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Newbie questions


kyomori
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Hi, Avid reader of the site, but first time poster who needs a bit of guidance

 

After persistent requests by my wife to do something about the wall of CDs, I've started experimenting with the goal of ripping all CDs into a HDD, and only keeping the most vital ones on CD.

 

I have 2 set-ups for streaming audio:

Mac (iTunes) > Ethernet > AE > Toslink > B&W Zeppelin on loan from friend

Mac (iTunes) > Ethernet > AppleTV > Toslink > PS Audio DLIII DAC > RCA > Marantz pre-main AMP > B&W SP

 

Using ALAC to encode, and only interested in 16/44.1 transport, as I don't have enough higher-res audio files at this point (though I love the B&W SoS stuff).

 

Questions:

- Assuming Toslink output on both, is the output of AE and AppleTV completely the same?

- Assuming all the right settings on iTunes (no EQ, no remote vol. control etc) are the files being altered/treated soundwise before being sent out the ether port (would a Mac Pro sound the same as Mac mini in this set up)?

- The ATV is also connected to a TV using it's component output and stereo output. Does this in anyway affect the toslink output (doesn't to my ear .. but just checking)

 

I know these are very elementary, and searching the forums helped, but just needed to put it in my context.

I'm sure I'll have tons of questions on the DAC side of things also... but just starting out : )

Thanks for your help

 

 

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1) The output of the AE and AppleTV are the same at a bit-level, however there maybe a difference with levels of jitter which may affect the ultimate sound quality a little. For most people with average DACs though the result will be the same.

 

2) Assuming correct settings in iTunes, the output at the AE and AppleTV will be accurate to the original source. There is processing that happens in between but at the output this processing will not affect the sound you hear.

 

3) Using the component output should not affect the sound from the TOSLink, and if you don't hear any difference then that says the output is not affected (it's possible that EMI will vary if the component output is used, but again this shouldn't be noticeable to most people).

 

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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Thanks Eloise,

I'm trying to read up on jitter and what causes it etc. So I may be back with questions on that.

 

I'm losing a lot of mid density when comparing the sound coming from my CDP (Marantz SA-8003, using USB drive with wav files in them for comparison) to that of the airtunes stream connected to DLIII, both going to the same AMP.

 

Obviously the DLIII has its characteristics, not to mention the up-sampling, and the CDP has characteristics, but wanted to rule out one thing at a time.

 

I'll try using a better RCA cable and Toslink cable and see if that helps.

 

Thanks again,

 

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A lot of people don't find jitter an issue, where as others find jitter very detrimental to the sound and therefore their enjoyment.

 

IIRC, the SA-8003's USB input is very poor as it uses the DAC built into the USB interface chip. I would compare your AppleTV / DLIII to the Marantz playing CDs, either direct or also connect that to the DLIII. Others have commented they found the DLIII poor with computer sources compared with digital from a CD player so it may be that the DLIII has poor jitter rejection (just a supposition not tested it myself).

 

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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Thanks for the suggestions.

 

1 more question before the main text, if I may.

Should there be any theoretical difference in sound going into the DAC in the following cases using 16/44.1 (My understanding being NO, ofcourse not taking into account Jitter and Ethernet transport jitter... and the fact that it probably does sound different to one's ears) :

- Mac > Toslink > DAC,

- Mac > Ethernet > ATV > Toslink > DAC

 

---------------------

Last night, I switched out the Toslink cable with an Audioquest Optilink-5 which I found on auction, and that seemed to help with the density in the ATV-DLIII combo to the point where I can call it equal to CD transport ... just different sound quality.

 

I guess I'll let the DLIII and cable burn-in a bit more and see if that changes qualities. I may also try running the computer stream through a different amp (Denon?) with more mid range push.

 

I also tried A/Bing the 8003 CD playback, the RCA going to AMP, and Toslink going to DLIII and then RCA to same AMP. The DLIII seems to add high end chimes to the CDP's sound, but the basic quality of the sound seemed the same under both outputs. The mids and the density were not dropped as in the ATV case. (purely subjective, haven't taken data).

 

Jitter .... I just don't understand enough about it to know what it sounds like ... So at this point, I've stopped worrying about it until I understand it better and can hear explainable characteristics of it. The past forum posts have been very interesting reads tho.

 

Thanks again for your kind help,

 

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"1 more question before the main text, if I may.

Should there be any theoretical difference in sound going into the DAC in the following cases using 16/44.1 (My understanding being NO, ofcourse not taking into account Jitter and Ethernet transport jitter... and the fact that it probably does sound different to one's ears) :

- Mac > Toslink > DAC,

- Mac > Ethernet > ATV > Toslink > DAC "

 

Other theoretical differences that I can think of could be:

- Apple uses apple lossless format for streaming, so (possibly depending on how you're streaming via the ATV) you may hear a difference due to the file format change. Extra processing work being done to decompress the file before sending out via the toslink. Stress on the word "may".

- ATV limits you to itunes for playback (unless hacked), wheras the Mac allows you to experiment with a variety of software, not to mention hardware. Can be fun and intresting to experiment, although your wife may demand the wall of cds back if you repeatedly play the same track over and over again trying to hear differences between sound engines!

 

TBH I think you're doing the right thing by trying things out yourself and not opening your wallet to anyone and everyone who offers expensive audio pixie dust. I can relate to your comment about different sources being equally good but having a different sound. Some people may hate this and want to understand exactly why there should be a difference, but personally I quite like it.

 

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Souptin, Thanks for the explanation and encouragement.

 

I think I will try stealthily moving either my mac-mini or macbook into the living room once they get a bit more performance challenged as desktop computers and need to be replaced. The possibilities do seem interesting, and I'm sure it will sound better than the current set up.

 

My humble/personal/uninformed thoughts on sound is ... ultimately nothing beats a small room live performance.

The visual/physical aspect of any music, the conductor in an orchestra, wind blowing from speakers and cymbals, snares rattling, Bass drum, musicians making funny faces when they hit the high notes.... those things just cannot be reproduced in a stereo playback situation (atleast in the environment that I have). So I tend to lock on either the guitar player or the bass player in recorded music, and if that piece sounds good, it's a good listen (meaning, Mick Ronson sounds like what I think he should sound.., Jeff Beck sounds ..., Randy Rhoads ...., Jaco Pastorius..., Jeff Berlin... you get the idea).

 

The equipment upgrade flurry is .. awesome if you can afford it.

I've used a 1962 Fender Telecaster as my main guitar forever, and it sounds very different played through a Fender Twin, a Marshall, a Hi-Watt, or a Jazz Chorus. Doesn't make the telly any less of a guitar, and doesn't make the amps any less either... you work with what you have and the rest is content. I think that strength in content is why the (horrible sounding) old Robert Johnson recordings are still very popular.

 

There's a bottom line in realistic sound, which is what I guess I'm trying to get to with the current computer audio experiment, and I don't mean any disrespect to the purists, but my two daughters and two dogs (not to mention my wife : ) make me too financially challenged to go the purist route.

 

Sorry for the rantish comment. But Jeff Beck's "Blow by Blow" album sounded pretty good on my computer set up : )

 

 

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