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From old school to computer audio - please help a rookie.

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My 1st very basic question after reading through many amazingly sophisticated threads that have mostly been far ahead of me.. I have always been a plain vanilla stereo "cd to amp to speaker" guy. Now, i more and more come to like the ease and beauty of iTunes, computer audio etc. and wonder how i can best feed my iTunes music into my original system.


From what I understand, I could just send music from my MacBook on a wireless track to a device like the Airport Extreme, have that hooked up to a DAC via USB (quite like the idea of the Devilsound DAC/cable for a start), and then on to my amp.


Is it really that simple? What about the AppleTV or all the other solutions people discuss? Do I need that? Does it improve anything along the way? My focus is "just" on music, so no need to consider video, photo, etc.


Anything else I would need to think of? My digital music is mostly LAME encoded at 320kb. The amp/speaker combo is a tube Leben CS600 and Harbeth Monitor 30 speakers, both of pretty ok quality. What category of DAC should I look at to "fit" into this setup?


Many thanks for helping out, and for all the other great knowledge you all produce!


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Good to see you are using CS600, I am using the CS 660P. Both your amp and the speaker lacks very little. Perhaps the speakers could do with changes depending on your quest on sound.


The DAC is the throat of your system, go for the best you can afford. Starting with Devilsound DAC is surely one way to go. This will work fine with your Macbk. Now go get them tiger.


BTW I use mini with Weiss DAC2. This DAC will not work with Macbook due to the interface req. However I did have very good sound with Benchmark DAC1 (Via optical).


Best luck.


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I'm relatively new to this but I would say that you can have a good sound without much complication.

Congratulations, you have a very good system, and with that system you will certainly notice differences between lossy and lossless formats, and between resolutions.

I would start having the source material in a compressed lossless format (e.g. FLAC) or in WAV (LPCM). The real problem with WAV is that the file format does not support additional information in the header like Artist, Album, ... you will wave to structure things in folders. Some people point that WAV takes too much space, but nowadays disk space is cheap.

If you are going to rip CDS I would choose a good ripper (EAC for Windows, cdparanoia for Linux, ...).

After having good source material (ripped from CDs or high resolution files 96kHz/24bits, 192kHz/24 bits bought and downloaded online) I would worry in having a good DAC. I would point to something in the $1K-2K range (Benchmark, Aqvox, Weiss, Lavry, PS Audio, ...). Consider what kind of digital inputs do you need (USB, Firewire, co-axial 75 ohms, co-axial 110 ohms, toslink) and maximum transfer rate (e.g. in certain DACs toslink may be limited to 96kHz/24 bits, USB to 48 kHz/16 bits, ...). Consider also if you want an headphone amplifier included in the DAC or not. The DAC must be an improvement to the DAC section of your CD player, so you can gain something just from pluging the transport section of the CD player to the new DAC.

After that, think about the cable, made of real glass instead of plastic fiber for toslink (like the Wireworld Super Nova 5+), with good shielding and 75 ohm impedance with plugs for co-axial (Stereovox, Kimber, Supra, Aqvox, ...), with good shielding without costing an absurd amount of money for USB (Wireworld, Kimber without ferrites, Aqvox, ...).

After this you just plug the laptop or the computer to the DAC and start listening. Then you will find that the computer is probably a little noisy and it needs to be close to the DAC that is close to the amplifier, and you would like to seat in the couch and just press a button on the remote control. Nevertheless, this is a good way to start provided your DAC has all digital inputs that you will need. Later you can go in any direction.

I started this way with an laptop connected to an AQVOX MkII. Now I just have all my CD collection ripped in WAV, organized in folders, in an hard disk plugged to the PS3. Since PS3 does not support FLAC and resamples files to a 48 kHz multiple, I will move to a different player. In all the process I'm keeping the source material, the DAC and cables, and never stoped listening to music.

And don't forget to backup your data.



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Axle has covered all the points well. Treat the purchase of the DAC as the purchase of a new CD player. It is THAT important!!! I second the change to a lossless compression. I currently use MP3 320kps and find a big difference when I slap in the CD version of a song, particulary sounstage. Later on you can experiment with Server placement and control but if you get the first two fundamentals right there will be less time/money wasted down the road :)

Now a quick question for Axle, I too use a PS3. I didn't realise it played WAV off an external hard drive, learn something every day! But what do you mean by resampling files to a 48kHz multiple? Does that mean it also does 96kHz (a multiple of 48kHz)? I think I will look into this resampling business by hunting down a thread on this.


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You can not rip to WAV on PS3 but you can play WAV files. The main problem is that PS3 has poor folder management so all the files end up mixed in the same folder. I changed the hard disk and installed a second OS in order to output data from the USB port, but I ended up returning to the original configuration.

If you format an external drive in FAT32 and plug it to the USB port, PS3 recognizes it and its file structure. I ripped my CDs on a computer and organized everything on a external disk, one folder for jazz, another for pop-rock and another for classical music, inside, a folder per album with the name of the artist and the album, and files have the number in the album and the name of the music (folders and files automatically generated by the ripping software).

In order to format in FAT32 you need to use a workaround for windows or use linux because the maximum size allowed by windows is something like 32 GB.

Sorry, my mistake, upsampling to 88 or 176 kHz takes place when playing a CD, but it is possible to disable it, and play at 44.1 kHz. However, files are always upsampled from 44.1 kHz to 48 kHz, which is something I do not like. I am using the toslink output from the PS3.

96 kHz and 192 kHz are available only on HDMI, I didn't use this port so I did not check if PS3 upsamples or not. I was thinking in using a converter to get SPDIF coax from HDMI to the external DAC, but there isn't much point in doing that if PS3 does not support FLAC (who knows in future software updates?).


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