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Advice on system purchases and set-up


buzzfledderjohn
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Hi all,

 

Have been lurking here for a while and learning a lot. I’m in the process of upgrading my audio system, both generally and digitally, and could use some purchase and set-up advice. I have a nice vinyl + cd system and am ready to take the leap into streaming, downloads, and storing music files other than on my laptop. Here’s what my A/V set-up will be (most pieces I already have and a few are about to be acquired), excluding the new digital pieces I’m asking about below:

 

• Audio Research SP20 preamp

• Audio Research Ref 75se amp

• Audio Research CD3

• VPI Classic turntable

• Vandersteen Quatro CTs

• Tivo Premiere XL4

• Oppo BDP-95 (for dvd and blu-ray)

• Pioneer Elite Kuro tv (audio through preamp and amp)

• MacBook Air circa 2013 (Sierra OS) (would like to stay Mac)

• Tidal Hi-Fi subscription

• Apple tv

• lots of CDs and a decent-sized iTunes library

• Fios Internet/TV connection (75Mbps; could upgrade to 100 or 150Mbps though guessing it wouldn’t make a difference for audio)

• Actiontec M1424WR router that came with tv/internet fios account (in different room from system; have ethernet connection from router to system)

 

Anyway, as mentioned I want to start streaming through my main system (I listen to Tidal on my laptop now), and also rip my CD collection to a storage device of some kind and get rid of physical CDs and just have digital files, streaming, and vinyl as my playback options. I'd rather not store digital music files for playback through the main system primarily on my laptop or stream from my laptop or an iPad. To the extent a computing device is required for controlling the system, I’d ideally like to use an iPad instead of my laptop (and want to stay Mac). Playback of stored files and streaming would be hardwired and not via wi-fi from my computer or an iPad.

 

I’ve been looking at the Ayre QX-5 Twenty as an option for a streaming device. I understand it’s not MQA-compatible (on a hardware level) and maybe that should be a consideration (but not asking about that in this post), but it seems like other than that issue it might be ideal for my purposes. As part of a larger transaction for a few of the components listed above, I could get a nice deal on the Ayre, so I’m considering it.

 

For file storage, I’m thinking maybe the Melco N1A (would rather not spend more than $2k on a storage device right now). So, as I understand it, for playback of stored files, the Melco would feed the QX-5 which would output to the ARC SP20? Streaming (e.g., Tidal) would be from the router to the Ayre to the SP20. This is all new and fairly Greek to me (up to now, I’ve just played CDs on the CD3, iTunes on my laptop, and sometimes played laptop files or streamed via Airplay through my Apple TV which is connected to the preamp). I’ve been searching the site and gotten a lot of useful information, but am (obviously!) nowhere remotely close to a complete grasp on any of this.... But I’m eager to take the plunge rather than spend another year or two studying the ins and outs of all of it. Basically I’d love some feedback on whether this all makes sense and whether I’m missing (or misunderstanding) anything or making any obvious mistakes. And I have a few specific questions:

 

• Is the above a good way to meet my needs? Is there anything else I would need? Intuitiveness and ease-of-use are plusses.

• Best way (ethernet, usb, other) to connect different devices (Ayre, Melco, SP20, router)? I know there may be disagreement on this.

• Any reason to get a different/better router or increase my fios download speed?

 

Obviously I have lots of other things to figure out along the way — just want to nail down what components to buy for a great-sounding digital system that can accomplish what I want, which I’m sure I’ll then spend many months/years figuring out and possibly adding onto.

 

Thanks so much for any advice or suggestions!!

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I know my questions are computer audiophile 101 (or the pre-k version of that...maybe I should go away for a year and study...), but I'd really appreciate any suggestions, comments, criticisms, jokes, derision, or any other input on this (or any small part of it), everyone. Most of you are light years ahead of me on this stuff, and i'd really like to get started on buying some equipment and would love some sage advice and opinions about the purchases and set-up I've laid out. Thanks so much for any feedback, I really appreciate it!

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Hi-

 

First, that sounds like a great system you own/will own.

Second, you seem to basically have it figured out. A couple of comments:

 

1. If you are going to use the Ayre as streamer and DAC over ethernet, I'm thinking the Melco might be a bit of overkill. For music storage and streaming to your Ayre, you can use any NAS or computer connected to the network. You don't need something so audiophile like the Melco if you already have the Ayre. You could get any off the shelf solution with enough storage space, or something more like a CAPS (fanless, etc) if you prefer that kind of solution. As long as you aren't doing intensive upsampling (like to 2X DSD and above) you don't need an extremely powerful computer to serve up your files.

