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Sonic differences between NAS drives: Can audiophile claims prevail in the computer age?


darrenwm
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Computer Audiophiles,

 

This weekend a senior employee of a British audio company told me that he could hear differences between NAS drives.

 

I'm sure this claim would be laughed at by IT professionals and engineers, but those in the subjective camp of audiophilia may give credence to it.

 

With audio systems moving closer towards computer systems, will claims like these simply die out, or will the companies just become even more marginalised?

 

Regards,

 

Darren

 

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Hi Darren,

 

When the NAS is Ethernet connected (which it would when it is to the letter) nah ...

 

But when it is SATAII connected, yes.

I derive this from my own (and others') experience of SSD which -when used or not- brings a huge difference. And don't laugh, even when all is played completely from memory. The SSD just has an influence the spinning disk doesn't have. Or the other way around. No scientific reason that I know of.

 

Peter

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

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The NAS drive is going to contribute a stream of 1 and 0s so it seems highly unlikely it will have an impact on the sonic qualities of the song you are playing... the sound engineer on the other hand at the recording studio will have had a huge impact.

 

You could try smearing jam on the cables that seems to work for me.

 

Yours, sticky tog

 

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Depends on the playback device. If the playback device is networked or asynchronous to the computer clock, then it should have absolutely no effect.

 

However, if you are using a PCI sound card and S/PDIF output or USB, then this can have an effect on jitter. Virtually anything you are doing on the computer can have an effect on jitter with these types of devices. The audio stacks are in play and these are just one of many tasks running in parallel. Software generation of the audio "clock" is the issue.

 

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

 

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With a device like the squeezebox which can be wired, does that mean there is no jitter in that device? Or is it introduced at the output? I've seen modded squeezeboxes and everything, but if there aren't problems sending info over LAN, where would the need for a mod come from?

 

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"With a device like the squeezebox which can be wired, does that mean there is no jitter in that device? Or is it introduced at the output? "

 

There is no jitter in the networked data transfer. The jitter is all introduced at the Squeezebox itself.

 

"I've seen modded squeezeboxes and everything, but if there aren't problems sending info over LAN, where would the need for a mod come from?"

 

No problems with LAN. The jitter in the squeezebox itself is the problem. Mods can certainly help, particularly upgrading the internal clock. The best solution is to use a reclocker like the Pace-Car 2 between the SB3 and the DAC. No level of mods can match what you can do externally:

http://news.ecoustics.com/bbs/messages/10381/534280.html

 

Jitter is the inaccuracies in the timing of the digital data stream as it is sent from the source device to the D/A. It is like the ticks of a clock, but not happening on exact 1 second intervals.

 

Steve N.

 

Empirical Audio

 

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Hi Darren - Sonic difference between NAS drives is something I have not tested so I won't comment on that one. However, a software/hardware beta test site I work with frequently in Northern California recently conducted several A/B tests playing music off an internal SSD (SLC version) and a NAS. The results were unanimous, the listeners favored the SSD 100% of the time.

 

This is certainly not an ironclad longitudinal study, but it is information to consider as high-end audio continues to converge with the world of information technology.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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As far as I'm concerned the SSD "does" something to the PC as a whole that severely emphasizes whatever is going on inherently in there.

 

I have been rather explicitly testing this a few months back and at some stage I came to the conclusion the SSD was no good. Later it appeared something in the (player) software which wasn't that good as could be (which was confirmed by others), and this just got so recognizeable emphasized.

 

I was completely objective, and didn't buy the relatively expensive SSD to play around a bit. Still I threw it out after a while.

When the software again was as should be, and the SSD was in again, I never heard anything as good from a PC.

 

Peter

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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""With audio systems moving closer towards computer systems, will claims like these simply die out.."

 

No. But eventually the old audiophiles will.

 

Tim"

 

Just when I thought it's time to pack it from this site because the same old audiophile anxieties and arguments get transfered here, there are a few voices of sanity and posts like Tim's thart make it all worth it. Please keep the humor in high resolution.

 

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This is just another example of the dinosaur hifi industry trying to spread their jaded and in most cases baseless 'voodoo' into the computer hardware arena in a hope to start being able to charge $500 hifi tax on rebadged PC gear, that if bought from a computer store would cost you $50.

 

Its these kind of topics that make me not vist this site as much as I did originally.

 

The fact that 'hifi voodoo' wasnt generally accepted here was very refreshing but I've seen it start to creep more and more into topics recently.

 

Ho hum.

 

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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daglesj - HiFi Voodoo is a very negative term that's applied to many things people either don't understand or don't believe is possible. Have you researched this particular topic extensively in order to put yourself outside the group of people pre-judging something they don't really understand? I'm seriously interested to know why you've commented so strongly against products that MAY improve your listening experience. The beta test site I referred to has absolutely no vested interest in either technology and came to the conclusion after several A/B tests.

 

There are dramatic differences between technologies like NAS and SSD. In a weird twist, Audiophiles who demand technical reasons and measurements in order to believe there are differences between two products are discounting the differences between two technologies like SSD and NAS. And, Audiophiles who favor the more subjective approach are very willing to accept the scientific facts that these technologies are different and MAY have an effect on sound quality.

