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Thread: Where to start - high end audio oriented car PC

  1. #1
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    Where to start - high end audio oriented car PC

    Hi all,

    I'm a music lover and a car audio and computer buff who maintains a large collection of digital music (tossed my CDs completely away!) that I'd like to build a car system around. I've built a number of PC's for home use in the past, but am a bit intimidated by all the options, operating systems and reliability that can exist in the mobile environment. I'm looking for guidance or perhaps even a mentor and I'm praying that I'll find that among the gifted individuals here!

    I currently use a Sarotech 260X or S digital media player instead of a head unit and it provides a digital output to my bit one - but I worry that it has a low end part or two in the digital path that may be messing with my sound quality... plus its GUI and flexibility is a little limited. A better media player would also work instead of a PC

    I'm really not looking for a full feature unit here - essentially I just want a head unit that's capable of handling a lot of high end music and providing a great digital output. I don't need wifi or other options now, although room for future expansion would be great. For that reason, if the cost goes over $600 (I have a 250 or 500gb 2.5 sata drive already), I'm better off just buying the high end pioneer h/u and going the ipod route. Probably for that cost, I won't be able to get what I need, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

    Here is a brief summary of what I'd like:
    1. Confined mostly to a 2DIN headunit mounting space with monitor although there's room for a few add-ons if needed (have a LOT of other gear mounted throughout the car)

    1. Have a very strong sound card with digital outputs - 48khz/24 bit is the max of the Audison, but I'd prefer the ability to work with at least 96khz/24 bit files for future expansion. A decent analog output wouldn't hurt but isn't necessary

    1. Either a remote control or touch screen will be needed in order to assure I can access files while driving without too much effort.

    1. Fairly quick starting is important too - so I can listen even on short drives

    1. Music and Video software that is completely compatible with Windows Media Player. My home network receiver uses it, and I've organized my music library around it already.


    I just don't even know where to start - its been 8 years since I've built a machine.

    Thank you very much!

    Less -aka Jim

    (BTW - it'll connect through an Audison Bit One, to (front stage) McIntosh 6 channel amps and Scanspeak/Morel drivers and (sub stage) zapco amplification and a JBL subwoofer - all mounted in custom enclosures. I currently don't have a head unit at all and play all files through a portable digital media player - it works fine but I'm a bit concerned that it has a low end part or two in the digital signal path that may be messing with my sound quality.)
    Sucker for technology!


    *Audison Bit One.1 *Sarotech Digital media player -500gb drive -digital out *Clarion DRZ 9255 HU *McIntosh/Zapco amps * Scan Mids/Tweets *Morel 9" Bass drivers *JBL GTi 12" Sub sealed

  2. #2
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    if you are really good at salvaging pc parts from old build's, or swap meets, $600 is feasible, but to buy everything new, and sound quality oriented, i think that you will need to double that amount-- a sound card is around $100-200(assuming onboard spdif isn't good enough), a motherboard+ processor is another approximate $200, the screen is another $150-200, the power supply goes for just about $100, and there is still all the little bits-- memory, hard drive(s), add-ons, cabling, etc.

    fortunately, you might be cheaper then some of this-- you don't need the pc to process the audio signal, as you have the bitone for that, so you can probably get away with a much cheaper pc, and don't need to worry about buying audio processing software, or the extra cpu overhead.

    but, on the flip-side, to fit everything in the dash requires very careful component placement, and wire routing-- i wouldn't recommend this without further careful research on your part. there are a couple all-in-dash installs here that could help as a guideline, so it is perfectly possible, but the limited space does add a lot of difficulty to what i consider a already difficult project.

  3. #3
    Variable Bitrate rijndael's Avatar
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    you never mentioned what car this is going into, so we cant really help you with your mentioned lack of space to mount objects. If there is enough space to mount the Asus ITX-220 945GC (~$70 @ mwave) with a PCI Sound card like the ASUS Xonar Essence ST or the HT OMEGA Claro Halo or maybe even the HT OMEGA CLARO Plus+ could steer you in the right direction. All of those are just around $200 each + or - $10 to $30. then for your monitor, you don't technically need a sunlight readable display, but i remember seeing someone post not too long ago an ebay listing for a kit for a little over $130 shipped...dont quote me on that as i just searched ebay and came up short...as for the power, you can probably get away with a PICO 120 Watt PSU...since the CPU of the computer uses around 19 watts, each HDD maybe takes about 20 watts (modestly) etc. etc. etc. the rest of your budget you can spend in cables and other items which i think you already have, seeing as you already have most of your system in your car it seems.

