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How to improve an already good system?


Christopher
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Thanks to CA, I am evolving from a pure stereo enthusiast to a Mac-based computer audiophile (growth in progress). The content and contributions here are greatly valued and have helped me assemble a system that sounds good (components listed below).

 

There have been many articles and posts on topics that include recommended equipment, 24-bit/96kHz downloading, and Audio Midi Setup settings in the context of using iTunes with a Mac. I have done my best to do homework in advance of this post, but I still have questions and a lot to learn. I’m hoping this post will help me, and other readers, make the leap from good to great. Here are the pieces I have so far…I’m hoping that you can help me decide what are the next steps for improvement.

 

Main system:

iMac 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 640GB HD

Time Capsule - 500 GB (wireless network and back-up for iMac)

External 2T Glyph 062 RAID 1 drive (split 1T mirror – FireWire 800 - only music storage)

Benchmark DAC1 PRE (USB from iMac to DAC)

Rotel RB 1080 200watt Amp (balanced inputs from DAC)

B&W CM-7 speakers

Two powered subs

CD transport (optical to DAC)

External CD writer/reader (USB to iMac)

Furman power conditioner

Adcom AC enhancer

AudioQuest interconnects and speaker cable

Samsung 46” monitor as display for iMac

 

Patio:

Apple TV 160GB

Rotel RX 1052 receiver

4 Paradigm Stylus 470 outdoor speakers

Samsung 20” monitor

 

Bedroom:

Apple TV 160GB

Marantz THX receiver

NHT center, main and surround speakers

Powered Paradigm sub

Samsung 46” monitor

 

The cost for the system (arguably three systems) has been meaningful, yet budget conscious. My objective is to (a) render the best possible sound from the system as it exits, and (b) learn if there are sensible upgrades, equipment, or new approaches to consider.

 

Here are some specific issues I can use help with:

 

Music Storage

I have exhausted 640GB iMac memory. As a temporary solution, I recently purchased an external 2T Glyph 062 RAID drive. Since I’m using this in RAID 1 mode, the HD is split…music is on 1T and there is an automatic back-up. With the FireWire 800 connection, speed is good, but not great (the drive goes into automatic sleep mode and iTunes will stall at times when engaging new tracks). When the fan is not running, noise levels are good, but I can hear the fan when some tracks are playing at low levels. With 650GB of music already (and quickly expanding), I may exhaust the remaining space in 6 months. Should I have gone with Drobo, or is there another faster and quieter solution that also expandable? Since I live in NYC with limited space, a remote server is not an option.

 

ATV Storage and iPhone Remote

I use an iPhone as a remote for the main system and two Apple TV (ATV) components for the patio and master bedroom. Since the 160HD ATV HD cannot sync the entire music library, I have elected to stream content. I find streaming to be unstable at best. Also, iPhone while running the Remote app does not see the entire music library when streaming (only when synched). Is there a way for iPhone to see the entire Library while streaming and not just what’s currently playing? Another option is to add an external HD for each ATV via USB. I have seen a number of sites claiming to have a “hack” for this application – are there any recommended solutions?

 

DAC and Source Material

I went with the Benchmark DAC1 PRE because it accepts USB input and it’s capable of converting 24-bit/96kHz and above source material (along with being a solid pre-amp). No matter what I do, it seems I cannot import material higher than 48kHz into iTunes.

 

After reading CA article, In What Format Should I Rip My Music? (dated 2/4/09), I have experimented with AIFF, Apple Lossless and AAC formats. The highest import sample rate available in AIFF is 48kHz. The highest sample rates in Apple Lossless and is AAC is 44.1 kHz. After a number of tests, the highest sample rate I can achieve in iTunes is 48kHz (bit rate is 1411 kbps and the file size is a whopping 77.9 MB - this is audio and non-video content). Since the Benchmark is able to convert sample rates up to 24-bit/96kHz and above, I’d like to build a library of 96kHz material.

 

After reading CA article, Step by Step Video WAV to AIFF With MAX (dated 1/28/09) and Max and FLAC 24bit/96khz to ALAC 24bit/96khz Conversion - Fixed!

(dated 2/14/09), I have the sense that I must use software (such as MAX) to convert music to 24-bit/96kHz (and greater) AIFF format. Is it possible to download 24bit/96khz files directly into iTunes without a conversion process? If so, what settings should I use? Is there a clean and simple approach?