 

Nothing wrong with the Melco, I'm just suggesting that you think about if it is worth the extra bucks. If you were going to be using USB, the Melco makes more sense, as then the noise reduction is more of an issue.

 

2. Tidal: the Ayre is Roon Ready. I think if you use Roon and incorporate Tidal, you will find that the seamless integration of Tidal with the rest of your library is a user experience you won't want to give up. Of course that means you need a computer source that can run Roon with no problems. See Roon community for that.

 

3. Router: I don't know that model, usually routers from internet providers are "okay". Many find better performance with separates: using your ISP supplied device just as a modem (source for internet feed), and connecting it to a superior dedicated home router and separate switch. But that is something you can deal with after you get your system going.

 

4. Other ethernet tweaks, noise reduction, optical cable, filters, isolation: again, something to think about as an upgrade after you get your basic setup working as you like it. Many find that it gives them an uptick in SQ.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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you could get a mac mini and dedicate it to hifi use - some think an SSD improves SQ - or use your laptop

 

I do not see room treatments, room analysis or upgrading of CDs for the best masters on your list, and all of those can make a far more profound SQ difference even with equipment costing a tenth of what yours cost, so...

 

I use iTunes also, via AirPlay to an Apple TV3. I have not tested alternatives yet so cannot comment on whether SQ might improve with a different transmission type.

 

I just ripped my CD collection to iTunes using Apple Lossless; some like ALAC. There is an involved procedure on here that C/A (Chris) wrote up - it can save time in the long run, but Apple makes it all easy.

 

What format is your iTunes library in and if your CDs are not on it, what is?

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firedog and Ralf11 thanks for your suggestions and questions. Up until now, I’ve 99% just listened to vinyl and physical CDs through my main system. I intend to keep listening to a lot of vinyl, but I’ve decided to shift my digital focus from physical CDs to streaming and digital files. I have 500 or so CDs I’ll rip to lossless files (have started reading up on various methods of doing this - not my current inquiry though). As far as my iTunes, it’s kind of a mess. I’ve copied something like 100 CDs into iTunes, and dowloaded a bunch of other albums, mostly from the iTunes store and a few from artists’ websites. Regrettably, I previously didn’t pay enough attention to file type — most of them are AAC with few WAV files here and there. Will re-rip all my CDs into lossless files, and may have to repurchase some of the albums I’ve downloaded that I’m most interested in listening to going forward. I’ve used Airplay a little bit, but want to have hardwired connections for all of my digital music (streaming and stored files) in the main system, using wireless only when practical where a computing device is functioning as a remote control. But I want to stream through a dedicated streamer, and store music files on a piece of hardware dedicated to that, rather than having my laptop perform all of those functions.My listening room is our living room, with our flatscreen between the speakers over a stereo cabinet with all of the other equipment. It’s a fairly large room (25x19’), the A/V set-up is on the long wall in one-half of the room. There are no other good placement options because of a fireplace, staircase and five windows (3 quite large with views we don’t want to obstruct). The internet/tv router (fios) is in the guest bedroom closet downstairs, and I have an ethernet connection to the stereo cabinet. My amazing wife is very supportive of my gear and music obsession (50/60s jazz, americana, blues, folk, classic rock, some classical) but we both care how the room looks and ugly room treatments are visually problematic (we have hardwood floors so I’m using rugs, fabric-covered furniture and drapes to soften the acoustics). I’m upgrading speakers from Vandersteen 3A Sigs to Vandersteen Quatro CTs partly for generally better sound but also because the Quatros are very tuneable for room issues and can be placed very close to the wall. Once I get the new Vandys I’ll spend a lot of time fine-turning placement of the speakers and furniture.Regarding the Melco N1A being overkill, perhaps it is in terms of overlap/redundancy with the QX-5. Or perhaps that would make it easier to use and integrate... I think I would like to have dedicated file storage (instead of playing music off my laptop, whether streaming or hardwired), so it sounds like if I don’t get the Melco perhaps I should use NAS or something like the high-end mac mini with the fusion drive. In terms of NAS options, I noticed on the Roon site that a QNAP TVS-471 they recommend as an optimal NAS solution, pretty heartily configured, would be the same or less $ than the Melco, so that’s a thought. Have never used an NAS device, but I could put all my photos on there and also back up my macs (the QNAP seems to support Time Machine). I could put the NAS device or mac mini (or Melco) in the downstairs closet with the router, if there’s no reason to have it in the listening room).A main consideration is simplicity and intuitiveness. I’ve been using computers since I bough a couple of 2CIs for my small business in 1990, and I’m not totally computer illiterate, but I wouldn’t consider myself supersavvy or a whiz at computing or networking. A solution to all of this that takes me 10 hours to figure out is probably okay, but not a system or network or new piece of equipment I struggle with for 50 hours to try to figure out. I want the highest possible sound quality from my digital listening, but (for now…) I can accept 1% sound degradation if a system is 2x as easy to use.So, let’s assume I get the Ayre. And that I’ve got up to $2000 to spend on storage. I could get the Melco N1A, or let’s say (to stay in the same price range) the QNAP TVS-471 suitably arrayed, or a tricked-out mac mini… Would love anyone’s thoughts on this. It needs to work seamlessly with the rest of the equipment (Ayre QX-5 and Audio Research SP20, and Mac operating environment) and be a powerful, effective solution, but not require a ton of networking sophisticatoin (which I din’t have yet).Any further thoughts anyone has would be awesome. If I run a few more cables (besides ethernet — and which ethernet?) from the downstairs closet to the living room, what would you run and how many of each, to set yourself up for future experimentation?As a final note, I think I’m definitely committed to Tidal and Roon and am very excited about both. What do you guys view as the pros and cons of each of the major contenders? As a bonus question, I currently just have one ethernet cable running from the downstairs closet to the stereo area upstairs. How many more cables should I run though the wall (would like to do before I put everything back together) and what kinds/brands?

