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CD to Network to Stereo


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I've been wading through the process of getting my music from its source to an archive and then to my stereo's speakers. So far this is what I've got figured out (I think).

 

1. Use dBpoweramp to convert CD's to FLAC. (I've tried EAC, but I prefer dBpoweramp.)

 

2. Attach 4T of disk to my Asus RT-AC87U wireless router, and configure the disk as a media server in the router.

I must admit that I don't really know why I need to configure the disk as a media server in the router: after all,

it's just a network attached disk, and the player will attach to it like any other disk. Nevertheless, the router

provides this capability so I guess I'll see how it works.

 

3. Use player software TBD (MediaMonkey, J Rivers MC, FUBAR2000, etc.) that is compatible with my desktop and also a tablet (Win 8.1?). The tablet will be dedicated to its role as a media server/player.

 

4. Connect the tablet to my stereo somehow (Bluetooth or cable from tablet's headphone jack). Actually this a bit of a simplification: the tablet will really be one of 4 devices (the tablet, a CD player, an iPod, and a turntable) attached to a switch attached to the stereo.

 

Is this plan feasible? Any pieces missing? Is there a better way to do it? Any comments and recommendations will be appreciated.

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I've been wading through the process of getting my music from its source to an archive and then to my stereo's speakers. So far this is what I've got figured out (I think).

 

1. Use dBpoweramp to convert CD's to FLAC. (I've tried EAC, but I prefer dBpoweramp.)

 

2. Attach 4T of disk to my Asus RT-AC87U wireless router, and configure the disk as a media server in the router.

I must admit that I don't really know why I need to configure the disk as a media server in the router: after all,

it's just a network attached disk, and the player will attach to it like any other disk. Nevertheless, the router

provides this capability so I guess I'll see how it works.

 

3. Use player software TBD (MediaMonkey, J Rivers MC, FUBAR2000, etc.) that is compatible with my desktop and also a tablet (Win 8.1?). The tablet will be dedicated to its role as a media server/player.

 

4. Connect the tablet to my stereo somehow (Bluetooth or cable from tablet's headphone jack). Actually this a bit of a simplification: the tablet will really be one of 4 devices (the tablet, a CD player, an iPod, and a turntable) attached to a switch attached to the stereo.

 

Is this plan feasible? Any pieces missing? Is there a better way to do it? Any comments and recommendations will be appreciated.

 

Why would you want to connect the HD to the router only to send the files back to the computer and then back to the router and the tablet? And neither bluetooth or especially the headphones outlet of your tablet would be ideal for connecting to your stereo.

 

You should buy a network player with or without built-in DAC. There are plenty of options these days. Connect to the router and run a server (Asset Music Server f.x.) on the computer and connect your hard drive with the music files to that computer instead.

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Thanks for the quick response.

 

Why would you want to connect the HD to the router only to send the files back to the computer and then back to the router and the tablet?

Sorry, perhaps I didn't explain this well. Nothing is going back. The purpose of the drive on the wireless router is to have a centralized place to operationally share the data with multiple devices, and to not require any particular device (other than the wireless router) to be on and available. Hence, my questioning the need for the disk to be configured as a media server as opposed to just as another available network disk. My desktop and the tablet are not the only devices that would access the music. Also, the stereo is in a different part of the house, and I cannot run cables to it, so the wireless connection is required.

 

And neither bluetooth or especially the headphones outlet of your tablet would be ideal for connecting to your stereo.

Oops.

I don't understand why this is true, but, then again, I don't have to. I'm new to this and have asked for help; I'm sure I'll learn eventually.

 

You should buy a network player with or without built-in DAC. There are plenty of options these days. Connect to the router and run a server (Asset Music Server f.x.) on the computer and connect your hard drive with the music files to that computer instead.

Hmmmm. I'm not sure I follow you here, so I'll try to restate this so you understand what I'm hearing. 1. Get a network player. 2. Connect the network player to the stereo via cable (e.g., RCA, rather than Bluetooth or stereo headphone cable) and to the router via wireless. 3. Move the drive to my desktop. 4. Run a server on my desktop.

 

Here's more evidence that I didn't explain my situation well. My aim is twofold. First, to establish a shareable, always-available, centralized operational storage (as opposed to backup storage, which is handled separately) for my music files (and perhaps video, someday) that does not depend upon any given device's availability on the network (e.g., I can shut down my desktop and still listen to music on my stereo) except, of course, for the wireless router/ disk. Second, I need a method of connecting my stereo to that centralized operational storage.

 

Looking at the pieces of your suggestion, your solution seems physically similar to mine, except for the network player. Well, I'm open to acquiring the needed gear. The other difference is that you suggest I dump the tablet, and use only my desktop. Sorry I hadn't explained the need for this to work independently of my desktop.