 

Inputs and Sound Quality

Numerous sources feed the Benchmark DAC. The analogue input is the headphone output from iMac (partially so I can compare the direct USB connection vs headphone analogue input; and sometimes it’s nice to use the volume control on Apple’s slim wireless keyboard for non-critical listening). The USB input is iMac and iTunes. The Optical input is a CD transport.

 

The sound quality from a CD playing via the transport with an optical connection to the DAC is far superior to the same CD ripped into iTunes with Apple Lossless. It’s a remarkable difference. Since the CD quality is 44.1kHz regardless of whether it is in iTunes or playing via the transport, the source quality should be (theoretically) the same. This leads me to believe that I can improve the settings in iTunes, or improve the connection between iMac and DAC. The only upgrade I see possible is a Kimber USB cable. Any other ideas for improvements?

 

Closing thoughts…

I’m sorry for the long post. I respect your time and certainly do not want my questions to be a burden. Any help will be very much appreciated. Thank you.

 

 

Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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Improving streaming to ATV ... Can you run a network cable from your Time Capsual to each ATV and do the main Mac running iTunes. This should eliminate problems with streaming. Yes wireless is theoretically capable of streaming audio but environental factors often make it less than idea especially when using uncompressed files.

 

Improving quality out of Mac into Benchmark ... Have you tried using optical from the Mac - in some cases this can be better quality than using USB.

 

Storage space ... Options are to split iTunes over multiple disks (just don't click consolidate); larger firewire drive though be careful using RAID0 (striped); use a drobo either attached locally or to your Time Capsual or get an alternative NAS such as QNAP. Once you get biger than 1TB you start getting expensive in my experience.

 

Hope this helps

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Hi Christopher - Wow, three posts in over one year as a Computer Audiophile member! That explains the length of this one! Maybe you need to speak more often. Only kidding of course. Thanks for all the detail you've provided above.

 

 

 

 

 

Music Storage

You are the perfect candidate for a NAS unit. If you want ease of use the Drobo is your best choice. It will grow with your collection very easily. Plus, you can connect it locally to start with and if it's to noisy you can purchase the droboshare and connect it to your network. If you are a little more computer savvy I recommend a NAS from Thecus, QNAP or Netgear. These units are cheaper and more flexible. If the NAS is noisy I recommend putting it in another room out of the way. As long as you have a network connection you can access the NAS disk. You can even connect the NAS via wireless by connecting it to an Airport Express through an Ethernet cable. I know that isn't "real" wireless but it works the same nonetheless.

 

ATV Storage and iPhone Remote

The best way to accomplish this one is to push the music to your AppleTV units from your main music server. Select the AppleTV as the output speakers. You can do this from the iPhone even. Then select from your complete library. Make sure your're using a 5 GHz only 802.11n network. Don't mix 802.11g or even 802.11n 2.4GHz devices. A pure 5 GHz network works great. I've looked into a lot of AppleTV expansion options but I don't like any of them. They always mess with the built-in operating system and can disable future updates and make the unit a little awkward. One reason people by AppleTVs is because Apple makes it so easy. Messing with the OS can degrade the experience a little bit.

 

DAC and Source Material

There is a big different between importing into iTunes from CD and from a downloaded file or DVD-R Data disc. CD will import at 16/44.1 and will use the iTunes import settings. Importing a downloaded high resolution file (24/96) will bypass the iTunes import settings and you'll have full 24/96 files. The word import must be used carefully and in the right context. Actually I believe Apple mentions import only for CDs and Adding to library for all other "imports." You can add the files directly from a downloaded website like HDtracks into iTunes. If the files are FLAC then you'll have to use MAX to convert them because iTunes doesn't support FLAC compression.

 

 

Inputs and Sound Quality

I think you're doing something wrong here. Rip to AIFF or Apple Lossless and connect to your DAC via USB. The DAC1 Pre has a really good USB implementation. Set Audio Midi to 44.1 kHz. Playing back these files should sound better than your spinning CD drive in your iMac and it should sound better than some very expensive high end transports. If not, something is wrong. You don't need any more equipment at this point to get great sound. more equipment in the right areas can improve the sound, but I don't think you'll get what you are looking or right now from a different USB cable.

 

 

Let me know if I've only clouded up your vision and feel free to keep asking questions or continue the dialog until you have everything resolved.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Let's talk about your storage a little bit. I found your RAID box here. If I'm reading it correctly, it's a simple 2 drive external hard drive enclosure with 1394 and RAID support.

