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Mac Mini Music Server (Read 4090 times)
Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #15 - 02/09/13 at 16:07:25
 
OC:

Interesting, but I have to admit—the excellent quality of that writer's equipment notwithstanding—the following excerpt strikes me as dubious:
Quote:
What really surprises me is that I find the BDP-2 playing 16/44.1 FLAC files preferrable to my PS Audio PWT spinning CDs connected to the same PS Audio PWD MKII via an I2S cable. Previously, I played those same FLAC files either through a laptop PC connected to the same DAC via a Halide Bridge USB/SPDIF converter or through a SONOS system feeding the coax digital input of the PWD MKII.

I will never, ever say someone doesn't hear what they hear, but I also know that we often hear what we want to, and what our wallet feels pained to prove. But leaving psychoacoustics aside, there are some oddities here. And I want to be clear that I have not listened to the Bryston. No offense to anyone, but  I have used the Halide Bridge to link a computer USB to a DAC, and it is just not in the same league as the PWD, let alone the PWT/PWD combo connected via I2S. Second, what the writer appears to be describing is using the Bryston BDP-2 with the PWD, because the BDP-2 is DAC-less; it requires some form of external DAC or DAC integrated into another piece of Bryston equipment. In that sense, the BDP-2 is simply a player, a computer if you will [Bryston even describes the Intel Atom motherboard and Linux OS they deploy], stripped of all non-player functionality to make it as pure as possible. Computer Audiophile has a lot of discussion about such devices, even a series on how to build one, and as one might imagine is an enthusiastic proponent of doing these well. So am I. In reality, the PWT is itself just a combo file extractor and digital file player. It does not play discs; it extracts digital information from discs, checking each bit of data for integrity, and then employs the digital lens to create a clock-free stream of data.

The Bryston does what the Auraliti and a bunch of other players do—it plays files, using a device stripped to its essence to be as good and clean a file player as possible. Leaving aside its user interface options, which I like better than some other players, it has no specific technology to present or counterpoint the advantages for which the PWT/PWD combo has been engineered. Now, maybe the way PS Audio has solved the digital extraction and playback challenges is simply not as good as ripped files on a USB stick without benefit of a bit-perfect, clock less data stream. Maybe, but I am doubtful.

So, the writer is convinced that his BDP-2, connected to his PWD via SPDIF/BNC [not I2S] , is superior to his PWT connected via I2S to his PWD. Um, there seems little reason to believe this would be the case. But maybe so. Bryston has an excellent reputation, and I like and have enjoyed several of their products. But I think one should ask what it would be about the BDP-2, no matter how good, or even perfect it might be, that should cause it to be so aurally superior, especially as compared to the writer's other very excellent equipment.

I want to be clear that I am not saying the Bryston does not sound better as the author describes. It might. But I am saying there is no obvious reason why it should, or how it could, and so we should ask why and how.
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« Last Edit: 02/09/13 at 18:40:12 by Pale Rider »  

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Lon
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #16 - 02/09/13 at 17:25:48
 
That sentence surprised me. One other thing to factor in is cabling. I find that the HDMI connection between PWT and PWD is very influenced by the cable, which really surprised me, I tried four different HDMI cables and could easily hear differences between all four.
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #17 - 02/09/13 at 18:37:17
 
Lon, that makes sense. I don't have the combo, but I have heard it, and I have no doubt the cabling can make a difference. What cable did you settle on, and which did you return to the hellhole whence they came?
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« Last Edit: 02/09/13 at 18:40:57 by Pale Rider »  

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Lon
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #18 - 02/09/13 at 19:10:44
 
I ended up with the cable that I bought with the PWT and PWD combo, the silver PS Audio HDMI. I tried the silver-plated copper PS Audio version, an Acoustic Research HDMI cable and a Purist Audio HDMI cable, all those are okay but the sliver PS Audio is the winner.
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orangecrush
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #19 - 02/10/13 at 03:13:58
 
I think the superiority of what this reviewer is hearing is what has become the consensus of all the pro reviews (there are so many) and all the consumer reviews: The noise floor on the BDP-1/2 is the lowest anyone has ever heard from a source. It is really is that striking. This review is a good start:

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/bryston-bdp-1-digital-player-tas-215/

My favourite line from TBS is once you have heard music through it, there is no going back and also: "The Bryston BDP-1 doesn’t merely “sound better”; the experience of hearing music through it is qualitatively different. It plays music with unprecedented purity, a lack of artifice or artifact that is manifestly, incontrovertibly closer to the real thing... The BDP1 offers a level of detail, clarity, focus, dynamics, and resolution that is nothing short of revelatory."