 

I'm not sure I really understand all the functions of a network player, but it seems to me that it provides a wireless connection to a stereo that supports stored music as well as internet radio. Having access to internet radio would be a nice plus. The problem I see (and remember I'm half-blind, here) is that they have only a small dot-matrix screen to work with, and I would like much more robust navigation of my music collection. For various reasons, a smart phone cannot be involved in any way (e.g., to run an app for music navigation); that is the basis for my choice of a tablet running player software.

 

So it seems that a network music player may need to be part of the solution. I'll look into them more closely.

 

I appreciate the advice, and thanks for your quick response.

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I fully understand your aim / need to not have a computer running just to play music.

You can just put your music on a 4TB disc and access it simply if you use a NAS. This will have a an onboard processor that can run server software with ease. You can then just run an ethernet cable to your stereo but you will need to buy a box (called a renderer) to convert the ethernet music packets to a digital form acceptable to your stereo if your stereo already includes a DAC. If you do not have a DAC then you will need a 'network player' that has an ethernet input and analogue output.

You may need your existing computer to download and install the server software on the NAS, and also to add CDs to the library and edit as necessary, but not for playing music. Playback would be controlled by an app running on a tablet.

Hope this helps clarify matters.

David

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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Just to be clear there are dedicated devices that can play music files over the network, called music streamers. A streamer that has its own internal DAC, so can be connected directly to the standard line-in (analogue inputs) of a stereo amplifier, is known as a network music player. A streamer that doesn't contain its own DAC, so requires an external DAC to output to, is known as a renderer.

The renderer can be considered the modern equivalent of the CD transport and the network audio player the equivalent of the CD player.

 

A dedicated purpose built network attached storage (NAS) device, is considered more reliable than a router with an attached storage drive, for network file sharing and streaming. However, there's no reason why you can't at least try out your router's attached storage streaming facilities, as they may be just all you require.

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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Thanks, David and Cebolla, you both are centering in on my main problem.

 

As far as NAS goes, I'm going to start with the 4T on the wireless router; it's probably good enough for my meager needs, but if not I'll throw an old desktop I've got into the mix for handling networked HD.

 

So now assume that I've gotten the songs ripped to FLAC and they're just sitting there on the networked drive waiting to be played. At this point I can play them on my desktop or any device that can directly access the HD and play FLAC.

 

That means what's left is to put something between the wireless NAS and the stereo. What ever this is (or these are), it must

1) be able to connect wirelessly (ethernet is not an option) to the network;

2) be able to easily access and review the archived music in various ways (by artist, genre, etc.) with support for not only ad hoc play selection, but also play lists;

3) be FLAC capable (this assumes the DAC function to be incorporated into the player);

4) support some sort of connection to the stereo, presumably RCA or optical.

 

A network music player certainly can handle items 1 and 4, and probably 3. However, they seem to be challenged by item 2. Please remember that I cannot use a smart phone to run the network music player.

 

However, if the network music player app can be run on a tablet running Win8.1, then perhaps the solution is to use a network music player for the connections, but run the player (or, rather, control the player) via a tablet.

 

For Cebolla: Computerized Musical Onion?

 

Thanks for the comments.

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As regards your wireless connectivity one option is to use wireless bridge. Your wireless router would form one end and (I'd recommend) an Airport extreme or similar the other near (but not close) to your stereo (to avoid RF interference effects on sound quality). This end of the bridge would be connected by ethernet cable (say 2m) to your DAC / stereo.

 

As regards access and review of the music stored there's nothing wrong with using your desktop. For example I've found iTunes perfectly adequate software for this purpose though I don't use it as a player. The mac environment does not support FLAC files so transcoding would be necessary to WAV or ALAC - this can be done offline on your computer or realtime by a NAS processor.

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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David,

 

By the very mention of the Foobar music player, EAC, dBPoweramp and other Windows software on the desktop plus the mention of possibly using a W8.1 tablet, makes it unlikely the OP's a Mac user!

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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David,

 

The bridge is an interesting option for the wireless connectivity. But I would expect -- and maybe I'm wrong -- that a network music player would already have this connectivity.

 

As for using my desktop: this is not feasible as it is nowhere near the stereo. Besides, the plan has as a requirement, the need to function independently of my desktop.

 

FWIW, I do not, and -- unless absolutely forced to -- will not use any Apple product. This is my own prejudice, if you will, and will sustain no argument.

 

The big problem really seems to be the navigation of the music archive.

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So now assume that I've gotten the songs ripped to FLAC and they're just sitting there on the networked drive waiting to be played. At this point I can play them on my desktop or any device that can directly access the HD and play FLAC.