 

Eager to get going!!

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I made it part way thru your post but can you break it up into paragraphs for each topic?

 

re the format - go thru the present iTunes library (maybe by sorting on a format key or bit rate, etc.) and find all the mp3 and other compressed, lossy formats. Second, guess which ones are most likely to suffer in SQ from lossy-ness and buy those, then listen to see if you want to replace the others. This will save $$ and maybe time.

 

Apple or modified Apple computer gear makes it easy. Audirvana or some such (??) is a way to enhance SQ tho i dunno if it makes an audible difference.

 

A post on "How to get the best SQ from files on an Apple computer?" should be instructive - there is a lot of knowledge on this forum.

 

I have older Maggies, an ARC LS-25 MkII driving a Sunfire amp and use a Dacmagic DAC (or Cal Audio HDCD with PowerBoss CD Player) and am fairly happy with that setup. You will want to address the weakest part of your equipment chain (often the room/speakers) first, but also not be locked into a lot of cost or labor to change later on.

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I'm reposting a lightly edited version of my post above that isn't broken into paragraphs. I wrote it in paragraphs, went to bed, woke up and the paragraph breaks were gone and for some reason I'm not able to edit the post (is there a time limit?).

 

 

firedog and Ralf11 thanks for your suggestions and questions. Up until now, I’ve 99% just listened to vinyl and physical CDs through my main system. I intend to keep listening to a lot of vinyl, but I’ve decided to shift my digital focus from physical CDs to streaming and digital files. I have 500 or so CDs I’ll rip to lossless files (have started reading up on various methods of doing this - not my current inquiry though).

 

As far as my iTunes, it’s kind of a mess. I’ve copied something like 100 CDs into iTunes, and dowloaded a bunch of other albums, mostly from the iTunes store and a few from artists’ websites. Regrettably, I previously didn’t pay enough attention to file type — most of them are AAC with few WAV files here and there. Will re-rip all my CDs as lossless files, and may have to repurchase (as lossless files) some of the albums I’ve downloaded that I’m most interested in listening to going forward. I’ve used Airplay a little bit, but want to have hardwired connections for all of my digital music (streaming and stored files) in the main system, using wireless only where a computing device is functioning as a remote control. I want to stream through a dedicated streamer, and store music files on a piece of hardware dedicated to that, rather than having my laptop perform all of those functions. Open to either using a mac laptop or an iPad as the remote/configuring computer.

 

My listening room is our living room, with our flatscreen between the speakers over a stereo cabinet with all of the other equipment. It’s a fairly large room (25x19’); the A/V set-up is on the long wall in one-half of the room. There are no other good placement options because of a fireplace, staircase and five windows (3 quite large with views we don’t want to obstruct). The internet/tv router (fios) is in the guest bedroom closet downstairs, and I have an ethernet connection (CAT6) to the stereo cabinet upstairs. My amazing wife is very supportive of my gear and music obsession (50/60s jazz, americana, blues, folk, classic rock, some classical) but we both care how the room looks aesthetically (arts and craftsy) and ugly room treatments are visually problematic (we have hardwood floors so I’m using rugs, fabric-covered furniture and drapes to soften the acoustics a bit).

 

I’m upgrading speakers from Vandersteen 3A Sigs to Vandersteen Quatro CTs partly for generally better sound but also because the Quatros are supposed to be very tuneable for room issues and (according to Richard V) can be placed very close to the wall. Once I get the new Vandys I’ll spend a lot of time fine-turning placement of the speakers and furniture.

