Have a real problem with my music. Please help!

Discussion in 'Soundcards, Speakers HiFI & File formats' started by HonoredShadow, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. HonoredShadow

    HonoredShadow Ancient Guru

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    My music collection is BIG. I have been collecting since I can remember. I have all my music now ripped to .mp3.

    My problem is this. I have all my music on a PC hidden behind my HDTV. The PC is plugged directly into a Sony HIFI. Thing is it does not sound to great. It sounds ok but not great. The sound card in that PC is the same as the one in my sig.

    I have tinkered with the sound options in the sound cards menu. For example, size of room, graphic EQ but not much better. I just think their are too many variables for me to get things right when it comes to a PC.

    So what I am asking is what other alternatives do I have?

    I have seen HIFI's that have hard drives but are never big enough. I have seen HIFI's that support USB hard drives but only support FAT32 and no matter how many directories etc it's just not gonna cut it.

    What I need is a solution to my ever growing collection and fast!

    Please, please can someone come up with a solution? Maybe if someone knows of a NTFS USB HIFI or something.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. killer_939

    killer_939 Ancient Guru

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    Leaving all settings on defaults (hitting hifi button) will give you the most raw sound and generally that will sound the best. If the sound isn't that good then maybe you should look into better speakers? PC sound cards can sound very good for their price, so i wouldn't consider anything else.

    I presume you are using analog output from the sound card? Digital would probably be worse.
     
  3. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Set everything to default on the soundcard and dont mess with all its gadgets.
    Make sure you are connected to the hifi with a good quality analogue lead.
    Play music.

    If there isnt enough bass, turn it up.
    Job done.
    This assumes your speakers are well positioned and that your hifi isnt rubbish.

    If you need more space, one of these is good value
    http://www.ebuyer.com/339426-hitachi-4tb-touro-dx3-desktop-hard-drive-0s03400

    ps one problem is you are using MP3s.
    Get uncompressed music.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  4. RagDoll_Effect

    RagDoll_Effect Ancient Guru

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    Which Sony hifi? It will depend mainly on that. NTFS USB HIFI? If you mean a mini hifi system or sound dock? Also, your budget...

    regards,
    RagDoll.
     

  5. flimbo

    flimbo Master Guru

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    And what speakers are you using?
     
  6. HonoredShadow

    HonoredShadow Ancient Guru

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    The Sony HIFI is ancient. It's over 20 years old. I don't think its great sounding but was good enough when I played CD's through it. I just seem to be loosing something via the PC.

    All settings for soundcard are on default.

    Would love an NTFS USB HIFI. My budget would be around £200-£300 I guess.
     
  7. flimbo

    flimbo Master Guru

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    Keep the same arrangement you've got. Upgrade or add another hard drive in the PC if you need more space. Ditch the sony hifi and get a decent amp and proper speakers. Have a look in Richer Sounds stores and their website, AVBristol and Hughes Direct also do decent hifi/audio stuff.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  8. HonoredShadow

    HonoredShadow Ancient Guru

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    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  9. flimbo

    flimbo Master Guru

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    Last edited: Dec 8, 2012
  10. Nono06

    Nono06 Master Guru

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    I do not know the Asus that well but on my X-fi soundcard, the default was not ok. It enables plenty of "enhancers" that I do not want to use (3d, EQ...).
    I would recommend turning everything OFF.

    Which player are you using? If it exists for your player, I would recommend using a WASAPI output plugin and configuring it to use exclusive mode. Depending on the plugin, you can have many other options like bit exact, sampling rate adjustment...
    I would recommend setting that in a way that will insure that nothing get modify (no resampling, no depth modification...)

    On my side, I'm using Winamp with Maiko plugin and I could clearly hear the difference.
    Does the Xonar also have a "master sampling rate" option? If yes, I would recommend using 88.2kHz or 44.1kHz if the majority of your collection is CD rip (44.1)

    Good Luck
     

  11. nikavelli

    nikavelli Master Guru

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    o rly?
     