I am not a big believer in glossy magazine reviews, but in this case, they are all dead on. This is a really special player.
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« Last Edit: 02/10/13 at 16:07:01 by orangecrush »  
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #20 - 02/10/13 at 16:41:43
 
OC, I saw that review, and I think it probably quite correctly describes what makes the BDP-1 successful: it is a computer optimized for digital file playback. And just 13 months later, that same publication would say this about the PWT/PWD MKII combo:
Quote:
Let me begin with the bottom line: The PS Audio PerfectWave DAC II and PerfectWave Memory Player have evolved into a cutting-edge digital front end. They have competition, but competition that rivals them in quality is substantially more expensive or lacking in the same features. The DAC II has an outstanding ability to play back the highest sampling-rate material and get the best out of the older CDs that contain almost all of the world’s best performances. Most strikingly, the DAC II joins a handful of more expensive units in reducing traces of hardness in digital sound to the point where even the most demanding acoustic instruments like the violin, flute, and piano sound as musical as the recording permits.

Glossies are not a dime a dozen. I think the Bryston review is extremely complimentary, no doubt well-earned, and as I have said, I am sure the player sounds great (though I confess I could not locate the "consensus of all the pro reviews" you described—really? that would be truly unprecedented in digital-audiophiledom). All I pointed out was that there were few, if any, objective reasons to believe the Bryston was orders of magnitude better than another product built to similarly exacting, if not moreso, standards.

I am not interested in a war of the glossies. The TAS review of the PWT/PWD combo (by Cordesman, with whom I have more familiarity than Schuster) was over a year later, and it was so effusive, that one might think he needed to excuse himself after writing it.

For each of us here, what matters is that we are able to listen, choose what we like, and act on it. If you truly believe that either the BDP-1 or BDP-2 actually outperforms the PWD MKII, then that's cool, because this being a consumer's market, you can choose the one you like.

My guess is that for my old set of ears, that even if i spent enough time in a proper demo room, with comparative systems correctly set up to factor out any other possible difference, I would likely be hard pressed to discern the differences between these quality products. Maybe I could; I have actually surprised myself when I could actually tell the differences between cables and other items....and so could people in my family.

But I also know what happens when I listen to something new, and it blows me away, in part because I was fully engaged, listening, in a primed setting. I recently ordered a pair of HR-1 speakers to replace one of my pairs of ERRs. Before doing so, I had listened to Teresonic Ingenium speakers (gorgeous and detailed, like that Photo A/B metaphor Schuster used—inaccurately in my view; some of the most impactful photographs of all time lacked detail, focus, or color). I was indeed blown away. And I was prepared to drop 14k on a pair. But discretion got the better of me, and I spent some time in conversation with Bob, re-read some of the effusiveness around the HR-1s, and decided instead to order them sound unheard. I of course had the benefit of my own experience with the ERRs, I know what Bob and Steve voice for, etc. And so, when I returned to a critical listen of my own ERRs, this time Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions Revisited and the hi-res Piano in a Church (yeah, I was on a church kick), and I could hear the sounds of a church alive in music, I knew if I could have a more precise, detailed, accurate version of that voice, I would be very happy.So I ordered the HR-1s.

As I listened, and adjusted the placement of my speakers, I also remembered that correct speaker placement likely had far more impact than any difference between pieces of Bryston and PS Audio equipment—if any. None of which is to say I don't think you should buy the one that you think or hear is better. You should! I just doubt that the Bryston is, or that it is in such a way that I should spend hours in listening rooms, or $ in my own living room, swapping equipment in and out, hours I can never get back. But the $? Those I can spend on live music. Week after next, I will be 1/3 back in the 2000-seat Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton watching and listening to B.B. King. No Bryston or PS Audio or even Decware can compare to that. Not quite the Checkerboard Lounge, but live nonetheless.
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orangecrush
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #21 - 02/11/13 at 01:34:26
 
I think we are on differnet pages here. Let me clarify:

First, I firmly agree with the user review that I posted that a good music server/player (not just the Bryston) can trump a good CD transport into the same DAC. For me, the Bryston was a revelation.

Second, for me, a Mac Mini would require allot of work to get the same results as I have now. The Bryston was a welcome addition, hence the reason for my post.

Third, I am not saying that Bryston "is the best". There is "no best" of anything in this hobby. However, for me the Bryston is a fabulous choice for anybody that wants a reference grade, minimalistic, no compromise, reliable, easy to use music player that will play high-res files without any problems. Can other set-ups accomplish the same thing in other ways? Of course. That is where user preferences and system synergy come into play.

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« Last Edit: 02/11/13 at 01:39:14 by orangecrush »  
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Pale Rider
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Re: Mac Mini Music Server
Reply #22 - 02/11/13 at 03:19:23
 
OC, makes perfect sense. Thanks for the clarification. I couldn't agree more that moving up to a properly dedicated file server or player is a definitive improvement from a typical computer playback setup. I wouldn't dream (at least, not any more) of using my Mac mini for anything other than a dumb server, much like my NAS, except that in the case of my current setup, it is dedicated solely to serving up files to the PWD. My guess is that it would be nearly impossible to get a mini, stock or otherwise, to be competitive with your Bryston. Cheers!
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