New computer for ripping and streaming?

I’m in the market for a new computer. I read the article about ripping CDs on the Core Audio site that Gordon linked here . This article claims that for ripping, a powerful computer with a multi-core processor, lots of cache, and lots of fast RAM gives the best sound quality. The presentation makes sense but I do not have enough technical knowledge to really evaluate the claims.

1) Do folks here agree with this?

2) If the answer is mostly yes, would the same logic apply to recording vinyl via the NPC? It would seem so.

The computer will live in the music room, so it needs to be physically silent and broadcast as little RFI as possible. It will be used to rip vinyl with the NPC and to rip CDs (probably with an external CD/blu-ray reader). Right now I run a NAS with MinimServer and don’t use a computer for playback, but I will use this machine to test WaveStream with my PWD when (if) it becomes available. The beta testers say that WaveStream has very good SQ, so I might move to using the computer as a music server and need to allow for that possibility when I buy it.

If the article cited above is correct, I’m probably looking to buy a more powerful machine than the low-power servers that some folks use–but I want the best SQ. I’ve looked at the CAPS designs on the Computer Audiophile website but would appreciate any other suggestions.

  1. No
    1. Maybe…

      I happen to be in the camp of Bits is Bits - at least within the computer. More horsepower may make the process go faster, but if it will run dBpoweramp or whatever your favorite AccurateRip enabled software is then more compute power will make absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in the sound quality of a verified accurate rip. PERIOD.

      I say maybe to the vinyl rip question because the computer must be able to keep up with the incoming real-time data stream. Any computer of moderate capacity these days should be able to keep up with even 24/192 data speeds.

      Dual core, 2.5GHz with 2Gb of RAM should more than suffice.

      Playback SQ may on the other hand be affected by having more CPU cycles and plenty of RAM available. Boost that spec to:

      Quad core, 2.5GHz with 4Gb RAM is probably a reasonable starting point.

      I would also consider an SSD for OS and software storage but personally I will be staying with good old fashioned disk drives for data storage until SSD prices come down a LOT. I think that data storage could safely stay on the NAS in another room as long as the neteork is solid.

      One of my guiding build specs for computers is Thermal Design Power for the CPU. The last couple computers I built were based on the fastest 45 watt AMD CPUs that I could get at the time. My next system may have a 65 watt CPU. I also look for low power and quiet components and case. The last few computers were built with passive cooling on the video cards, efficient power supplies and oversized CPU coolers with large, slow and variable speed fans. Neither system is dead silent, but both are very quiet, probably not audible from 10 feet if not closer.


Gotta go to work, but here is a link to a similar thread.

Ripping is a software dependent process. I see little role for super computer specs for this function. Serving, OTOH, is hardware critical. I would be interested if anyone has evidence/theories to refute this.

Streaming even high resolution data is a trivial process for even a modest computer. For example, the Bryston BDP units are universally acclaimed to sound excellent. They are pretty modest computing-wise.

I suspect implementation is vastly more important than power. Computers were never designed to stream data in a time critical fashion. Rather they stream in chunks with brief interruptions for various function calls, etc. Still, unless extreme, this should not matter if the receiving equipment is properly buffered and reclocking the data - as most do.

Yet, users report significant sound improvement of a nice PC v. a Mac Mini. I have no idea why unless a the “lesser” computer somehow cannot keep up. The claims that an audiophile PC needs to be fully loaded, with even the most powerful graphics cards for example, is nonsense.

There has got to be a minimum configuration which is enough.

Wglenn has had great success with his machine. A CAPS server is also an excellent way to go.

I think that I probably overdid my computer (what the heck). Too much memory, too much power. As Elk says, I have been very, very pleased with the outcome soundwise but I cannot distinguish which elements of my upgrade were the most significant. Remember, I upgraded from a 10 year old PC.(!) Maybe the switch to gigabit ethernet had something to do with it, I don’t know. Hardware-wise, I feel the same as Elk- you probably don’t need an excess of computing power. What you do with this hardware is a different story, I think. Trimming off the tasks that the CPU performs in addition to streaming audio likely has more to do with your sound quality. I have mine stripped down to bare essentials, including some “safe” BIOS adjustments, but will be looking to do more changes as I go.

When you think of doing this to Windows, hobbling it, it makes a good argument for using Linux as the OS, choosing just what you want to use from an already efficient OS. Apple doesn’t give you this opportunity to my understanding, I’m no expert. As to video cards, I choose to run headless during playback and use the onboard video when needed. If you use a video card your CPU will be required to pay attention to it whether you are actively using it or not and it will draw power- a LOT of power- continuously if it is a potent device.

This is kinda’ developing stuff with lots of opinions and not so much hard evidence, yet. Kind of like the rest of our hobby, though. :wink:

I think you nailed it as to the issues and approach.

Thanks for the comments, guys. I am leaning towards Windows because, as wglenn said, you get more control than with Mac OS and can remove unneeded processes – I know that’s important. I have hardly any experience with Linux and don’t have time now to learn, so maybe the next machine for that . . . I will run it headless to save the heat and power draw of a video card.

I’ve read here and elsewhere that streaming doesn’t require a lot of computing horsepower. But I certainly want enough to keep up with the data stream coming from the NPC – that’s really important since I plan to rip a bunch of vinyl. Hopefully going with a more powerful machine than I need for streaming won’t negatively affect the SQ if I pare down Windows and avoid unnecessary pieces like video cards. I will use a SSD to hold Windows and files that are being worked on; once ripping and tagging are done the files will be moved over to the NAS.

Magister, I don’t know where you’re located. Two years ago, I bought a silent computer from Puget Systems in Seattle, Washington, USA. They have a “serenity” line that has been tested by Silent PC Review. (You can find both Puget and SPCR online.) The PC I got is a workstation with i7 chip and RAID drives and is absolutely inaudible from 2 feet away. The fluorescent desk lamp I use is also very quiet, but noisier than the PC. Also, my LED monitor makes a tiny hum, which most people wouldn’t notice, but is louder than the PC. So I do recommend Puget if silence is what you want. They use high-quality components and test the heck out of everything.

Regarding computer power, I don’t see that ripping would require more cpu. However, a program like dBpoweramp will use more than 1 cpu; for example, it can transfer one cut from CD while it is converting and writing the previous cut. The good programs all use methods that all but guarantee a flawless rip if the disc can be read.

I do think a powerful computer makes sense for streaming, particularly if you will be transcoding in the server or if the computer will be doing other tasks.

I hope that is helpful.


Thanks for the recommendation – it’s helpful.

And a fascinating web site - I enjoyed prowling around on Puget Systems’ site.