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Computer streaming as a source (Read 3893 times)
Fireblade
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #15 - 02/05/12 at 18:13:41
 
Oh, Pale Rider, I convert the FLAC files into WAV and store them in a specific folder, temporarily (Foobar asks you which folder to store it at).  From that folder, I enact the player on the WAV file.  After listening to a whole session of tracks, I just erase the temporary files (due to lack of enough HD space, for now).

What I meant by 'on the fly' is that it takes seconds to have the file format conversion, so is practical and I don't require extra HD space, as I can always re-convert them over and over. With my coming external drive I will be finally swapping those files into WAV permanently, though.

stone, you said:  'AA gear with the PMD100 filter from prof Johnson of Reference Recordings' ... I guess you're refering to the elimination of the extra images caused by over-sampling the original encoded digital data?

As normally these filters are part of the internals of a modern DAC, this is a more subtle approach than I can grasp at this time, so I'll take a look into it too, thanks.  


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Lon
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #16 - 02/05/12 at 18:23:15
 
Fireblade wrote on 02/05/12 at 17:21:05:
The recordings from Billie are best from 1930 to 1941 (her prime), not good sound quality, in my experience.


Don't personally agree that only "her prime" is worth hearing, and I totally disagree that you have to "mentally fill in bits" on these recordings. I'd urge you to listen again with less bias towards early recordings, it's surprising how much fidelity is there.

I think Billie's prime extended at least through the Decca period, which was well-recorded as well.

Over and out. Have fun.
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« Last Edit: 02/05/12 at 18:29:22 by Lon »  

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Lon
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #17 - 02/05/12 at 18:27:58
 
Pale Rider wrote on 02/05/12 at 17:40:07:
Lon, thanks for those resources. Much appreciated. Am starting with the Billie Holiday Lady Day collection. On to others after that.


Welcome as always my friend. Let me know if I can help further.
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stone_of_tone
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #18 - 02/05/12 at 19:10:44
 
Billie and the Prez..... . The Prez loved Billie.....but Billie did not love the Prez.  I need to play the Prez right now.......... .
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Lon
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #19 - 02/05/12 at 19:19:03
 
Now wait a minute! There's was a shared love! They were never lovers (at least a couple) and both had others (in Billie's case mostly a-holes I'm afraid), but they loved each other. I do believe it is so, dear friends. They gave each other the nicknames we know them by, Lester dubbed Billie "Lady Day" and Billie dubbed Lester "The President."

Yes, I think I'll spin some Lester Young on Keynote.
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will
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #20 - 02/05/12 at 19:52:30
 
1) Though Greg and Lon use the same DAC (before Greg's upgrade board) I doubt one source is particularly better than the other. As I get it, the Perfect Wave Transport and DAC combo do the memory play, error correction, async, digital lens......etc. This is why Lon has the perfect setup for himself. Expensive, but for the ultimate CD playback, pretty much state of the art technology.

Greg's setup has the same advantages of memory play, lens and so on using files he has ripped doing the error correction himself, but he has networked files and downloadable highres digital files.. Two different matters, and ideal for his setting and needs. Each has the perfect setup presumably without sacrifice of any kind for the media they use.

2) My rig begins with a Mac Mini with 4GB Ram running at 64 bit (extremely quiet computer relative to most ) fully optimized in software (minimized system and software to bare essentials for music playing... I even quit the Finder. Pure Music is the player I prefer), cabling, weight on the computer and excellent sounding feet. This is followed by the very transparent yet highly musical Tranquility DAC, a minimalist NOS design that is very effective at not being there while providing amazing inner detail, resulting in no sense of loss of any aspect of the music.

With monitor, keyboard, mouse, excellent cables (DbAudio Essential USB, PI Audio power cable optimized for the Tranquility, Reality cable ICs), a very nice 1TB Oyen external firewire mini drive for play, and another for backup (firewire is more optimal for the drives since they then leave the USB buss to the DAC) this source adds up to about 3350. Not cheap, but a complete front end that is approximately equal to a good price on just a Perfect Wave DAC MkII with one good cable.

No way to know how the sound compares to Perfect Wave without direct comparison, but I can say that my front end is extremely lifelike, and its very minimalist design/circuit path appeals to me conceptually...the idea of the least between you and the data, the better. And that those parts were chosen for "no sound" with master tapes as a reference, appeals also.

