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Music streaming system totally outclassed


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Until recently the sound quality from the CD and Airtunes (via AppleTV) sources in my system (both via the Bel Canto DAC3) were very similar; in general I marginally preferred the CD source but some music sounded better via the computer-based system. Not bad performance for a ~£200 wireless source! My first post on this forum in February was a request for suggestions as to the best next step:

( http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Music-playing-system-where-now )

 

All the ideas I picked up on this and other fora for improving the computer-based source involved adding complexity in both system and operation compared with the iTunes - Airtunes - AppleTV - iPod_touch_remote setup I have. While I would have been happy to invest time and money to set up a better system, I was not willing to spend more time on operating / maintaining the type of systems suggested, as it would eat into my listening time.

 

So I opted to improve the disc transport. I auditioned the PS Audio PWT because, in addition to playing CDs, it could play DVD data discs containing hi-res music files, and hence allow me to listen to the LPs I had digitised at 24/96. In a word the PWT is brilliant, totally outclassing the music streaming system. I've never heard CDs sound so good; completely natural sound but with bucket loads of detail, micro dynamics etc etc. At the moment I'm enjoying CDs so much I'm not sure whether I really need hi-res music. The transparency was so good that I experimented with cable upgrades: I got significant further improvements when I changed the power lead to a Kimber Palladian PK14 cable (from the stock cable), and the digital interconnect to a Transparent Reference AES/EBU cable (from an old Siltech silver cable).

 

As 70% of my music is on a RAID hard drive on the computer, my original question has become even more urgent. At the moment I keep digging out from storage CDs that I have ripped because they sound so much better on the PWT than via the wireless route!

 

I therefore ask again "Where to now?" Any suggestions gratefully accepted.

 

David

 

P.S. not including putting a computer in the listening room or buying Amarra!

 

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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particularly the forthcoming Lens, into which I could feed the AppleTV optical output. Because I already have a very good DAC I cannot really justify getting the PWD. Interestingly I've seen a couple of comments that the sound of the PWT / PWD combination can be improved upon by using an alternative DAC.

 

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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Try using a reclocker like the forthcoming PS Audio lens (to stay with them), or the Genesis lens, Empirical Audio pacecar, apogee big ben, or antelope audio equivalent to name a few. The PWT uses the PS Audio lens built in, so that may give you similar performance.

 

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david,

 

Sounds like you've found something you enjoy the sound of - go with it.

 

As for computer audio that will equal what you're experiencing, I'm afraid that you're limiting your options (perhaps impossibly so) - No computer in listening room, and no Amarra.

 

For many, the combo of Mac Mini / Amarra is preferable in sound quality and certainly convenience over transports such as the PWT despite that the PWT costs twice as much as that combo. Those latter two points (convenience and price) will tip many towards the combo even if the music is merely comparable in quality.

 

Certainly, it's your right not to have a computer in your listening room, but this IS computer audiophile forum, so I have to ask - what it is about the Mac Mini that disallows it a spot in the listening room as opposed to the PWT transport? The Mac Mini will take up less space, and make no more (and perhaps less) noise than any transport I've ever seen/heard. It might generate more heat, I simply can't tell with my tube preamp and Class A amp sitting next to it. ;)

 

And why do you disallow the use of Amarra? Yes, it's expensive, but it's 1/3 the price of your transport. (for the record, I have a significant issue with the price as well, just stating facts here).

 

If you want to have the best possible 'computer' audiophile setup, these are pretty big limitations that seem to have hamstrung your efforts to get comparable quality (to the PWT) thus far.

 

cheers,

clay

 

PS, Im no expert with the streamers, so I'll leave it to others to propose other 'wireless' alternatives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well given your aversion to computer in listening room it's difficult to suggest ... Also "what" more are you looking for - combining the convinience of streaming with the quality of the PWT I assume.

 

You could look at something like Naim HDX or (I think) Boulder have done something similar.

