Best Audiophile desktop for under $2500?

My DELL Precision T7610 is crapping out on me.  I was very happy with it and the synergy with my Modwright OPPO205 and sysytem was great. It has trouble playing WASAPI 768khz on the latest JRiver and ROON. Any suggestions on a store or used bought desktop that is Audiophile worthy? I work everyday and dont have time to build one. Thanks in advance!


I have a Mac Mni and I hate it for audio. It kept crashing for a few years when updates were applied. The solution was to re-install the OS and then the updates. Though the Mini did not crash like this last year. Maybe Apple learned something.

During the last 2 days I switched between a $500 Dell low-end tiny computer running ROON Core and my $6000 Silent PC (client bought for me) that also ran ROON Core. The sound differences were 0.

Silent PC | Fanless PCs and Quiet Servers

The reason being that I ran fibre optical cable just before the DAC. I used a couple of Sonore Optical Rendu’s for 2 systems. I am back to the $500 computer. They reason for the computer switching was related to some issues I had with PowerLine data transfer that was unrelated to the computer audio processing. The reason I got the SIlent PC is that I use it in my office with 6 monitors and to do that with a regular computer would result in a noisy computer.

If you dig into the ROON web site of Community Forum, ROON themselves suggest using a cheap computer and sticking into a closet and then stream from that source. They do not mention fibre like I am recommending but the glass cable of a fibre setup cannot carry network analog noise into the DAC. ROON maybe not saying that today with the new owners and the need to sell the new ROON server machine.

A computer, especially a noisy one like the Dell Precision (I have a few), that is directly connected to the DAC via USB is sending the analog noise of the computer into the DAC. A RJ45 network connection is also able to carry noise, but likely not as bad as a direct USB connection.

Saying all of this I do have a PlayBack Designs Streamer-IF and that also supports USB directly from a computer. I do not use it like that, but I think there is some magical processing going on inside that unit because it sounds great on SPDIF even without any fibre in the pathway.


"audiophile desktop".   

No consumer computer in an audiphile system.  

I will be installing a Matrix Audio USB card for the DAC, not sure how much of a difference that makes compared to a USB/fiber optic scenario. I do a lot of 7.1 HMDI audio/video/movies also. There is about 14 TB of music. Thats another reason the DELL worked out, because of all the bays to add HD's. Has to be Windows based for when I do work. I mainly use JRiver. The reason I mentioned ROON was because I was thinking of using it also. But the main software is JRiver. 

Wondering if I can use my current DELL as a server somehow and use another computer in the system. Is there a way to make that scenario work?

Presumably you are feeding the PC audio out to a external DAC to an audio system.

Based on advice here, I switched from simple headphone audio out jack (using pc's DAC, lousy) to USB audio out to DAC (far better) to Luxman Integrated Amp to Darn good sounding Speakers (more important than the data/dac). World of difference.

I had poor speaker location for many years, totally revised my office for seated ear level, centered seating and could not be happier.


I don’t stream separate audio, just Music Videos, YouTube/Smart TV netflix/prime/viki/paramount .... shows, some here in office, most in Home Theater AV Receiver Downstairs. Most pre-recorded, watch without commercials.

Real Dolby 5.1 sources, OR, turn default pseudo surround i.e. 5.1 off, use 2 channel stereo mode, i.e. DIRECT finds 2 channel original, or forced 2 channel. VERY often better sound.


In the office the PC fan(s) and Hard Drive(s) Noise can be as/more important than the digital audio output performance.

For that reason I buy HP compact PCs with both audio and video on the Intel motherboard, no fans, and Solid State drives (no noise). My PC Processor’s fan rarely comes on, and is whisper quiet. Leave proper/extra ventilation to minimize that fan or any extra fans to run.


Intel 730 on the motherboard


Processors are so fast, they have for a long time been waiting for you. Gaming a different world.

Wouldn’t the OP be better served with a server/streamer than a noisy PC? Is the DAC the Oppo 205?

Look into what I posted about the Sonore OpticalRendu or even the non-fibre Rendu's. They will allow you to keep your computer far away from your music system (several rooms away).  If you use fibre, who cares about how noisy the internals of a computer are. That noise will not travel inside the glass fibre cable.



you are probably correct about the server/streamer, but the OP needs a new computer, so he wants to choose based on member's experience with their audio quality. 

