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Any Tips/Recommendations for system improvements?


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As the tile says, i'd love to hear some ideas of optimizing my current system.

For probably 10 years or so i've been set up the same basic way to get my music to my AVR and realize there may/probably be some things, be it software or hardware that could make it better.

Here's my current system:

 

Music files of various formats (quality) stored on external drive > Mac Mini / iTunes > cat 6 ethernet > ATV3 > optical > AVR (Older Onkyo 7.1ch that is being upgraded this year) > usually controlled with Remote app/iPhone.

 

The Mac Mini and drives all reside on the second floor of my house and i run the ethernet down to the first floor to a gigabit switch behind my media cabinet and then to the ATV3.

 

Unfortunately my computer has always had to do double duty as our main house computer as well as being the server to feed the ATV, this means also that it never goes to sleep and iTunes is always open.

 

Like is said, i started doing it this way with the 1st gen Apple TV years ago just as a means of streaming my music / movies, but am always looking for ways to getting the best quality sound i can that fits within our lifestyle.

 

Budget wise, i can't dedicate much money to this because i've already decided to buy a new TV this year along with a better, more current AVR, possibly the Emotiva Fusion 8100 or Denon X2100 etc...

 

Thanks!

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Since your budget appears to be limited, it may be best to get the Denon X2100 instead of the Emotiva Fusion, as you can take advantage of its network audio playback/streaming functions, thus drive its own DAC internally (as opposed to externally, using the ATV), which should result in better sound quality.

 

However, this doesn't solve your requirement for having a different network device to the Mac Mini for supplying the stored music files to the streamer (eg the Denon AVR). Is your intention to still keep the files on the external drive? If so, it may be more cost effective to get a small, low powered, network computer, such as a SheevaPlug or Raspberry Pi to connect the external drive to, rather than getting a more dedicated device, such as a NAS.

 

You also need to think about how you'll replace your current Mac Mini's iTune's function of controlling the music playback. It's unlikely that using the X2100 remote control & display will provide a decent equivalent user interface, so the idea is normally to run a controller app on a networked handheld device, such as an Android tablet, smartphone, iPad, etc. Do you have one of these devices that can be used for this purpose?

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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For $100 more you could get the Denon x4000 AVR. It's last year's model but has Audyssey xt32 vs. xt in the x2100. Xt32 is the superior room correction suite. I'd consider that a low cost upgrade.

Nvidia ION running JRiver 21 on Win 7

- USB to Firestone Audio Bravo USB to SPDIF Converter. Optical to miniDSP NanoDigi eq/crossover. SPDIF to 2 Cambridge Audio DacMagics. Analogue to Audio Refinement Pre-5 to 2 M&K V-75 powered subwoofers & Audio Refinement Multi-2 power amp to Focal Chorus 716s.

- Intel NUC on Win 10 as JRiver 21 DLNA renderer. USB to Breeze Audio DU-U8 USB to SPDIF converter. SPDIF to Anthem MRX-520. Mirage OMD-5: left, right & surrounds. Mirage OMD-C1: center. SVS-SB-2000: subwoofer.

- Raspberry Pi2 with HifiBerry Dac+Pro on Volumio DLNA renderer to Rega Mira 3 to Dali Zensor 1s.

- Raspberry Pi2 with HifiBerry Dac+Standard on Volumio DLNA renderer to NAD 312 to PSB Alphas.

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Since your budget appears to be limited, it may be best to get the Denon X2100 instead of the Emotiva Fusion, as you can take advantage of its network audio playback/streaming functions, thus drive its own DAC internally (as opposed to externally, using the ATV), which should result in better sound quality.

 

However, this doesn't solve your requirement for having a different network device to the Mac Mini for supplying the stored music files to the streamer (eg the Denon AVR). Is your intention to still keep the files on the external drive? If so, it may be more cost effective to get a small, low powered, network computer, such as a SheevaPlug or Raspberry Pi to connect the external drive to, rather than getting a more dedicated device, such as a NAS.

 

You also need to think about how you'll replace your current Mac Mini's iTune's function of controlling the music playback. It's unlikely that using the X2100 remote control & display will provide a decent equivalent user interface, so the idea is normally to run a controller app on a networked handheld device, such as an Android tablet, smartphone, iPad, etc. Do you have one of these devices that can be used for this purpose?

 

Ok, so one thing i was wondering was that i always thought since the source files are being passed along digitally from the Mac Mini to the ATV then to the AVR that this bypasses internal DAC of the ATV and uses the DAC of the AVR, no? Or is there some processing that takes place in the ATV?

 

I know i could buy any new AVR with networking capabilities and run the ethernet directly into it, but not sure i will like the remote functions/interface as much as the Apple ecosystem. I do use and iPhone 6 currently w/ remote app to control the music out of iTunes. I've never tried Denon's iPhone apps.

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Ok, so one thing i was wondering was that i always thought since the source files are being passed along digitally from the Mac Mini to the ATV then to the AVR that this bypasses internal DAC of the ATV and uses the DAC of the AVR, no? Or is there some processing that takes place in the ATV?
The ATV only has an optical (digital) audio output, so it doesn't have its own DAC anyway. I did try to imply that the AVR's DAC would be used in both the ATV + AVR case and with the AVR on its own. The difference is that it is usually better from a sound quality stand point for a device to play back to its own internally connected DAC than it is to have that same DAC played back to by an externally connected device. This doesn't even include other possible SQ influences/quirky processing specific to the ATV, such as the latest versions always resampling all of their inputs, including AirPlay, to output at a fixed resolution of 16bit/48kHz!

