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This is your chance to take a Newbie to school and spend his money! (sort of….)


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OK, I think I’m just about ready to take the leap, and I’d like your help. I’ve been reading all I can get my hands on, and have learned a great deal in a short time from the many knowledgeable participants on this terrific site. Right off, you already have my gratitude and appreciation for that. Thanks.

 

Here’s the deal; I’d like to put together a nice system, and plan a bit for future developments and expansion. I’d like to store my music file library on an External HD in a Raid 5 configuration, and access those files through a directly linked laptop out to the speakers in my pretty large (10'H x 13'W x 26'L) living room, as well as fiddle about occasionally with a little vinyl. It would be fabulous if I could also wirelessly access that library independently from my PC upstairs in my office (sometimes play different files at the same time the digital music is on in the living room).

 

This is what I’m thinking so far:

 

System 1 (downstairs)

• Thecus N5200B Pro w/3 1TB drives in Raid 5 to start

• Airport Express

• Macbook server w/iTunes

• Rega P3 turntable with MM cartridge and dedicated Phono Pre-Amp

• AVI ADM9.1s (if I can somehow manage to hear them first someplace near Seattle. If I can’t, I could see going to another external DAC instead and running that through my 15+ year old Sony ES integrated amp and into existing Boston Acoustic Lynnfield VR Series floorstanders, at least until I could fund the next upgrade.)

 

System 2 (office)

• PC w/wireless card and iTunes

• Focal XS Multimedia Speakers

 

Extra flourishes

• iTouch for remote control of the digital end of things in the living room

• iPod for portable access to at least portions of my music at a time

 

 

If I was to go this route, I’ve got a few questions:

 

1. As the Thecus N5200B Pro has 2 Gigabit RJ-45 connector ports as well as the 3 USB A (host) and 1 USB B (client) ports, what would be the best way to connect that to the Macbook and Airport Express? I envision having the Thecus in the basement, pretty much directly below the laptop but away from the listening room. I would guess that the AE could either also be in the basement or up near the Mac. I read Chris’ review that said setting this unit up takes some pretty serious know-how, so I’d be planning on trying to recruit help from my local IT buddies. Think it’ll work?

 

2. Should I be able to access the library on the Thecus independently from the PC upstairs through the AE?

 

3. I would plan on linking the Macbook directly to the ADM9.1s via toslink optical, and the Rega P3 Pre-Amp direct via the Analog A/F inputs. I know I can control the digital music via iTunes, but should I also add something to control volume from the Rega P3? I understand the 9.1s come with a remote, but wonder if I shouldn’t optimally have something else, too. Of course, if I don’t opt for the 9.1s, this question becomes moot.

 

4. I’ve already got 500+ CDs (~130gb) ripped in WMA lossless on a 750gb Seagate internal hardrive on the PC, and would prefer to transfer those to the Thecus and into a format best suited for the new arrangement. Never having owned a Mac or an iPod before, I’m not natively an Apple guy (but in seriously considering setting this system up am obviously trying to keep an open mind), so would probably prefer a format like AIFF. Is that possible, or should I just bite it and start over? If it is possible, how?

 

5. One thing I haven't been able to understand in all these discussions is how you all know what sample rates you're running at when you're not using gorgeous gear like the Berkeley Alpha DAC, etc. Could somebody please explain what I'm missing?

 

6. And finally for the big question: As all of this would need to be purchased, except for the Rega P3 TT and the PC in the office, I’m asking for advice on what to do now. So, here’s your chance. If it was your money, and you had an opportunity to essentially start from scratch, what would you do?

 

Looking forward to your opinions, and greatly appreciate the help.

 

Thanks!

 

Martin

 

 

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Martin,

 

Congratulations in advance for making the decision to enter the world of computer sourced music. Once you have made the transition to an audiophile quality computer sourced system, the thought of going back to playing music the "old fashioned" way will make you shudder!

 

I will limit myself to addressing your questions about the AVI ADM9.1 since that is the product with which I have the greatest familiarity. I am one of the principals of Overture Imports, the US importer and distributor of AVI products and I use an ADM9/10" Subwoofer system at home. The system I am currently using is comprised of a Mac Mini (1.83Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4Gb of RAM) and a NewerTech 1Tb MiniStack V2.5 HD running into a pair of ADM9s and the ADM 10" Powered Subwoofer, as well as an LG 42LG30 LCD HDTV. The Mac Mini is often controlled by my iPhone using the Remote app or, more recently, the Rowmote app (if I want to toggle on the iTunes visualizer.) The system is often used with any one of a number of turntables in order to play my vinyl collection (depending upon what I can liberate for a few days at a time from my business partner's hifi shop!).