If you stream Video like I do, the audio is originating thru the PC.

If the Op wants to stick with a PC then I'd suggest a small form PC that has no fan and an external power supply. I used an optimized for streaming Asus vivo that proved to be better than a $7K streamer.

The small form fanless PC's remove the power supply from the housing. This helps with that noisy power supply and gives you options to improve the power supply. Optimizing the PC for music streaming is also advisable.  I used the Optical out but most modern DAC's have good galvanic isolation for USB now so that's not an issue anymore.

This is the thing most good DAC's have good isolation / correction of data streams etc. and I'm finding streamers to be less critical as DAC's improve. 

I've done the Optimized PC - Roon Nucleus - Aurender A10 - Chord 2go/2YU (current, I have a chord DAC) and potentially going back to an Optimizes PC. granted I have a monitor/TV in the same room and a wireless keyboard with a track pad so that makes things easier. 

To me the DAC is far more important now then the streamer attached. 

I'm using a mini Intel i5 PC running Volumio, connected via USB-C to an SMSL SU-10 DAC.  A 2TB external SSD drive contains all my music in FLAC, DSF, MP3 and OPUS formats, and Volumio provides access to my Qobuz subscription.  I think the comments about PC and audiophile being mutually exclusive are just borne of arrogance and self-importance and are, frankly, nonsense. 

Not arrogance, just expectations based upon generally accepted principles. In high end digital, the PC is well known to be noisy especially when sharing resources with other applications. That’s why dedicated audiophile streamers are common in our hobby.

@deanshias , yes and it's now called a PAN (Personal Area Network), although I've called it a TAN (Tiny AN); the name us 'ancients' used until wireless and bluetoothing made it almost irrelevant....  You do it anytime you USB an outboard drive to the box....  You can use a network cable 'twixt the 2 and the system will likely recognise what you've done.... 🤷‍♂️👍

There are No 'phile 'puters 'out there', anything for the gamers is geared for zero vid latency and 'twitch speed'; sound is 'surround' only to warn the player that there's Something Behind You, potentially deadly.

Btw, there are quiet fans....I can't hear the one in my 'audio only' diy, nor the ones' I use to cool my ss amps....just because....*S*  Go shopping, they're out there.

Audio 'puter =  a case that I've drug about with the same rack width as the main amp, 3 eq's, a mix/split, and 2 xovers (1 digital + 1 analog).

ASUS m/b, AMT R5, max'd RAM, half T SSD + 1T HD...vid card is mid-level, but sound card is ASUS Essence STX 2 with the 'break-out' card (the latter was hard to find, but found New, in box....👍).

Win10Pro with nothing else to do, single monitor.

And since they were sitting around, taking up space....

An HP, R5 AMT (slightly slower), max RAM, 1T hd, 2 screens, Win10Pro, runs only monitoring  of the audio least it can accept cards and such, since it has a real MB....*75% 👍*L*

And the 2nd HP, R5 again, max Ram, 1T hd, 2 stuff and playback during that....opening it reveals a MB suited to a laptop with no card potential or much else....🤷‍♂️

On the other hand....I've got a server case that can be built to whatever I could consider rational, that could accept up to 5 drives....🤔

Cranky me, I don't buy OTS 'puters anymore...

More fun to diy what I want 'It' to do, duck the bloatware, go for clean speed and flex....add a DAC when I get one of those 'round2its'...;)

Noise?  What noise?  20's db....

Loudest thing is the space heater....



...unless I’m listening.... ;)

@elliottbnewcombjr ...approve of the vertical tangital TT in the office...'listen like they're cut'....;)

Post removed 

Glad you like that vertical turntable, Mitsubishi LT-V5. Linear Tracking, Belt Drive. It’s very good, the round dial is the heavy counter-weight, it screws forward or back for tracking force. The horizontal versions are Quartz Locked Direct Drive, I helped my friend find and setup a LT-22. Fitting on the top of the bookcase allowed me to have a TT in my office.

