View Full Version : May I have some Digital Music advice? (long post)

01-08-2006, 03:57 PM
OK - I must admit that despite being very into computers up until 2002, and still using one everyday both at home and work, I have remained somewhat behind the trend with regards to digital music. I was one of the first people I know to have a DVD player, one of the first to burn music to a CD, etc but then I really really fell behind the times.

What I would like some input on is what is a good direction to proceed with regards to digital music in our home (and portable - let's say iPod-ish) accessories. Here is my background FYI (I apologize up from for this being long, but if I want help I must divulge all!):

We have a very nice PC in an office room adjacent to our living room. PC is less then 1 yr old after finally moving on from my 8 yr old Gateway. It has 2 separate hard drives, 120 GB each, Windows media player loaded in it. I have ripped say 40 of our ~ 600 CDs in Windows media audio lossless format and they sound great when I play them on the computer (ALtec Lansing speakers with subwoofer).

Our home audio system is in the adjacent living room. I have a Nakamichi Tuner-Amp TA1A I got back in 1987 from a high end audio shop just north of the Ohio State campus. components include Sony C69ES 5 disc CD player, Sony RX77ES cassette tape player (now not used at all), and an even older Technics SLJ2 lineatr tracking turntable (used fairly frequently).

We also have one half of a wall in our living room covered in a tower style entertainment system housiung the above components plus a few hundred albums, and also a CD bookshelf holding all our CDs and DVDs.

I really recognize the advantages of going digital, but I want to be sure I do it right in that I want to :
a) make sure I pick the "right" direction so to speak (i.e. I don;'t want to have to start over again in 3 years or 5 years)
b) I want it to be flexible and adpatable such that we can easily integrate iPods or whatever the wisest choice would be for portable music listening

A much needed living room arrangement could hinge on these decisions as so much of our usable wall space is, I believe needlessly, occupied by our audio "stuff". It used to be cool to have all the CDs out there when we were younger and had parties where poeple would mill around our music selection, pick stuff out, and take turns being DJ, etc. But that does not happene all that much anymore.

So, any advice on which way to go. My initial instint was to initially start ripping my CD's. I already have gotten quite a biut of enjoyment out of having those in media player. But reaaaly there is so much more to do, but I am looking for some ideas as to how to integrate or compliment or replace partially my home system.

01-08-2006, 07:21 PM
Why not put that old computer to work as a music player connected as a component to the living room system. Audio playback doesn't require much computer horsepower. If you're satisfied with the audio quality of the Windows Media files, you don't need to invest money in making more of the signal path digital.

If you want a component with a smaller footprint, buy an old used laptop with a decent-size hard drive and add that to the LR system instead of the old desktop.

Eventually, you can graduate to a Windows MPC if you want to incorporate video, but if audio is the current priority, an old computer will suffice.

01-08-2006, 08:55 PM
Thanks for reading through my long post ua. That old pc is currently in use as our 4 yr old's game playing machine. I don't necessarily expect it to last a long long time as it has been emitting some strange noises lately. I was actually contemplating wiring the audio from the location of the current new desktop. Does that sound feasible? Are there wireless options for sending the audio signal to speakers in the living room (assuming I guess that we purchase speakers compatible with wireless signal)?

I do want to keep our tuner/amp, CD player, and turntable components, but as I think you understand, want to be able to make use of the digital library we build up, inlcuding the cataloging advantages it affords.

As far as sound quality, what is the best digital quality as far as what you can get ripping files from CDs? I am ripping to windows media audio lossless, which are darned big files and IMO sound great (much better than mp3, etc). I am not an audiophile, but I also appreciate more-than-decent sound quality. Are there other formats I should be ripping my CDs to as I digitize our collection?

01-08-2006, 09:14 PM
What i would suggest is that you go to Wal-Mart and buy an audio cable that will run from your computer to your tuner. That is what we did, and the music still sounds great.

01-08-2006, 11:24 PM
Bucksfan, you should be able find a component that looks like a stereo component to play your audio files. The fact that your audio files are Windows Media likely shortens the list of players, since MP3 is the more common format and the manufacturer would have to include Windows Media capability and pay royalties to Microsoft for every unit produced. With a separate component, you'll still have to find some way to get the audio files onto that component from the computer, which would be a bit of a hassle. Honestly, I still think adding a computer to your system is the way to go - plenty of capacity, easily upgradable and you already know how to use it!

Since the old computer has a new use and is on its last legs, I think dedicating an old used laptop to that function would be a good alternative that wouldn't cost a fortune. You can still have all of your other components in the system, the computer would just be taking up one of the inputs in the amp.

Hard wiring the computer would be better than most wireless options, although a long cable run could give you an impedance mismatch that will reduce your sound quality. Having the computer near the components for a short cable run of a few feet is the best option.

One possibility might be to run an Airport Express (http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/) with AirTunes into your stereo for wireless playback. I doubt that it would support those Windows Media files, unless someone outside Apple has written a hack to make that work.

01-08-2006, 11:36 PM
Thanks again both of you. I am not dead set on wma lossless format of course, I can rip into whatever. It seeemed that this was giving me the best quality but I understand mp3 to be by far the most universal for the various players on the market.

You are giving me things to think about as I move forward - thanks tons.

Are there wireless speakers that I can send my computer audo signal to? I realize that direction is deviating from my initial statemtn of maintaining my component system (which I still want to do), but just trying to think of options...

01-08-2006, 11:59 PM
Are there wireless speakers that I can send my computer audo signal to? I realize that direction is deviating from my initial statemtn of maintaining my component system (which I still want to do), but just trying to think of options...Wireless speakers have been around for quite a while. I had a pair about 5 years ago that gave me a bad experience. Since I lived within sight of a tower that held multiple TV and radio broadcast signals, I couldn't get them to work consistently--the broadcast signals swamped the receivers in the speakers! I gave them away before I moved away from that house, though.

01-09-2006, 12:42 AM
Yeah, I guess I have seen wireless speakers before. Guess I was thinking about those that worked with a computer but I am sure they are out there since my keyboard and mouse are wireless.

That Airport Express concept is interesting. Thanks for the link. I think that type of concept may be the direction I would head. I plan to read up more on that and Windows media connect.