Music from computer - suggestions please - Canadian TV, Computing and Home Theatre Forums
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 09:41 AM Thread Starter
 
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Music from computer - suggestions please

I've hooked my PC up to my stereo receiver (Yamaha RXV459) to play music, with pretty disappointing results. I'm having trouble finding where the weak link(s) may be.

The soundcard is a SoundBlaster Live! Value card on an older model Dell PC. The connection is made using analog RCA cables with a Y adapter into the soundcard's FRONT speaker output. Should also note that the l+r analog cables are 25' long - the computer is in another room from the receiver. I have played around with the computer volume output, currently set to max, to get the best quality. All inputs are muted.

Resulting connection is a low volume, hissy, and muddy sounding mess.

So, now I have a number of questions:

Does the age of the computer matter? Just playing music.
Will upgrading the soundcard help? What about changing the output connection to digital (coax)?
Does the distance of the connection affect the sound quality?

Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks!
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 10:05 AM
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What about changing the output connection to digital (coax)?
I think that would be the best way to improve things



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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 10:27 AM
 
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Go COAX, it's going to be the best possible way to do it.
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 10:50 AM
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If you can move either item (computer or AVR), you could check a shorter analogue audio connection. Also, you could use use one side of the "long" (or short) analogue audio cable as a coaxial connection for a test. The coaxial connection should provide better audio if it works.

http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=76085

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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
 
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Will give digital coax connection a try and will let you know how it goes.
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 01:55 PM
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If the sound card has a digital coax output, then definitely use that.

In general, PC sounds cards have lousy analog output quality, but really poor quality as you're experiencing could just be a gain issue. Make sure you turn up all the volume controls to full (double click the speaker icon in the tray and make sure ALL the sliders are at full volume), then back down from there if necessary to avoid clipping in your receiver (try matching the relative volume of, say, a CD player connected directly to the receiver). After that, only use the volume on the receiver to maintain the best sound quality.
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 02:23 PM
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The Soundblaster Live is not known for it's sound quality but it shouldn't be as bad as described. Check the source material. Some sources can have low volume that cannot cover up the background noise of the sound card. Similarly, if the source input is incorrectly muted, you could just be hearing crosstalk instead of the actual signal. I would set all sound inputs and outputs to full volume. Also check that the output connections are correct (the front speakers are usually the light green plug) and that the sound card is set to stereo mode. If that works better, try muting inputs one at a time. You may also want to turn down the volume on the higher level sources to prevent distortion. Digital audio will improve the sound quality but only if everything else is set up correctly.
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 02:28 PM Thread Starter
 
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JohnnyG - I've done the maxing of the volume controls - as you have suggested. The end result is a volume level a lot lower than that of other components connected to the AVR. So much so, that if someone switches from listening to MP3's from the computer to the AVR (say switches to TV or DVD), they get BLASTED with the volume difference.

I don't have a coax (or optical) output on my existing soundcard. I'm going to upgrade to get that capability. Also hoping that an upgrade will add some sort of quality to the process.
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 10:05 PM
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The quality of the source files matters a lot. What are you playing? If these are mp3 files, what bit rate? Did you encode them, or get them from elsewhere?

I use laptops for DJing, and they work very well. The best bang for the buck for a sound card that I have found is the Turtlebeach Micro USB sound card - under $40 at Tigerdirect.ca, and has very good output levels and great sound quality.

Main audio output for my setup is through a Behringer FCA202 firewire audio interface. It is not top level, but has worked very well for me, and allows two audio devices on the same laptop.
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-19, 10:58 PM Thread Starter
 
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I've ripped the Mp3's myself from CD's. I went the Mp3 route to save on hard drive space and to have a format that was compatible with iTunes. Now that I have mentioned it - does iTunes have anything to do with the playback sound quality or are other formats (Media Player, WinAmp, etc.) just the same?
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post #11 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-20, 07:23 AM
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I'm not familiar with your card but if you have an out that bypasses the amp on the card then I would try that...seeing how you're going directly from the card to your receiver.
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post #12 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-20, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Rideauman View Post
I've ripped the Mp3's myself from CD's. I went the Mp3 route to save on hard drive space and to have a format that was compatible with iTunes. Now that I have mentioned it - does iTunes have anything to do with the playback sound quality or are other formats (Media Player, WinAmp, etc.) just the same?
Can you provide some details about the ripped mp3 files?

What bit rate?

What application to rip?

If you play a CD in your PC, does it also sound as bad?

It is possible to rip a song onto a PC in such as way that the mp3 file sounds very bad. That was the result of how the ripper and encoders were set up, and the way the CD/DVD player was seen by the system. The first thing to do is verify that your mp3 files are good quality - even though your sound card is not the greatest in the world, it should produce acceptable audio quality and reasonable output levels.

If worse comes to worse, put a few of your mp3 files onto a USB memory stick, carry them to a friend's PC, and see how they sound. Testing with the original CD can also help to check the audio chain - but I have found that the volume from a CD is always higher than from an mp3 or wma file.
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post #13 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-21, 09:21 AM Thread Starter
 
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Can you provide some details about the ripped mp3 files?

What bit rate?
No clue - how can you tell?

What application to rip?
Windows Media Player

If you play a CD in your PC, does it also sound as bad?
Yes, sounds just as bad - therefore concluding that the problem lies somewhere between the connection to the AVR and the soundcard?

It is possible to rip a song onto a PC in such as way that the mp3 file sounds very bad. That was the result of how the ripper and encoders were set up, and the way the CD/DVD player was seen by the system. The first thing to do is verify that your mp3 files are good quality - even though your sound card is not the greatest in the world, it should produce acceptable audio quality and reasonable output levels.

If worse comes to worse, put a few of your mp3 files onto a USB memory stick, carry them to a friend's PC, and see how they sound. Testing with the original CD can also help to check the audio chain - but I have found that the volume from a CD is always higher than from an mp3 or wma file.
Playing these mp3 files on my iPod or in the car - they sound great. Sound bad only during playback with AVR

I appreciate everyone's help with this - feedback has been awesome!
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post #14 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-21, 11:02 AM
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Double-check to make sure ALL the volume controls are at full. Open your control panels and double-click Sounds and Audio Devices. Check the volume slider in the first screen, then click Advanced and make sure all the sliders there are are max'd out too. Then click Speaker Volume... in the bottom section of the properties box and max those out. Finally, check the volume level in your player application, and also any volume controls that might be on your keyboard. Most of the controls in all these different areas often get adjusted together, but not always. The Wave level is a particular "gotcha".

Also, what input did you plug into on your AVR? Anything but PHONO should work.
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post #15 of 30 (permalink) Old 2007-12-22, 08:30 AM Thread Starter
 
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Thanks JohnnyG. Rechecked every volume control you mentioned and they were already maxed out.

Audio going into the CDR input on my AVR (don't have a phono input).
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