 

You don't need RAID. Neither do the rest of us. RAID is not a backup. The least likely thing to go wrong with your storage is a drive failure, which is the only think RAID protects you from. There's nothing wrong with RAID, but it's not really doing anything for you. It looks like it supports "Spanning mode", which would let you use all 2 TB. I think JBOD would let you use all 2 TB also. Point being, before you shell out money for some other gizmo, you could just use all the storage you already have. You also need a backup solution.

 

1 TB should hold in the neighbourhood of 2000 uncompressed 16/44.1 CDs. That should let you plan your storage requirements. That is probably the first thing you should figure out.

 

I just bought (and am waiting for delivery) of an allegedly quiet, low-power-consumption 1 TB hard drive with a (single drive) external enclosure that supports eSATA and USB 2.0. Total cost: $125. Seriously, this stuff is dirt cheap now. Multiple-drive enclosures are more expensive per drive, since they generally provide RAID controllers.

 

I bet you could just swap out the 1 TB drives for a couple of 2 TB drives and it would just work. 2T drives are still pretty pricey, at $300 each. 1.5 TB drives are $130-$160 each.

 

The drive spin-down issue is a real drag. I would contact the manufacturer and see if there is a setting to keep them spun up.

 

The noisy fan - probably not a lot you can do about it at this point. Since it's a 1U case, it is probably a small (40 mm or so) fan, and they have to run fast to move enough air, and fast = noisy.

 

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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... you should be getting great sound from the PRE and your Mac. Try a simple iMac (with music files on the internal drive) -> USB -> PRE -> Amp setup, without all your complexities, and make sure you have that working. It should sound mahvalous. Then keep adding the rest of the system in until it breaks.

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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Hi WoodsDweller - I respectfully disagree. RAID 1 or 5 is the only way I will go. I will never reliably backup my music server so that everything is restorable. That's just me and everyone has to make the decision based on their own habits. Drive failures are not if but when they will happen. Losing a drive and being able to throw another drive in without losing data is exactly what I want. This prevents me from re-ripping or trying to restore from a backup. I'm willing to take the chance of me deleting some files that a backup would have saved me from losing. For me in my system and knowing my usage habits RAID 5 is safer than a backup if I had to chose one or the other. Both is better, but I'm not there yet. I can see home tape drives and tape library management tutorials coming down the road! Yuck.

 

Edit: I agree with you agreeing with me on your follow-up comment :~)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Wikipedia says that a 1394 cable can be 4.5 meters long, so maybe with a leash that long you could stash your drive out of the way somewhere.

 

Chris, the only thing wrong with RAID is that it give you the illusion that you have a backup. You don't. In 25 years I've lost 2 drive controllers, both due to cheap fans that died. The drives themselves were fine (but recovering the data on a drive whose controller has died is challenging). If you have a data center with 1000s of drives spinning 24/365 you can expect to have a few drives crash per month. A home user may never see one. It just isn't the problem you need to solve.

 

All I was saying to Christopher is that he could use all 2 TB before he bothers buying another gizmo.

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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... you should be able to set up fully automatic backups across your network. It appears that OS X ships with rsync, and I'm sure that there are any number of spiffy Mac backup apps that will handle automatic backups.

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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If one of the mirrored drives becomes corrupted then so would its mirror. You get no data backup protection from a mirrored RAID. They only provide redundancy in case one drive goes bad, which may or may not happen. So having regular data backups on the second drive is much more valuable then only RAID. It's not like you're ripping/adding new audio files every day, and even if you are doing so, you can always re-download/re-ripp missing files and add to your restored data. But if one of the drives backups corrupted, your both drives in a mirror setup will be corrupted and you will lose your valuable data... just a though to consider.

 

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I agree recovering from a RAID controller failure can be a complete mess. I spent 32 straight hours in a datacenter after one of these failures!

 

This is a good discussion many people can benefit from.

 

In my opinion a drive getting corrupted is much rarer than a drive going bad. I've actually never had this problem. So, I don't think the possibility of mirroring corrupt data is on the top of the list. Probably the biggest thing in my opinion that a backup gets you is protection from user error if music is deleted on the disk and not the backup. Thus a proper backup and retention policy should be established.

 

One can also use drives like the Seagate ES.2 Enterprise drives with a MTBF of well over 1,000,000 hours.

 

I haven't used Rsync yet just because I really dislike backup programs. To many bad experiences with Symantec/Veritas NetBackup and Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM)!

