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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Following the installation of a large hard drive to house my iTunes music collection, I purchased Griffin Technology's PowerWave device to include some of my vinyl records. It's a great little unit with easy to use software and a built-in amplifier that will drive Apple Pro speakers.

The sound could be cleaner. The convenience of iTunes makes it almost worth the time to create AAC files, but not quite. If the sound were a bit better I'd try again but for now I'm finished with this as an option.

A second use for the device is creating files from a few CD's that simply will not play properly in the computer's drive. Good CD players do cope with playback better than what comes from Apple.

So here are a couple of questions for anyone familiar with computer audio. Can I get a better sound card for my power Mac? I have a MDD Dual 1.25 G4. Is there such a thing as a high quality internal CD drive for a computer or failing that, can I import the digital output from a good quality player?

Now that I've started getting interested in this area, I'm surprised at how little seems to be available compared to offerings for graphics users.
 

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I purchased a PCI sound card - the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 a year and a half ago, and have been very happy. Good reviews. The sound quality is great, but the quality of your speakers, amp, and recording quality, will make a more significant difference first. This sound card works flawlessly under OSX (Jaguar & Panther), but I remember there were some issues when using OS 9 (I switched to OS X at about the same time, and never required OS 9 again). I have the same MDD G4 as you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
thedude,

Your lead seems to be what I'm after.

In Canada, M-Audio has a distributer in Quebec only so now I'm wondering where to find their products. Did you get yours in Toronto?

I've had better quality audio equipment for a while now, but I've recently started using the computer as a music source. The convenience and cataloguing capacity of iTunes is great. And the sound is pretty enjoyable, but I think recording from an outside source could be quieter.

Finally, do you have any recommendations for software?
 

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The M-Audio is a decent choice for someone who doesn't want to break the bank. Stay away from SoundBlaster anything if sound quality is an issue at all.

The CD drive in your Mac isn't a limitation at all; in fact there is some evidence to support that a copy of a CD sounds better than the original (copies include an AIFF file stored on your HD).

Without going into the details as to how this could be or even if it's true (it's related to the always-on error correction on CD players, and the need to do it in real time, if you're curious), let's just say that it won't sound worse than a standalone CD player assuming the rest of the D/A equation is taken care of.

Don't do crazy stuff like converting it to WAV files before it must be re-converted to AIFF if you burn a disk (the files on all commerical CDs are AIFF).

Get a decent sound card and don't worry about the CD-ROM drive, as long as it's a Mac-compatible drive.

If you do what some PC soundcards require you to do (that is use the CD drive's analog out RCA jacks to connect to the soundcard, which then re-digitizes it so the computer can use it) then there is a real quality degradation issue. The D/A converter before a CD-ROM's RCA jacks are shite.

Macs (and some newer PCs) accept the digital audio data from the CD-ROM so it's never converted to analog until it goes out to speakers or whatever. Any CD-ROM connected solely by the IDE (or SCSI) connector will do a bit-for-bit transfer of all digital audio data.

[ December 29, 2003, 04:50 PM: Message edited by: gordguide ]
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
gordguide,

Many thanks for the abundance of tips. AIFF is the only format that my present program (Final Vinyl) creates and so far I'm keeping originals as well as AAC files created in iTunes.

I was hoping that there was an alternative to the included CD-ROM drive. Although I felt that the output from a high quality audio CD player might be an improvement sonically, there is another issue as well. I have several enjoyable CD's that play well in my stereo system but drag my computer into a stall. My guess would be something to do with error correction but I really have no reliable explanation. Sometimes it's a matter of restarting the burn process, sometimes cleaning off a finger print or two and once it was buying a re-release of the older CD.

For those reluctant discs going from digital out on the CD machine to a digital in on the sound card would be fantastic. The analog out is going to be excellent as well but as you mentioned in your message, it then has to be converted back to a digital file format.

I've discovered that MacDoc carries the M-Audio line and I will be contacting him shortly to see if he has the Audiophile card. I've had experience with the SoundBlaster products on my old PC so I was pretty certain that wasn't going to happen on my Mac. I believe that the M-Audio card is also midi capable so I'm expecting that my piano is going to get a whole new lease on life.
 
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