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So I am basically a noob when it comes to audio. I am building an i7 rig and I wanna get the best sound quality.
I game, listen to rap, some techno and some rock, and watch some movies/tv shows on my computer.

1 - What soundcard would be good?
2 - Should I get a set of powered monitors around $200 for the pair, or go with something like the Z-2300's
3 - Should I connect speakers using optical or the 3.5mm jacks?
4 - Explain bit-rate in simple terms, like what bit-rate is good quality music.
5 - Where can I download music in flac format?
6 - Is ripping a CD into flac the best possible audio?
7 - Just gimme a basic setup of what I should get and do, like what soundcard, speakers, software, and what format I should make my music.

Right now most my music is crappy .mp3 format and I wanna eventually rebuild my collection and have it in flac. So do I just need to buy CD's to get that quality?
 

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4. It's really hard not to be aware of the difference between the original (vinyl, CD) and bit rates 96kbps-128kbps; it's really noticeable. People who are into music will (or should) easily recognize lower than 192kbps bit rates. In those terms, anything above 192kbps is acceptable. 320kbps is the best quality in MPEG layer 3 audio, and it is close to lossless.

6. Yes, .flac is probably the best solution, if you care about lossless ripping. .wav is lossless as well, but .flac has far superior compression, thus making smaller files than .wav.

.mp3 is not really crappy, as it's hard to hear real differences at home. Playing music on professional sound systems or in clubs is a different story, although even there mp3 can have a nice time. Consider ripping in 320kbps mp3, why not; it's not like you'll be noticing difference.
 

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1 - Asus Xonar DX.
2 - Klipsch Promedia 2.1s. I have had the Z-2300s and the Klipsch take a crap on them for sound quality, as the Promedia's have tweeters and the Z-2300s are bass bloated.
3 - For a 2.1 set? You don't need optical, no way.
4 - Bit rate has to do with audio quality. I prefer 320kbps but 192kpbs isn't much worse. I haven't gotten much into lossless stuff, but if you are getting into lossless then ask a guru, not myself. But as a casual quasi-audiophile, I enjoy bit rates of no less than 192kbps. Watch out for the ones in the lower 200s, as they sometimes sound worse than 192kbps due to fluctuating bitrates.
5 - FLAC is acquired from ripping audio CDs, I don't believe its popular enough to be available on P2P sites or torrents.
6 - To be short, yes.
7 - Sound card, Asus Xonar DX w/ Klipsch Promedia 2.1s. You plug in the 3.5mm jack into the sound card and set up your speakers. I use Foobar2000, there are alot of google-able guides on how to set up foobar2000 for your specific needs. Go FLAC or go home baby, I would if I had a larger CD collection
They take up much more HDD space but since HDD space is so cheap these days, its really worth it.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by noahmateen1234 View Post
Thanks for the help.
So if I got 2 copies of a song, 1 is 320kbps .mp3 and 1 is 320kbps flac, would i hear any difference?
You would rarely get a FLAC at such a bitrate, and because FLACs are lossless compressions of the file, the bitrate fluctuates throughout the song whereas MP3 bitrates are usually constant.

If you did have a ~320Kbps FLAC vs 320Kbps MP3, there would be differences due to the different methods of compression but I highly doubt they would be audible.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by noahmateen1234 View Post
Thanks for the help.
So if I got 2 copies of a song, 1 is 320kbps .mp3 and 1 is 320kbps flac, would i hear any difference?
There we come to the point - flac comes in higher bit rates than mp3; forget all those 96-320kbps mp3s, flac is about something else. It is a lossless format, which effectively means it can't throw away bits to meet a certain bit rate.

Don't get me wrong, but since you are not a professional, there is a huge chance you won't need music in flac.

Like I said, keep using mp3, it's great for home use. Rip at 320kbps if you really want to have best quality and enjoy it. You will not notice the difference.
 

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On a budget, headphones will definitely give you the best sound for the money. The Asus Xonar DX paired with a relatively sound neutral set of headphones that don't require an amp like the Sony MDR-V6, has some pretty wicked sound quality for under $200 USD.

If you're serious about sound quality on a pair of speakers I would definitely recommend using the onboard digital output with a separate amp/speakers. Sound processing on an unshielded sound card inside next to a bunch of other electronic components is a interference nightmare. Also the DAC used on most sound cards is fairly low quality in comparison to most receivers.

One nice thing about a desktop stereo setup is that you don't need a ton of power to get decent sound/volume, which leaves a nice range of relatively low power receivers to choose from (shouldn't need more than 50w per channel). A receiver paired with a decent set of bookshelf speakers and a powered sub, and you have a system that will sound leagues better than the pre-built media speaker packages (it also gives you more flexibility).

The very best digital sound quality you could probably get your hands on will be rips from an dvd-audio which run over 1000 kbps. 320 kbps is the target to shoot for on most files, but 192 kbps can be acceptable depending on the setup you choose.
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by tUDJ
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Use Foobar2000, it displays the bitrate at the bottom of the player and is the best music player anyway (imo)


This ^

You can see the bit-rate as I described above as being between the 192 and 320 setting, its fluctuating and annoying. I dont know why it ripped like that.
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by Sinner
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Mp3 is not really crappy, as it's hard to hear real differences at home. Playing music on professional sound systems or in clubs is a different story, although even there mp3 can have a nice time. Consider ripping in 320kbps mp3, why not; it's not like you'll be noticing difference.

Exactly!
MP3 in 320kbps vs an CD from 192kbps ripped to FLAC
Is the same since the 320kbps mp3 is the same as the 192kbps FLAC if they are ripped from the same source.
My choice is still OGG though.
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by Ecchi-BANZAII!!!
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MP3 in 320kbps vs an CD from 192kbps ripped to FLAC
Is the same since the 320kbps mp3 is the same as the 192kbps FLAC if they are ripped from the same source.

What?

flac defines it's own bitrate.
 
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