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MUSIC SERVERS (Read 13327 times)
4krow
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MUSIC SERVERS
09/02/11 at 16:49:14
 
I really didn't want to break new ground in my system. Overall, I am happy with things just as they are. Then I read about music servers sounding better than cd's. And if you get the right one, you can access the internet for HD downloads. Do any of you guys have experience with these? And do you have recommendations for one that is inexpensive?
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Damien
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #1 - 09/02/11 at 22:26:37
 
I have never seen a dedicated music server device. Means nothing I am sure there are a lot of things I haven't seen  ;D  I have heard people talking about building their own.
People say the Mac Mini makes a fine server as does the Apple TV. The Mini gives you a full computer with full internet access where the ATV limits you to the iTunes Store (unless you hack it). People seem to like it over a PC equivalent because the Mini/ATV are near silent when operating. PC's have fans and such. If you are a windows person and have a favorite music server app you can always run it on the quietest PC you can find.... the Mac Mini runs windows well, if you like.  Jeez I sound like an Apple Advertising guy.
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4krow
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #2 - 09/03/11 at 02:22:55
 
Thanks for the advice. I am way behind the curve when it comes to such things. Yet, if there is a way to go that is promising, I want to try it on for size. I've been doing that w/audio for most of my life anyway.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #3 - 09/03/11 at 02:48:02
 
I'm just using a old Gateway laptop that I brought back to life. I put in a 500 gig hard drive and downloaded a whole shit pot of CD's into it. I'm using Winamp to output into my ZDAC-1 then into my Torii. The computer is more or less a dumping ground for all of my CD's. I just make sure that they are stored as WAV files. Nothing fancy or elaborate. I figure that if it shoots craps I'm only out my time that it took me to load my CD's.
I also keep a LOT of music on my Ipod and output it through a Wadia 170i dock into the ZDAC. Plus my Dell laptop is full of FLAC files that I download from the internet. I just got a free James McMurtry download this evening.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #4 - 09/03/11 at 04:16:32
 
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beowulf
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #5 - 09/04/11 at 01:34:32
 
I too am investigating this and building a multi-media server.  It makes sense that once the CD is burned using a lossless format such as .FLAC or Apple Lossless (.m4a), the playback of that file does not have to deal with timing /jitter issues from a CD player.  Hard disk bandwidth is at least a hundred times that of CD, and motherboard clocks run in the Gigahertz range, so a PC might outperform even a high-end dedicated CD transport in terms of jitter.

However, it's only as good as what you put into your ripping of the file ... I would use a program called EAC (http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/) and rip to .FLAC format, the .FLAC file takes up more space but I can definitely tell the difference between .FLAC and .mp3 file formats in terms of sound (even on my iPod ear buds).

IMO using EAC would negate the need for a hi quality CD transport, because the software ripping the file would correct and produce an exact copy of the CD itself regardless of the quality of the burner in your PC ... meaning the playback of ripped .FLAC file that used an inexpensive DVD/CD burner combined with EAC should be equal to or better than most hi quality CD transports (that's the .FLAC file itself and not taking into effect the DAC and other components in the audio chain of course.)

You can use pretty much use any PC as an NAS Server (Network Attached Storage), but a dedicated one right off the bat might be best if it's within your means.

Here is what I think is needed in an NAS/Music Server:

1. It should be at least 2 TB and be able to expand disk space by either adding more internal hard discs or daisy chaining external hard discs.

2. It should use a RAID configuration (needs at least 2 discs for RAID) for backup and safety reasons.  With a RAID configuration - if one of the discs goes bad, the other disc still has a mirror image and can use that image and restore it to another disc.  Let's face it ... ripping a music collection takes a lot of work and if you only have one disc and it crashes, you are SOL  :'(

3. It should be fairly robust, quiet and be able to be left on 24/7/365.

4. It should be networkable so you can access it wirelessly from any room in your house where you want to hear music or access other media files.

5. It needs a universal language to communicate with other devices so it should be UPnP A/V (Universal Plug and Play) and DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compatibility; this will give it the ability to work with of a lot of aftermarket devices to access and retrieve data from the server.

6. It should be able to do more than play back music ... for economic reasons, I think just a dedicated music server would not fulfill the needs of most people and since my ideal server is RAID configured it would be wise to use the server to back up every PC and Laptop in my home including all my media, music, pictures and important files such as Word, Excel, Photoshop, etc. (hence the need for expandable disc space).

7. You should be able to remotely access the server, anywhere there is an internet connection ... if you are at Starbucks in another state (or another country for that matter), you should be able to access your server remotely and download that paper or song you forgot to add to your laptop you took on your business meeting or vacation.

8. Finally you should be able to create user accounts and set file/folder permissions.  I want everybody in my home to be able to access pictures, music and movies, however I work from home and want to limit my work files access to only me and my business partner, etc.

With the above configuration, not only could you stream music, pictures, movies and other media from anywhere in your home, but you would also be able to remotely access it from anywhere in the world and back up ALL of your data in case your PC or Laptop crashes.  It may sound complicated, but there are already server's out there that can do this and it is quite simple to set them up ... once they are setup the backups, etc. can be scheduled and done automatically ... so it's pretty much - take a couple of hours to get it setup, RIP your media to it and forget about it-.

That covers the server requirements … now you want audiophile playback and access to it from where your main listening room is … although you will be able to access and stream content from anywhere in your home, most people probably have only one or two main listening areas where the music playback really counts.  So you will need some specific components to get the most out of your music enjoyment.