  12. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Agreed with the other posters suggesting you get a new hifi.
    Problem is, then you may regret using mp3s.
    It depends how bothered you are and how good the system you get is (+ how well you set it up).

    Be sure to get OFC analogue cables, make sure they are genuine OFC, not some cables off ebay.
    (OFC= Oxygen Free Copper)
    You dont need to spend a lot, you can if you wish though.
    But if getting a cheap cable, a true OFC cable gives you a minimum guarantee of at least some quality.
     
  13. HonoredShadow

    HonoredShadow Ancient Guru

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    I use Winamp. What is this plug in you speak of? http://maiko.elementfx.com/
    Why exclusive mode?

    Quick question about Winamp actually. It has options in 'playback' called dither and surround. Should these be on or off for 2 speaker HIFI?

    My soundcard shows up in windows with up to 24bit DVD quality and above.

    Will look for those cables on ebay. Could you show me an example?
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2m-PURE-O...ion_Audio_Cables_Adapters&hash=item2c68a13534
    Any good?

    Why will I regret mp3? mp3 is more compatible with all software players and mp3 players. Also less space. Quality seems ok to me without being silly size.

    Thanks for the info guys!
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  14. Nono06

    Nono06 Master Guru

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    Yes, that's the plugin I was talking about.

    Exclusive mode will insure first that no other sound could be played at the same time but also that the entire audio processing chain uses the correct values (sampling rate, depth...) defined by your audio source files.
    In the plugin settings, in the exclusive tab you will find many options.
    You can tick them all to force all parameters to match automatically your source file and discard any setting from windows audio mixer.
    It is also good to spend few seconds and read the explanation of what each option is doing in case of problem :)

    Once again, even if your soundcard support 24bit for example, I would not recommend forcing the output to use that if your MP3 are in 16bit.
    I could be wrong but for me the less you are "modifying" your source the best it is.

    If WASAPI plugin is correctly set, you should not see any signal in windows volume bar at the bottom right.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  15. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    The windows sound mixer has to convert all sound to the same bits/sample and the same sampling frequency.
    So when you play any audio through it, it is resampled, it may have other audio mixed in as well and doesnt sound as good as it should, due to the lowish bitrate mixer.
    It seems to resample even things at the same bits/sample and the same sampling frequency that you are using in your soundcards Windows setup options.
    I have verified this from how it sounds, its nowhere near as clear, lots of detail is lost.

    I've tried using Winamp and no matter how I set it up, it somehow doesnt sound as clean as Foobar, even with Maiko WASAPI plugin setup to be exclusive, there seems to be a slight bass boost and there maybe other issues, I didnt research further because Foobar doesnt do this.
    It confused me somewhat because it should be completely clean.
    Maybe your experience will be different, I'm using some pretty good kit that may expose more issues?
    Or it may somehow not be setup or configured correctly on my system?

    So I use Foobar2000 with WASAPI plugin, it does sound completely clean.
    The plugin name is foo_out_wasapi
    http://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_out_wasapi

    This uses the exclusive mode of WASAPI to cut out all windows mixer functions.
    A side effect of this is, the windows volume control wont work for audio played on the soundcard that is using WASAPI (while Foobar is in use).
    So you need to use the volume control in Foobar2000, it uses a much higher quality mixer which is why only this is allowed.
    There is a graphic EQ built into Foobar that is good and doesnt degrade the sound badly.


    If you want to get adventurous, there is an amazing EQ plugin which is extremely good quality and very featured called Electri-Q posihfopit edition.
    It comes as part of a free VST plugin (there is no VST in Foobar without a plugin).
    http://www.aixcoustic.com/index.php/Electri-Q-posihfopit/30/0/
    It will take you quite a while to get used to it.

    You may need to do a frequency sweep with Room EQ Wizard to know how to setup your EQ properly.
    This is when you realise that most EQs stop short of what you need to do.
    Then you will find the above EQ very handy :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012

  16. HeavyHemi

    HeavyHemi Ancient Guru

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    What bit rate did you encode your MP3's at? If it was 128 kbps, yeah, on even an average audio system, it's not going to sound good.
     