 

 

I know i could buy any new AVR with networking capabilities and run the ethernet directly into it, but not sure i will like the remote functions/interface as much as the Apple ecosystem. I do use and iPhone 6 currently w/ remote app to control the music out of iTunes. I've never tried Denon's iPhone apps.
Well you can still use iTunes directly with the Denon, as it supports AirPlay (so no need for the ATV for that even). However, the Apple ecosystem means you still have your issue of needing to run iTunes on a 'proper' computer to provide the music library for your stored files. Unfortunately, there's no version of iTunes available to run on a NAS, for example. The only possible solution I can think of having iTunes library available without a computer switched on, with control via an iPhone, is uploading your stored iTunes music files to iCloud.

 

An alternative is to use UPnP/DLNA streaming, which is geared towards running music servers on low powered & efficient network storage devices, such as NASs. UPnP/DLNA also provides you with the ability to use third party UPnP/DLNA controller apps (eg a favoured UPnP controller), so you are not restricted to just using the manufacturer's provided one.

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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The ATV only has an optical (digital) audio output, so it doesn't have its own DAC anyway. I did try to imply that the AVR's DAC would be used in both the ATV + AVR case and with the AVR on its own. The difference is that it is usually better from a sound quality stand point for a device to play back to its own internally connected DAC than it is to have that same DAC played back to by an externally connected device. This doesn't even include other possible SQ influences/quirky processing specific to the ATV, such as the latest versions always resampling all of their inputs, including AirPlay, to output at a fixed resolution of 16bit/48kHz!

 

 

Well you can still use iTunes directly with the Denon, as it supports AirPlay (so no need for the ATV for that even). However, the Apple ecosystem means you still have your issue of needing to run iTunes on a 'proper' computer to provide the music library for your stored files. Unfortunately, there's no version of iTunes available to run on a NAS, for example. The only possible solution I can think of having iTunes library available without a computer switched on, with control via an iPhone, is uploading your stored iTunes music files to iCloud.

 

An alternative is to use UPnP/DLNA streaming, which is geared towards running music servers on low powered & efficient network storage devices, such as NASs. UPnP/DLNA also provides you with the ability to use third party UPnP/DLNA controller apps (eg a favoured UPnP controller), so you are not restricted to just using the manufacturer's provided one.

 

Ok i see what you are saying in regards to the ATV / AVR combo.

 

At this point, or in the near future, i will probably bypass ATV on the music end and use it solely for photos/movies/youtube etc. Which means i'll either go directly from iTunes > AVR using the iPhone remote app or possibly a different external device like the wireless NAD DAC2 > AVR. Not sure i want to go wireless though since i have hard wire there already to avoid dropouts.

 

As for iTunes, i use Audivarna Plus in my office so i should probably be using that or similar as well at home, or maybe JRiver for Mac instead of iTunes all together.

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i'll either go directly from iTunes > AVR using the iPhone remote app or possibly a different external device like the wireless NAD DAC2 > AVR. Not sure i want to go wireless though since i have hard wire there already to avoid dropouts.
Wow, not sure what you're thinking here and certainly wouldn't be my recommendation. I think it's taking a bit of a risk with SQ using some proprietary point to point wireless method, with all its timing issues, of getting the realtime digital audio signal from the computer playback software to the external DAC, when some have a hard enough time of it using more 'trusted' wired methods such as async USB audio or S/PDIF.

 

I don't think you can compare NAD's proprietary computer to DAC WiFi connection with network file streaming (regardless of it being wireless or wired), as they are totally different concepts. With network streaming, it's audio file data that is passing through the network, not the realtime audio signal. The streamer at the other end of network only produces the realtime digital audio signal after decoding the audio file data it has received over the network, which it then passes to the connected DAC (internal or external).

 

 

As for iTunes, i use Audivarna Plus in my office so i should probably be using that or similar as well at home, or maybe JRiver for Mac instead of iTunes all together.
So, does that mean you're no longer concerned about your Mac Mini never going to sleep?

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

-- Jo Cox

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Wow, not sure what you're thinking here and certainly wouldn't be my recommendation. I think it's taking a bit of a risk with SQ using some proprietary point to point wireless method, with all its timing issues, of getting the realtime digital audio signal from the computer playback software to the external DAC, when some have a hard enough time of it using more 'trusted' wired methods such as async USB audio or S/PDIF.

 

I don't think you can compare NAD's proprietary computer to DAC WiFi connection with network file streaming (regardless of it being wireless or wired), as they are totally different concepts. With network streaming, it's audio file data that is passing through the network, not the realtime audio signal. The streamer at the other end of network only produces the realtime digital audio signal after decoding the audio file data it has received over the network, which it then passes to the connected DAC (internal or external).

 

The comment about the NAD unit was secondary to my first comment about bypassing the ATV by using my ethernet connection from my Mac directly into a new networkable AVR. Mainly my point was that i may not need the ATV to deliver the music source in the future. I just recently happened upon the NAD device and thought it looked interesting, they make great products for sure but i would never use a wireless unit like that for my main system.

 

So, does that mean you're no longer concerned about your Mac Mini never going to sleep?

 

I've never been 'concerned' about my Mac Mini never going to sleep, it's been like that for many years. In fact, i thought of possibly buying a newer one and relegating the old Mini to just being a music server and modifying it if needed to be a better server. This is somewhat similar to what you suggested with getting a low power consumption computer like SheevaPlug or Raspberry Pi, however i really do not know anything about those you mentioned, i would have to do some research first before going that route.

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