I use all error corrected uncompressed AIFF files. The Tranquility is so amazing in its smooth, liquid and uncolored presentation, yet with outrageous micro detail and micro dynamics....I never get a sense of insufficient resolution. Doesn't even occur to me. It sounds pretty flawless...no sense of bits. Ambient cues are a great indicator of the quality of detail, and this DAC excels there with a very real ambient attack through decay...clear as a bell but without hardness or etching. So though I have not listened to highres, and I am sure I would like it through a great DAC, I don't feel like not having it is an impediment to my musical experience from carefully listening to my sound.

But of course the source is part of the matrix that is the System/Room and I have done a lot to tune it all together.

3) A very important aspect of my computer setup for me is this. Though I have done a lot of room work, for whatever reason I still have low bass issues. Pure Music integrates EQ into its "hogmade" (where the software forces prioritization of most computer resources to go Pure Music) and having this EQ integrated is big for me.

Rather than having to build another bass trap (a big one, since most of what I filter with EQ is 30Hz and down) I can fine tune with my player software. I have created a bunch of very specific notch filters pulling 1 to 3 dB narrow notches down to 23 Hz. There I have a 4 dB cut. Then there are two low shelfs. At 18 Hz, -15dB, and finally a dump shelf at 12.7 Hz of - 40dB.

This took a while to sort out by ear, but it has really improved a system that sounded truly great before, but required careful tube/wire selection to get there without bass muddle. With EQ my sound is not great, but sort of unbelievable, and I can use any tubes with no concerns for low bass density clouding the music, using only the Torii bass and treble knobs for fine tuning. The bass is unreal to me it is sooo real, deep, but impressively taught...very natural sounding. As is the rest. I love this sound!

Conceptually I might not want to use EQ this way in the mids and highs, but in the bass, I don't hear a problem imposed by software. And the beauty is that this is like mastering the entire music collection to fit my system/room and tastes since it happens in the software player, just like it does in the mastering software that was used on all our CDs.





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« Last Edit: 02/05/12 at 20:42:29 by will »  

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Pale Rider
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #21 - 02/06/12 at 02:10:22
 
Implicit in Will's excellent post is that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

I use a Mac mini in my headphone rig, and while I once used Pure Music, I now switch between Audirvana and Fiddlia. All provide excellent sound on the mini platform. Properly configured (as Will has done), the mini makes an excellent platform. And also like Will, I have had excellent experience with good NOS DACs. If it weren't for my desire to play hi-res files, I would probably still be using one of those.
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will
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #22 - 02/06/12 at 02:42:20
 
Greg, the main attraction to Pure for me at first was excellent iTunes integration. Then it got better sounding through a few versions. But most, I like it for the integrated EQ. Otherwise I would have settled for the very good sounding Audirvana with its recent iTunes integration upgrade.

However, inadvertently, through adding a number of dithered EQ filters (5!) in Pure Music I think I caused the software to process more of the signal (about 2% processor usage), and with a little noise shaping play, it was sounding on the  Audirvana and Fidelia side of untouched Pure Music.

When I was turned on to the latest Audirvana, I wondered....it sounded a bit processed to me, but really amazing in detail differentiation with sweet musicality, but why this level of fuss? Well I tried Pure without and processing and it sounded lean and cool by comparison. I did not realize how far I had veered from the baseline sound. Now I think I like PureMusic better, to me rich and musical enough, but more transparent and neutral. But this is with the EQ that helped take my system way over the top for the "player in the room" game.

This causes me to wonder if the main difference in the sounds of the players has to do with the level of dithering built into Audirvana and Fidelia (before tweaking), and dithering being more optional in Pure Music. Who knows. I find all of these guys explanations of their programs too obscure, probably in their attempt to hold onto their secrets.
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« Last Edit: 02/06/12 at 03:19:51 by will »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #23 - 02/06/12 at 15:08:57
 
Thanks for the thorough description, will.  As usual with your inputs, I learn in quantum leaps with one read.

It's a shame (for me, anyway) that nobody here seems to favor the Windows platform for this purpose.  Conceptually at least, there should not be major differences.  I'm used to PC's, so that's naturally my first choice.

I suspect Foobar2000 is equivalent to Pure Music. When combined with WASAPI in exclusive mode, it takes absolute control of the entire audio processing plumbing, subduing to the USB/DAC in place.  If fed with properly ripped (error free EAC) FLAC/WAV files, the fidelity is impressive.  

It also incorporates an EQ, but I am not using it for now, until I get to fine tune the new rig, along with speaker positioning and some room adjustments.  Conceptually again, I dislike EQ's.  Sometimes you need them though, especially in the case of too bright room reflections/ speakers or muddy bass, as you have successfully applied.

