Computer Audio? Why?

Posted by jplesset on January 15, 2014 under Audio Technology, Computer Audio | Be the First to Comment

Why mess up a perfectly-working audio system to computerize it?  Well, partially, because I could, but that’s not really the reason.  Let me tell you a story….

Before, our audio system included a very old laptop connected to our home network (music files located on a server), connected to: (1) A pre-amp (volume controls, tone controls, etc) connected to (2) An analog home-built electronic crossover to separate the very deep bass for the sub-woofers from the rest of the music, connected to (3) A bass amplifier, a main amplifier, and a house full of speakers (including exterior speakers).

You may ask, “What was wrong with that?”.  Well, mostly, the crossover was made with the best parts I could get when I built it years ago.  Resistors are 5% tolerance, capacitors are 10% tolerance, and that makes the crossover kind of “vague”.  I wanted better…

I’ve been active on the “diyaudio” forums, and was eventually directed to Mr. Richard Taylor’s site and the article about using a computer instead of the old crossover.  This started me on the route to what we have now:

Our old PC running Ubuntu Linux.  The software installed includes “MPD” and the rest of what Richard said to have.   MPD . “Music Player Daemon” is an application you can control from any other computer on the network, laptop, tablet, or phone.  Now, without getting out of my easy chair, I can change what’s playing, raise or lower the volume, and create a new play list.   How cool (and convenient) is that!

What else did we get?  The crossover is now calculated, not based on vague values of the parts used.  Woofer equalization is now based on exact measurements of the woofers themselves.  The system sounds better.  Instruments are clear, drums and other deep notes are powerful and clean.

I totally recommend this approach.  The software is free. You don’t need a fast, modern PC at all. The best advantage by far, is the convenience.

UPDATE:  Just replaced the computer with an old Pentium 3 laptop.  The broken screen doesn’t matter, and it’s plenty strong enough to run the stereo system.