I need a Source Benchmark

So I have Windows 7, and I’m told the audio isn’t the best. I have my Pixel 5a smartphone, and I’m sure the audio from that(as a digital source, into my DAC) also isn’t exactly pure/unaffected. I need some kind of source hardware/player that WILL output pure, clean, 100% un-altered transparent sound, that I can use as a benchmark to test my stuff with. What device does this…?

I’m not interested in anything wireless, if that’s what a “streamer” is.

Ideally I can run it off my PC, or just load music onto it in an offline, isolated environment.

My DAC(Gungnir) inputs are: coax RCA SPDIF, USB, opticle SPDIF, BNC SPDIF.

Surely there is something under $500, perhaps…? Already built, and ready to go?

I don’t think the device you are looking for exists.

Depending on technical know-how and willingness to jump down a meteor impact crater of a rabbit hole, you could maybe DIY the ultimate “direct player” from an FPGA-DevBoard.

What’s my next-best, simple option? Windows 10 audio? Pi machine? Wired streamer w/offline storage? High quality(=??) CD player? (this gives me guaranteed uncompressed tracks, at least, and minimal processing chain) Perhaps I should try a few…

edit: on sale for 400$ atm. theres also the ifi zen streamer for 400$

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alternately, you can look for rasberry pi streamers. they are usually around 200ish$

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So let’s say I have music files I want to copy/paste to this device, or a basic external HDD with USB connection. I can do that with this? I don’t really have a home network, with extra ethernet ports.

they just stream.

Raspberry Pi running volumio. You can connect a hardrive to it or stream to it via airplay, spotify connect or other sevices.
You can connect your DAC to it with USB or get an external digital board. I’m using the Hifiberry Digi 2+ with Voumio. The web interface is really clean and easy to use

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Just run foobar or whatever player in exclusive mode?

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I have tested this, but heard no difference(using ATH-AWAS). So I want to create/build a new audio system, that 100% doesn’t have the issues of Windows pre-10(or any Windows?) audio, or any electrical interference from a PSU(such as inside a PC case). My thoughts so far:

  • "Open test bench" PC build (Windows 10), where the PSU is basically external, and could be shielded with metal sheets better.
  • Standalone Pi machine, where interference from the PSU would be extremely minimal, due to the PSU being external and much lower power.
  • Some kind of BATTERY powered device, with no live PSU power, such as a laptop; Win10/Apple/Linux/Pi. (DAPs likely wouldn’t work here, since I only want the digitle audio signal to be created and sent, not converted or amplified. I want this to be done externally/separately, by my own DAC and amp)

That’s the point man, even $100 dacs measure with objectively non audible distortion, by running exclusive mode you just skip the windows upscaling/downscaling (that I bet you can’t hear either)

If it satisfies your fomo to buy $800 cable risers go crazy but you won’t hear non audible distortion by getting something that theoretically has less of it.

Popping into exclusive mode is definitely an audible difference on at least Amazon. Spotify has some noticeable compression and so does Tidal. Once I heard it, I couldn’t unhear it.

I have heard much better SQ in store demos than what I’m hearing out of my home system now, and surely my average Windows PC environment cannot be an end-game source, so that is the current weak point in my system, I am fairly certain. The next thing I need to do is see what differences I hear between Win7 and Win10 sound, because Win7 audio may be more of a bottleneck than I realize.

And this all deals with the signal before it even reaches the DAC.

what amp are you using currently

3XP + 3A supercharger. Gungnir VCO DAC. Running off Win7, USB(AudioQuest Forest cable) to Douk U2 Pro coax output into Gungnir. Winamp/Foobar, exclusive/non-exclusive. Doing most testing with ATH-AWAS right now.

Perhaps I should put a CD into my drive, and see if I hear any improvements directly from that, VS the compressed FLAC and MP3 tracks I have… (and/or get WAV tracks)

This is making me wonder what the actual difference is between the Gungnir and the VCO variant. I’m wondering if its really hamstrung for some reason or if you’re running into a real world “windows 7 audio sucks” scenario or maybe just lack of resolution in your headphones.

I am thinking this is the main thing lol(and that AWAS are simply not as smooth and non-fatiguing as some have said), but I need to get to testing Win10 sound ASAP, and a good/reliable external source, like a Marantz CD player(?).

Ok, I got a USB portable Win 10 running, and everything sounds exactly the same. Exclusive, non-exclusive, with DDC, without DDC, low gain, medium gain. Time for different headphones, I think.