Computer audio is an ever increasing topic of conversation. And its a topic that quite a lot of people are rather negative about. Generally we think of computers as inferior for playing music, dispite the logic that the files, if stored and played back using a reasonable resolution format, should be as good as any other source. But why does this often prove not to be so when listening to the results?

Well, lets first assume a fundamental here, that any serious computer audio system will be employing an audiophile quality DAC. Now there are good quality sound cards out there with reasonable analogue outputs, but in our view, producing your precious analogue signal by a card in the same environment, and using the same power supplies as the rest of the computing processes, is probably an unacceptable compromise for good audio.

So we are going to use our computer as a storage, playback and control system, and we are going to feed a digital output into a good DAC. But we often find that whilst people treat the rest of their audio system with a reasonable amount of care (you know, architecture, operating environment etc) the computer gets left outside of this thinking – and yet it’s almost certainly in need of even more attention than anything else, if you want a serious audiophile result that is.

Vertex users will be well aware of all the usual issues with mains borne RFI in a system for instance. But now, if we are going to introduce a computer with all its processing and Switch Mode Power Supplies, just think how much extra pollution you are going to inject into the rest of your system. So to protect the system from this problem, you should feed it with a Vertex Taga distribution block or use a Jaya shunt filter – what ever is appropriate for your layout. Most importantly, this will prevent that pollution feeding back into the rest of the system.

The other main area to consider is that computers seem to send a considerable amount of vibration and unwanted RFI down their digital outputs. Remember that every type of digital interface will at least have an Earth connection sending all that noise from the computer into the ground connection of your DAC, which in turn will be connected to the ground of your pre-amp, and so on. We have found that using an external hard-drive simply adds even more rubbish into the equation (particularly with USB and that shared 5V supply!). And without a doubt in our view, the range of Vertex HiRez digital leads with their clever RFI absorption ability is a game changer for computer audio. Previously harsh and disjointed music is suddenly replaced by a truly great musical performance with these leads, and demonstrates without question just how significant a problem this is if left untreated.

So the tip here is this. Computers as a source of music need significant systematic treatment, particularly with RFI. Pay proper attention to these matters and as we have found many times, a good computer can also deliver a good sound

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