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I have quite a bit of audiophile experience, but I'm light on the computer side of things. I have a MacBook, I have a basic understanding of iTunes, and I'm able to rip CD's. I've decided to give this music server thing a try.

 

I've just sold an expensive Naim CD player and ordered an Altmann Attraction DAC that has both Toslink and coaxial (is that the same as SPDIF?) inputs. It will also have switchable sample-rate capacity up to 192 kHz. My plan was to use the Attraction with a separate transport, but now I'm hoping to by-pass the transport completely.

 

My plan is to start out using my MacBook in my listening room directly wired to the DAC and to access the files through an Airport Extreme base station that's hard-wired to some kind of hard drive storage device. Am I on the right track?

 

What's the best way to get the signal from the MacBook to the DAC? I've been reading that optical is less desirable than USB or Firewire, but if I don't use the Toslink, then I'll need some kind of converter, no? What's the best way to convert USB or Firewire to the coaxial input on the DAC?

 

Thanks in advance. I'm sure the newbie stuff can get tedious.

 

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Hey turboglo - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. Thanks for the newbie-esque post. There are tons of readers with the same questions but they just haven't posted them yet. You should see my inbox!

 

Anyway, you are certainly heading down the path of the future. I can't guarantee that this is the right path for you because there is always that .0001% chance that you won't like the immediate access to all your music with the click of the mouse and all of the sonic benefits that can be had with a MacBook music server :-)

 

You can consider the MacBook your new transport. Instead of a single compact disc spinning you have a hard drive spinning. I think your plan to use the direct wired DAC is very smart. I'm not willing to send an audio stream wireless to my reference system yet. While there are some good ways to recover from the mid-fi wireless solutions, they aren't for me. Using the Airport Extreme is a fabulous way to get the hard drive(s) out of the listening room. You will want to rip all your music with the drive(s) connected locally, then move to the AE. The speed issue is not that big of deal if your whole system is 802.11n on the 5 GHz spectrum. Once everything is ripped you'll be fine ripping new discs via wireless as you purchase them.

 

To get the audio to your DAC I highly recommend USB or FireWire. But, since you are just starting down this path and you have an existing DAC on order I recommend trying it out with the mini-Toslink output from your MacBook. At least you'll have a baseline to compare other solutions against. Plus, who knows you may love the sound and not want to move to another connection method. Since your DAC doesn't support USB or FireWire I suggest one of two routes. If you want to convert USB to coax you should check out the Empirical Audio Off Ramp (limited to 24/96). If you want to convert FireWire to coax or AES/EBU I suggest the Weiss Engineering Vesta (supports up to 24/192). Converters normally don't thrill the average audiophile, but I've hard really good things about the Off Ramp and about Weiss Engineering converters (not the Vesta specifically).

 

For information about your little SPDIF question you should check out the Audiophile Wiki. It has an explanation of SPDIF. To summarize, Toslink and Coax are two different types of spdif connectors. One is optical and the other is electrical. Here is the link to read more http://audiophilewiki.org/index.php/wiki/SPDIF/

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Thanks for the response. I'm not sure how expensive the Weiss Vesta is (couldn't find a price anywhere), but 1K for the Off-Ramp ain't cheap. Looks like my experiment is gonna cost me! Oh well, I still think i can keep it under $4K.

 

If I understand you correctly, you're saying that I should hard-wire my MacBook to the hard drive when uploading CD's, but I will be able to download high resolution files from the internet? Is there any reason that I need to switch from my current wireless router to an Airport Extreme? Looking to see if I can keep costs down, ya know.

 

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Hey Turboglo - In your post you mentioned you were going to connect your disk to an Airport Extreme. Maybe I misunderstood the whole thing :-)

 

I would connect your hard drive via USB or FireWire only for the first big CD ripping session(s). If you have hundreds of CD it will go a lot faster this way. When the initial rip is complete then connect the hard drive to your wireless router. In reality you don't have to do this, but I'm just looking to save you a lot of time.

 

I hear ya about keeping costs down. This hobby can get out of hand in no time.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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