As per the USB/DAC, I know there are better ones out there, costing a little fortune.  The point is how to get the best acceptable sound with the minimum investment.  In this regard, the HRT line is very successful (and I still may try the improved '+' ugraded version of mine.)  There are also promising new ones, like the Shiit Bifrost and DACit, both affordable and very well reviewed.

Weight on the computer? Sound feet? ... Unfamiliar terms to me, although I can guess their purpose.  Definitely considered as options for me for the fine-tunning stage as explained earlier.

I have 2 Gb of RAM and my Win 7 is running at 32 Kb.  I can fix both issues, no problem, especially if I'm convinced these are worth changing.  Are they?

A question I have regarding external drives, is would you use the player with files directly off the external drive rather than the internal HDD?  Is there a sound issue involved?  For example, I've increased the RAM memory buffer to 500,000 Kb, to make sure every file I play comes out of RAM with no HDD activity present.  Shouldn't this be enough?

NOS DACs:  I guess this means Not Over Samplig DaCs?  I was adviced by Kevin Halverston (HRT CTO) to avoid sampling beyond the native sampling of the source (CD), which is 44K1.  Sample sizes can be 24 bits no problem, even though the original recording size is 16 bits.

If the above holds, I would be virtually doing NOS at implementation, so there must be something else you like in NOS DACs that I don't know?

Anyway, great topic and fabulous inputs from you guys, thank you very much ...   Now back to the complete Webster/Mulligan.















 

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will
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #24 - 02/06/12 at 19:53:33
 
Of course these will be generalizations, but with that disclaimer in place I will try to explain the Mac Mini thing.

Mac: I think there are several reasons a lot of folks prefer Macs. One is that the quality and output of the parts are chosen for efficient synergy...no corners cut. This ensures an optimized machine without having to mess around. It also points to the value of support Apple places on its computing experience. If the quality is good and uniform, support is less needed, and simpler. Good parts synergistically integrated for the optimal computing experience is different than trying to make a computer as cheap as possible while appearing to be powerful as possible. Of course this is not always the case with stock Windows based machines, but very often it is.

Also, a lot of artists have long ago adopted the Mac platform. A foundation of the Mac that artists tend to be able to relate to is in how the computer and applications tend to be designed. With the Apple design protocol, for the system and applications, process is set up to be intuitively graspable by using our natural problem solving methods as integral priorities in software development. So traditionally there have been less frustrations in using a Mac, and this in turn makes artists like the tool, making it easier to be creative in an unimpeded natural way. So a lot of musicians and music lovers use Macs and therefore develop nice intuitive software and hardware tweaks in the platform. Also the System is easy to play with making optimization easy and user friendly.

Not that this does not happen with Windows gear and users, or that the same objectives can't be met with Windows gear. Just that it is a bit more of a given with Macs.

The most interesting thing I run into when helping friends who have shifted over to Mac is solving their deeply ingrained fear of computers. It usually takes a long while to get over the "you have performed an illegal exception causing a fatal error," or "you opened the wrong file and now your computer is way sick" psychology, and replace it with..."wow, I can figure this out and fix it myself, and this is sort of fun"...the creative interactive attitude as opposed to the oppositional/need to learn it or hire someone habit.

Mini: I doubt it was designed as a great music server, though this may have been considered. More likely, it was designed to be very small, quiet, powerful, and cool looking. In this small/powerful equation, efficiency is very important for small powerful parts. Using them throughout produces less heat, while tending to be inherently quieter.

Also, for the pleasurable use experience, the distraction of fan noise is not good. So the unit needs to cool passively for the most part and if there is a fan, it needs to be subtle, and therefore quiet. The solid aluminum body is the passive cooler that takes care of things for the most part, but this mass also makes it a very stable vibration-wise, and as we all know, vibration and sensitive electronic gear designed for great music are not compatible. Also there is the electronic noise shielding from this solid aluminum body. And finally, differentiating it from a well made laptop, it has no monitor or keyboard on board, further simplifying the unit and reducing electronic noise.

Long story, but I think the Mini just happened to turn out to be a great server based upon all of the above! Interestingly, they wouldn't have done much better had they designed it with this in mind.

But the Windows music guys are out there as you have found with Foobar. Have you looked around over at computeraudiophile.com lately for the latest Windows user input. I have no idea how Foobar and Pure Music compare, but all the good player software sounds different on the Mini, so it is possible that there is a player that you would prefer over Foobar, or that there are recent optimization discoveries.

Feet an Weight: We have found that computer output is clearly not all 1's and 0's, that analog information/noise comes across the wires too. And the 1 and 0 information can be truncated inside the computer in various ways if not given the correct processing of clean, uncompressed files. And vibration effects sensitive electronics making it just as likely to have an effect on a computer as another piece of audio gear.