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« Last Edit: 09/04/11 at 01:37:41 by beowulf »  
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Damien
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #6 - 09/04/11 at 02:14:57
 
Mirrored raid (Raid 1)  only protects against a hardware failure.  With a data failure..write failures, disk directory corruption, corrupted data blocks are all copied to the mirror giving you two unusable drives. For the kind of protection you are implying you will need a RAID that uses a parity disk. Raid 5 or 10 would be needed. A much cheaper solution would be to have a program making scheduled backups of your files instead of mirroring a drive.

For 24/7/365 you will need a unix/linux based OS

With that list of needs you posted you're talking a lot of time effort and money in this.  I know I'm not the one to attempt it. I would cut too many corners.
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beowulf
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #7 - 09/04/11 at 07:11:29
 
Quote:
Raid 5 or 10 would be needed. A much cheaper solution would be to have a program making scheduled backups of your files instead of mirroring a drive


Yes, I'm totally in agreement with you ... RAID 5 would be needed for the better solution.  I was only speaking of mirroring for cost effective purposes in the event of a disc failure.  I would not use it for complete drive images, but instead as you've suggested use a software back up utility for files only.

But I will be using a RAID 5 for myself, and it's not as expensive as one may think ... well, cost being relative and all :-)

The product I am looking into is the "LaCie 5 Big Network 2".  It comes in a RAID 5 (or RAID 6) in an iSCSI configuration and the LaCie Operating System (OS 2.0) can do everything on my list for $799.00 (although I've seen it priced about $50 cheaper online).  It has 5TB of disc space and can be upgraded to 15TB.  Considering 1TB can hold roughly 2,500 CD's ripped to .FLAC format - it would take a long time for me to fill 5TBs, let alone 15TBs (even if I burn my DVD and BD collection to it).  IMO, I think $799 a pretty good bargain considering what it can do, the amount of space and effective disaster recovery protection.
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« Last Edit: 09/04/11 at 09:34:16 by beowulf »  
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4krow
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #8 - 09/04/11 at 13:16:02
 
I couldn't be more pleased with the replies here. Thank you for your help. In a sea of music servers, it is good to have a guide and a few ideas about what products to consider specifically. I look forward to more replies on this subject.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #9 - 09/04/11 at 15:00:49
 
I would strongly echo an earlier recommendation to spend time at Computer Audiophile. I do; a sophisticated and sharing moderator/publisher plus a strong member base make it an excellent resource. I ended up getting a Synology Diskstation 411+ after first reading about Synology there. I stocked it with four 2tb drives. It has excellent music (including iTunes) and video services. It is a real NAS, so it can do a host of other things for you as well. Amazingly easy to set up from any platform, fast user support, and good user community. I back it up to a cloud service, and to a RAID 10 array on my network.
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beowulf
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #10 - 09/04/11 at 21:48:09
 
Quote:
I ended up getting a Synology Diskstation 411+


That is on my short list as well, a little more expensive then the LaCie because it doesn't come with hard drives though.  How do you like the interface?

I've built a couple of PC's and it seems like it wouldn't be too difficult to put together a NAS server on my own.  So that's something I may look into as well.

I used an HP Home Media Server that I like a lot, but it was a friend's who loaned it to me while he was moving around ... It and was very dependable and only cost $599 ... it could pretty much do anything, very quiet and dependable.  It used Windows Home Server and the interface was a breeze, I had it up and functioning on my network, assigned user permissions and could do remote access within an hour ... unfortunately they don't make them anymore, but I left it running 24/7 for almost a year without any problems whatsoever ... I knew I shouldn't have answered the phone when he called wanting it back LOL   Smiley
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« Last Edit: 09/04/11 at 22:40:05 by beowulf »  
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Pale Rider
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #11 - 09/05/11 at 16:50:21
 
I am very happy with the Synology. I think i must have found the "hard way" to do my first music upload (several thousand files), but in all respects, I have been very pleased.
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4krow
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #12 - 09/05/11 at 19:17:57
 
I am happy to see a bunch here that understands the digital options well enough to give such good advice. I am, on the other hand 'digitally challenged'. Up until this point I have not considered music servers and the like. I can tell you what I would like to have as far as features, but have no idea what is out there. I have read the articles suggested, and thank you for that. What I would to know is there a product that can use wireless, load cd info into memory, access the internet w/o a computer, and stream? I made up this list not knowing what can or cannot be done, and am relying on you to provide info as to products/brands that are out there.
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beowulf
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #13 - 09/06/11 at 03:51:15
 
Quote:
What I would to know is there a product that can use wireless, load cd info into memory, access the internet w/o a computer, and stream?


When you mean load CD info into memory ...

Are you talking about ripping it to a hard drive on a computer or server to permanently store the music and then wirelessly access the music on the server from elsewhere in your house?

Or are you talking about putting a cd into a cd player drive (say your living room) and then accessing the actual cd in the cd drive for music playback elsewhere in your house (say a bedroom)?
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #14 - 09/06/11 at 13:34:56
 
Ripping it to a hard drive....
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Reply #15 - 09/06/11 at 17:11:36
 
4k, I think that is a pretty straightforward performance spec that a number of devices on the various platforms can deliver for you. There are quite a few ways to serve up and access stored music wirelessly, from a number of devices, ranging from audio components with the capability built in, to iPads, to Airport Express, etc.

For example, I have my music available on my network from both the NAS and the iTunes side of the Synology 411+. My Oppo BDP-95 (which can play all the files up to 192/24) and my various iDevices can access those libraries. My AppleTV units can access the shared libraries. I have an Airport Express in the garage that provides an audio line to a decent boom box. Lots of possibilities!
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« Last Edit: 09/06/11 at 18:33:04 by Pale Rider »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #16 - 09/07/11 at 03:00:48
 
If you wanted to do this without a computer there are a few manufacturers of music servers out there that are designed to the point where all you do is put the cd in the drive and it rips, catalogs and stores the cd for you.

