How To Get Best Audio Possible from Your Computer!
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Computers are now the music source of choice for many consumer audio and multi-media applications. Computer-based music systems will allow you to have long listening sessions without flipping LPs or changing CDs by simply engaging playlists or 'random play' of your music stored on a hard-drive via iTunes or other computer music programs. Continuous music is made easy using online music sources like Pandora, Rhapsody or worldwide internet radio stations. Playing quality music in any place throughout your home is also now possible with wireless computer-based uncompressed audio systems from Sonos, Roku, Olive, or Sooloos.
You'll find discussion of how to choose headphones for computers and how to best use computers for a variety of audio applications in our HeadRoom Learning Center. Below we'll just describe some basics and a few great products for superb computer-based headphone listening.
Inexpensive Solutions for Computer-Based Headphone Listening
The simplest way to use a computer for listening is to just plug some headphones into the headphone jack. Virtually any headphone with a 1/8" [3.5mm] mini-plug will work for this application, but we'll suggest headphones that do not require too much power to be driven properly. The Sennheiser CX 300 II are very good, affordable in-ear headphones for laptop listeners on the move. Quality inexpensive headphones well-suited for laptop/PC listening include the Sennheiser HD201, the killer Superlux models, the 'open-back' Grado SR-60i, the Shure SRH240A and the cool, foldable Noontec Zoro. Most headphones under $100 should work fine directly from computers or laptops.
Computers typically offer poor headphone sound quality due to: (1) the large amount of radio frequency [RF] and electro-magnetic interference generated internally from power supplies and hard-drive circuitry; (2) the normally low quality of computer audio componentry dedicated to audio reproduction; and (3) the low power voltage swing capacity available in PCs or laptops. Thus, after buying decent headphones, a huge step in creating a high-quality computer audio system is to use a digital USB-compatible headphone amp/DAC such as the HeadRoom Total BitHead or the FiiO E17. These amps connect to your computer using the standard digital USB interface which converts the USB feed into music (an 'analog' signal) that cleanly drives your headphones. The HeadRoom BitHead can be powered solely from a USB connection and doesn't need batteries in this mode. Because the BitHead has a very good internal digital to analog converter (DAC), quiet power supply filtering, and a robustly clear headphone amp section, it "cleans up" the audio from the computer and substantially improves sound quality. To further reduce electrical noise inherent in computers, the BitHead can be loaded with four (4) AAA batteries; with the BitHead battery power switched to 'On', the BitHead audio electronics become completely disconnected from the noisy computer power supply (internal batteries also allow the BitHead to be used with iPod / iPhone or other portable players for mobile listening). The BitHead or FiiO is a great 'entry-level' solution for anyone wanting to improve their computer audio headphone experience.
Achieving Vastly Improved Audio Quality via Computers
HeadRoom also manufactures 'high-end' USB-enabled headphone audio products. Digital audio over USB connection can offer great sound quality because the music data is sent in "packets" and is then re-assembled at the receiving end, which is the external DAC device. This means that jitter from USB transmission is eliminated as the data received is re-clocked within the noise-controlled environment of the outboard DAC (or 'combo' headphone amp/DAC). In addition, HeadRoom employs top high-end digital receivers and discrete DAC chips that are spectacularly effective at re-interpolating and reducing jitter and induced noise. Home computer users can assemble superb computer-based headphone listening systems with our Micro DAC and Micro Amp, or if desiring a more versatile array of input/output connections and feature controls, our "all-in-one" HeadRoom Desktop Amp with built-in DAC.
Best High-Fidelity Solutions for Superior Computer-Based Listening
Extremely high-quality music reproduction on a computer is within easy reach. Simply connect one of our high-end HeadRoom audio products to the USB connection of your computer and you'll find yourself blissfully listening away for hours on end. HeadRoom's Desktop Line allows for multiple inputs simultaneously connected and easy switching between sources and from headphones to speakers. The Ultra Desktop Amp/DAC employs several high-end electronic componentry upgrades over the 'standard' Desktop Amp/DAC unit. And finally, for the ultimate in computer headphone listening, the Ultra Desktop DAC (UDAC) with the HeadRoom hot-rodded ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip, and the Balanced Ultra Desktop Amp (BUDA) driving re-cabled balanced reference headphones, delivers an astonishingly clear and naturally organic listening experience that competes with $30,000 room speakers, so remember to check out the flagship HeadRoom HeadRoom Triple Stack for serious headphone lovers needing the very best of the best!