How to improve the sound on computer

How to improve the sound on computer

Ivan Tech / 
13-12-2017 / 
Audio  / 

Many computer owners are wondering, how you can improve the sound quality on your computer. After all, today the computer in the house is the center of entertainment and to get the maximum positive effect from games, watching video clips, movies or listening to music, you need high-quality sound. Moreover, high-quality sound is necessary for professionals working with sound on a computer.

Audiophiles, experts in the field of sound, claim that it is quite difficult to get high-quality sound based on a computer, if only because of the large internal interference on the computer. Therefore, connoisseurs of high-quality sound, try to avoid the computer as a source of sound for their audio system.

But despite all the possible disadvantages of a computer as a sound source, it is quite possible to significantly improve the sound quality on a computer to the adult level of Hi-Fi, and even at minimal cost.

Easy ways to improve computer sound

DB4 Fanless Chassis Streacom

A simple and effective way to increase the sound level of any audio system is to reduce spurious vibrations by vibro-isolation of audio components. Thus, you can get an increase in audio quality of up to 40% in the audio system, depending on its level!

In the case of a computer, the main source of resonances is a magnetic hard disk (HDD), in addition to it, minor parasitic resonances create fans. Vibro-isolation of the fans will not give an appreciable increase in sound, but in the case of hard drive the growth will be significantly noticeable, as it will decrease the number of errors when reading information from the hard disk and also have a positive impact on the operation of software applications will extend the life of the hard drive.

Reduce the parasitic resonances of fans and hard disk, it is not a tricky thing. To do this, you can use special gaskets and bolts made of viscous rubber or silicone.

Some manufacturers of computer cases, such as Lian Li, when creating their cases already provide anti-resonant solutions and not only for hard drives (Pic.). Lian Li computer cases are usually made of aluminum and additionally equipped with anti-vibration legs, which in General is an excellent solution for dampening the parasitic resonances of electronics installed in the computer.

Anti-resonant hard disk solution from Lian Li

In addition, to reduce data loss when reading from the hard disk, you need to pay attention to the quality of the SATA cable. Replacing a low-quality SATA cable with a high-quality one, in addition to improving the performance of installed software applications and extending the service life of the hard disk, you can also get an improve in sound and video. For example, manufacturer of SATA cables like Akasa, promise that their shielded cables with high-quality connectors can do it.

In addition to replacing SATA cables, you should also consider replacing all the cables in the system. After all, the Quality of the connected cables like RCA, USB, SPDIF, XLR, RJ-45 (for streaming music) etc, plays a significant role in the yours audio tract. And even when transmitting a digital audio signal with a low-quality cable, there may be gaps in the signal. And experiments with power cables can dramatically change the audio system and exceed all your expectations.

Owners of an internal sound card should also pay attention to the presence of internal noise in the computer that introduce noise into to card. It is possible to reduce internal noise by reducing the number of turns of case coolers, shielding the power supply, sound card or a discrete graphics card (or completely disable it and use the integrated one).

Shielded sound card-ASUS Xonar Essence ST

Shielding the power supply and the internal sound card can be done independently or find ready-made solutions from manufacturers. For example, "Xonar Essence ST" from ASUS, already provides for shielding of the analog part by the manufacturer (Pic.).

Electrical noises is also present in other elements of the computer or audio system that may seem harmless to you. Namely, USB connectors, RJ-45, HDMI, RCA, XLR or Display port etc. These are "harmless holes" that pick up electrical interference and thereby distort the signal in tract.

For this case, some manufacturers have special shielded plugs in their catalog. Which can not only preventing RFI and EMI noise and aesthetic appearance of the device, but also protect the connectors from dust. For example, Audioquest offers a whole series of similar noise stopper caps for various connectors. Which unfortunately are not so cheap (Pic).

To combat electrical noise in computer elements, the Arsenal of the Chinese manufacturer Elfidelity, has special filters for audiophiles. These filters clean the power for PCI-express bus, SSD/HDD drives, DDR, USB or from fans. This solution is inexpensive, literally $10-50 (depending on the device and store), but controversial, since it did not help for everyone.