One that I can think of right off the bat is the McIntosh MS750 ... that thing costs some serious bucks though (around $6000) and only has a 750GB hard drive .... but it is a no brainer all you do is insert the disc and it takes care of the rest and it has Wi-Fi capabilities ... but hardly economic, although is does have that black glass blue meter glow that I personally think is really cool!

Another one that looks pretty cool is the Olive 3D or 4D http://www.olive.us/products/music_servers/olive3hd/specs.html.  It has a sleek interface and they range in price according to hard drive space.  Like the McIntosh, Olive doesn't require a pc to rip, store and playback either.

IMO if you put a little effort into it (to get past the learning curve of the pc and server), it's much more economical AND more future proof if you use your PC to rip and catalog them onto an NAS Server.

Economical meaning that you can do more with a NAS server than a dedicated music server (such as store pics, movies and other important docs).  Future proof meaning you are not tied to the manufacturer in terms of technology and expandibilty.
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« Last Edit: 09/07/11 at 03:14:34 by beowulf »  
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4krow
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #17 - 09/07/11 at 13:24:21
 
EXACTLY! The Olive device is right on track. It is a little above my budget, but I think in time these devices will be common(inexpensive). Thanks for the suggestion.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #18 - 09/07/11 at 16:41:45
 
I think the Olive and similar devices are heading in the right direction. Not sure I am thrilled with their choice of DAC chipset, but more important than the chip itself, is how they engineered the SQ out of it. Separate discussion.

The Olive (and others I cannot recall) make this easy. Right now, I rip my discs on one machine, transfer the files to the NAS, and then access those lies from multiple machines and interfaces. Works for me, but management of the process and the system is non-trivial. Of course, by splitting and spec'ing each function separately, I have greater flexibility and choice. And I have more upgrade flexibility. Right now, I am looking hard at the PS Audio PerfectWave DAC/Network Bridge. It doesn't have to replace my Oppo for NAS file transcription, but it can. And while the Oppo has an absolutely amazing audio DAC section for its price, the PSA PW is on a different level.

At the end of the day, I probably value component flexibility more, and so would not choose the "easy as a toaster" approach of either the McIntosh or the Olive. But I sure do like seeing these options out there.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #19 - 09/07/11 at 21:27:50
 
It seems as they are almost there ... what I don't understand is why aren't they picking up the other storage access part of it?  I know for myself, I cannot afford a dedicated music server AND a storage server as well ... it is also redundant and a hassle to have to keep music on one server and everything else on another.

Another thing that everybody hasn't caught on with is ... why do they limit the disc space and expandability of their products by trying to put them all in one box?  IMO, it would be much more economical for me to purchase a 2 box system...

(1) The first box would be the main controller that (a) houses the NAS Operating System AND music cataloging, ripping w/exact bit software, etc., (b) CD/DVD/Blu-Ray rip drive, (c) the DAC, (d) LCD screen (e) HDMI, stereo, etc. input/output connections.

(2) the second box would be mainly for storage that (a) you could start off diskless or with at least 1TB disc (b) hot swappable and raid configurable (or one of the newer technologies such as beyond raid or x-raid).

That way you could charge say $1,500 for the controller and then another $1000 for the storage box (without drives) and depending upon your needs purchase the amount of drives you want.

It would be cool if they were the same dimensions to where they could be stacked upon each other and of course they would have to match aesthetically for us OC people where everything has to look as beautiful as it sounds ... Smiley

What makes sense to me is that most people need storage for multiple items (not just music), but most vendors only handle the music portion when there is so much more that it can do.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #20 - 09/07/11 at 23:05:20
 
I am lost on all of this. I don't see what a dedicated music server does that a $600 laptop or tower can't do. A hundred bucks for a external hard drive and you're up and running. Like I said before, I rip CD's into a old beater laptop, USB the signals into my ZDAC, simple and cheap.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #21 - 09/08/11 at 02:04:51
 
Quote:
I am lost on all of this. I don't see what a dedicated music server does that a $600 laptop or tower can't do. A hundred bucks for a external hard drive and you're up and running. Like I said before, I rip CD's into a old beater laptop, USB the signals into my ZDAC, simple and cheap.


Yes, that is the most simple and inexpensive solution ...

But with an NAS Server you have more flexibility in terms of accessing your data, when your data is networked you can access download or stream data from pretty much anywhere in the world where you have an internet connection ... as an example, you are on vacation and ran out of room on your camera, well you can logon to your server from your hotel, upload alll of your pictures to your server at home and free up your camera space.

It also means in a mulitple room home you can play back music, pictures and movies from a single location onto a laptop, iPad, iPhone, TV, multiple laptops and PC's, etc.  also more than one person can access this data at a time ... so your wife can be watching a movie in the living room, your daughter can be looking at family photos in her bedroom, your son can be streaming music in his room, while you are streaming different music and working on a Word document in your office ... and  all this media is located on a single server.

Also, your PC's do not have to be physiclly connected to the server in order to back them up and access the data as long as the device you are trying to access it with has wi-fi.

The  media is also more safely storeed as most NAS servers have some sort of data protection using multipe hard drives such as a RAID configuration.

So while yes, the single PC hooked up to a USB hard drive works in the most simplist of terms ... if you need more flexibility to access your data rather than it being tied to your USB hard drive and/or have mulitiple rooms or people who need to access the data without physically hooking up to it, or you need to access data while you are out of your home or in another room in your home you can access it.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #22 - 09/08/11 at 04:51:39
 
@beowulf: agreed. Two boxes and flexibility. And on this point, I especially agree:

Quote:
IMO if you put a little effort into it (to get past the learning curve of the pc and server), it's much more economical AND more future proof if you use your PC to rip and catalog them onto an NAS Server.