I traded a member here my Fisher 800C Tube Receiver for his unfinished project: use parts from his two LT-5V’s to get one that works. All went well!


The Tape Recorder: I bought the Mickey Mouse Dust Cover many years ago, never used it. Now, using the deck vertically for the 1st time, out of the box it came. Teac X2000R


that HP Slimtop I linked was just to see one, not a good choice: it does not have USB-3.0 or USB-C, features I would want. USB 3.0 is like lightning, makes USB 2.0 seem like a turtle.

btw, they can be used horizontally or vertically.

Some have card readers, I didn’t pay enough attention, thus I have a small external USB-3 card reader.

Some versions like mine come with DVD drives, and I have a slim external CD drive to make faster copies of Music CDs for the car or friends. That version has small SS drive and larger spinning (noise) HD, not SS. Mine has 2tb SS drive which I only use for programs. I have slim external 2tb usb-3 drive, fast, silent ALL my data is on it (an identical back-up one in my car). So fast you have no idea you are writing/reading from an external drive.

I don't stream hi rez music, just pc sourced content, usb out to dac,

There must be separate sound cards (no fan noise) that are very good, better than motherboard's usb out, right???

just a quickie find, must be even better than it I suppose.


And, what if you want wireless to self powered speakers????


I play hi-rez music directly from a local SSD as well. The significant change I made was shifting from using a laptop/PC/Mac to the ifi Zen Streamer. One of the primary reasons for this switch was to eliminate the audible fan noise that was present when playing music through the laptop. To address this, I opted to use the fanless MacBook Air, but unfortunately, the sound quality did not meet my expectations. Ultimately, I transitioned to the streamer platform and couldn’t be happier.

My question to you is, setting aside any electric noise and non-fortified usb port that might not be audible to you but could potentially degrade sound quality, were you bothered by the fan noise at all?

I use graphic intensive programs for work and hobby stuff so I have an MSI gaming laptop that I run JRiver on. I outboard the sound to my Schitt Hel 2 when using my headphones. My laptop is not my primary listening setup. It's my travel and work setup when I'm not at the office. The Hel is a great portable headphone amp so I can take it with me if I like. Rarely am I distracted by the laptop's "internal interference" with my listening. I also use the laptop to manage my digital music collection via JRiver and as a secondary backup. I game on occasion and only then does the fan kick on but I rarely notice this w/ my headphones on. 

Desktops these days are really for brick-and-mortar business use unless you have a legacy box you just can't seem to give up. If you find yourself wanting something you can take with you on vacation, then a decent laptop w/ an SSD and graphics card will serve you well.

@lanx0003 The miniPC I'm using has a very quiet fan and it's placed towards the back of a semi-enclosed cabinet.  I can only hear the fan when I'm 1 or 2 feet away, when I'm at my listening position I can't hear it at all.

I was thinking about the Zen streamer as well, but I was concerned with 2 things.  First, my SSD contains over 10,000 songs and albums and I heard the Zen was sluggish in indexing, and, more importantly, second, I own the Zen DAC Signature V2 and the Zen One Signature DACs and am very unimpressed by either.  To me they sound bloated and tubby.


I think OP is looking for a PC, perhaps already has a laptop.

I use HP slim desktop PC (actually horizontal on a shelf below the desktop) in my office because Laptops do not have 27" monitors or DVD drives these days. I use 32gb memory for multiple programs open, editing lots of Photos, CAD work, not enough usb 3.0 ports .... i.e. lots of reasons to have a PC. IF so, then go for a quiet one, every part of it quiet as I described previously here.

my laptop, I moved down to 14" screen for easier size/weight (real keyboard). It has Bang and Olufsen speakers (Audio by B&O; Dual speakers; HP Audio Boost).

It has enough volume for several people to hear, and it’s hdmi out passes enough volume when streaming using a TV in a vacation rental or when visiting family.

prior Laptop, max volume sucked.

