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I was wondering if anyone could advise me on my digital media set up. I have a pc that holds all my MP3's and I stream it via network to another pc and then transfer it to my denon amp via a phono lead. What i would like to know is which component manages the sound quality? Is it the host pc's sound card or the network pc's sound card or is it the denon amp? I want to know whether I should update my sound card to improve sound quality on either the host pc or the network pc or doesn't it matter as this is controlled via the denon amp?
Hope someone can advise.
MP3 is not the best as it is so compressed
This is quite a good read:
Don't forget the final link in the chain which a lot of people forget are the speakers, this is quite often the most important component which decent reproduction relies.
Sound quality can never be made better - it can only be made worse. So each component has a role to play in maintaing the quality - but the original source is, strictly speaking in hi-fi terms, the most important - as if it's bad there, you're stuck with it no matter what else you do it later in the chain.
In computer set-ups, commonly the worst part is the speakers - but if you're feeding the sound card into a separate amp any problems are unlikely to be there.
And that's just the hardware - software can play a part too.
The problems are caused from speakers, microphones, line-ins, DACs, and ADCs. There are more problems, but all the posters above are right.
Once a signal is digital, it cannot be worsened unless a component gets interference. As long as the processor can decode the file quickly enough, the sound card support enough bitrate to play the file without loss of quality and the rest of the components are up to scratch, you'll be fine. Now you have to only worry about your DAC. This is your soundcard, and your channel (being either speaker or line-out/in). If these are of good quality and causes very little interference or attenuation (being analogue devices or converting to analogue), then your recording will be fine.
Any networking between computers are done digitally, with lots of checksums and error-checking, and so any files/data sent via networks are usually perfect, as long as the bandwidth is capable of sending the data fast enough (if the data is streaming).
A little word about MP3s:
MP3s are lossy compression. This means that some information is always lost when you convert into MP3. Low compresion (ie, almost untouched) loses only the very inaudible frequency ranges, so you'd not hear a thing. The most compression almost destroys the whole soundwave. I recommend using the highest bitrate possible if you want near-perfect copies, and most people are happy with 190kbps bitrates.
Hope this all helps.
The soundcard in the network computer, that is converting the digital info to analogue (passing to the amp via phono leads) is the link that is most likely to affect the sound quality.
If you record from a digital source (eg CD) and convert to MP3 in the host PC, the only factor reducing the "hi-fi" is the MP3 compression.
The same rules that apply in hi-fi relate to computer system sound quality.
If you have a poor or average sound card then the finest speakers in the world won't make up for it - rubbish in, rubbish out. In fact the speakers will highlight the poor sound quality to a greater extent than average units.
Conversely, if you have a top notch sound card and poor to modest speakers, the same basic rule applies.
The input signal to the sound card is also required to be the best possible available; even an expensive sound card can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.
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