 

A UPnP streamer such as Linn DS might suit you. I don't know what the quality of the SPDIF output is like to use it with your BelCanto DAC though. The PS audio bridge is part of the PWD I think so that's no help.

 

Or reclocking devices as mentioned might help improve the output of your Apple TV though no possibility of High Resolution.

 

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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David, I feel you could have taken advantage of your current gear and gotten the same convenience with easily as good if not much better quality sound than the PWT. The streaming setup you ran using Apple Lossless wasn't even in the same ball park as the PWT and certainly isn't a fair or apples to apples comparison by any means. Also, standing up to put in discs defeats the point of the road you were already traveling on. As far as all around top notch high-res streaming solutions go we just aren't there yet IMO unless you want to spend gobs of cash to travel to the land of quality & convenience. The journey doesn't have to be as long and complicated as one thinks though, especially with Computer Audiophile as a map. If you wanted to keep your streaming setup going with quality redbook material as you've said and ditch the hi-res for now an Empirical Audio Pace Car 2 reclocking the Apple TV & outputting AES to your DAC for $1700 would be an esoteric solution and far more comparable to the PWT if not better. That's including the AES output and Superclock 4 upgrade on the Pace Car 2. A best of both worlds solution would be your Mac Pro using Amarra Mini >> your Fireface 400 clocked by an Empirical Audio Pace Car 2 via its Word Clock input then output SPDIF from Fireface to SPDIF input on Pace Car 2 >> output via high quality AES cable of proper length >> Bel Canto DAC3. It may not be wireless, but you'll have high res capability, auto sample rate switching, and a hell of a listening experience even better than the PWT is giving you now I dare to say for $2425.

 

Amarra Mini - $395

Empirical Audio Pace Car 2 in Mode 1 with 44/96khz Superclock 4 upgrades & AES output - $2,030

Knowing you have arrived in the land of Audio Nirvana without leaving your seat - Priceless

 

yep I'm feeling corny tonight.

 

 

david is hear[br]http://www.tuniverse.tv

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As a next step I think I'll add re-clocking type device to process the optical SPDIF output from the AppleTV - probably the PS Audio Lens, as, judging from the specs published so far, it will handle 4 audio+video inputs as well as normal audio SPDIF etc., so I can potentially improve the sound from all the other sources I have (TV, DVD, DAB radio).

 

Unfortunately the computer is too far from the listening room (1 floor up and 40ft across the house) to rearrange my current gear as you suggest DavidR: I'd do it in a flash if it were possible as I could then play iTunes direct into the Fireface 400 DAC and have both CD and hi-res music on tap, as you say.

 

There are 2 reasons why I do not want a computer in the listening room, Audio_elf and cfmsp.

Firstly it produces RF interference which I have found can degrade the audio performance of my system, even though I have balanced digital and analogue cables between transport, DAC/pre- and power amp. For this reason I also want to get rid of the AppleTV (which is a cut-down computer): moving it 2ft further away by using a longer optical cable gave a noticeable improvement in sound.

Secondly I don't want the hassle of servicing a computer when I am listening to music. I can see the merits of this setup - my son uses one - but there are occasions when it is necessary to use keyboard and / or mouse input, and have the TV on as a display, all of which I wish to avoid. OK there is the option of using remote access to the Mac mini via a laptop, but I'm not keen on that. As far as I'm aware there is not yet an application for iPhone / iPod touch that can control a remote computer: if and when there is I might reconsider, as I use the current remote application for controlling the playback of iTunes music from the Mac Pro.

 

DavidR you've confirmed the conclusion that I was coming to: "As far as all around top notch high-res streaming solutions go we just aren't there yet IMO". All that is needed is a solid-state bridge that converts wireless packets to SPDIF and is compatible with iTunes, and an upgrade to Airtunes (or a replacement) to support streaming of 24/96 audio wirelessly. Oh and it must be as simple to use and as bullet proof as my current system.