 

Regarding the Melco N1A being overkill, perhaps it is in terms of overlap/redundancy with the QX-5. Or perhaps that would make it easier to use and integrate - I'm not sure... I think I would like to have dedicated file storage (instead of playing music off my laptop, whether streaming or hardwired), so it sounds like if I don’t get the Melco perhaps I should use NAS or something like the high-end mac mini with the fusion drive. In terms of NAS options, I noticed on the Roon site that a QNAP TVS-471 they recommend as an optimal NAS solution, pretty heartily configured, would cost the same or less $ than the Melco, so that’s a thought. Have never used an NAS device, but I could put all my photos on there and also back up my macs (the QNAP seems to support Time Machine). I could put the NAS device or mac mini (or Melco) in the downstairs closet with the router, if there’s no reason to have it in the listening room).

 

A main consideration is simplicity and intuitiveness. I’ve been using computers since I bought a couple of 2CIs for my small business in 1990, and I’m not totally computer illiterate, but I wouldn’t consider myself supersavvy or a whiz at computing or networking. A solution to all of this that takes me 10 hours to figure out is okay, but not a system or network or new piece of equipment I struggle with for 50-100 hours to try to figure out. I want the highest possible sound quality from my digital listening, but (for now…) I can accept 1% sound degradation if a system is 2x as easy to use.

 

So, let’s assume I get the Ayre QX-5. And that I’ve got up to $2000 to spend on storage (though I'd love to spend less without sacrificing quality and ease of use). I could get the Melco N1A, or let’s say (to stay in the same price range) the QNAP TVS-471 suitably arrayed, or a tricked-out mac mini… Would love anyone’s thoughts on this. It needs to work seamlessly with the rest of the equipment (Ayre QX-5 and Audio Research SP20, and Mac operating environment) and be a powerful, effective solution, but not require a ton of networking sophistication (which I don’t remotely have yet). Any further thoughts anyone has would be awesome.

 

As a final note, based on what I've read (including here), and my limited experience so far with Tidal on my laptop), I’m definitely committed to Tidal and Roon and am very excited about both. What do you guys view as the pros and cons of each of the major file storage contenders (Melco, NAS, mac mini) mentioned above?

 

As a bonus question, I currently just have one ethernet cable (CAT 6) running from the downstairs closet to the stereo area upstairs. How many more cables should I run though the wall (would like to do before I put everything back together) and what kinds? Another ethernet cable? USB? Optical? HDMI? If I use a NAS device, it would definitely be downstairs in the other room. A mac mini or the Melco could go in the stereo cabinet, unless there are noise issues, or downstairs.

 

Eager to get going, thanks for everyone's suggestions!

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re the format - go thru the present iTunes library (maybe by sorting on a format key or bit rate, etc.) and find all the mp3 and other compressed, lossy formats. Second, guess which ones are most likely to suffer in SQ from lossy-ness and buy those, then listen to see if you want to replace the others. This will save $$ and maybe time.

 

Will try that, thanks.

 

A post on "How to get the best SQ from files on an Apple computer?" should be instructive - there is a lot of knowledge on this forum.

 

Will do a search and study up on this.

 

You will want to address the weakest part of your equipment chain (often the room/speakers) first, but also not be locked into a lot of cost or labor to change later on.

 

As I mention in the post that came out as one long ¶ (you may not have made it that far - lol), I'm limited in terms of what we can do with the room. It's large, but the stereo is only in half the room and we have hardwood floors and one of the speakers is next to a large glass window (in a corner) and the other isn't next to a wall or window. I'm upgrading speakers and the new ones should be a little more flexible placement-wise, and though the room acoustics aren't crazy-hard I'm taming them with cloth-upholstered furniture, area rugs and possibly drapes. Also will spend a ton of time experimenting with moving the speakers and furniture around slightly in that part of the room. But I hear you. If we had a larger house I'd lobby for a man cave solely dedicated to audio, but alas we don't. And my current/previous set-up sounds pretty darn good, though I'm sure it will sound even better after the upgrades and additions.

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A "high end" Qnap is good.

 

But why not add enough storage to this one :

https://www.smallgreencomputer.com/collections/custom-units/products/sonictransporter-i7-for-roon-1-3-dsp

 

Then you have Roon, with soon MAQ, full up sampling and storage. Full Tidal integration. And direct connection to your RAAT endpoint without using a switch. It can't get better [emoji3]

 

Then you chose a RAAT endpoint. It does not have to be the MicroRendu with the LPS-1 PS, but it's hard to get something better these days.

 

Maybe choose a DAC without volume control, but with dsd ?

 

And why not test the Spring DAC ?

https://kitsunehifi.com/product/springdacgreen/

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Computer Audiophile

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