have any experience with water cooling but the radiators need fans, so it's not a completely fanless option.  That said, some aftermarket fans can actually be quieter than stock fans while still providing better cooling.  To be honest, though, I don't think overclocking is the way to go for you in the situation you described.

Ultimately there are so many variables at play here that it's hard to say definitively what is the one right answer for you (assuming there even is only one right answer).  I've experimented with a lot of different arrangements, and I'll tell you what I've settled on and am happy with.

In a spare bedroom I have my main PC that houses all my data, and that I use for things like audio editing and torrenting.  It's just running Windows 7, and I share the folders that have my music.  I have it connected via ethernet cable to the router.  Then I have a Raspberry Pi in the basement that serves as my headphone listening station, running Volumio.  That is also connected via ethernet cable to the router.  In the living room, connected to my stereo, I have a small PC (again connected via ethernet cable to the router).  This PC runs Windows 10, and I use foobar2000 for audio playback.  If I wanted to, I could use this PC for word processing.  I do use it for streaming video (HBO Go, YouTube).  It's also capable enough to do audio editing.  Here are the specs: Intel Pentium G3258 CPU, 8 GB RAM, SSD, ASRock H97M-ITX/AC motherboard, Mini-Box M350 case, wall wart power supply.  The main reason I have a PC hooked up to the stereo is because it's easier for my ol lady to use.  If it were just me, I'd have a Raspberry Pi hooked up to the stereo rather than an actual PC.  A Raspberry Pi is more than sufficient for audio playback, and I'd just use my PS4 for all my video streaming.

Anyway, I hope this hasn't just muddied the waters more for you.  If you can narrow down your specifics even more it will be possible to make more pointed recommendations about what may be good for your situation.
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Online heathen

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2017, 11:27:32 AM »
Not being an IT professional, the idea of setting up a network is a bit foreign to me. I might have to find some resources to "spoon feed" some of this stuff. But I am totally confident that I can get it going if I decide that is the best bet. Now, at dad's house I could network with actual cable, but I am very interested in the idea of a remotely accessible network.

You don't NEED an NAS or any special networking knowledge to have a remotely accessible system.  For example, on my main computer that houses all my data, I just do the Windows built-in sharing, which is literally just a matter of a few mouse clicks.  Now, I don't have the ability to do fancy things like Plex, but I also don't need that in my situation.

Quote
The idea of having a Server computer at dad's house, and being able to have all of our (my dad, brother, and I) audio, video, and pictures in a form that is 1. together and 2. accessible remotely.......is very cool.

If you like that idea I think you should pursue it.  You may be surprised at how accessible it can be.  One word of warning, though, is that I would avoid streaming over wireless.  You might not have issues, but I and many others have.  For example, trying to play a high resolution flac file can get choppy.  That's why I have everything connected via ethernet cables.

Quote
So I need to get the new PC, then I imagine the first thing to do is establish the network and NAS and start filling it up with content. After than I can work on getting some streamer PCs setup at my house and my brother's house so we can all access the network. Is this were this Plex comes into play?

If you're talking about a network accessible outside your own house, I'm out of my depth.  Within your own house, at least, you can go the NAS route but I don't think it's absolutely necessary.

Quote
One thing I am completely missing (one of many I should say) is the concept of this Raspberry Pi deal. WTF? So this is like a very small computer? What does it run? How do you control it? Set it up?

It's just a very small computer.  It is not compatible with Windows, though, so you'll be running some form of Linux.  I run Volumio, which is incredibly easy.  I have my Pi plugged into a power strip, and I just flip the power strip on when I want to use the Pi.  I then do everything to control the Pi through my phone (or another computer on the network).  I literally just open a browser, go to volumio.local, and I'm in business.  The Pi doesn't need a monitor or keyboard...in fact I keep it tucked away in a cabinet.  Setting it up is very easy.  I use a HiFiBerry DAC board that literally just plugs into the Pi board (and the Pi board itself comes as a one-piece thing).  The whole thing is in a case that just snaps together.  Then you just plug in the wall wart power supply, ethernet cable, and run RCA cables to your amp/preamp.  I've also used a HiFiBerry Digi board that sends a digital signal to a DAC.  Also extremely easy.

Quote
I think, as far as I understand, that once I establish the network (which I understand the consensus is that the main server PC needs to be either silent or in a different room) that you are saying that all I need to "access" the network and play music is this Raspberry and some other bit? Not an actual computer?

Well, the Pi is an actual computer, but I think I know what you mean.  And yes, you can use the Pi on its own for all your music playback.  It can even handle HD video, though I haven't used mine for that so I can't speak to it.  I imagine it can do word processing stuff as well with something like OpenOffice, though I also haven't tried that.

Quote
Sorry for all the questions. I really appreciate the help. I am not an idiot, I just need to do some catching up....I feel like I can figure this all out.

I'm enjoying this because it's the one thing I feel like I can actually add some knowledge about on this board, where on most other topics I'm pretty much just soaking in what everyone else has to offer.
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Offline Fried Chicken Boy

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #13 on: July 06, 2017, 11:53:53 AM »
... but mainly I want this PC to run out to a DAC (benchmark maybe) and then out to ...

Good idea.  I've been building/repairing computers for about 15 years or so as a hobby and washed my hands of internal, aftermarket soundcards years ago.  The good ones are expensive and for the money you can purchase a very good outboard unit that connects via USB.  No more worrying if your pricey and beloved soundcard will become obsolete with the newest iteration of motherboards or operating systems. 


BUT I will add to the OP regarding the Dell: I buy a few Dells each year, managing about 50 or so PC's at my job. That Dell XPS is high quality, they do not put the crap parts in those builds.

Realizing everyone has preferences and opinions, I respectfully disagree regarding Dell.  I've had some bad experiences with that brand in the past (notably with proprietary and outdated parts), and it was reaffirmed last year when I took on repairing a friend's 4-year-old Dell XPS tower.  At the time, it hadn't worked in about a year (by his estimation) and running a few tests we narrowed it down to a faulty motherboard.  Doing a little research it became apparent very quickly that was a common problem with this model due to the no-name microATX board they were using.  The combination of socket type, RAM type, and board type made it very challenging to replace.  I wound up sourcing a NOS Gigabyte mb from Japan.  The upside is that my friend tells me it's been running like a champ, no issues to speak of. 

Offline Mr.Fantasy

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Re: Audiophile PC Build
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2017, 03:58:25 PM »
Ok, I have the following questions (for now):

1. Regarding the Intel NUC units. First off...wow these are cool. Second, so I need to add RAM and hard drive, correct? Will that go inside the NUC box, or will in be external?

2. Can I use an NUC for his primary PC and run the network off of it? You plug in Monitor, it looks like it could Bluetooth a mouse, keyboard, and printer

3. On the Synology NAS units....it seems to me that a two bay unit with 4 TB drives would cover us for a LOOONG time. (don't have anywhere near a single TB filled yet)

4. Let's talk about PLEX baby... (lol)....but really, PLEX allows you to...what? Access your "stuff" from any device in the world? I looked at their site and step 2 is "add your media"...so do you have to load everything onto PLEX's system somehow? Does PLEX not access my NAS? PLEX seems promising.
"I read somewhere that 77 percent of all the mentally ill live in poverty. Actually, I'm more intrigued by the 23 percent who are apparently doing quite well for themselves" ---Jerry Garcia

Modified Nak 300's -> PS2 -> R-09 (looking for a pre-amp but am very indecisive)

 

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