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Best Solution under $2K; Squeezebox Duet w Bolder Mods? Olive 4HD? Or...

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Hey I could use some help from the community in coming up with the best possible music server solution under $2000. My gear; Integra DHC 9.9 pre pro, McCormack DNA-225 amp (modified), Dynaudio S3.4 spkrs.


Option A: The Bolder-modified SB Duet ($600) plus very basic Windows 7 new desktop with 2TB storage ($600) will run me $1200 more or less. This is not following any of the specs/architecture for the chassis as described in CA. Chris said he was not that impressed by the modified Duet, and I am sure Bolder sent him a unit that was more souped up than what I am gonna pay for. But I don't know what he was comparing it to? Compared to a $10,000 audipohile DAC setup? Or compared to other total solutions at this price point? Chris, any comments would be appreciated.


Option B: The Olive 4HD for $2000. I have read the reviews, but cannot get a handle on whether this will sonically be superior or inferior to the modded SB Duet solution. Obviously, the ability to play hi-res music is cool, but at $2.50 a track.... well let's just say it's an emerging market at this point. The one-box solution is very appealing and the super high quality Burr Brown DAC onboard is also quite nice. But the power supply inside the box does worry me somewhat, as well as the heat potential with a fanless unit, which if it runs hot will lead to premature HD failure.


Option C: Some other solution that will give me the best sound from my library of ripped AIFFs with a friendly UI. Perhaps there is a product which someone out there has built and designed that will be a better bang for the buck at this price point, and maybe even better sounding than either of these two solutions. Thanks!




1TB external HD -> M-Audio Transit USB -> via toslink -> Integra DHC 9.9 -> McCormack DNA-225 (modded) -> Audioquest Coral Cables -> Dynaudio Contour S3.4 spkrs. Adcom GFA 2535 powering center and rears

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I bought the Olive 4HD in early December and have the following to report:


My highly subjective ratings: 85% for sound, 60% for interface, functionality, and proper implementation of advertised features.

The support by phone people at Olive are friendly, accessible, and helpful when they can be, but too often mention “a work in progress” but no definite update availability.

Transferring downloads to the Olive via wireless or ethernet is fast and easy.

For ripping CDs with its internal apparatus, the Olive does a nice job sonically.

24/96 and higher resolution downloads sound great through the Olive--but they should!

The Olive is quiet and runs cool.

Renowned speaker maker Thiel has partnered with Olive for a $8000 system; clearly they like it.

To my ears, there is a qualitative difference between the FLAC and WAV rips on the Olive, with WAV winning out in definition and lack of grit.

The Olive cannot replicate the FLAC downloads from at least one major record company resource without noise and distortion. Olive says they’re working on it. (I’ve learned from correspondence with the resource that one man’s FLAC is another man’s FLACK, so the touted universality of FLAC is exaggerated.) There is some suggestion that the Olive is using an outdated FLAC encoder. I presume this is fixable via software upgrade.

The internal DAC is bested by my Bel Canto DAC3, which I use directly into my amplifiers, avoiding the Olive analog outputs. (Both Olive and Bel Canto use the same DAC chip, so the magic is in the Bel Canto iteration.)

The optical output on the Olive does not pass a signal. (???)

The Olive software, I understand, is Linux based, if that means anything.

The Maestro computer interface for managing files is...how can I say it....primitive by modern computer standards.

The database of recordings within the Olive that the device seeks for information and art for discs it rips seems to have been compiled by uneducated ignoramuses who cannot distinguish a composer from a performer--about a 90% inaccuracy. I must correct the data for every rip in some way. The Olive pastes anything that “sorta” matches as art. (The metadata and art attached to online downloads from record companies is usually correct.)

The iMaestro iphone app is clunky and amateurish compared to the ones from iTunes and Sonos.

The touchscreen on the device is quirky and slow, certainly not an iPod touch equivalent. It’s more a matter of thumping than touching.


I regret having had early adoption fever. I had hoped to avoid all the fiddling about with multiple elements that the Olive seemed to relieve. There are really no unbiased professional reviews about the Olive online; everything that seduced me is publicity material that quotes or paraphrases Olive press releases, disguised as a “review”. Mea culpa. -fm


Qobuz via Aurender N10 > Devialet Expert Pro > Audio Physic Avantera


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take a look at this link.




I am dissapointed, is that a nano or even pico board. a lot of nothing, i emulate some of the points mentioned above. the DAC in my Cyrus DAC-XP is considerably better.


But overall it is a good unit, but in hindsight maybe I would have looked else where, just that there is nothing else out there quite like the olive, at least that i could find.