@jhnnrrs First, I have close to three times of the collection. Yes, the initial index is long because it only have 1GB ram but you just leave it doing its own thing. Each time when you incrementally add in songs on top of the existing like mine, the update is quite fast although not lightning fast. Second, I was disappointed in their DAC too but that is not the case for the streamer. You need to experiment with other DACs. The USB digital out sounds the best to my ears but the rca port is no slough since both are noise barrier fortified. Noise floor is quite dark. The reviews are not hype. I just returned the everSolo DMP A6 after more than 30 days’ auditioning and comparison with ZS when both are used as the digital source only. I prefer the more neutral presentation of ZS



A workstation is definitely overkill for audio applications. If you're only using the PC for audio purposes and not 3D CAD / rendering then save yourself some bucks and get something like a Beelink EQ12 - link.


You can pop the top off and add a SATA SSD to store your music in case the included 500 GB isn't enough. Here's a nice review - link.


There are also measurements showing that it doesn't add any noise and jitter is virtually non-existent when paired with an asynchronous USB DAC like what your Oppo has - link.

 I walked away from using a computer for my audio recordings- linked to my stereo- long ago. I found that music streamers were designed, engineered and built for hifi or stereo integration and they serve the purpose much better. 

Having said that, I don't have ANYTHING negative to say if my fellow audiophiles like using a computer and it works well for them. Great! I think a Mac mini is a great solution as well as many other computers that have a solution for reducing noise and that includes PS noise and interference.

There have been certain audio issues associated with some M-series chips in MacBooks; I’m not sure if this extends to Mac Mini’s - might be worth looking into before going that route.

I can't speak to PC options but you may want to consider a DDC to clean up the output before passing to your DAC. I use a MacMini with Roon and I previously got similar SQ with optical and USB outs, but optical was more reliable. I've since added a DDC passing USB to i2s output with great results.

@elliottbnewcombjr ...that's a pretty nifty card for the $ and it's specs....👍
No doubt better about, but one ends up paying for the privilege...;)

....and we've all spent more on Something....*L*

I think it’s rather straight forward, any pc , I prefer Mac with KEF LSX II power speaker with steamer all integrated and can stream. They sound terrific ~$900

At work I use Digital Audio Labs CardDeluxe PC soundcard that I bought years ago (installed into Dell OptiPlex tower computer). Digital output into Merason Frerot DAC with Black Cat digital cable. The sound is very good with no noise whatsoever. You can still find these cards on eBay. 

Let's not forget, PC for Music Videos,

you don't get them thru audio service streamers do you?. They are the Primary Source of 'streamed' content, my PC with a lot of memory and fast processor/ 27" monitor DAC, Luxman Integrated/AR-2ax

I also stream music videos, music tv on my Home Theater, laptop's not gonna cut it.

I do not understand why so many want to tell OP what he wants is wrong, do this instead. 

As folks have pointed out, the issue with the question is the word audiophile. No, no chance this will happen for either $2,500 or with a PC involved. Doesn’t mean you cannot get enjoyable sound out of it. I enjoy my office system.


Given his current system was a Microsoft OS based machine, I would doubt he now wants a MAC. I would never buy a used PC. If open to a Mac book, you can run it on batteries, which I used to do for my streaming (sounded terrible compared to any real streamer).


But you can get decent sound out (enjoyable to listen to) with a good sound card, lots of power conditioning, and good amplification.

So the real question for OP is has anyone a PC recommendation? I have a huge tower that I made, 14TB, water cooled, but very expensive. With all the space inside it sounds OK for my office system.

Cant do a MAC. Need Windows for work. I also sometimes use the PC to DJ also... like Serato, Rekordbox, & VirtualDJ. These programs need some good specs to run smooth.. But that's not my biggest concern.. would be nice to use it for that also though. The Matrix Audio Element H USB 3.0 Interface card isolates the USB signal and uses a separate power supply. This needs a PCIe x1 Gen2 Interface. It makes a significate difference.  So if there is some kind of fanless.. or quiet enough fan PC or Mini PC.. that might work.. but needs to handle a decent workload. I still like the idea of using my DELL as a server considering its one less expense. The OPPO outputs HDMI when playing movies or multichannel audio. But when playing hi res audio like 768khz, then I would need to switch to USB and use the PC HDMI. So the PC would need at least 2 HDMI outs. One to the OPPO and the other to my projector. 


Using a computer in an audio system can be as good as anything else mentioned here. You just need to do it correctly.

