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Some questions before I buy a Amarra Mini

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I am interested in taking the Amarra Mini sale offer. At $299, it seems to be great to try. All my music are 16/44.1 from CDs and I don't have any high-Rez files. I need some advice on what to do with my system.


2.1ghz Intel Core2 Duo MacBook with 4gb RAM (good enough?)


1TB USB 7200rpm external HD on for music files (okay to use? Which USB input on Mac provides the best results?)


Do I need to re-rip my CDs or does my current AIFF files ripped by iTunes will do?


Should I get a SSD just for the OS?


Leopard or Snow Leopard? Which sounds better? I have both.


What is iLok on the Amarra Mini? Am I stuck with this MacBook for ever and I can't move the Amarra Mini to a better Mac in the future?


Can I use the optical out on the MacBook to my DAC? There is no mention of optical out support, just FW or USB.



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You do not need to do anything further to enjoy your iTunes music through Amarra Mini, as far as I can tell. If you are using the optical output into your DAC, then that is supported by Amarra and you should be fine. You have enough RAM, your 1TB storage is fine, and AIFF files are perfect for Amarra. You will need an iLok key (search the web to see a picture) and can get one from Amarra if you choose. That plugs into a USB port and must be attached to use Amarra. You are not stuck with that Mac and can always download and play on another Mac so long as you have the authorized iLok attached to the new computer. I use Leopard still, but I believe Snow Leopard is supported just as well. I think that answers your questions, so just get it and have fun listening. Then, I would recommend getting some hi-rez tunes to compare and see if you like the improvements.




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It appears you can buy Amarra now with a license file instead of the ILOK. In your case since you may want to move computers, the ILOK might make sense as it will simplify this process. I am in the same boat, considering Amarra, mostly for the sample rate change and for very slightly improved sound (to my ears and my not so resolving system). Since I am set on my MAC, I may go for the license file instead of the Ilok. You can get the Ilok directly from the Ilok vendor for $40 instead of $50 that Sonic Studio charges (last time I looked)


I agree with Voltron, your set up is great. The auto sample rate change will help too if you decide to add some 24/96 tracks to your collection.


PS: I use optical and it works fine with the Amarra demo.


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Right now I am using iTunes on Mac for playback via optical out to Apogee Mini DAC. It sounds pretty good, but not indistinguishable when comparing to the original CD playing on Sony SCD-1 to the same DAC. I hope that Amarra Mini will make it so close that I can't tell the difference.

In my findings, optical out from MacBook to Apogee DAC yield the BEST results. Firewire 400 did not sound good at all. I am happy to hear that Amarra Mini supports optical out because there is no mention of it on their site.


One thing that is bothering me. After reading Computer Audiophile CD Ripping Strategy and Methodology I am worried that my iTunes rips are the weakest link. I don't really want to re-rip all my CDs and I don't want to buy a Windows box just to do it. Please comfort me that my iTunes rips are good.


What is this thing I heard about, Amarra Vinyl?


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Not to worry, the majority of your iTunes rips are probably fine, so long as you selected either AIFF or ALAC when ripping them, and had error correction turned on.


You'll notice if the files had unrecoverable errors while ripping, as you'll hear a dropout or similar when listening.


The "fatal flaw" of iTunes ripping seems to be that it does not provide any notice of unrecoverables errors when ripping, and thus we are left to wonder if our files have errors in them.


A few have said that rips performed by other programs 'sound' better, above and beyond the error prevention/correction feature. The vast majority believe otherwise.


I do recommend use of XLD for ripping WITH error reporting on the Mac, should you not want to employ Chris' comprehensive ripping strategy.


enjoy Amarra Mini,




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I'm shocked to read that optical out of a Mac to a pro audio DAC of the Apogee Mini's caliber sounds better than FW. I am shocked because FW is async which is better than sync, and the optical out of a Mac is supposed to be poor sound quality. I wonder if it could be because you used a cheap commercial FW 400 cable. Or does Apogee supply a decent one with the Mini.


This scares the heck out of me actually as I'm about to get a ULN2 and will be using FW.




Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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Yes, I am using a monoprice.com 12ft. "cheap" FW cable. The sound difference was HUGE. FW sounded cold and lifeless, optical sounded much closer to original CD spinning on a Sony SCD-1 (as a transport) to the same Apogee DAC. I was disappointed myself because the FW card cost $349.


I have another DAC (PS Audio DAC Link III), but with USB input and did the same comparison. Optical won.


One thing I should mention. I was using an Apogee glass WydeEye optical cable. But I don't think a better FW cable will cure the poor sound quality.


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On Amarra Vinyl, maybe you mean Pure Vinyl. It is a competing product to Amarra that also records vinyl to digital. The product integrates with Itunes and can be used just for music playback with Itunes just like Amarra. It supports up to 24/192, and has auto sample rate changing. In contrast to Amarra Mini, it will also play back 24/192 where Amarra Mini just goes quiet with those tracks unless you convert/downsample them ahead of time. Pure Vinyl also gives a little menubar above Itunes that reads back the word length and sample rate that it is playing, e.g. 16/44.1 native or 24/96 native. Its implementation is a little clumsy in my opinion though. I also get intermittent (every 5-10 minutes or so of listening) momentary static as if its playback somehow gets momentarily out of sync with Itunes. It sounds great though otherwise. You can download a fully functional 15 day trial at http://www.channld.com/pure-vinyl_download.html. Disclaimer, I hate posting software issue such as the static problem above as for all I know there is probably a suitable fix and I did not bother to research, so take it for what it is worth.