 

That means what's left is to put something between the wireless NAS and the stereo. What ever this is (or these are), it must

1) be able to connect wirelessly (ethernet is not an option) to the network;

2) be able to easily access and review the archived music in various ways (by artist, genre, etc.) with support for not only ad hoc play selection, but also play lists;

3) be FLAC capable (this assumes the DAC function to be incorporated into the player);

4) support some sort of connection to the stereo, presumably RCA or optical.

 

A network music player certainly can handle items 1 and 4, and probably 3. However, they seem to be challenged by item 2. Please remember that I cannot use a smart phone to run the network music player.

 

However, if the network music player app can be run on a tablet running Win8.1, then perhaps the solution is to use a network music player for the connections, but run the player (or, rather, control the player) via a tablet.

 

For Cebolla: Computerized Musical Onion?

Wow, spot on on all points!

 

Certainly the industry standard method of network media file streaming, UPnP/DLNA, uses that mechanism you outlined. The UPnP/DLNA media server contains & maintains the music library, which is built from the music category metadata/tags (eg album, artist, genre, etc) contained in the music files. The UPnP/DLNA controller aka control point is the user interface that allows the user to access the UPnP server's music library to select the music files for the playlist. The control point also gives the user the ability to control the UPnP/DLNA streamer/player/renderer. During playback the controller instructs the streamer which files to play and where they are located on the media server.

 

The better UPnP/DLNA controllers are mostly available on Android & some on iOS. So if you're thinking of getting a tablet just as a control device, an Android one rather than Windows might be a better choice. The BubbleUPnP controller app is the one that most would recommend for Android. If you must run the UPnP controller on a Windows machine, it is still possible, though your choice of a decent one is restricted and may require a bit of fiddling to set up, depending on which one you choose.

 

For the UPnP/DLNA media server application, the music dedicated MinimServer is the one I'd go for, if the built-in one on your Asus router isn't good enough. It can be installed on some NASs, as well as computers. You can even install it on a cheap, but reliable low powered small computer (so ideal for 24/7 use), like the Raspberry Pi:

MinimServer features

 

All the UPnP/DLNA music streamers that I know of support FLAC.

This brings me to the minor point about music file playback. It's not the digital to analogue converter (DAC) that plays the music file. The music player, provided in firmware in a streamer (or indeed in software in a computer), is the application that decodes the data contained in the digital music file (eg FLAC), into the realtime digital audio signal that then gets passed to the DAC. So both streamers with DACs (players) & streamers without DACs (renderers), do music file playing.

 

Powerline network adapters can be used in place of ethernet cable, so you have an alternative to WiFi.

 

...and yes, reasonably decent Latin translation. I'm the species of cebolla (Spanish onion) with computer audio tendencies!

 

 

John

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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David,

 

The bridge is an interesting option for the wireless connectivity. But I would expect -- and maybe I'm wrong -- that a network music player would already have this connectivity.

 

Yes, quite likely. I should hace picked up your PC environment - instead of an Airport Extreme you could use a similar non-Apple device if the network music player does not include this functionality. Rather than use wireless in a network player a separate wireless-to-wired ethernet 'converter' will enable you to minimise any RF interference with your hifi. Note you need a wireless node in the vicinity of your hifi to allow control of music playback with a tablet.

For a non-Apple environment I'd recommend Minimserver running on a NAS with music playback controlled using BubbleUPnP app running on an Android tablet. This app is very good for creating playlists etc etc. To manage the music library you can use JRiver Music Centre running on your desktop. While you could use this for playback with JRemote app on a tablet you would have to keep the computer running which you wish to avoid.

 

FWIW, I do not, and -- unless absolutely forced to -- will not use any Apple product. This is my own prejudice, if you will, and will sustain no argument.

[\QUOTE]

 

Fair enough: personally I use Apple stuff because it just works and I take the 'hit' of their large profit margin so I can spend more time listening to music.

 

David

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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For a non-Apple environment I'd recommend Minimserver running on a NAS with music playback controlled using BubbleUPnP app running on an Android tablet. This app is very good for creating playlists etc etc. To manage the music library you can use JRiver Music Centre running on your desktop. While you could use this for playback with JRemote app on a tablet you would have to keep the computer running which you wish to avoid.
Using JRiver Media Center just for music file tag editing, is a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, IMO - assuming that's what you mean by 'manage the music library'. JMC cannot be used to setup & configure the private database that MinimServer uses to actually manage its music library (nor any other UPnP media server's, for that matter, other than its own). MinimServer of course comes with it's own environment for that purpose. It doesn't come with a music file tag editor which is fair enough as there are plenty dedicated tag editors around, certainly for Windows - arguably the best known is Mp3Tag:

Mp3tag - the universal Tag Editor (ID3v2, MP4, OGG, FLAC, ...)

