CD Upgrade and Music Server Options...Advice needed.

Tice

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Originally I was going to combine these two needs with Arcam’s new MS 250 music server but I don’t need the multi-zone facility and three grand is a lot to pay when you’re only going to need one of the four sound cards…..plus I wasn’t that excited by my audition of the FMJ CD36.

My shortlist for CD players is :

Rega Saturn

Naim CD 5x

Naim CDX2

Primare CD31.

Opinions and additional recommendations welcome.

As for the server, I can either go down the Imerge 2000/Olive Opus route both of which have a CD player (albeit not of the quality I’m looking for) or buy a dedicated lap top with a top quality (external?) sound card, DAC and a huge memory (400GB+) to allow for copying all music in an uncompressed form. Would it be possible to get anywhere near audiophile quality this way? Any solution must be able to record vinyl to the HD. Alternatively, I could add an external DAC to my Yamaha HD CDR 1500 although I’m not sure how much difference this would make.

Any help/advice and suggestions for which specific pieces of equipment and editing software to go for would be gratefully received along with any perils and pitfalls inherent in this plan.

 

AmDismal

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You can buy either a Slim Devices Transporter or an SB+ (from www.at-tunes.co.uk IIRC) for around a grand; a computer to act as a server will cost £3-600, say. (You might need to spend money making it quiet too. Avoid laptops as it's a pain to upgrade the HD.)

My SB+ sounds better than my £1,500 CD player, if that helps you

 

johan1970

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I can also recommend you the Hermstedt Hifidelio 400 PRO S (= Olive) + Altmann Attraction DAC for ultimate convenience and ultimate soundquality. And do not worry about the capacity, you can always plug-in an external USB HDD. And I certainly don't recommend you to go the laptop route, those laptops make annoying noise and when they start cooling themselfes when you are listening some music is really frustrating.

 

Tice

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Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately, the Hifidelio doesn't seem to have the facility to record analogue to the HD which means adding an ADC if I understand correctly. Additionally, it has no edit facilities to add track markers etc.

Re the SB+, if I don't need wireless streaming or multi-room, are ther any other advantages to the SB,SB+ or Slim Devices Transporter over a computer/DAC combination?

Re Laptops,is it possible to use an external HDD?

Also, any recommendations for "quiet" or fanless(?) laptops?

 

AmDismal

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Computer to DAC always sounds terrible IME - most soundcards upsample internally to 96kHz, and this never helps. There are some USB DACs that are meant to circumvent this - Benchmark and Russ Andrews IIRC; try googling these. I still think that getting the audio circuitry well out of a computer box is a good idea.

For quiet PC stuff, try http://www.quietpc.com - laptop coolers (which makes the fan run less), quiet components, cases etc etc.

Do you really want a laptop solution? You'd have to have it on all the time, to prevent having to wait for it to boot up to listen to music. Much better a quiet little server under the stairs, surely? This can then be the wifi hub, general file server and more...

Adam

 

Tice

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Adam, thanks again for the advice.

Would running a computer to a high quality external sound card be a solution, would this mean that an external DAC was not required and improve the sound quality appreciably? Would the DAC improve things further.

Re the Transporter/SB+, I may have misunderstood but aren't they both ultimately DACs with a user interface in a nice package?

The reason for wanting a laptop solution is that I have a large collection of vinyl I'd like to archive. I currently have a Yamaha CDR-HD1500 which has astonishingly good editing facilities and an astonishingly bad control interface. Track and album listings all have to be done manually and it's not possible to backup the hard disk due to Yamaha's copy protection software. The laptop/external sound card and/or DAC with editing software seems to be the best solution but I'm open to other suggestions.

 

meninblack

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I use a cheap/slow/quiet laptop with a Behringer USB soundcard. Optical output from the Behringer feeds into the DAC on the CD player, and the actual music files are streamed wirelessly from the big PC upstairs.

I get very, very good results, although the decompression/playback software is important: don't use Windows Media Player whatever you do!

 

AmDismal

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I don't think there is any example of a real audiophile soundcard. A few say they are, but IME don't cut the mustard. Depending on your SQ expectation, a DAC would probably be preferred.

The Transporter and SB+ are DACs in the same way that a DAB tuner or CD player are DACs - there's a system for extracting digital information, and one for converting to analogue. How much weight you put on each is your call, but I find the system for getting my FLAC files to the SB+ is very neat. It's also nice not to have to have the computer screen on to choose your music - the SB screen is very good and you can scroll through your music very easily.

There are good reasons (jitter-related) why a one-box solution is better than an external DAC. Some DACs claim to reject all jitter. Don't expect to get lots of people agreeing on these matters!

For your vinyl especially, I'd say you need a computer solution (with a decent soundcard for ADC). Whether you do this with a laptop or a desktop is up to you. I have a desktop that is stuffed with things to make it quiet; it is virtually silent despite being good enough for fairly recent games.