Audioquest - noise stopper caps

The type of connection of the signal source to a computer, amplifier, and speaker can also dramatically change the sound. For example, if your audio system has the option of digital audio connection (USB, SPDIF, Bluetooth etc), and you use analog connection from the built-in sound card, then you should try switching to digital connection. This can not only save on the purchase of a sound card, but also in comparison with analog connection will reduce the loss of information when transmitting an signal, which in General will have a positive impact on the sound quality. Also note that digital audio transmission involves the use of a DAC device that accepts signal and the DAC on other devices is usually better than in the motherboard.

Or for example, if you have studio monitors, and there is a balanced input (JACK/XLR), which is a mandatory standard in professional solutions, then it is worth using it, because through a balanced connection, monitors will play more open, clean and more loudly.

Radical ways to improve your computer's sound

Power supply Seasonic Prime for music computer

Radical ways to improve, the include changing components that significantly affect the quality of sound from the computer, but also require significant material costs. This is the full replacement and selection of cables (not cheap), power supply, speakers, amplifier, sound card, or purchase of an external DAC, etc. We will not consider all these elements in detail, because you yourself must know the weak points of your system and make a decision to replace the necessary link. But such a moment as nutrition is relevant and many unknowingly ignore it.

In fact, even cheap sound cards, the sound noticeably bad with not enough power for the system or a low-quality power supply. Professional solutions, especially will not reveal their potential with low-quality power supply.

Especially often, weakly powerful and low-quality power supplies can be found in laptops, so if you are a laptop owner, be sure to pay attention to the power supply. As a PC owner, you should consider offers from Seasonic and Enermax that have already received rave reviews from audiophiles and musicians. Seasonic has special low-noise solutions designed for music computers. For example as "Prime" from Seasonic, which is high power at passively cooled, which makes it one of the most relevant options for Hi-Fi on a PC (Pic.).

Nordost power cables and filter - Vancouver BC

Another important key to good sound, which is relevant for any system, is through filtering the current from the outlet using special power filters (Pic.). There are a lot of inexpensive and expensive solutions on the market for various levels of amplifiers (without filtering) and for source (with filtering). Such solutions not only protect electronics from power surges, but also eliminate electrical noise, which makes the sound more detailed and transparent. Or equalize the current, which is useful for the amplifying part of the system in eliminating background noise.

This improvement works even better with special power cables that were mentioned earlier. But in some cases, you can get the opposite result. For example, if you plug an amplifier into a current-filtered outlet or a cheap network splitter, the amplifier will start to "choke" or there will be background noise from "neighbors on the outlet". Therefore, make sure that your components are not affected by anything from power socets!

Final tips for improving computer sound

Acoustic sound absorption for room
  • The sound quality also depends on the installed player for playing music files. Perhaps, today the best audio player for a computer that significantly differs in sound from others is the Russian "Album Player".
  • Do not forget to pay attention to the correct settings of the player, such as choosing an audio driver (DirectSound or ASIO etc) or reducing the delay/buffer size.
  • Replacing the RJ45 cable significantly affects of the streaming signal. But if you prefer streaming audio, maybe you should think also and about replacing the router specifically designed for transferring music with minimal loss. And of course better forgot about WI-Fi for music streaming.
  • If you listen to music via an HDMI or DisplayPort, you should consider switching to a different interface, because video interfaces make noise in the audio signal.
  • Study your decoding settings, you may have to hear your recordings in higher resolutions as 24-bit/96kHz, or even 32-bit/384kHz.
  • Of course, you know that updating drivers can change something, but it's worth reminding about it.
  • Are you sure that your motherboard is musical?! Consider various solutions from manufacturers that have taken care of chip shielding and equipped their motherboards with high-quality capacitors with uncircumcised power.
  • Windows settings are also important. For example, you should configure the power supply scheme, disable applications that consume system resources such as CPU and RAM for smoother and more dynamic playback.
  • And finally, do not forget that proper sound insulation of the room can dramatically change the opinion of your audio system and not at high costs. Therefore, use special acoustic absorbers (Pic.).
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