 

The ADM9.1 features a very high quality, multi input line level preamplifier. As you have noted, one of the inputs is a full range analogue input which can be used with your Rega P3 TT and dedicated phono preamplifier (if it is the Rega Fono I can tell you from considerable personal experience that this combination works very well indeed). The other two inputs are digital Toslink optical and they feed a high performance Wolfson DAC capable of handling up to 24/192 data streams (due to the Toslink standard, these inputs are currently limited to 24/96 max high res material). The preamp stage offers control of volume level, muting and input selection via infrared remote control using the Phillips RC5 remote codes.

 

In the past we have compared the performance of the ADM9 preamp section to separate component preamps and have found that it is competitive with models costing significantly more than a pair of ADM9.1s. If the system features only a single analogue source and no more than two digital sources you are all set with using the ADM9.1 built in preamp. If you require additional inputs for a wider variety of sources, we would recommend using a high quality passive switching network running into the inputs on the ADM9.1 master speaker.

 

While we do not currently have a dealer in the Seattle area for the ADM9.1s, we do offer a 14 day in home trial period when the speakers are purchased directly from Overture Imports. I am sure a number of Computer Audiophile community members who are ADM9.1 owners will be happy to provide you with their opinions and observations of the system's sound quality. And, of course, we highly recommend Chris's detailed review of the ADM9s and 9.1s on this very site as an excellent summary of what we hear from the system.

 

Please feel free to ask if you have any other questions, or if we can be of any further assistance. I will be happy to post any answers to the forum, or you can give us a ring or drop us an email if you have inquiries you would prefer to take "off line".

 

ATB,

Tom "TJ" Jankowski

--

Overture Imports, Inc.

(734) 995-1812 Voice

[email protected]

 

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Much the same as Ashley stated to me in some emails a week or so ago when I was trying to understand more about the 9.1s. I continue to be intrigued about those, and am certainly impressed with the positive reception they're getting, but this post was meant to be a bit more about the bigger picture. I have been listening to music ripped to my hardrive for a couple of years now, but am very new to this whole upgrade aspect of digital sound quality. I have worked with MS-based products professionally for years, but know very little about digital architecture and the concepts behind different OS, etc., next to nothing about Apple-based products, and my understanding of the way digitial bits and bobs affect audiophile quality sound is virtually non-existent. I was hoping to get some feedback as to whether or not I was going about this in a reasonable way, and at the same time get some specific questions answered. Once I have more of a comfort level with that, I'll be interested in exploring more details about specific products. I tend to be a bit conservative when it comes to considering spending my money on technology I don't understand.

 

Thanks again for your note.

 

Martin

 

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Martin,

 

You are very welcome, my apologies for not being able to answer your more specific questions regarding the best upgrade path in the MS world. It seems that you and I probably have complementary experiences but in the Microsoft and Mac worlds, respectively.

 

I am sure that the members of the Computer Audiophile community who are exceptionally well educated in this area will get back to you soon with their experiences, observations and recommendations. I'll keep an eye on the thread and add whatever information I can as the discussion develops.

 

Best regards,

Tom "TJ" Jankowski

--

Overture Imports, Inc.

www.overtureimports.com

(734) 995-1812 Voice

[email protected]

 

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System 1 (downstairs)

• Thecus N5200B Pro w/3 1TB drives in Raid 5 to start - sounds good, I use a Drobo

• Airport Express - I use an airport express extreme base - better

• Macbook server w/iTunes - I use also

• Rega P3 turntable with MM cartridge and dedicated Phono Pre-Amp - Project RM5 MC and Technics, Rega is popular

• AVI ADM9.1s - I read good things, I use separates here as I change things out periodically

 

System 2 - should work

 

Extras - The touch seems useless to me I dare say - too limited. I'd scrap the Touch and iPod and just get an iPhone. Does both and more.

 

1. As the Thecus N5200B Pro h ... Storage connected to express in backroom. Macbook wireless from storage.

 

2. Should I be able to access ... yes. But, maybe not at the same time. When installing iTunes I said no to organize and set the default library location on both my Macs to the folder on the Drobo in the back room. They both seem to play independently now. Before, I did the option start and selected the library. One would lock the other out. For my experience you can get it all working, then Apple does an update and you might have to tweak things to get them right again.