 

I'm not trying to kick up a big debate here or suggest your are wrong. Rather just trying to understand where you are coming from. Maybe if you can let me know why you purchased the Meridian 507 CD player when there are many other CD players with the same technology as a drastically reduced price.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris

 

Do you think MLC might have come out ahead sonically as well (assuming this wasn't tested also) or would it be too far behind SLC? Big price difference of course and looking at the CASH list just now 64GB is not a lot of space...

 

Olive.

 

hFX Classic fanless i7 SSD > Locus Nucleus / SW Diverter HR > RWA Isabella LFP-V Pro / New Sensor Genalex Gold Lion E88CC > ALO Sennheiser HD 800 balanced[br]

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Hi Olive - I can't answer that one with any certainty because I've yet to try an MLC drive. I just like the technology in the SLC drives so much better. Thankfully the disk space will increase and the price will come down the longer one waits to purchase an SSD. The computer world is great for doubling performance and halving the price!

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Well I dont really feel I have to explain my feelings in too much detail. I just despair when I see hifi folks starting to apply their old ways on PC kit that just doesnt require such characterisation.

 

I'm just waiting for the day when these folks start saying "Oh Western Digital HDDs sound far better than Samsung or Corsair ram has better treble than Geil!"

 

Its just...delusional. I was hoping we could break away from all that baggage and take a fresh approach.

 

Its just a way for the old hifi dinosaurs to bump up the prices on OEM kit that doesnt warrant such inflation.

 

But at the end of my day its just my opinion, and like anyone elses, counts for very little.

 

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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I'm just waiting for the day when these folks start saying "Oh Western Digital HDDs sound far better than Samsung or Corsair ram has better treble than Geil!"

 

Oh, but you don't need to wait for that. This is already going on for a year or so.

Not that I would participate in it, but it is just happening.

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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I'm sure the discussion on the merits of various hard drive types was not the intention of the original post, but I disagree with the view that it is an unwanted discussion.

 

One of the reasons given for the high cost of, shall we say, the more 'esoteric' HiFi components is the cost of R&D. When it comes to the computer as source, however, the R&D is wholly in our hands to make of it what we will. The cost of my netbook was in no way governed by the audiophile purpose to which I put it. Nor was the cost of my external hard drives.

 

This will not be an area of our hobby that interests everybody, but groups of like-minded people trying stuff out - just to see if there is a difference - can only be of benefit to us all. The information, positive and negative, will be available to all at absolutely no cost, leaving the snake-oil salesmen and the profiteers gnashing their teeth and the rest of us with a smug smile.

 

Some parts of our hobby are shrouded in mystery and misinformation and this does nothing except provide opportunities for 'creative' businesses. The more we understand the less gullible we are, IMHO. What goes on outside our computers is, largely, outside of the understanding of most of us here. We can only buy the stuff we like the sound of. What goes on inside our computers we can all, if we so choose, contribute to improving.

 

If the general feeling is that SLC SSD drives are a worthy improvement, then I'll certainly give one a go. If a company sets itself up selling 'optimised' SLC SSD drives aimed specifically at audiophile computers then we have, in this forum, an ideal platform - complimented by a broad range of 'philosophies' - to discuss the product!

 

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The one last point I would make is that with more computer gear being used for audio purposes and the baggage that that attracts, you have to be careful.

 

Otherwise folks will be buying say a rebadged NAS unit from a 'specialist hifi' firm for $1000 while I'll be buying the same unit with 'Linksys' written on it for $150.

 

But if folks are happy doing that then fine.

 

It was bad enough before this caught on. The hifi firms wont be making or R&D'ing 99% of this gear so I just dont want to see them charging huge markup for doing even less then they did before.

 

I want to see good kit selling for a lower price raher than good kit just get more expensive for no real justification other then greed.

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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Hi daglesj - If HiFi companies rebadge a Linksys NAS unit, charge 100% more for the unit, and people purchase this NAS device, how does this effect you? The Linksys units are still available at the cheaper price. People who feel more comfortable purchasing a marked up NAS with a HiFi brand name stamped on it should be free to do just that. I certainly wouldn't unless there was a clear difference. One thing that may justify a higher price is a level of service the user can count on to configure the unit and support the unit. I'm not suggesting that this is available from many manufacturers or dealers right now, but I do know many people who would pay to have this taken care of.

 

I sense a lot of disdain for traditional HiFi manufacturers in your comments. There is nothing wrong with this at all and I think many CA readers feel the exact same way! I certainly feel that way about some things. But, I don't think this should get in the way of researching the benefits of a technology that's new to HiFi.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Of course you have an angle on this as you wish to promote the expensive as well as the resonably priced. Plus these kind of topics and 'voodoo' discussion causes plenty of traffic for your website so click rates etc. go up.

 

All well and good. I'd do similar in your shoes.

 

I just dont agree with supporting firms that just blatantly rebadge equipment and then charge way over the odds for it and the rather tired trend of trying to apply old school hifi rules to kit that really doesnt warrant it.

 

I guess I just want to out the fakes and frauds in the industry thats all. If that wrong then I dont know what to say.

 

Meridian 551 amp / Meridian 507 CD / Zune Mk1

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Hi daglesj - I do wish to promote discussion about all products from cheap to expensive. I certainly don't want to promote any snake oil or even review a product that dupes the CA readers.

 

One interesting part of this is most CA readers dislike the traditional topics that turn into flame throwing discussions. I receive countless emails whenever such a discussion come up from people telling me they'll never visit the site again etc... So, I really don't benefit at all from heated topics.

 

 

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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