Economical meaning that you can do more with a NAS server than a dedicated music server (such as store pics, movies and other important docs).  Future proof meaning you are not tied to the manufacturer in terms of technology and expandibilty.


What is also nice about this approach is that you don't have to build it all at once. You can step your way into an NAS/front end system.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #23 - 09/09/11 at 06:14:18
 
4K,

Quote:
What I would to know is there a product that can use wireless, load cd info into memory, access the internet w/o a computer, and stream? I made up this list not knowing what can or cannot be done, and am relying on you to provide info as to products/brands that are out there.


I can't tell from your shopping list that you are particularly needing these more advanced NAS systems. Perhaps simple is better as suggested, and you can always add more later.

Though it is a computer, a Mac Mini will do these things with the help of a good DAC. Though I have always preferred Macs myself, there are folks out there with a lot of experience in exploring different servers that find the Mini the best sounding, most reliable, readily tweakable for great sound, while being relatively inexpensive. Particularly the last two models have very good sound, the theory being that in going for minimal size without performance handicaps, they also hit it for audio making the computer very quiet as an audio server.

DbAudioLabs and their customers have done loads of research on the subject working to help Tranquility DAC owners get the best possible analog sound from a computer source/DAC. And they continue to find the Mini exceptional for sound, reliability and performance for the money.

You will get the best sound if you use a good external Firewire drive so that the internal drive is not working very hard, and you can cut out internal functions to further quiet the computer. Also, a decent USB cable is important. Actually everything is in my experience. The feet under the mini will effect the sound as they do under other components. So it is definitely not 1s and 0s only coming from that computer.

That these things can be easily discerned with a mini speaks well to the quality. As with other good components, you don't hear the subtle stuff if the unit can't play really transparently to begin with.

A long story, so I will cut it short in case you are not interested. But if you are, and you wade through the very long Tranquility thread on audiocircle http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=74816.0 you will find good software/system tweaks for the Mini.

I have found all I have tried to be relevant for sound. And they work just as great for my ZDAC as they do for a Tranquility.

Function-wise, with a stock Mini you could hook up to your wireless network, stream from the net, rip CDs error free to a hard drive then play from that drive, download from the net etc. I think this covers your requested stuff and you could do the computer, keyboard, mouse, inexpensive monitor and extra drive(s) new for a grand give or take. But buying last year's Mini is a great sound and could save a couple hundred.

Of course, then there is the DAC and USB cable! And if you want the refinement of playing from memory, iTunes does not currently do this, but you can buy software players like PureMusic that interfaces very well with iTunes and has memory play and other ways to improve the player sound.

If sound is the main objective, I believe like PR, that components may be your best choice. If you start with the Mini, then you get the DAC you like, cables you like and so forth, just like your usual gear, each part is flexible for the future. I do believe that you can get very good sound from a Mini/DAC. Part is the Mini, part the DAC, and as important, how you rip your music and how you setup the system.

I was worried about giving up CDs, but no more. With error corrected rips, I have amazing sound, great flexibility, and a really easy playback system with hundreds of uncompressed CDs stored on a little bitty drive.
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« Last Edit: 09/09/11 at 06:28:47 by will »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #24 - 09/09/11 at 06:51:27
 
Pale Rider, that's what I like about your Synology, it comes diskless and you can buy as many hard discs as you need to get up and running and then add additional storage down the line.

With an all in one music server like Olive your are tied to how much space is in box that you buy, their cheapest box only has 500GB and costs $999 while their  top of the line is maxed out at  2TB and costs almost $5,000 ... to it's credit, I think they can connect to an NAS server, but IMO they miss the point ...

why not just build the cool box with all the no-brainer ripping features, DAC, operating system, hd music and movie services, etc., BUT without hard drives and then let me connect it to my own NAS server so I can save 4K?  Or better yet if they built the NAS as well they could keep the revenue in house when people look elsewhere for an NSA to connect it to.

It seems these guys keep missing the boat with this idea.
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« Last Edit: 09/09/11 at 06:56:18 by beowulf »  
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #25 - 09/09/11 at 14:01:55
 
Sounds like I got homework to do before the quiz. No surprise that there are many options, but in time I think that there will be simpler solutions. Didn't really want to dive into a laptop for the sake of music, but the mini mac may be an exception.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #26 - 09/10/11 at 04:59:59
 
I'm not trying to dis a Mac or anything as I own 3 iPhones and in general I like Apple products as they just seem to be well-built  and cool items (except for the fact that they still are Pro-DRM music which sucks), but if you buy a Mac Mini - you are still in the same boat as anyone with a PC ... the mac mini costs around $800 for the one with decent specs, it only comes with a 500GB hard drive (so if you plan on storing a lot of music you'll need an external drive), but even worse, the new mac mini does not have a CD/DVD-R drive built in so you cannot rip to it directly unless you buy an external super drive (or some other compatible external disc drive) and all of that external stuff adds up to the cost of what an NAS Server already costs, which can do a lot more and works with the current PC or Mac that you already have.

But I whole heartedly agree that if you are starting from scratch you should look into a Mac Mini, I have heard some cool things about them that "will" has already brought up ... however if you already have a PC, you can accomplish almost the same thing by just getting an external hard drive, a decent DAC and be done with it.  With all the Mac positives I don't think the cost associated with a Mac Mini can out weigh the pro's of an NAS server as you will still have to rip, transfer and catalog to some extent ...
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 05:03:43 by beowulf »  
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #27 - 09/10/11 at 06:49:58
 
I can't comment on NAS servers as I have no experience or need for them, but they look like a great concept. I can comment on the Mini, and on the research I did before buying one. From this I had no sense that all computers are alike even if the specs are similar. Each is configured with specific intent. And typically PCs are about specs and price, where all Macs begin with quality parts, configuration, durability, reliability (no small thing) and service life in mind. And I have not checked the research lately and things may have changed, but for years, comparing same to same, with comparable quality parts and configurations, Mac have compared well with PC prices.