 

3. I would plan on ... I know I can control the digital music via iTunes, - this might not be the best way to control volume. Some debate on degrading quality when you turn iTunes down - that might be fixed now. I keep mine full on and forget about the debates.

 

4. I’ve already got 500+ ... if you can suck it into iTunes and it plays and sounds good you might be good to go. You might lose the info and art. If that happens, myself I would rerip AIFF. Apple likes AIFF, so do I.

 

5. One thing I have ... if you are ripping a copy, like AIFF, of the original CD and playing it back with a typical DAC which these days certainly handles CD bit rates you probably aren't missing much in terms of not having the display. I think it's more useful when you get into hi resolution and know it is such and such bitrate and want to confirm that is being fed to the DAC or AMP. Nothing money can't solve assuming the ADM DAC can be bypassed if one wanted to.

 

6. Are you ever going to want a tuner? Do you want a higher end DAC down the road? Otherwise I think your headed in a good direction. Niles makes a simple switchbox that is pretty handy if you need that type of gizmo. Your alternative is other speakers, a receiver and DAC of some sort I suppose.

 

Keep us posted on what you chose - happy hunting.

 

 

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I can certainly vouch for the ADM9.1's. They're more like a pair of monitors in that they present the music to you "as it is" - so they highlight poor recordings. But I love em!

 

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Great info, and most helpful.

 

Since my original posting, I’ve also come to the conclusion that I need the Airport Extreme, and not the Express. I also now realize that my original reference to both the iTouch and iPod is redundent overkill. I do travel internationally a good bit for work, and so already have both a company international cell and a Blackberry Storm. I don’t trim down to just the BB because it’s a good bit bulkier than my cell, and I don’t want to be THAT tied to work, email, etc., so the iPhone is much more than I really need, too. I’ll probably just go with a 32gb iTouch, and plan to use that to try to remote the Macbook front end and take some music with me on my travels. Good point, though, thanks.

 

Re: your comment #2, I was hoping that by direct coupling the Macbook to the Thecus to only play music files on the main floor system, and then connecting the AE directly to the Thecus through a separate port and only using that to transmit wireless to my upstairs PC, that I wouldn’t have that cut-out issue if I tried to play different files off of the same library simultaneously. I’m hoping that somebody else has already been down this road and figured out what would be needed to make this work. As I haven’t bought any of this stuff yet, I still have the opportunity to get the right gear that could make this possible, I would hope. I need to do some more research and probably get more help on this one.

 

For #3, of course I will control volume via iTunes when playing music through the Macbook, but this was really just a question about the best way to control volume when playing vinyl that was plugged directly into the active ADM9.1s with their own DAC if I was to go that route. Sorry if my original point wasn’t that clear.

 

Yes, I understand your point on #4, and agree. I’ll just have to see how that goes when I get there.

 

On #5, I’d like to get more into hi-res in the future, but know next to nothing about this part of things at this point. I’m probably making it out to be too big of an issue as I read all of these other posts from expert users and wonder how much I am missing…..!

 

Great question on #6 – I’ve though about the tuner option often, and have an old tuner I use now, but mostly for just the occasional local ball game, I guess (I haven’t owned a TV for more than a decade). I do listen to music streamed off the web a good deal, mostly classical and jazz from Europe. I would like to keep this up, if possible, but have no idea how to think about this in conjunction with the whole separate Macbook/AE scenario I tried to explain in my response to #2 above. I would hope that I could sometimes use the AE to stream web data to the Macbook when I wasn’t also using the AE to send music upstairs to the PC in the office, but this gets way too complicated for me sometimes, and just makes my head hurt. The technology is way smarter than I am, I’m telling you!

 

Anyway, Innertuber, thanks again for taking the time to respond with such clear and helpful information. Most appreciated!

 

Martin

 

 

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I have to say i am intrigued by them, there are sure getting great press!

 

I have a question about the 9.1s in my application, and was wondering if you may have an opinion:

 

If I was to go this way, the 9.1s would go in my living room, which is quite large (13'w x 10'H x 26'L), hard (wood floors with some area carpeting, post and beam construction with plaster and lath walls, etc.), and to top it off, not placed optimally. A person sometimes needs to make necessary compromises, and my financé is going to be hard-pressed to allow me to place the speakers anywhere other than on top of bookcases on one end of the room (about 4' off the floor), and pretty much against the wall. Not the best, I know. Given that my options are limited in that regard (other than sleeping in the garage with the 9.1s, where I'm sure they'd sound great!), do you have any sense as to how badly I'd be compromising them in that scenario?