    Just make sure that you don't run your audio cables parallel with any power cables, and if you can't avoid the wires crossing over eachother, make sure they meet at a 90 angle to minimize time the 2 signals are interfering with eachother.

    Good luck...If you post a projects page, ill subscribe to it.

    edit: if you plan on using a windows based PC, please...FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!! DONT USE THE WINDOWS SOUND KERNEL...bypass it using ASIO in XP or WASAPI in Windows 7.
    Last edited by rijndael; 05-09-2011 at 10:53 PM.
    Trouble deciding on car speakers? Clicky Clicky
    Speakers: DLS Ultimate Iridium 6.3 Link
    Subwoofer: removed
    Amplifier#1 (Front Stage): DLS Ultimate A4
    Amplifier#2 (Sub) removed
    Carputer: Removed for tablet install

  4. #4
    MySQL Error scott_fx's Avatar
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    i think it's doable

    mobo/proc combo~ $112
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...Rock%20A330ION (i currently have this one and am running photoshop to edit my skins )
    has spidif... so you're golden there
    VIA VT2020 10-channel High-Definition audio codec supporting VIA Envy HD 192/24 "absolute pitch" audio and DTS Surround Sound


    just saw this one too
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...-247-_-Product

    ram $13
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16820134784

    drives.. you have.

    screen.. $200
    you could use a nulooq 'remote' to make it easier to drive and control your music.

    psu...$100

    'soundcard'... you have.

    the rest is just wiring and building/modding money. ymmv

    space is/could be an issue. dunno what you have to deal with.


    quick booting is very possible... it's all in your setup.


    riderunner is windows media player friendly.
    Last edited by scott_fx; 05-10-2011 at 04:21 AM.
    New System in progress:
    M10k
    Phaze TD1500 ~> Dynaudio MD130
    Phaze TD1500 ~> Seas g18rnx/p
    Zapco Ref 500.1 ~ 12" tc-9
    Behringer DCX2496 ~ Envision Electronics psu
    Transflective Xenarc

    My Car Pc Install
    My Boat Pc worklog

  5. #5
    MySQL Error soundman98's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rijndael View Post
    as for the power, you can probably get away with a PICO 120 Watt PSU

    don't use a pico-psu-- they do not have a regulated 12v line-- so that means your cars 10-15v is getting passed directly to the pc components-- most pc parts don't like any more then a 0.5v fluctuation.

  6. #6
    Variable Bitrate rijndael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soundman98 View Post
    don't use a pico-psu-- they do not have a regulated 12v line-- so that means your cars 10-15v is getting passed directly to the pc components-- most pc parts don't like any more then a 0.5v fluctuation.
    I did not know that...good call, and thanks for informing me .

    So Less...what's the status?
    Trouble deciding on car speakers? Clicky Clicky
    Speakers: DLS Ultimate Iridium 6.3 Link
    Subwoofer: removed
    Amplifier#1 (Front Stage): DLS Ultimate A4
    Amplifier#2 (Sub) removed
    Carputer: Removed for tablet install

  7. #7
    Constant Bitrate kolton5543's Avatar
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    well, if you want the computer to boot quick then I would recommend getting about 2 gigs of ram that is as fast as the motherboard can support and use at least a 1.6ghz dual core cpu. Maybe even a 7200rpm harddrive but with limited space a 2.5" harddrive is most logical and most of them are 5400 RPM

  8. #8
    Neither darque nor pervert DarquePervert's Avatar
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    An SSD will provide faster boot than any mechanical drive.

    And configuring BIOS properly will go farther to improve boot times (specifically, POST) than any hardware upgrades.
    Processor speed will do little to improve boot time. The processor architecture, on the other hand can do a lot. But that's a whole other ball game.
    Have you looked in the FAQ yet?
    How about the Wiki?



    Under normal circumstances, a signature would go here.

  9. #9
    Constant Bitrate kolton5543's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarquePervert View Post
    An SSD will provide faster boot than any mechanical drive.
    Yes, this is true, but, we all know SSDs are not cheap. ~$150 for a decent one. Mechanical ~$20-$60 based more or less on what size your gonna get.

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