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Is there a "Getting Started" forum?


pgawan2b

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I am going to venture into the world of computer audio so I have a few questions. I'm sure these questions have all been asked (and answered) before so I wonder if a separate forum for those of us just embarking on this journey would be a good idea.

 

My basic question is this, do I understand the process correctly? Below is what I understand the process to be.

 

Step 1 - Rip music in a bit perfect format. This requires software.

Step 2 - Manage (organize, list, share on network, find cover art and etc) music files on the device. This too requires software.

Step 3 - Play your music files. This requires software as well.

Step 4 - Utilize a re-clocker to reduce jitter when outputting the signal. This requires hardware.

Step 5 - Use a DAC to take the signal from the re-clocker and convert it to analog. The output is to a preamp or amp depending on the features of the DAC. This requires hardware.

 

First, is this correct? Assuming it is, is there a software that performs each of the first three steps in an acceptable manner to computer audiophiles? Most likely, I will need software that operates on a Mac.

 

iTunes is an example of a software that does all three, right? Except that audiophiles don't care for the way iTunes handles step one (compression) and step three (delivery). Is this correct?

 

I think I have a grasp of the hardware side, but I'm pretty much clueless on the software side. Any clarification you can provide is appreciated.

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Computer Audiophile - Basics is probably the closest thing.

 

Your list is correct, although a re-clocker seems far more advanced than anything I have come across.

 

iTunes is fine and can play bit-perfectly. The one problem is it doesn't do automatic sample frequency matching; you need to do it manually (or set it to the highest output and forget it). You can get a $5 add-on called BitPerfect.app in the app store if this bothers you.

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Thanks for the link wgscott. That looks like a great place for me to spend some time.

 

Several years ago, I was introduced to Monarchy Audio over on Audiogon. Monarchy has a product which reduces jitter and re-clocks that has been received rather favorably by many audiophiles using DACs. I guess I made an assumption that a computer sourced signal would benefit from a re-clocker as well.

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It might. I just personally have no experience and it definitely isn't an essential for getting started.

 

My general advise is to make everything as simple as possible, and then when you upgrade or add things in, you will have a good idea for whether they make an audible improvement (or otherwise).

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It sounds like you have thought things out a bunch already. So you are beyond simple "do this, do that" suggestions, I assume. Yet you are still in the conceptualizing stage of the process, so I'm offering some thoughts that are more in that vein, answering the question "If I were getting started again, how I might approach it?" question. Storage, computer/streamer, playback and file ripping/management software, and DAC are the key decisions with lots of details mixed in. What are those details…what are the questions to answer when making these decisions? Here are the broad areas of decision making that I would follow if I were doing it again from scratch:

 

1. Format (Redbook PCM, Hi Rez PCM, DSD64, DSD128)

 

I would assume you would want all formats, including DSD….why not? But the choice of DAC and music player depends on your answer.

 

2. Storage (size, location, connection)

 

I needed more sooner than expected (I have more than 1.1 TB of music now). And I wanted to have it on the network for easier adding, file maintenance/backup, and tagging. I started with a USB drive, then a Firewire drive, and now an ethernet connected NAS drive.

 

3. Interface (remote, computer input)

 

I wanted to be able to run "headless" and move about while being able to select songs and control volume. The volume was secondary, so really it was having a good remote control of the files that was key.

 

4. Playback (Windows/Mac/Linux server, streamer, and DAC)

 

I tried a few solutions and settled on a CAPS that is pretty tricked out (but not as far as it could go…still room for improvement). Each had it's advantages and tradeoffs.

 

So my thought is that, broadly speaking, these categories will drive the choices of the equipment but some will naturally want to tinker while others want to set up once and forget. I like to tinker, perhaps less than some, but still enough to be in the tinker crowd. So the ability to grow into future configurations with as little duplication of parts may be a factor to consider. If you don't want to tinker, then plug and play solutions become more appealing with entry level to high end solutions available.

 

For me, I went from a Squeezebox Touch (which was then modified), to a Mac Mini (which was then modified), to a CAPS server/NAS setup that I now use. I also changed DACs a few times over the last five years due to format desire changes (first from 24/96 max to 24/192 max to 24/384 max to DSD format). I can tell you computer music has advanced in the last five years significantly.

 

So a few lessons learned included:

 

1. I needed a lot more storage than I ever imagined I would.

2. Clean power (everywhere possible) makes a big difference.

3. Low jitter is important.

4. Having specs to play files greater than I currently use is a big advantage.

5. Ease of cataloging/file management/backup is critical to enjoyment.

6. A "pleasurable" interface (JRemote on my iPhone, volume on a remote control) helps me listen to music, not focus on the setup.

 

I hope that this is helpful and not too conceptual. Again, my assumption based on your post was this is where you are making decisions.

 

I hope you enjoy both the process and the outcome…music can sound amazing on a moderate system that is well thought through.

 

Best,

John

 

P.S. I think the software is dependent on the format, hardware, and control interface choices you make. If you use a Windows computer, want DSD playback, and prefer a handy remote music selector, then you narrow the software that will perform well, for example. These choices define the software in a very real way. John

Positive emotions enhance our musical experiences.

 

Synology DS213+ NAS -> Auralic Vega w/Linear Power Supply -> Auralic Vega DAC (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> XLR -> Auralic Taurus Pre -> XLR -> Pass Labs XA-30.5 power amplifier (on 4" maple and 4 Stillpoints) -> Hawthorne Audio Reference K2 Speakers in MTM configuration (Symposium Jr HD rollerball isolation) and Hawthorne Audio Bass Augmentation Baffles (Symposium Jr rollerball isolation) -> Bi-amped w/ two Rythmic OB plate amps) -> Extensive Room Treatments (x2 SRL Acoustics Prime 37 diffusion plus key absorption and extensive bass trapping) and Pi Audio Uberbuss' for the front end and amplification

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