 

Very much appreciate any advice you could offer.

 

Thanks!

 

Martin

 

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Martin,

I will also chime in and recommend the 9.1s. I have had them since October after upgrading from the 9s and they continue to amaze me everyday. As far as placing them in your room I use mine in my basement which is 36' by 36' and they work fine. As far as placing them on a shelf I think they will work fine. Obviously being able to find an ideal place in the room is ideal as you said compromises need to be made. If you would like more opinions there is also a Facebook group of ADM9 users. As far as what you are thinking overall I think you are on the right track. My advice would be not to over think the computer based audio solution because in my experience even a simple solution gives great results.

 

 

 

ADM9.1s ,2.0 Ghz Mac Mini, Panasonic BD-35 blu-ray player.

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Have only enjoyed the 9.1s for a couple of weeks,

so these are preliminary impressions ...

 

Bought them for a second system, for home office.

Still trying to come to terms with what seems to me

to be the reality that they trounce my USD $4800 msrp monitors -- only.

Let alone all the electronics behind them.

Not sure if I'm happy, or sad. ;-)

 

FWIW, my take on the 9.1s:

Crystal clear, full of detail, beautifully controlled but ample bass,

and very much without what I have often found troubling ( and this might

just be one of my unique and personal 'issues' ):

mid-bass boom and bloom, particularly with two-way monitors --

the kind of bloom that messes up the clarity of the mid-range.

 

The 9.1s seem to me to be not in any way overwrought,

anywhere throughout the spectrum -- they sound balanced,

honest, and clean. Yep, I like 'em, lots.

 

 

 

 

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I think the MacBook is dirt simple for what you want. Personally I use Windows for business and Mac for music. Some folks like the mini, but having a screen makes life much simpler IMHO. Not to mention you have a laptop should you need it for some reason.

 

If I was to question anything - it would be the raid device, and only cause I'm ignorant about those. You might try a new post saying Alternatives to xxxxxx and see if some of the smarter folks suggest that device or another. I use Drobo cause it's real simple, but it is quirky and there are likely better solutions.

 

Do some research on controlling volume with iTunes, might not be the way to go.

 

Get your settings right before you start ripping - thank Gordon for this -> http://www.usbdacs.com/Macintosh/Macintosh.html. Looks like Chris is Tweeting that he did some videos on this too.

 

Touch should work for you. Personally I would get it all running and just use the little white remote at first to see what the future holds for the Touch. There might be an app for your Hackberry, dunno.

 

It is stupid simple to control iTunes with iPhone or I would guess iTouch. Just say go find it and enter the security code and away you go. I use my wife's iPhone and am hooked. If I want to change music I grab that before I goto the Macbook. Very easy and nice. I guess I just see the Touch as a bit of a odd device. But, if it would make a great remote with some music.

 

Regarding the streaming -

The way I've got my computerfication today is the harddrives (Drobo) and airport extreme are in a back room. I can get two different AIFF files going on different computers with no dropout (at least I've not noticed it). It would be nice to have the hardrives wired direct USB to one computer if for no other reason than ripping and writing would be faster. Sometimes if I rip a lot I drag the Drobo and go direct. The downside of direct connect to me is twofold a) you have another thing sitting there b) the thing makes noise. If you have a way around those or a solution then direct connect to one is cool. Plus you will have a router there - just more stuff, not bad. Seems the ideal to me would be to have a place behind the wall - a closet or another room and sit all that stuff there. I guess it boils down to noise and appearance for me.

 

Regarding the tuner

I stream off the internet too and it's okay, but usually the free feed quality is sub-standard to CD quality. Of course radio signals aren't the best either.

 

Regarding the speakers

That a personal thing.

 

 

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The ripping settings info is particularly good, and I do thank Gordon for that. This is all so new to me I'm sure I'll be very lost once I get into it.

 

I'm trying to go about building the new system in as sensible way as I can. My current plan is to buy the Macbook server first. A re-furb should work I should think, but I am a bit confused about the various build specs for those and the output ports on them and what exactly I should need. If I do go the ADM9.1 route, and there sure are some vocal supporters for those here (much thanks, all!), I'll need optical for that, but I don't always seem to see optical outs on the machines I see. All of the various names and acronyms for these guys is quite a load for a neophyte, and I seem to need to wiki about every third reference or so. Still not sure I understand enough to get it right!