Adam

 

Tice

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meninblack wrote:

I use a cheap/slow/quiet laptop with a Behringer USB soundcard. Optical output from the Behringer feeds into the DAC on the CD player, and the actual music files are streamed wirelessly from the big PC upstairs.I get very, very good results, although the decompression/playback software is important: don't use Windows Media Player whatever you do!
I notice you have a Naim CD player. I wasn't aware that it was possible to use it's DAC with an external source as I thought there was no digital input. I assume that it plays through the CD input on your amp. Apart from having the CD player powered up, are any further adjustments necessary?

Re Compression : All music would be transferred uncompressed and the plan is to use iTunes.

 

Tice

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AmDismal wrote:

I don't think there is any example of a real audiophile soundcard. A few say they are, but IME don't cut the mustard. Depending on your SQ expectation, a DAC would probably be preferred.The Transporter and SB+ are DACs in the same way that a DAB tuner or CD player are DACs - there's a system for extracting digital information, and one for converting to analogue. How much weight you put on each is your call, but I find the system for getting my FLAC files to the SB+ is very neat. It's also nice not to have to have the computer screen on to choose your music - the SB screen is very good and you can scroll through your music very easily.

There are good reasons (jitter-related) why a one-box solution is better than an external DAC. Some DACs claim to reject all jitter. Don't expect to get lots of people agreeing on these matters!

For your vinyl especially, I'd say you need a computer solution (with a decent soundcard for ADC). Whether you do this with a laptop or a desktop is up to you. I have a desktop that is stuffed with things to make it quiet; it is virtually silent despite being good enough for fairly recent games.

Adam
An alternative solution would be to continue transfering my vinyl to the Yamaha CD-1500HD and burning CDs for transfer to the computer. This would avoid having to buy an ADC.

Meninblack has suggested using the DAC from a CD player and as I am planning to significantly upgrade my CDP, this would also mean not having to buy a DAC. I don't know what the downside of this solution is. As far as I can tell, this would reduce my cost to a computer, tweaks to make it quiet and an external HDD for the required storage i.e. 400+GB.

I quite like the idea of the computer screen with iTunes in the full screen artwork mode so that the album cover is shown for the track currently playing. Is it possible to use a remote control for changing tracks on a computer?

I know this is probably opening a can of worms but can you explain exactly what jitter is and it's effect on sound quality?

 

JCL

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Hi Tice,

I have recorded nearly all my vinyl on to my Powerbook direct from the TT with a 2 RCA to mini jack and Final Vinyl software into ITunes. Then I use two Airport Expresses, one at my main system via a DAC and optical connection and the other directly in analog into a pair of little JBL actives in the bedroom.

Sounds more than good enough and I still have the TT for serious listening. Plus using the Mac on the coffee table (which IMO looks way better than any crappy lappy) to access everything, web, music, photos, etc.

 

meninblack

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Tice wrote:

meninblack wrote:
I use a cheap/slow/quiet laptop with a Behringer USB soundcard. Optical output from the Behringer feeds into the DAC on the CD player, and the actual music files are streamed wirelessly from the big PC upstairs.I get very, very good results, although the decompression/playback software is important: don't use Windows Media Player whatever you do!
I notice you have a Naim CD player. I wasn't aware that it was possible to use it's DAC with an external source as I thought there was no digital input. I assume that it plays through the CD input on your amp. Apart from having the CD player powered up, are any further adjustments necessary?

Re Compression : All music would be transferred uncompressed and the plan is to use iTunes.
LOL, the naim CD player is in the second system. The Behringer is feeding into the DAC section of a Victor XL-Z999EX. You are quite right, naim don't do digital input (or output
shock.gif.7732780fe7e208b945ce79ca96402fca.gif
) on their CDP's.

 

AmDismal

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Tice wrote:

An alternative solution would be to continue transfering my vinyl to the Yamaha CD-1500HD and burning CDs for transfer to the computer. This would avoid having to buy an ADC.Meninblack has suggested using the DAC from a CD player and as I am planning to significantly upgrade my CDP, this would also mean not having to buy a DAC. I don't know what the downside of this solution is. As far as I can tell, this would reduce my cost to a computer, tweaks to make it quiet and an external HDD for the required storage i.e. 400+GB.

I quite like the idea of the computer screen with iTunes in the full screen artwork mode so that the album cover is shown for the track currently playing. Is it possible to use a remote control for changing tracks on a computer?

I know this is probably opening a can of worms but can you explain exactly what jitter is and it's effect on sound quality?
Soundcards have ADCs, but I can't comment on quality vs your Yamaha. It would be simpler, but if your solution works...

You might want to consider a home theatre pc (search for HTPC; quietpc do some); these come with remotes. One final Squeezebox sell: you can use wifi browsers to control your music: I often use my PSP. If you get a Nokia 770 or 800 internet tablet, there is a dedicated skin for controlling the SB, which shows album art. Some PC control skins also show album art.