 

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 said "Unfortunately the computer is too far from the listening room (1 floor up and 40ft across the house) to rearrange my current gear as you suggest DavidR: I'd do it in a flash if it were possible as I could then play iTunes direct into the Fireface 400 DAC and have both CD and hi-res music on tap, as you say.

Does the BelCanto have AES3 (XLR) input? If so then 40ft is well within AES3 specs for long cable runs. The Fireface (with addition of a balancing transformer) can be used to output AES3 data (see the manual for details).

 

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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I'm currently using it for the connection to the PS Audio PWT. The problem is not the end connections or length unfortunately but finding a cable routing that would not entail an unacceptable upheaval and 'remodelling'.

 

 

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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Those were my thoughts exactly Eloise. If you hired an electrician to drill a few of holes for you and route high quality AES cable you would be in business. David, do you know if the power cable for the Apple TV is shielded and the other ones (video etc..) connected to it as well? Another option would be a Mac Mini ($750 with 4GB RAM) with a Bolder Mod Linear Power supply upgrade @ $475. Connect the Mini to the Fireface and output SPDIF to your Bel Canto; Amarra Mini @ $395. Use an External drive such as the Seagate 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive connected to the Mini for storage for a total of $1720 or 1078 pounds. If we were closer location wise it would be fun to help you find a solution. I really enjoy tinkering with this stuff.

 

david is hear[br]http://www.tuniverse.tv

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If I take a circuitous route it may be possible to connect the RME FF400 and Bel Canto DAC without major redecoration.

 

I've done some homework on cable specs and asked RME for some advice: the most promising avenue may be to follow the approach used for long video cables. The cable spec for AES3id supports unbalanced runs up to 1000m. The plugs and sockets are BNC, and while the spec voltage level for SPDIF is half that for AES3id, apparently there is normally enough headroom in the SPDIF receiver for this to be no problem.

 

I'll let you know where I get to.

 

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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"If I take a circuitous route it may be possible to connect the RME FF400 and Bel Canto DAC without major redecoration."

 

Where's your creativity David? Perhaps redecoration is the solution.

 

Have you considered adding the old world charm of wainscoting?

 

:0

 

clay

 

 

 

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....... what exactly do you mean by "redecoration" in the US?

 

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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.........Have you considered adding the old world charm of wainscoting?

 

I've got an old leather wainscote, and a fedora by Borsalino, that I wear to blues gigs. Does that count as redecoration or is it just plain old decoration? But I tell you, man, when I'm kitted out and grooving my AES goes for miles! :)

 

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Something more drastic would be necessary: holes in 6" thick brick or block walls! Difficult part is locating places where these would cause minimal impact.

 

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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Given barrows negative comments on the likely quality of the SPDIF output from a Fireface 400 at:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Any-information-leaking-out-about-new-Weiss-INT202-Firewire-Interface

I don't think I'll jump in yet with a 20m BNC cable connection between the FF400 and the Bel Canto DAC 3 (not an expensive experiment though: £25 at Maplin).

 

I'll wait and try out the PS Audio Lens to see how much it improves the AppleTV SPDIF (optical) output to the DAC.

 

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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to inputs on new products. See the discussions with Paul McGovan's inputs on the PS Forum at:

http://www.psaudio.com/ps/forum/viewthread/62/

for the definition of the forthcoming Lens product. As far as I can understand from this thread, it will accept sample rates up to the limit of the associated connections RCA SPDIF and AES/EBU up to 24/192, optical SPDIF 24/96 (+??). I'd hoped it would be a minimal half-width box with just sufficient (4?) inputs. The target price was $1000 (see thread above) but I suspect it may end up higher now that it is clear it will be a full-width box with a much larger number of inputs. Interestingly in addition to normal hi-fi sound inputs, there will be digital sound inputs with lower latency processing for video sources, and an associated four-way HDMI video switch.

 

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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