 

Anyway, after getting the Macbook, I think the next step is to try and transfer my ~130gb worth of files over from the PC. These are currently in wma lossless, and I think I should also try to convert them to AIFF at this point, but don't know how to go about doing that yet, either. I've googled it several times, but haven't yet seen anything that makes sense to me at this point. I'll keep trying.

 

If I manage to get that far, I could either spring for the 9.1s or pick up a relatively inexpensive DAC to run between the Macbook and my old integrated Sony ES receiver and then out to the Boston Acoustic floorstanders. Once I start getting better sound than I currently get straight from my PC, I'll want to add the Airport Extreme and the Thecus external HD.

 

One note about the location of the external HD and your excellent comment; I'm planning on having the Macbook, AE and turntable located in a converted closet just off my living room (and eventually trying to run the server remotely from an iTouch). I plan on putting the Thecus pretty much directly below in the basement where the noise it makes shouldn't be an issue. Might annoy the bejeebus out of my fiancé occasionally, but shouldn't degrade the SQ of the music. Hopefully, I'll be able to get away with that!

 

Anyway, the further I get into the details of this more it seems a bit daunting, but I'm determined to get there, one way or the other.

 

Thanks again, Innertuber, for your help and opinions. Most appreciated.

 

Martin

 

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The Mac notebooks combine the analog audio output with the optical output. Same jack, different cable.

 

Moving your WMA Lossless files to the Mac may be more of a problem. I faced this a couple of years ago. 300GB of WMA Lossless files on an unreliable PC, so I wanted to move the whole library to the Mac.

 

Itunes on the PC will read WMA lossless. Itunes on a Mac won't. On the PC you can, in theory, have Itunes convert to Apple Lossless. I tried this. The results were interesting. When I played one of the songs back on the Mac, after moving it there, it played normally for about 4 seconds and then there was a click, and the music slowed by about 15% or so. Noticeable. So did the other test conversions.

 

I did a search for other conversion tools, such as dBpoweramp, but didn't have the confidence to buy them. I ended up re-ripping the whole collection.

 

Yes, that was a pain, but it paid dividends. The database Windows Media Player contacts for CD info isn't very good, especially on classical CDs. The one used by Itunes is much better.

 

As for speakers... if I were in the market for some, I'd probably end up buying the ADM9l.1 system, sound unheard. I like the no-hassle approach. Currently, though, for any serious listening I use headphones because my neighborhood has high ambient noise and I like hearing details.

 

For the curious, my system is:

offboard 500GB hard disk, to Mac Powerbook G4, to Benchmark DAC1 USB, to Denon AH-D7000 headphones.

 

I have bought a Newer Technology RAID-1 unit (two 1TB drives to which data are written simultaneously in a mirror arrangement) for automatic backup, but haven't installed it yet. I'm not looking forward to the process of copying 440GB of music and tying up the computer for a day.

 

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Your pointing out of the combined digital/analog outs on the Macbooks alone is worth the price of admission, thank you.

 

I know what you mean about the lousy windows support for classical tag data, too. I would say that easily 1/3 of my collection is in classical music (classical era string quartets, quintets, and cello and violin concertos, mostly), and I've had to enter in most of that data myself. One of the big reasons I'm hoping to be able to convet/transfer as opposed to re-ripping. A big chunk of the remainder is 50s-early 60s small group jazz, and that info is more readily attainable. But still...

 

I continue to read and research, and I think I'm making progress, but I haven't actually done anything real yet, so I go back and forth between having the confidence that comes with not knowing what you're really facing and the fear that I do sort of know what I'm up against. That probably doesn't make sense, which one could say only proves my point. :~)

 

The thing that currently has me concerned is all the midi-settings for iTunes prior to file transfer/convert (oh, I hope, I hope!) and setting up the Raid 5 library. I have probably read too much detail written by very advanced users, and the knowledge that I really have no idea what they're talking about most of the time is pretty daunting. I know I'll make mistakes, and I'm cool with that, but the feeling that the right thing is probably so close and yet hopelessly out of reach is maddening!

 

Anyway, I'm going to continue to pursue trying to figure out a way to convert my wma lossless files into something more appropriate for both a Mac-based system as well as the long-term. I figure I'll be taking the leap and buying the Macbook, AE and either the External HD or the 9.1s within the next week or so. Its getting close to the time to either fish or cut bait.

 

Thanks again for your help.

 

Martin

 

 

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