But our interest here is not the old PC/Mac debate, it is brilliant sound. I can say that for my purposes and preferences I am very pleased with the Mini, and can only suggest hunting around different information sources. Whenever I found objective comparisons the Mini seemed to get a lot of accolades.

And like I alluded to earlier, the Mini apparently inadvertently presented a new range relative to sound quality. The very solid aluminum body, and very simple design with efficient low heat (quiet) parts are aspects of this. I started music with a Macbook Pro since we had one, and when I shifted to a dedicated Mini my sound  got more solid, transparent, and analog. Then when I got to tweaking it, it got notably more musical again.

I see from Beowulf that the new mini IS without an optical drive, but the bass unit ($600) is pretty powerful for a music server, especially since a music server is actually better if has as much system stuff cut off as possible, and its resources are dedicated to music when we play music. So for playing music and simple computing tasks the base unit is plenty of computer, though better if you add some RAM. I also would not be surprised if it sounds better than mine without the drive electronics in it, and decent drives are cheap. 100 or so will get a good drive for burning and ripping, so all is not lost. And my 1TB Oyen mini pro hard drive was $160, and hooked up to firewire is a good thing because then the USB Buss (and computer resources for it) is dedicated to the DAC. At 600 MB per uncompressed album, that is over 1500 albums and it is a very good sounding drive. 4 GB of memory can be had for $40 or so. A nice Acer monitor is 100 or so, and a keyboard and mouse, 100 or less. So it looks like 1100 give or take to get going in a good way, but it is a bit bigger chunk of change than I thought. Add a good DAC, cables and feet, and you get into a relatively costly front end.

For me, the main thing, once I had my priorities sorted out, was to get the best possible sound and user friendliness within reason, and the consensus among those who have compared, even to dedicated servers designed strictly for good sound, kept pointing a whole lot to the Mini. I can't say if this is the best sound for the money, but my system sounds unbelievably real.

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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 07:32:34 by will »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #28 - 09/10/11 at 14:25:22
 
Oops.....A backup hard drive is another expense in a computer audio system. After ripping all those disks, best to play it safe!
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 14:26:10 by will »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #29 - 09/10/11 at 15:33:56
 
Wow. So glad I'm sticking with my discs!  :)

Anyway, it's been over a month and my PS Audio Transport/DAC duo-front end is really impressing me. With the I2S connection via HDMI between the two cds (and DVR) sound fantstic. And via coaxial and glass Toslink the Blu-Ray and DVR sound is totally immersive.

The DAC can also be fitted with a Bridge allowing it server as a music server, and though I have no experience with this, and also no inclination to gain experience with this, just from the high quality of the DAC and its preamp capability and sound I'd think it's a solid contender in the context of a sort of system several of you are discussing. Not cheap. . . but a front-end that will make the Decware amps and speakers SHINE.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #30 - 09/10/11 at 16:56:14
 
Lon: when using the PW DAC on Blu-ray, are you getting 5.1/7.1 sound, or just 2-channel? My recollection is that the PWD is limited to 2, but I might be mistaken. There are marvelous multi-channel Blu-ray discs that are not to be missed.

P.S. I don't really see the music server decision or budget analysis as a discs-vs.-files issue. I still own all my discs. If I want, I can look at the case and artwork. I just have a faster, more convenient way to access their content (everywhere), and one which helps prolong the life of the discs themselves by significantly reducing the handling of the media. And in the case of music and DVD, I can listen or watch whatever without having to change discs. And if there are music pieces where I only want to buy a specific track, I can do so (increasingly uncompressed or lossless) and have a means to play it (iTrax, HDTracks, Linn, or even iTunes, etc.).

With the PW DAC, you are in a great position to take advantag of all that if and when you want. But doing so will not in the least detract from your discs.

@Will: I still love my 2008 Mac mini running Snow Leopard and Audirvana for my headphone rig. After trying Amarra, Pure Music, and Fidelia, I settled on Audirvana. Needs better playlist control and/or iTunes integration, but it is quite musical. Much as I like the new mini, I really want an integrated optical drive for ripping. I own standalone SuperDrives for our MacBook Airs, but that's not how I want to access discs for the mini.  In my main listening system, for most listening, I still like the Apple TV interface for most of my music. For hi-res discs, I revert to the Oppo.

@ beowulf: you are mistaken about Apple music. It is no longer DRM'ed. And even if it was, that has nothing to do with choice of hardware. I buy my music from other sources. Nothing about that has anything to do with my choice of Mac hardware.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #31 - 09/10/11 at 17:04:00
 
Greg, I don't do multi-channel, always been a bit indifferent about surround sound and my ERR two channel is perfect for me.

The PerfectWave IS only two channel.

And as for "convenience" et al. . . I only listen in ONE location predominantly, don't find it inconvenient to get up and change discs, can always download and burn to cdr from my iBook or iMac, and don't want to rip cds (I have so so many!), hassle with external drives, stream material, have an online storage, etc. I'm very happy with the listening mechanics and ritual I've had for decades and just flat have no desire to change that, it's part of my "foundation" of leisure time.