I just downloaded the version 3 pre-release (http://www.channld.com/pv30pr4n4.zip)


I recommending trying both trial versions (Amarra and Pure Vinyl). Nothing substitutes for trying software yourself. I think I am going with Amarra. I like its streamlined implementation. Its less intrusive and I have no use for the vinyl part of Pure Vinyl. But no doubt, Pure Vinyl seems to offer a lot for the $229 compared to Amarra.


There is another thread here comparing the two. Try the search.


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This is what I found when I Google Amarra Vinyl. I was hoping someone here has more on it.


"Sonic Studios is developing a new product called Amarra Vinyl. Amarra Vinyl is a complete program for home recording that specializes in transcribing your records to digital. Amarra Vinyl will also include Sonics proprietary CD ripping technology for transferring your CD collection to digital. Amarra Vinyl is planned to be released in early 2010".


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No need for concern, Bryan, the FW input into the ULN-2 is fantastic and takes Amarra up a big notch. I have the Amarra Model 4 (ULN-8) and a couple of my buddies have the ULN-2 or Sonic 302 and they love it. It is made for FW and you will not be dissatisfied.


As for Amarra Vinyl, that is a component of the full Amarra that Sonic Studio is working on as that clip by the OP suggests. It is not an alternative to digital listening it is a tool for digitizing your vinyl or other analog music. You connect the analog output from your phono stage -- or even connect the the tonearm directly to your interface in the case of the ULN-2/8 and other devices that have mic preamps that can provide enough gain -- and you can record in hi-rez. I have Sonic's Sound Blade software, which I understand will be incorporated in some form to Amarra Vinyl, and the results are outstanding. I am really looking forward to the integrated solution, and think it will be great. If you buy Amarra Mini now, you can always get credit to upgrade to the full Amarra later if the Amarra Vinyl idea is appealing to you.


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Thanks for chiming in Voltron. That is really good to hear. Clay did say that MH included good FW cables with his ULN2. I hope my box includes a shorter length. Should get it Monday or Tuesday. I think I'm ready now. Got a couple of decent TRS to XLR cables. Ripped music to the Mac Mini. System is sounding superb thanks to the last piece of the puzzle (dedicated balanced circuit and Torus) and it is ready to rumble!




Dedicated 240V balanced power, Torus RM20-BAL. Mac Mini/Ayre QB-9. LSA Group Signature integrated. Eminent Tech LFT8B speakers. Real Trap and GIK bass traps.

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I'm not aware of any claims that Leopard sounds better than SL, or vice versa. I run Snow Leopard on my Mac Mini, and Tiger on my PowerMac G5 (which is my primary system), this latter due to recommendations from Tim Marutani that Tiger sounds better than Leopard on the G5s.


As for USB cables to external HD, they should have incredibly minor, if any, impact on sound.


As for my comment 'incredibly little', I'm merely reserving judgment as some have reported improvement when disabling the power leg on the USB cables connecting to the drive.


I wouldn't worry about it. I don't.




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So I ordered the Amarra Mini with iLok. Please correct me if I am wrong. The software is not locked to the Mac, but will require the iLok USB installed to use. I can move the software as long as I have the iLok becuase the iLok is the key not the software license.


What happens if the iLok fails and i don't have insurance on it? Am I SOL?


I also ordered a 30gb Vortex Turbo SSD drive just for the OS as recommended by Sonic Studio. Hope it's not a waste of money.


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yes, you can install the software on all of your computers and move the iLok amongst them when you want to listen via any particular computer.


As for losing it without the insurance, yes, I think you're SOL. I didn't buy insurance.


as for the Vertex Turbo, I think it might be overkill of audio purposes. The Agility series has performance numbers that are quite similar, for less money, and there's also the non Turbo Vertex which is also cheaper, although not by much.


My point being, I'm personally not convinced that the improvement that SSDs make on sound playback increases as a function of speed, indeed with other electrical components within the computer, the evidence seems to point towards components with "less, less, less" as being more desirable - less AC draw, less noise, less heat, less vibration, less whatever...


The Turbo designation comes from the controller being over-clocked, or some such hot-rodding.


My first SSD was a Turbo - based on recommendation here - since then I've bought the OCZ Agility series, and that's my recommendation, given the cost of SSDs these days. Unfortunately, the Agility series has actually gone UP in price since October when I bought my first one - supply and demand, as they say.





PS, I'm ordering an IDE SSD for my Apple Cube experiment, which are much much slower than SATA SSDs, although the Cube's bus would simply bog down SATA SSD in any event.




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If it fails... just send it back in for replacement, unless you think you'll suffer from Amarra withdrawal. ;)


The insurance for failure is a holdover from the Pro audio clients that presumably can't do their job without Soundblade.


the dongle seems pretty sturdy, so much so that it deserves a short extension cable so as not to block other USB ports.





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