 

JRiver is a full blown media player application in its own right with its own media server/music library and playback/control interface. So similar to Foobar2000, though very much more user friendly and certainly not as klunky. It also supports UPnP/DLNA streaming, by its 3 main constituent parts (ie player, media server and controller). Unfortunately, they're all bundled into the one application and they cannot be separated from each other. Also, the said application can only run on Windows & Mac computers. The JRemote app mentioned is a remote control for just for the JRiver application and cannot be used for any other purpose (so is not a UPnP control point, for example).

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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This page has a summary of the network aspects of JRiver.

Media Network - JRiverWiki

 

For Android tablets, Gizmo is our free remote control. JRemote will soon be available for Android.

 

Powerline network adapters can be used in place of ethernet cable, so you have an alternative to WiFi.

I agree. They work well.

 

4TB may be overkill, depending on the size of your collection. Assume about 2000 CD's per TB when using FLAC or any lossless codec.

Jim Hillegass / JRiver Media Center / jriver.com

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X

Using JRiver Media Center just for music file tag editing, is a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, IMO - assuming that's what you mean by 'manage the music library'. JMC cannot be used to setup & configure the private database that MinimServer uses to actually manage its music library (nor any other UPnP media server's, for that matter, other than its own). MinimServer of course comes with it's own environment for that purpose. It doesn't come with a music file tag editor which is fair enough as there are plenty dedicated tag editors around, certainly for Windows - arguably the best known is Mp3Tag:

Mp3tag - the universal Tag Editor (ID3v2, MP4, OGG, FLAC, ...)

 

JRiver is a full blown media player application in its own right with its own media server/music library and playback/control interface. So similar to Foobar2000, though very much more user friendly and certainly not as klunky. It also supports UPnP/DLNA streaming, by its 3 main constituent parts (ie player, media server and controller). Unfortunately, they're all bundled into the one application and they cannot be separated from each other. Also, the said application can only run on Windows & Mac computers. The JRemote app mentioned is a remote control for just for the JRiver application and cannot be used for any other purpose (so is not a UPnP control point, for example).

 

Agreed but I'm not familiar with any other non-Apple software to do the (simple) job. If Apple software can be used then the easiest and free solution would be to run iTunes on the desktop PC purely for curating the library, with MinimServer for music playback.

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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DavidL, Cebolla,and jriver,

 

Sorry to be so long in responding to you, but Life sometimes has a way of setting its own priorities.

 

Re the powerline connection, I tried such a connection several years ago, and found it lacking. Nevertheless, the technology has advanced and not only has it's own specifications, it's apparently on the third generation of specs. I suppose it's not asking too much to check out a technology once every 10 years. :)

 

Cebolla, your description in terms of UPnP/DLNA functionality has given me a much better sense of functional purposes and a more appropriate vocabulary to discuss them. As for your point about the DAC function, you are absolutely correct: there's no need for an analog signal until the music is on its way out of digital-land.

 

Jriver, I have approximately 550 CDs to archive to FLAC. Additionally, I have about 400 vinyl albums to capture for inclusion into the collection. This is gonna keep be busy for a long time.

 

As with any long-term project, things will (not maybe, will) change while it's ongoing. About the only things I expect to remain constant throughout are use of FLAC, and ending up with my stereo (and I'm not so sure that the stereo won't change).

 

I really want to get started, so I've decided on the following initial configuration and tools.

The database will consist of FLAC files on a 4T networked drive attached to my ASUS wireless router.

I will use dBpoweramp running on my Dell Precision T3500 to rip the music.

At first, I will use a Dell laptop connected wirelessly to the database. (The first change may be to using a powerline network, if it seems worthwhile.)

First I will attach the laptop to the stereo via the laptop's minijack, but soon I will attach a USB soundcard to the laptop (I'm considering the Sound Blaster X-Fi HD) and connect the sound card to my stereo via RCA.

I will run either dBpoweramp or MediaMonkey on the laptop in order to access and play the FLAC from the networked database.

 

This is my baseline. I can get it up and running by the end of the week, and go from there as needed. Thanks to you, I have not only contingencies, but a growth path.

 

I'm open to comments and pitches for specific changes (jriver, any comment on dBpoweramp?).

 

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. I'll probably be posting soon on more limited topics (i.e., the individual pieces).

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Re the powerline connection, I tried such a connection several years ago, and found it lacking. Nevertheless, the technology has advanced and not only has it's own specifications, it's apparently on the third generation of specs. I suppose it's not asking too much to check out a technology once every 10 years. :)

I had similar experience with two generations of powerline/ethernet but have been using MOCA quite happily now. Check that out if it is possible for you.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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