Opus # 4[br] Cyrus DAC-XP ==> Cyrus Mono X ==> B&W XT4[br]Cyrus FM 7.5

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fredorama...so are you just using the Olive 4HD through its digital output to the Bel Canto Dac3? Before you got the Olive 4HD, were you using a computer-based transport into your Bel canto DAC3 or a CD transport? Finally, in what areas/sonic attributes is the Olive 4HD DAC bested by your Bel Canto DAC3? I was considering the Olive 4HD but if it ends up being a $2000 2TB hard drive with mediocre music management software, I am less convinced. Thank much.


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I always intended to run the Olive 4HD into the Bel Canto DAC3; I decided to opt for the Olive 4HD over the Olive 4 to have the internal DAC capability for some future, undefined need--or maybe just self-indulgence. Before I bought the Olive I was listening to CDs with a Bel Canto CD2, and to downloaded FLAC, 16/44 only, through a Sonos system, and, when I hauled out the pre-amp and connected the player, to SACDs. It was the quality of SACD sound that provoked interest in high resolution files online and the Olive. The high-definition files downloaded to the Olive (too few available to match my musical tastes, alas) provide that quality.


I would have been disappointed had the Bel Canto DAC3 not sounded better than the DAC in the Olive 4HD. With its Bel Canto Virtual Battery Supply, the DAC3 costs twice as much as the Olive. The benefits are the air, spatial qualities, and clarity in the highs that a good DAC should promise. That said, I think the internal DAC of the Olive does its task well and adds prime value to the unit.


I should add that a phone call to Olive fixed my complaint about a non-functioning optical output: the Olive will not output to the coaxial and optical connections simultaneously, and requires a reboot if one changes connections.


The music management software on the Olive is, I must admit, mediocre. Olive promises fixes and betterment in the indefinite future. I would like to be able to insert a CD into the Olive and receive a coherent entry into the Olive Maestro software. Fixing the entries taxes the patience.


The Olive remote control uses the same frequencies as Bel Canto and turns the function of both remotes into useless schizophrenia. I don’t use the Olive remote.


But I do use the iPod-iPhone app, which is adequate but annoying: It loses the connection easily and will sometimes require a couple of restarts before it agrees to work properly. Don’t let the nice picture of the album covers on the promotional material for the app mislead you: Selection of music by album covers as in iTunes, though possible in the Maestro computer interface, is not possible in the iTouch app; the cover only turns up on the track playing display. Getting off the couch to tap on the Olive screen is good for the circulation, I suppose.


The Olive is flawed, but not in any essential way dysfunctional: it records, saves, and plays the music well. Olive offers a 60 day satisfaction guarantee or return for full refund. At the moment, my decision would be to keep the machine and enjoy what I like best about it: easy access to good music that used to moulder on shelves in the closet.


(n.b.: I’m not fredorama; he’s the guy to whom I responded at the beginning of this thread; I’m Fitz Music. -fm



Qobuz via Aurender N10 > Devialet Expert Pro > Audio Physic Avantera


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Thanks so much for a great in-depth "real world" review, Fitz. I am sorry you feel a regret for indulging your "early adoption fever." It still looks to be a great unit and I am sure 6 months from now, Olive's software willl have made vast improvements. Upon further research of my own dilemma, and based largely on your assessment of the Olive, I am leaning towards the following combination of components as a starting point;


1. Source; My existing 1TB external drive, backed up by a second 1TB drive for additional cost of $100.

2. Squeezebox Duet, modified by Bolder to be my budget high-end DAC substitute, for $650 (From all I have heard and read, it seems that one needs to spend a minimum of $2500 retail on a DAC to experience sonic performance above that of a Bolder-modded Duet)

3. High quality 250wpc integrated amplifier with home theatre bypass (such as the Musical Fidelity A1008) that sports a better analogue stage than my Integra DHC 9.9). I can get one pre-owned for $2500. This would replace my beautiful McCormack DNA-225 for which I could get $2000, so net additional cost here; $500

4. Integra DHC 9.9 - kept purely for my home theatre needs


Total cost here: $1250


BUT......if I wanted to spend another $750 - $1000 using ALL the funds in my budget...How do I get the best bang? Keeping all other things equal, do I;

a) Scrap the external drive as my source and get a quiet, low-jitter 2TB tower built? ($750)

b) Scrap the Squeezebox idea and get a serious DAC? (like the Ayre QB-9 @ $2500) But that adds $1850 putting me over budget. Amazing DAC though...

c) Keep the McCormack, ditch the integrated amp idea (which gives me an additional $500 to play with), and find a nice used preamp or preamp/DAC with HT bypass and superior analogue stage at around the $1250- $1500 mark? Thinking Bel Canto DAC3 or something in that league...


Any and all ideas would be welcome! I do want to spend the extra dough so help me out here fellas!




1TB external HD -> M-Audio Transit USB -> via toslink -> Integra DHC 9.9 -> McCormack DNA-225 (modded) -> Audioquest Coral Cables -> Dynaudio Contour S3.4 spkrs. Adcom GFA 2535 powering center and rears

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