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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 17:08:35 by Lon »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #32 - 09/10/11 at 17:09:15
 
Sounds really good Lon, and good point about plug and play system of that quality. The PerfectWave setup does sound very impressive, and really well suited to you with your huge collection of disks. Music Direct has a package deal on it for 6K with cables (they say the setup would be 8200 retail) and 6800 with the bridge, and with the bridge you still need a computer.

When I added up my current front end, I was shocked to find it around 3600 (computer setup, Music Fidelity async V-Link, ZDAC, ZStage, dBAudio Essential USB cable, amphenol glass toslink cable v-link to DAC, PI audio Power cable for the ZDAC, VH audio kit power cable for ZSTAGE, Decware IC DAC to Stage, MAC Ultra Silver IC (very cheap from audiogon auction) to Torii. And really I need to add PureMusic software player to make it real since I thought it sounded better than iTunes and was willing to give the 130 for it).

Makes a decent CD player look pretty good price-wise, but then there is the CD to drive thing, streaming, wireless internet connection on 4K's shopping list! And with my narrowed down collection of several hundred CDs that I actually listened to, it was really pretty easy to rip them over time. I would do several in a row while passive listening. As earlier stated, there is a learning curve with ripping, though iTunes makes it pretty easy.

There is probably something to a plug and play arrangement if all this is intimidating. My total front end arrangement seems complex with so many parts, but it is pretty linear and logical in setup, and once put together, works flawlessly. It also remains flexible for upgrading in every parameter, so I am glad I have it. I don't use streaming though, so can't speak to that.

PR,

I have a 2010 Mini and like the sound better than the 2009 model, but it was not that one the 09 was bad in any way, the 2010 just sounded a bit deeper and more analog to me without loss of inner detail (that is if I recall correctly). And I do like the convenience of the drive in the unit too, but then it looks like Apple's Mini option drive may be made to stack with the mini so once cabled would probably seem more-or-less like part of the computer. You could isolate it with feet too.
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 17:25:05 by will »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #33 - 09/10/11 at 17:22:05
 
PR, I ended up with PureMusic over the more euphinic Audirvana or Fidelia for its integration with iTunes. I really like being able to to easily cut tunes from an album by the check box and that was a deal breaker for me. Also, since I think I recall the 2008/2009 Mini as more open and bright sounding than the 2010 mini, it makes sense to pick a player that is slightly warmer. I just can't stand the playlist making and the latest Pure sounds pretty real.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #34 - 09/10/11 at 17:24:58
 
Yeah, I did that Music Direct deal and I know it's an expense, I'm still reeling a bit from that. But. . . I have to tell you. . . the sound SMOKES the ZDAC-1. The ZDAC-1 is a great sounding unit for the price. But the PerfectWave DAC (and even more so in tandem with the Transport via HDMI) is a whole 'nother level of fidelity to my ears. It took about three weeks to really show itself and it may have even more to reveal. Having the remote preamp control of sources and filters and upsampling or NON is all the convenience I need and has really been satisfying.  I never knew the Torii could deliver this kind of sound. Really impressive. One friend of mine said he felt it was a very significant improvement in sound. I'm glad he heard that. . . because I know there's a danger I'd just think so to justify the cost.

And. . . I just don't really get into iTunes, I've had it on two Macs for about six years and I don't dig ripping, playlists et al. I have so much to rip that I would need to hire an assistant for a few years. Smiley I just don't need the convenience or "simplicity" of the setup.

All in all, I'm DONE. And it's a great feeling.  A bit of tube-rolling and more listening and viewing material for me.

So best of luck in your endeavors you looking to move into the PC/music server methodoloy! I hope that you can all be as happy as I am!
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #35 - 09/10/11 at 18:08:32
 
Lon. It is awesome your PS setup sounds and works great! And your choices make sense to me. How much better it sounds than my mix and match setup, we can't say without putting them in the same room, though yours could easily have an edge. On the other hand, mine is not the ZDAC that your PS Audio gear smoked. You had yours with CD/blueray player front end. Mine has a very refined, tweaked out computer front end with error correction, a very refined software player with sampling and noise shaping, and other adjustments, an exceptional USB cable, and an async device before the DAC that nicely fleshes out the ZDAC-1. Also the PI audio power cable is amazing in for the ZDAC. Then the Zstage using very specific tubes offers a smooth richness and musicality with on the spot tonal and dynamics tweaking by volume riding with the Torii, and all this is put together with very careful cable synergy. So who knows how it compares with the PerfectWave setup, but it is extremely engaging.
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 18:09:48 by will »  

PSA P5/modified Brickwall/Shunyata Defender/more; MacMini/Audirvana>Jitterbug/Regen> modified Gustard x20pro DAC; DIY + Pi Audio PCs; DIY ICs + USB; modified Jupiter CSP3, Torii MKIV, HR1; DIY Speaker Cables; feet - Madscientist, SynRes, Archie's, Herbie's isocup
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #36 - 09/10/11 at 18:21:05
 
Just want to say that the PerfectWave Duo has error correction, jitter free playback for Redbook (my biggest source and comparison), six filters to choose from, and non-oversampling or up to eight oversampling choices, etc. and a sliver HDMI cable for i2S and the top of the line PS Audio power cords which are stellar. So . .  I personally feel confident you'd prefer the PS Audio DAC, but you're right, we'd have to compare the two something that is not going to happen. However, the ZDAC is GREAT, but not quite what the PS Audio offers. Of that I'm sure.

Off to lunch! Happy listening.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #37 - 09/10/11 at 19:13:05
 
Lon, I would not be surprised if I preferred the PerfectWave duo. But like I was pointing to earlier, with the capabilities of the computer/software/async/DAC/tubestage front end I have pieced together, it theoretically accomplishes many of the things the PS system does, but also has a tube stage which I consider as part of my front end, has internet access, and is stream ready. And being component based, it is flexible for changing out individual pieces in the future. Also mine is designed to my tastes, though it may well be that I would agree with the PS Audio designer tastes and the quality of the PerfectWave combo as you do, but then it is about twice the price too! A ZDAC alone, it definitely is not though.