I posted earlier about my $5k fan less PC. I run 6 monitors of it and it is a powerhouse machine. It does not make a peep of noise. However, that is not how I setup my streaming, I use a $500 DELL machine that is the size of my hand. I have it kept under a bed in the adjoining bedroom to my office. I have perfect streaming throughout the house from this little machine running ROON Core. 

Fibre cable (glass) is your friend in this scenario. My setup needs a bit of computer savvy to get setup and keep running. Send me DM if you want to discuss.

I have worked as an audio engineer, and currently I do high end workstation builds.  I would be more than happy to provide you with a parts list and help you find a reputable builder in your area.

Here's a link to a parts list that I put together as a starting point, I'd be happy to go over the parts selection and reasoning behind the choices.

@deanshias I use the Matrix Audio Element H USB 3.0 on an ASUS Z690 motherboard. I was shocked at how big a difference it made (the rest of system is Cambridge Audio DACMagic 200, Audioengine A5+ speakers, and Senheiser HD599)

I use AVADirect who offer silent PCs as one of their build options

Silent PCs, Quiet Computers, Custom Silent Desktops | AVADirect

Those aren’t anymore silent than what I suggested. I would be interested in seeing a detailed parts list for one though.


<edit> I just found one and I’m not terribly impressed with the components they are using so far.  Changing the configuration to match it just costs $1100.00 more.  </edit>


@elliottbnewcombjr - You asked if there are better sound cards out there vs. the onboard USB in a PC.

While not a sound card, JCAT's USB Card FEMTO is a fantastic sounding card that paired with an outboard linear power supply, can give nice isolation and improved sound quality.  The JCAT USB Card XE promises even more audiophile build quality (though at twice the price of the FEMTO card).  I have two PC's that have been modified and use JCAT components/offerings that handle all my streaming needs with great results.

JCAT PC Upgrades


@deanshias -  My two modified Windows based Dell PC's sound as good or better than my McIntosh CD player (all through the same McIntosh DA2 DAC).  Playing the actual CD via the McIntosh CD transport vs. the same track from Tidal through the PC yields no difference to my ears. 

Swapping out the noisy stock PC power supply for a decent variable speed fan power supply helps too.  Using a Solid State Drive, of course, is mandatory for noise free operation.  You can get excellent case fans that run extremely quiet as well.  Programs such as Fidelizer and Audiophile Optimizer can help Windows process audio much better and reduce un-needed Windows processes.

This is only my opinion based on what I went through on my PC audio journey, but I feel a modest Dell or HP desktop with a good USB PCIe card (powered externally, not off the motherboard) with the above-mentioned software (or USB drivers from the DAC manufacturer) and either a shielded CAT6/8 ethernet cable or, as others have stated, optical network connections, can yield exceptional results under your $2500 budget.  Then, when the budget allows, you can always then add such things as an upgraded network card, better SSD, etc.

@quantos - Thanks for sharing your list of components.   Fully agree with that type of build.  Is it safe to assume one could shave off some cost by going with 1 SSD vs. the three listed on your example?

Try iphone. In my case, streaming iphone renders better sound quality than my windown-based laptop and MacBook Air. I don't wish to provoke another debate but try yourself if interested.



thanks for the information and link to JCAT web site..

better sound, no fan sounds like it's for me.

Someone else mentioned a Beelink mini pc, which is a good idea for someone who may not be in neck deep measuring PC hardware.


- Get a AMD Ryzen based Beelink mini pc. The idea is to get a higher performance 6 or 8 core ones that are barely alive, at 1 or 2 % when you're streaming or playing music In other words, don't get a goofy low perf cpu and overwork it.

- Put it on a high quality linear power supply. Keces makes high quality ones, for example.

- Undervolt cpu/apu whilst maintaining stable operation (if pc hardware noob, skip this step)

- Disable Bluetooth, disable wifi. Use a ifi Ethernet filter before plugging in Ethernet cable

- Introduce a Audioquest jitterbug or one those chifi holo alternatives on the USB output.

- Plug in the dac. Install DAC driver. Enable ASIO always.


There is your audiophile PC streamer transport.