  17. HonoredShadow

    HonoredShadow Ancient Guru

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  18. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    320K mp3 is the least bad, it can still vary wildly depending on the compressor and settings used though!
    If done well, depending on your hifi and your hearing, you may notice the difference compared to a raw CD.
    I certainly can and only buy CDs or high def music now.
    All my CD rips are in FLAC set to use max bitrate (if needed).

    From that link:

    1) use WASAPI exclusive mode, it guarantees that the windows soundmapper cannot be used.
    (at least it does in Foobar, not convinced about the winamp MAIKO plugin yet)

    2) there should be no need for interpolation unless resampling.
    If you stick to the original bits/sample and sample frequency, there is nothing to interpolate.
    It is possible that the DAC you are using isnt as accurate at smoothing the digital waveform as a good interpolator, but I havent tried for so long and wouldnt employ a method like this with my DAC, its a really good one.
    I'd tend to err towards not using any processing on a decent DAC, like on modern good soundcards.

    3) It depends how it works.
    If 16 bit audio isnt just padded with another 8 bits and is instead converted to 24 bits, then I would disable this.
    (extra 8 bit padding keeps the original bits/sample, sample conversion doesnt)
    But if you set to 16bit max, then if you do play some 24bit audio, not only do you lose the extra quality of the 24bits/sample, but you lose even more quality by resampling it to 16bits.
    Err towards leaving 24bits enabled if you cant tell the difference.

    4) Dither is only useful when resampling, it should be disabled.
    You shouldnt have any resampling going on.
    If it sounds better with dither, something else is wrong.

    5) Limiters are useful depending on the type, but will always interfere with how it sounds.
    For purest audio, you shouldnt use any limiters.
    If its too loud, turn it down :)
    You may want to use a normalising limiter for very quiet background listening when some music is too loud and some is too quiet.
    It will let you turn the volume up to the max you want and most music will be around the same loudness.
    But you will lose a lot of the dynamics (changes between loud and quiet).
    I never use a limiter.

    Basically, turn off all processing and use WASAPI.
    Use only a high quality volume controller and EQ.

    In theory, if using WASAPI exclusive mode, Winamps processing options should have no effect.
    If they do have an effect, exclusive mode may not be in operation.
    But I didnt program Winamp, so there can be exclusions to this.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  19. Mufflore

    Mufflore Ancient Guru

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    Something worth knowing.

    If your hifi amplifier has digital processing options, they may be being used on the analogue inputs.
    You do NOT want this.
    If you can use a "Direct" mode on the amplifier, it should resolve the problem.

    If not, your audio may be being digitally processed by the amplifiers DSP as well, which will make a mockery of the clean signal you have been trying to achieve.
    Any analogue processing done by the amplifier will convert your analogue audio back to digital with an undoubtedly lower quality ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter) than was used by the recording studio, reducing quality a fair bit.
    Even if it is the very best quality ADC, it cannot improve the sound quality, only make it worse.
    Then it will be processed by the amp, reducing quality even further.
    Then it will go through the amplifiers DAC which is unlikely to be better than the DAC in your soundcard, unless you spent a LOT of money on the amp, really killing the audio quality!

    Basically, any DSP by your amp will negate having a decent quality soundcard.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012
  20. HonoredShadow

    HonoredShadow Ancient Guru

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    I understand most of what you wrote but not that last bit. Will have another read tonight. Thank you so much for your help.

    I have downloaded Foobar and the addon you mentioned. Thing is I don't know how to set it up. Under output it comes up with a number of options/prefs/output. Which one do I pick?

    Atm it says primary sound driver.

    [​IMG]

    Your last message said something about converting to digital etc... How can I make sure with Foobar that this and other things does not happen. My HIFI is analogue. My connections are too.

    I just want the music to sound better and it is getting better since I have followed these suggestions!

    It's just a shame it's soooo much hard work and understanding just to get some damn music working right. Hence why I wanted a HIFI with NTFS USB!
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2012

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