Wink
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 19:15:47 by will »  

PSA P5/modified Brickwall/Shunyata Defender/more; MacMini/Audirvana>Jitterbug/Regen> modified Gustard x20pro DAC; DIY + Pi Audio PCs; DIY ICs + USB; modified Jupiter CSP3, Torii MKIV, HR1; DIY Speaker Cables; feet - Madscientist, SynRes, Archie's, Herbie's isocup
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #38 - 09/10/11 at 19:38:43
 
Points take. You'd not need the Transport, so the price is halved. And I really am enjoying NOT having a tube line stage in between, that was just a bit too much for the system now with the Duo. I have absolutely no desire to have an internet connection with my system, or a "stream," so that has no value to me, but with a Bridge added the PS Audio could do that as well I believe.  Anyway, I'm glad we're both happy.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #39 - 09/10/11 at 20:50:22
 
I apologize, I think I've been a bit protective or perhaps just plain curmudgeonly today, and I hadn't meant it quite that way.

Or maybe I did. I do often enough just scratch my head in wonder and don't see why the move to PC is such a good idea. It doesn't really offer me important conveniences, I guess that's the real reason. The inconvenience of re-equipting, "re-loading," and "re-calibrating" is really big. And I did hear my system set up for a laptop by a digital engineer, and spend time with his Mac-Mini based-system in another room of my house. I didn't feel a need to shift for sonic reasons because I didn't hear a moving improvement. And I have this feeling sometimes it's going to ultimately put even more people out of work. Smiley I'd make a strong case of hanging tight with separate components, non-computer. for anyone who's happy with the sound they have and have reached that "I want to listen to all the wonderful music I have and don't want to fidget with my stereo system all the time" level of quality playback. I'll always fidget too much, but I'm getting it under control.  ;)

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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 20:51:38 by Lon »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #40 - 09/10/11 at 21:24:00
 
Yes, I don't care about streaming either...just speaking to the context of the thread. And in your setup, I wouldn't care about the internet either, but since there is a computer in mine, I do like the internet and wifi connections for software and music downloads and for moving files around my network.

The PS Audio PerfectWave system looks and sounds like it is very elegant. And though I could not quite settle into the sales spiel for the Bridge, it does look like it is an excellent streaming system once you hook up to a file source on a network.

I don't think there is really any difference with a computer front or a transport in terms of fidgeting or the possibility of having a playback system that does well with various recording qualities. This seems more a matter of design and synergy toward that goal. So to me, whether one likes to play around with gear or not does not really play into this. Actually, my system is very tolerant of various recordings, fidget free, and all I have to do now is double click a file or playlist to play it. I  prefer this to having a mass of CDs in my small space to sort through. I do occasionally wish I could easily look at the player list or something for finding new music, but if necessary I will look later. I like the pictures and stories too, but mostly I am in it for the music, so a computer is good for me. To each his own, they both have pluses and minuses at this point.

By the way, I finally got some pairs of RCA and Sylvania straight bottle 5U4Gs and first impressions are very good. I am particularly enjoying the Sylvanias in the tube set I have just now! Both are musical, textural, and have a nice, and real bottom, so thanks for the pointer.
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 21:26:20 by will »  

PSA P5/modified Brickwall/Shunyata Defender/more; MacMini/Audirvana>Jitterbug/Regen> modified Gustard x20pro DAC; DIY + Pi Audio PCs; DIY ICs + USB; modified Jupiter CSP3, Torii MKIV, HR1; DIY Speaker Cables; feet - Madscientist, SynRes, Archie's, Herbie's isocup
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #41 - 09/10/11 at 21:41:12
 
We must leave no stone unturned! Every type! Every brand! Smiley

Regarding the fidgeting: if you are in a curmudgeonly manner and have a big resource of material and are very happy with your non-computer-based system the very act of moving to a computer-based-system could seem a herculean effort, and I can only see from my vantage and walk with my shoes, but I know that on the other side I'd start a whole new series of fidgeting and discovery through futzing about . . . . I don't dispute that this is something many audiophiles might do anyway, but if you somehow have managed to calm that itch down, a drastic system change (including source material, and a lot of attendant learning pains) that leads to a long time of increased fidgeting may seem unnecessary. Smiley
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #42 - 09/10/11 at 22:15:47
 
Quote:
@ beowulf: you are mistaken about Apple music. It is no longer DRM'ed. And even if it was, that has nothing to do with choice of hardware. I buy my music from other sources. Nothing about that has anything to do with my choice of Mac hardware.


Pale Rider, my bad ... I thought I read somewhere that Apple TV does not allow the streaming of DRM free music and movies, but I could have twisted that up somehow as I can't seem to find the link that was talking about that.

I also agree, I'm not ready to give up my discs, but look at stored music for it's convienence and accessibility (I do enjoy thumbing through my cd's too much to give them up) ... however, the link that "will" gave us in his first post http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=74816.0 (yes, I read through all 46 pages) is making an excellent argument to stored media edging out CD's especially when using the USB interface ...

Until reading that thread I didn't put a huge amount of thought into the fact that the CD does not extract every bit of the sound file, instead it pulls data off in streaming mode (in real time) and when errors occur the missing data is just interpolated, in comparison to when a music file is being read by a hard drive the drives reads the computer file without loss of information and implemented with USB interconnectivity -- USB does not carry timing from the computer, it just carries a "start of frame" signal to let the DAC know when to start and buffer the packets of music data.  So, while jitter is never reduced to zero, it is reduced to one singular area  that a correctly setup DAC can compensate for.