Simply, jitter is timing differences on digital signals. Your source will have one clock and your DAC another; any difference between these (and tolerances on crystal clocks is sufficient) causes jitter. DACs have various system for mitigating the problem, such as a clock sync output or buffering system. The efficacy of these is hotly debated. The effect on sound is also a matter for debate - I don't care, as I don't think it is possible to separate the sound of jitter from other factors.

Adam

 

jon

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meninblack wrote:

I use a cheap/slow/quiet laptop with a Behringer USB soundcard. Optical output from the Behringer feeds into the DAC on the CD player, and the actual music files are streamed wirelessly from the big PC upstairs.I get very, very good results, although the decompression/playback software is important: don't use Windows Media Player whatever you do!
I do much the same - freecycle PC to £30 behringer soundcard to DAC. Sounds v nice imo
biggrin.png


 

The Strat

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Tice - All the CD players you shortlist are excellent. Rega's always impress and obviously I'd recommend the Naim. The Primare I heard when a good friend also bought a CDX2 but the Primare was very good make no doubt. A point about the CD5X and CDX2. On first listening 5x appears to run x2 really close but I home demo'd both for a weekend and over longer listening periods the X2 comes into its own - richer and warmer.

 

Uncle Ants

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AmDismal wrote:

You can buy either a Slim Devices Transporter or an SB+ (from http://www.at-tunes.co.uk IIRC) for around a grand; a computer to act as a server will cost £3-600, say. (You might need to spend money making it quiet too. Avoid laptops as it's a pain to upgrade the HD.)My SB+ sounds better than my £1,500 CD player, if that helps you
The noisy PC problem may be best solved by simply putting the PC being used as a server in another room and wire an ethernet cable if it can be done (usually can be with a bit of thought) rather than trusting to a wifi connection.

A PC and something like a squeezeboxseems sensible to meas the squeezebox will be used for what its best at, as a non PC interface to your music and for the PC to do what its best at (for this job) .... ripping burning, (digitising vinyl if you are getting adventurous) and generally organising your stuff.

It depends how much you would like having a computer as the interface to the music rather than the managing your files (see some things never change). I wouldn't like it but others may not mind at all.

My only worry personallyabout the more pricy audiophile devices over astandard squeezebox and half decent dac is if something's going to go obsolete its this. You can still record the vinyl at higher bitrates if you want to anyway and you can't beat a PC/Mac for recording vinyl. Quality is excellent with a good external interface (some of which are half decent DACs themselves) and so flexible. I used to record vinylto minidisc and the file naming/management was a nightmare. When you really need to deal with higher bitrates the price of devices which will do it might have come down

Finally .... remember you need backups
wink.png


 

johan1970

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Tice wrote:

Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately, the Hifidelio doesn't seem to have the facility to record analogue to the HD which means adding an ADC if I understand correctly. Additionally, it has no edit facilities to add track markers etc.
Hi Tice, the Hifidelio has certainly a facility for analogue recording, it has analogue inputs and you can add track markers, cut and paste tracks, choose for automatic or manual recording levels and of course add meta information to the recorded files.

You can download the manual with the following link:

http://www.hermstedt.com/downlds/manuals/Hifidelio_manual_En.zip

 

Tice

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Thanks to everyone for the replies.

Nick - The Sony looks interesting but the HD is not large enough for my needs. Do you know if it's possible to upgrade the HDD? It doesn't appear to be able to write CDs but I could be wrong.

Adam - My concern with the SB is the it's an extra cost for a facility (wireless streaming) that I don't need although I could be missing something.

Re Jitter : Are you saying that it's effect on sound quality is overated and dare I say imagined by some enthusiasts?

The Strat - A friend has just taken delivery of the Rega and he's saying it's the nearest thing to analogue he's heard from a CDP, certainly at the price. I obviously like the Naim sound (insults on my ability to hear are invited)but the Rega would avoid having to buy a separate DAC. I'm going to audition them against each other in the next few weeks. How did the Primare match-up to the other CDPs?

Uncle Ants - If the problem of fan noise from a PC can solved, wouldn't the sound quality from the PC via a sound card/DAC be better than than PC to SB to DAC to amp? Am I overlooking something or making a bad assumption?

I share your view about pricy devices becoming obsolete especially with new and improved servers being released almost on a weekly basis. The advantage of a PC/Sound Card/DAC solution is that the individual components can be upgraded over time.

I intend to save all music in an uncompressed form. The plan is to buy an Ace Spacedeck later in the year (funds allowing). Would you know if there would be any difference in sound quality between recording vinyl to the Yamaha CD-1500HD and producing a CD to load onto the PC against recording direct to the PC? The first method would solve the problem of backups. What are the sort of external interfaces you are referring to for recording vinyl?

 

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