I have tried several different vibration damping feet under the Mini and can definitely hear the difference. This proves to me that vibration is solvable with the Mini, and that vibration control is a way to refine the sound to tastes. Weight on top made a difference too, I suppose by drawing off heat and vibration, but also by how it causes the feet to function. At any rate, the weight makes the sound more solid and focused in my setting.

RAM: I can't answer your question on RAM except to say that even with an optimized computer, the system burns a lot of RAM, and the more free RAM there is the better the music. One would think that 500MB would be plenty of allocated RAM being nearly a CD in 44.1K/16 bit data. Do you have a program that can log how much virtual memory is used while playing music, virtual memory being the computer using hard disk for memory needs? This is what we want to avoid. Eric at dBaudiolbs (Tranquility) has done loads of double blind testing with optimized Mac Minis, and he says 4GB RAM is the least we want on a Mini and that you can hear subtle changes with 8GB. I am assuming that greater RAM takes care of all processing that is going on more efficiently, minimizing Hard Drive activity.

64 bit seems logical if your computer utilizes it. Eric Hider recommended it as a Mini optimization. He does the blind thing, and everything he has told me that I have tested I could hear too. And since it is easy to turn on in the Mini, I just did it without testing. If you can turn it on during startup, why not test it yourself and see if it helps.


EQ Conceptually, I think quality digital EQ, cleanly implemented in the software player is entirely different than having it mid signal once in the analog realm. The work is done before the analog conversion as an integral part of the digital file just like when mastering. But it can be done in the analog realm very well, it just costs loads to do it. I get the purist aversion, but like usual, the test is in how the music effects the listener! I listen hard, and for my setting, surgical EQ has assisted in a more easily achieved world class sound. Not to have used it for conceptual reasons would have been foolish. I suspect this could be the case for many computer audio heads, even some with perfect rooms, allowing fine tuning of gear synergy and tastes.

External Drive: I don't know how memory play in Foobar is configured. Unless it can pull in a whole playlist or album at once, you will be accessing the tunes from the hard drive, and this activity will be interactive with the system and player software action increasing hard drive work. Also remember that the fuller the drive is, the more it has to work to hunt the files and relay them to the player/RAM. So a drive that is very simple due to bare essential data makes sense toward our optimized goal. The really serious guys use Solid State drives for the system and software and external drives for music files.

Moving the music files to an external drive for me was an audible improvement. But i also am able to use the firewire buss, so it is not interactive with the USB buss, which has good theoretical internal noise consequences. I think a lot of these things get pretty subtle though if your computer is powerful and quiet.

If nothing else, you need a good drive to back up all you files, so why not configure Foobar to use the backup drive as the library and listen. Might be good to wait until you have your new gear all broken in though as it is likely to be very revealing and a better ultimate indicator.

NOS DACs are another area I have a limited story on. They have been popular from the start and interestingly, the favored NOS chips are ancient technology (in digital time) and I think there may just be a few of them. But they have a sound that a lot of people love to work with sort of like tubes....may be that there are musical harmonics that they bring out? Then of course, it is how it is implemented that makes or breaks a DAC, the chip being only one part in the stream. So I can't say I am a NOS DAC advocate, but I love my Tranquility DAC.
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« Last Edit: 02/06/12 at 20:06:39 by will »  

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will
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #25 - 02/06/12 at 20:56:49
 
Not That you want a PS after all that, but in the interest of great sound with a computer source:

I really like the way Pure Music works with dithered EQ, and I find it to be a very sophisticated, and "purist" player sound-wise. But whenever I use it to change the sample rate or the bit depth, it does it well, but I personally find that the sound suffers. This may not be the case with Foobar, or with your system and tastes, but for me, I prefer letting those aspects of the signal pass to the DAC in Native mode...44.1/16 without software intervention.

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« Last Edit: 02/06/12 at 21:01:38 by will »  

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will
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #26 - 02/07/12 at 01:16:11
 
However, this got me thinking about the Apple Audio Out setting. I had always set it to 44.1/16 to stay with original file and DAC integration, and liked this best. I have had several upgrades in Pure since then and wondered if anything had changed in terms of Pure controlling the Apple Audio out settings.

Well I think it may have. PureMusic has a thing called a PAD that you can install to enable running other computer sound through Pure. Then you can use it for cool little things besides EQ, like multichannel with 4 stereo busses with crossovers, volume, delay to tune a sub or a surround system. I had installed this some time ago to play Apple DVD movies on the Mac through PureMusic, and forgot about it.