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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.. that as helpful as a RAID array (any kind) might be, it won't always be the solution to recovering from a disaster. A simple non-image-type ( just files copied to another directory on a different drive) backup will be a solution when trying to recover from a broken RAID array. RAID is good. It isn't really a backup though. RAID is "redundant" not necessarily "recoverable" - hard rules apply to this and they are too deep to cover here. Chris alluded to tape backup. This is what many data centers do in the attempt to be 100% data secure. They aren't fast, they aren't cheap. But they work. There are now other ways of doing this sort of protection of data. To "100%" protect your data, you can use other hard drives, or CD/DVD/BlueRay to do it. The point is, that the prudent folks will do it to avoid eventually losing important data.

 

- markr

 

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This is not all that much about hardware failure, but merely about user error.

You may delete files by accident, you may drag files wrongly, something else may interfere with your precious data, and in occasions you might not even know it happend. In either case your data has gone, and there is no backup for recovery. Not with RAID5 only.

 

This is not so difficult to imagine ?

 

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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Thank you all for sharing your thoughts, wisdom and advice. The feedback so far has given me leads to investigate and experiment with. Of all my questions, the most important to resolve is the disparity in performance between iTunes>USB>PRE and CD Transport>Optical>PRE.

 

On this note, I am reminded of previous posts that describe how and why all USB ports are not necessarily equal (this sometimes happens with laptop USB ports - didn’t think it would be an issue with iMac). In addition to USB>PRE, I have two additional USB connections in the back of iMac. The first is for an external DVD/CD reader/writer and the second is a Belkin powered USB hub. I regularly connect an iPhone and iPod to the hub for synching and charging. Could the external DVD or USB hub be affecting the performance of USB>PRE? I will experiment and promise to report back with my findings.

 

As part of the testing, I will also remove the iMac analogue headphone out connection to PRE. I’m not sure how this could affect the performance of USB>PRE, but it sounds like I have to eliminate all possible culprits. In case you are wondering, I change iMac sound settings (headphone out vs Benchmark) and physically select analogue input vs USB on the PRE when switching between the two.

 

Regarding storage, I’ll take the advice of WoodsDweller and max out Glyph storage before adding something new to the mix. A NAS unit (possibly Drobo) may be the solution, but I have a fair amount of time to decide on a reasonably fast, quiet and expandable solution.

 

On a broader note, I am amazed by the wealth of intellectual capital here at CA…and the incredible speed and access this site facilitates. CA is truly a world of knowledge at one’s fingertips. Thank you Chris…thank you all.

 

 

Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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Somewhere on your motherboard, buried most likely in the southbridge, are several USB controllers ("root hubs"). The bandwidth of a given USB subsystem is shared between all the devices (up to 127, IIRC) connected to that controller. Controllers are cheap, and generally they assign one controller per port, and if you don't attach multiple devices (say, using an external hub with multiple connections) it should stay one-to-one. I suspect that if you had multiple devices attached to the same controller as your PRE is using, it could disrupt the signal since some of the bandwidth would have to be shared with the other devices.

 

I doubt Apple would do such a thing, but you never know. I built a system last month that had a very nice case, but the case for some reason ran both USB ports on the front to a single jack on the motherboard, thus forcing them both to share one controller. Crazy. Maybe they were thinking that people would plug game controllers in, or something.

 

HUH!!!!

 

$ lsusb

Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

Bus 004 Device 003: ID 08bb:2902 Texas Instruments Japan

Bus 004 Device 002: ID 046d:c01a Logitech, Inc. M-BQ85 Optical Wheel Mouse

Bus 004 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub

Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub

 

This shows my DAC is sharing the same controller (root hub) as my mouse (004)! Freeky!

 

By swapping the USB jack to another plug, I get:

 

$ lsusb

Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

Bus 004 Device 002: ID 046d:c01a Logitech, Inc. M-BQ85 Optical Wheel Mouse

Bus 004 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub

Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub

Bus 003 Device 002: ID 08bb:2902 Texas Instruments Japan

Bus 003 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub

 

Now they are not both on the same USB bus, which is good. However, I didn't find Bus 001 or Bus 002 on any of the external jacks. I should really have the DAC plugged into a 2.0 root hub.

 

I'm going to have to play around with this some more, maybe fetch a USB bracket from my pile of parts and see if I can attach the DAC to a better hub. BTW, I was having a problem in which holding the mouse button down and scrolling would sometimes freeze audio playback. Maybe this will fix it!

 

Maybe some of the local OS X whiz kids here can tell you how to do something equivalent to "lsusb". You want to make sure that the PRE has a 2.0 root hub all to itself.