Anyways, thanks for all the cool posts everybody, great thread!
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #43 - 09/10/11 at 22:38:49
 
I must admit that the main reason for my transformation to what I will call "memory based" listening is the end of the physical handling of the media. I would love all of the hours back that I have spent searching for albums, cleaning albums, setting up my turntable..... I now think of something I want to listen to, push a few buttons, ta da, the music I wanted. I will also admit that 99% of my listening anymore is off of my Ipod just because of the convenience. Lazyness is creeping into my life at a rapid pace.
Last night I conducted a test between my computer and my Ipod, I hooked them both up to my ZDAC-1, USB from the 'puter and Coax from my Wadia 170i. I then played the same file from both, a WAV. of The Black Crowes. The Ipod kicked my computer's ass. Now I will admit that I haven't played around with cables or all of the other variables that can influence computer sound, but out of the box the Ipod/Wadia combo wins. The Ipod was much less congested, the treble sparkled more and the bass was stronger. I should also mention that my hearing might have been off a bit because I had shot off a couple of hundred rounds out of my Kimber .45 earlier. Yes, I had both ear plugs in and muffs on, but loud noise is loud noise.
I might have to look into the Apple Mini approch. Looking on Ebay I saw that I could buy one for $500-$600, not too bad a price.
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 23:10:31 by Donnie »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #44 - 09/10/11 at 22:52:45
 
Well, I understand, but I actually really enjoy the searching my collection, etc. Part of the process for me.

I'd be interested to hear whether these differences were as pronounced if you swapped the coaxial and optical connections. I find optical cables to be very different one to another and to coaxial. I never really liked optical til someone here mentioned a glass optical cable and that opened up optical for me; it is very clearly better than any other optical cable I'd used. And a thirty dollar glass optical cable rivals the sound from a one hundred dollar coaxial cable. .. which was not the case with the other cables.
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #45 - 09/10/11 at 23:16:05
 
Quote:
Regarding the fidgeting: if you are in a curmudgeonly manner and have a big resource of material and are very happy with your non-computer-based system the very act of moving to a computer-based-system could seem a herculean effort


Lon, I get it now. I thought you were talking generally, not about your particular situation. You have gotten the benefits of resolved jitter, error correction, resolution choices, memory play, and filter shaping without  losing discs or having to rip them. These data treatments were some of the reasons I went a computer and you did it without the change!


Beowulf.

My name is Will, but I get the quotes as I seem to have spelled it with a little w. That audiocircle thread is amazing in length and breadth, and with useful bits as you found. The jitter/uncompressed/error correction things all make a lot of sense, and the async helped my ZDAC. But interestingly, the basis of that thread, the Tranquility DAC, by many posters in several forums, bests many popular (and more expensive) async/upsampling  DACS and it is a NOS DAC without async. Just goes to show there are many ways to get there.

I have been working with Eric Hider at dBAudioLabs, and he is treasure of information from long years of very careful exploration, and very willing to go there. I have been auditioning a Tranquility for a while and ended up finding it better than my V-link/ZDAC in some ways, and mine better in some ways, so there was no clear winner. But we finally agreed that the V-caps in my Tranquility that were a special order for a guy who upgraded to their Signature DAC, might well be the culprit. The part I did not like about my sample was it was at times, perhaps too "smart" at resolving inner detail, sometimes seeming a little intellectual.

Then I got to playing with caps in my speakers and I realized, this is a cap sound in the Tranquility, which makes sense especially since it has a very simple circuit designed to let out the music as neutrally and in as uncolored a way as possible. In talking about it with Eric, he agreed this may be the case since the V-cap has a signature and the one they use stock "just gets out of the way." So he offered to give it a listen to find out for himself, put in the stock caps if he thinks it will help,  and report back. Amazingly helpful guy in advice and assistance all through this process! I hope he can get the DAC to where it is a notable upgrade for me, as it already is in many ways.


Donnie,

I agree with Lon. That Amphenol glass cable is nice! Interesting that the iphone/wadia beat your laptop so handily, and perhaps relevant to computers not being equal with sound. But the wadia probably has some signature stuff going on to. Hmmm. I wonder....were you playing uncompressed files from both or did the iphone setup also have the handicap of MPEG?
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 23:19:13 by will »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #46 - 09/10/11 at 23:28:58
 
ok you guys, now you've done it, i'm goin back to vynil
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #47 - 09/10/11 at 23:44:03
 
LOL
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« Last Edit: 09/10/11 at 23:45:28 by Lon »  

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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #48 - 09/10/11 at 23:46:52
 
ok,now i'm hurt...make it 4 track tape
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Re: MUSIC SERVERS
Reply #49 - 09/11/11 at 01:18:20
 
Lon and Will,
The only thing I have with a optical output is my Onkyo DVD player and all it does is sit on it's stand quietly.
Will, I compared "Sometimes Salvation" from " The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion" by The Black Crowes by ripping a copy off of the CD onto my hard drive as a WAV. file. I then copied it onto my Ipod through Itunes as a WAV. I used Winamp to output the file from my computer into my ZDAC-1 and switched between the Wadia and the computer with the ZDAC. I'm wondering if my USB cable was upgraded from the one I found in the back of my closet things would change things.
I'm now wondering on how "Cloud Computing" can fit into all of this? If I store all of my music on a cloud do I download what strikes my fancy or is it streamed to a server? This whole business is starting to make my head hurt, I'm going back to humming to myself.
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« Last Edit: 09/11/11 at 01:20:07 by Donnie »  

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