Today I looked at the Apple Audio Output, and Pure is causing the audio out to default to the installed PAD which is set at 32 bit! So I unknowingly have been using 32 bit out, probably for the last few updates of PureMusic and Mac OS!

I just tested it repeatedly, removing the plugin and defaulting back to native 16 bit mode for the DAC, and I was surprised to think I might prefer the 32 bit out, converted presumably by the OS software. But before I did not like it! I guess Mac OS has improved the internal conversion to something I might like. Guess I should check out the latest iTunes!

I still prefer to leave the internal Pure Music settings on 44.1/16 bit, but I think I like this last 32 bit touch the OS is doing via the Pure Music PAD. This requires further investigation.

I guess the bottom line is that it doesn't necessarily matter if you can figure out what is going on, or what the conventions are, it is worth exploring options the most for tuning to the most pleasurable playback.

Cool

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« Last Edit: 02/07/12 at 02:44:24 by will »  

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Fireblade
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #27 - 02/08/12 at 01:40:52
 
Thanks, will.  I can certainly tell you have reached a very advanced state of evolution in this concept.  Congrats!

I wish I knew this before I purchased my new laptop, recently.  In any event, I agree with your conclusion on keeping the trial and error discipline and gradually improve conditions, until reaching a plateau of acceptable great sound (at least in my case).

Hopefully, these gradual changes would concern relatively minor scale investments if you start with the right basics.  In this case, Decware gear will provide the means to detect differences in every other component.

I've decided the HRT MS II USB/DAC is so good, I'm definitely upgrading to the improved version, the HRT MS II +, after all.  Once my external drive arrives, I will use that to enact the player within.

Regarding RAM size and Foobar2000, I'm sure the initial search for the track file will impose some HDD activity, but once it is in the player's realm (and certainly once it has been converted to WAV), the data is all coming from RAM memory (that's why the buffer was set so large).

If my feeling is right, the improved USB/DAC addition will provide the platform for all the fine-tunning mods to come, from room conditioning to EQ testing and some cables swapping.  In the end, I expect a longish convergent evolution path until I may be satisfied.  But like in motorcycle riding, the destination is less important than the experiences to get there.

Eventually, I'll also replace the laptop for something like the Mac Mini, in due time.  BTW, I'm not sure how to configure Win 7 in 64 bits without loosing all my current platform.  I'll check on that.  Point is, that's the only way to be able to take advantage of RAM beyond 4Gbs.

I sincerely think I've nailed the bulk of the concept.  I just need to keep working on the myriad of details in the described evolution path.  If the Decware gear is as you guys have told me, I'm sure my initial setup, green as it may be, will sound terrific.

Regarding info from Computer Audiophile's forum, I personally have not been lucky finding support over there.  Or should I say, they were somewhat useful starting from scratch, but at this level, I don't get feedback.  I've placed at least two threads recently, with little or no replies.

I don't have enough experience with Foobar2000 yet, so I really could not tell what's amiss in my current version until I master the operational issues and options offered.  Only then I may compare it to other players, in same configuration conditions and decide which I like better.  So, I have plenty of homework ahead, as you can tell.

I really appreciate your always very valuable feedback, will.  Keep it up all you want and continued success in your audio Nirvana quest.  Cheers!

 









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will
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #28 - 02/08/12 at 02:06:03
 
Fireblade, Sounds to me like you are right on track and you will very likely love your sound with the upgraded DAC, and the laptop you have. Decware gear is revealing to be sure, but it is also very musical. And you can tune it with wire and tubes too! It will allow you to hear your experimentation at a refined level, AND, it will make the gear you use sound good!

So after it is all broken in, when you find ways to further explore Foobar, you laptop, tubes, cables or whatever, like you say, the ride is as important as the destination. Which BTW for me is likely always out there! Learn/perceive more and then there is more to explore. The wonders of creativity!

If you can upgrade your RAM easily, 4 GB should cover you if you ever feel deficient, and if my experience is translatable to yours. I feel fine with 4 GB....but I haven't tried 8 yet! Huh
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« Last Edit: 02/08/12 at 02:07:33 by will »  

Mac mini, Tranquility DAC, modded Oppo 83, TORII MkIV, MorrowAudio SP7 cables, HR-1s...VHaudio DIY, Grover, MAC ICs...PI Audio Uberbuss...PI, VHaudio DIY, Neotech DIY, Cryoparts DIY power cables, HerbiesAudioLab feet and tube dampers
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Brett
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Re: Computer streaming as a source
Reply #29 - 02/08/12 at 03:46:05
 
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