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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If Woz was still running R&D, this wouldn't have happened!

 

A little more testing, here. My cutoff while scrolling is still there (maybe that's just a problem with the Linux USB implementation...), maybe not as bad. Maybe.

 

However, subjectively, my DAC sounds better after having a root hub to itself.

 

The 'lsusb' command is pretty Linux-specific. Chris, is there an OS X equivalent? Seems like this is a step everybody should take when setting up their system. I'll sure be doing it from now on.

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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The POSIX utility system_profiler is the command-line equivalent of the System Profiler application that runs when you select "About This Mac" from the Apple menu, and click the "More Info..." button in the resulting dialog. The advantage of system_profiler is that it allows finer control over the output.

 

In a Terminal window, type or paste the following command:

 

system_profiler SPUSBDataType

 

When you press Return, you'll see a descriptive list of all USB devices connected to the host. It's the same information you get from System Profiler by selecting Hardware » USB.

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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I have some interesting results to report.

 

After checking the iMac USB Device Tree in System Profiler, I was initially concerned. Two USB high-speed bus devices with a max speed of 480 Mb/sec are listed and Benchmark is not one of them. Benchmark is listed as a USB bus with a maximum speed of 12 Mb/sec. I thought, surely something must be wrong.

 

I disconnected all USB devices and experimented by connecting Benchmark to different USB locations on the back of iMac. Unable to have Benchmark appear in a high-speed bus, I did some more reading.

 

An article in Stereophile says this:

“Benchmark chose to use a USB 1.1 port rather than the more modern and much faster USB 2.0 (which is backward-compatible with USB 1.1), because then the D/A could be used without the host computer having to run a custom driver program, and Benchmark could thus control communication to allow the transmission of bit-transparent high-resolution data. USB 1.1 has a maximum transmission rate of 12Mbps, which is sufficient for two channels of 24/96 data.”

 

This put my mind at ease, but I still wanted to run a few listening tests. Is there an audible difference depending upon which USB location the Benchmark is plugged into? Answer is…not to my ear.

 

So why does CD Transport>optical>PRE sound better than iTunes>USB>PRE? Thinking about it some more, I thought…maybe it’s the music file? The perfect opportunity to check with a few 24/96 downloads presented itself…

 

After reading CA article 24/96 Downloads recorded Last Night!, I jumped at the chance to download two high quality music files that other CA readers will have too (Three Little Birds and Breaking Through). Since both tunes are downloaded directly as a ZIP file with no download client, we should all have the exact same source material.

 

Three Little Birds is a great tune and I couldn’t wait to play the 24/96 252MB download. I downloaded, unzipped, and changed the settings in Audio Midi Setup to 96kHz/24bit (closed iTunes and reopened after changing the settings). With great anticipation, I clicked on the song track…waited…waited a few more seconds…heard some distant voices…then heard some thumping. I checked the volume control on Benchmark and turned the volume up…and then up some more…had to dial-up to 12 o’clock to achieve normal gain.

 

As background, zero gain on the PRE’s potentiometer is at about 7 o’clock. Most of the time I listen to music between 9 and 10 o’clock. At 12 o’clock the walls are close to shaking. Thinking it was a problem with Three Little Birds, I tried Breaking Through…same experience. iTunes identifies Three Little Birds as a 96kHz/4608 kbps/252.6MB file and Breaking Through as a 96kHz/4608 kbps/224.3MB file.

 

Has anyone else had the same experience with these files or is this symptomatic of my problem? Both these tracks sound like someone played with equalizer settings…the mids and highs are not very responsive to gain and the low-end is boomy. Ripped 44.1kHz tunes sound much better… CD Transport>optical>PRE still sounds the best.

 

Any thoughts? Many thanks in advance.

 

 

Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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No that it especially relates to solving your quality issue with mac into your DAC but I noticed you said you used Balanced XLR into Your Rotel 1080 - have you done Balanced and Unbalanced comparisons as I know on the 991 amp (close for-runner to 1080) the Balanced inputs were worse quality and only there for convinience or long cable runs. With many systems unbalanced sounded better.

 

Just quick thought.

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I used to run the Rotel 1080 unbalanced with an Adcom GFP 565 Preamp. The Rotel was an upgrade from a pair of GFA 565 300 watt monoblocks…prior to that I was using a GFA 545II. If memory serves, the Rotel 1080 has more pronounced lows running unbalanced with the Adcom GFP 565. Since the GFA 565 did not have balanced outs, I never compared the sound with a balanced connection.

