- Audio Requirements
- Building Your Own Mini-ITX Computer
What is better? That's a rhethoical question that can never be answered because if you think of "better" as a mathematical problem, then "better" has no solution.
Every person out there has their own idea on what is better, and what is best.
Is it better to go with modern full sized motherboards with SOTA CPUs (offering heaps of FLOPs); is it better to go with low power CPUs and stripped down motherboards? Are extra FLOPs necessary? Perhaps it's simplicity that's better?
My answer - simplicity.
The downside of using ATOM based mITX boards is the clear lack of processing horse power. However, it has an overwhelming advantage with it's simplicity. Simplicity not only in the physical requirement to dissipate heat, power supply considerations are simpler too. Less processing speed directly translates to less power consumption requirements.
Less is more.
And it's simplicity for the audiophile as well. Thanks to a simpler board, putting together a mITX based system takes next to no time at all (YMMV)! No need to mount and secure fancy air/water coolers, no big ugly computer cases, no noisy fans to keep everything from burning out, no big computer power supplies with more connectors than you'd ever need!
And if you choose a motherboard that works directly with DC (e.g. The Jetway NF9C pictured below that runs on 12 VDC), you can start to use high quality Linear Power Supply to power this machine straight away(e.g. HD Plex). A good power supply can make or break a good quality digital player. With the asking price of some high quality ATX SMPS these days, a higher quality LPSU makes better economical sense, and better sound quality.
Does this mean you can't use Snakeoil for high power rigs? Not at all. The beauty of the Snakeoil is the ability to give you the power to choose. I am not going to tell you what is best, you have to make up your own mind based on your own observations.
This is the benchmark result of cyclictest with my old tricked out Core2Duo machine (running the predecessor of Snakeoil):
cyclictest -t2 -p 80 -n -i 10000 -l 10000 -q
# /dev/cpu_dma_latency set to 0us
T: 0 ( 1122) P:80 I:10000 C: 10000 Min: 1 Act: 1 Avg: 1 Max: 1
T: 1 ( 1123) P:80 I:10500 C: 9525 Min: 0 Act: 1 Avg: 1 Max: 2
The above is about as good as it gets. And contrast the above with the current machine I'm running (NF9C-2600):
cyclictest -t2 -p 80 -n -i 10000 -l 10000 -q # /dev/cpu_dma_latency set to 0us T: 0 ( 1034) P:80 I:10000 C: 10000 Min: 31 Act: 17 Avg: 60 Max: 232 T: 1 ( 1035) P:80 I:10500 C: 9526 Min: 26 Act: 45 Avg: 53 Max: 254
The NF9C board fares a lot worse! It is all over the place1, and yet this NF9C based machine sounds so good it replaced my C2D immediately. We follow the sound, the entire Snakeoil team for the moment will be focusing their entire development efforts on these lower power boards at this time.