 

When I crossed the bridge to computer audio, I needed a USB DAC. Since the Adcom GFP 565 Preamp/ Rotel 1080 combo was so reliable, I was hesitant to introduce a new preamp. I looked…auditioned…and after hearing the market, went with the Benchmark and it replaced the Adcom.

 

I was forced, in a way, to use balanced outputs with the Rotel amp. The Benchmark has limited outs and I have two powered subs…they receive the unbalanced outs and the Rotel amp receives balanced. Benchmark>balanced>Rotel>AudioQuest Type 4>B&W CM-7 works well for me.

 

On a side note, I know someone in the audio industry who goes by the name “Audio Elf.” He sold me a pair of B&W speakers…could you be the same elf?

 

 

 

Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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Interesting! After fiddling around today, I was unable to get my DAC (part of my HeadRoom amp) to run as a 2.0 device, so presumably they did the same thing, for the same reasons.

 

16/44.1 source material, ripped via EAC to WAV. Linux (Fedora 10) machine -> USB -> Headroom Desktop Headphone Amp (Max DAC, Max module) -> Sennheiser HD650

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Here’s an interesting update - I’ve been able to match the sound of iTunes>USB>PRE and CD Transport>Optical>PRE. The key was in iTunes Import Settings.

 

Most of my library was ripped in Apple Lossless. I know there is a fair and reasonable debate about the differences (if any) between AIFF and Lossless. My ears hear a clear difference.

 

The few tracks that I had imported in AIFF format were previously imported with automatic settings. AIFF with custom settings of 48kHz, 16bit, stereo made the difference. I don’t know if this will work with every CD, but I have a favorite Jazz album by Loston Harris. I listen to him live on a regular basis at the Carlyle and this CD comes very close to capturing his distinctive live and in-person sound.

 

AIFF seems to be the answer to my dilemma. Now I’m really confused why the 24/96 downloads are so disappointing...

 

 

Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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I’m in the process of re-ripping CDs in AIFF format. I elected to change iTunes Settings to automatic to avoid up-sampling certain tracks (not sure if that’s possible).

 

For example, when set to automatic, certain tracks import as 1411kbps/44.1kHz. If I use custom settings of 48kHz, 16bit (stereo), the same track will import at 1536kbps/48kHz. My objective is to get as 'close' to the recorded music as possible...custom settings may interfere with that goal.

 

I’ll continue to experiment and compare…so far, I’m very pleased with the quality of sound in AIFF automatic.

 

 

 

Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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Hi Chris – Yesterday I attempted to download my first 24bit/96kHz tracks from Blue Coast Records (Three Little Birds and Breaking Through). I don’t know why, but each sounded dynamically poor with muddy and bloated bass.

 

Convinced that I was doing something wrong, I repeated the download (just in case the files didn’t download properly). I unzipped the files using two different programs (to rule out any possible bugs in the unzipping process). I even converted the WAV files to AIFF using two different programs (just in case the problem was related to playing WAV). Each time, I got the same disappointing results.

 

Today, I spent some time on HD Tracks and downloaded an alternate 96khz/24bit test.

 

Title: Blue Bossa

Artist: Ana Caram

Genre: Latin / Brazilian

Label: Chesky Records

Release Date: 2002

Type: 96khz/24bit FLAC download

 

I downloaded MAX (link and instructions found on Linn Records). And, wow! The music is clear, detailed...simply magical. This has been one of the finest listening experiences I’ve had iTunes>USB>PRE.

 

This leads be to believe that there may be something with the files I downloaded at Blue Coast Records. Have you (or has anyone else) experienced any problems like this? Also, I’m now officially hooked on high resolution material (I’ll resist future urges to download from iTunes if I have a choice). Do you have any recommended material that you know to sound superb? I’m a fan of all genres from Classical…to Jazz…to Rock. Thank you. Respectfully yours, Christopher.

 

 

 

Amarra 3.0.3/iTunes-->AQVOX USB PS-->Acromag USB Isolator-->Ayre QB-9-->Ayre K-5xeMP-->W4S SX-500-->Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Super Towers-->SVS SB12-Plus (L&R). Cables: Nordost, Transparent, LessLoss, Analysis Plus & Pangea. Dedicated line with isolated power conditioning per component: PS Audio & Furman. Late 2012 Mac Mini 2.6GHz Quad-Core i7 (16 GB, 1TB Fusion, 6TB ext via Tbolt). External drives enclosure http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f7-disk-storage-music-library-storage/silent-enclosure-external-hard-drives-7178/

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