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Please forgive me if this seems like something of a rant. I will try to contain myself.

 

I'm experiencing a fairly high degree of frustration. I've been trying to figure out how to configure a audiophile-level computer-based digital source. I'm surprised at how, in 2008, this is not a far more user-friendly endeavor.

 

Part of this touches on my general hostility toward the approach that computer-savvy people take with those of us several rungs below them. My general feeling is that they seem to be more interested in showing off their own depth of knowledge, rather than shedding light on a situation. This is definitely not true of everyone, particularly Chris of this site, but it's all-too common. It may simply be that not everyone has the patience to deal with people who are truly beginners, in which case they should probably not be attempting to answer the questions of beginners.

 

Now, I'm not a stupid person. I'm an airline pilot by profession and I'm not a technophobe. I'm actually an instructor of the FMS (Flight Management System) navigation procedures. I work with pilots who are mostly unfamiliar with advanced navigation systems and bring them to a level of proficiency that meets FAA standards. In order to do this, I have to choose my words carefully, I have to be careful not to bombard the student with unfamiliar concepts without explaining them first. In other words, I really have to spoon feed them until I know they get it. Then I can start spouting out the abbreviations, the acronyms, and the short-hand.

 

Repeatedly, I have gone to threads in this site that seemed to be geared toward answering a beginner's question, hoping that a question of my own would be answered, only to discover that the thread was hijacked by someone spouting an obscene level of computer jargon.

 

The effect is opposite to what I believe the founder(s) of this site intended: to promote the transition to computer-based digital audio sources on the part of average user-end audiophiles.

 

My suggestions is to have a section of the forum that's completely geared toward beginners. No acronyms allowed unless clearly defined! Perhaps even a good glossary would help.

 

My apologies if all this sounds peevish. My external DAC (that's Digital to Analogue Converter, a required feature of any digital system. It converts the information -- stored on a computer's hard-drive as millions of on/off signals (bits) -- into the complex stream of electrical pulses that's fed into the amplification system) will be arriving soon and I want everything to be in place before it arrives.

 

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Oh boy, this is .... an unusual group of thoughts from me.

 

Okay, your apology is accepted, at least by me, because it does sound a bit rantish and "peevish". Heh, that’s a partial joke. At least you admit your hostility and bias is not directed at everyone. That said, I kind of know exactly what you mean. Even though I actually do have an IT degree I get lost here all the time, particularly on technical issues.

 

To me there seems to be some responsibility to do research or at least ask for clarification when something isn't understood. Maybe that’s my nature and bias. I think Chris set up a wiki ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki ) likely for exactly what you suggested, but it didn't come up for me today - http://www.audiophilewiki.org/.

 

So, if you brought pent-up frustration here, well, that's inside you. Be free, let it go, post and ask, learn here, it's free! I bet people here in some way will try to help with more than smart assed wisecracks. I don't think I can recall anyone ever trying to make somebody feel bad for asking a question. So if you're frustrated, ask for clarification.

 

I read your initial post a few times and frankly, you didn't come across as somebody who didn't know which end of the cord goes in the wall so to speak. You used jargon didn't you? Your profession is that of a trainer. Many, possibly none of us do that by trade. I'm hinting at expectations. But it’s ok to vent too.

 

I like your suggestion for a real beginner thread. Simple directions to get going, trade-offs, pitfalls for Mac and PC users, etc. That might make it easy for those just starting up to get quick answers. Also, it might give us a consistent answer to the initial how to question. Seems more efficient, maybe less personal. All things considered I like that idea a lot. I'd help with that if I can.

 

I'd venture not every "computer-savvy" person merits your "general hostility". Some are also half lost, there might even be at least one or two that are actually nice and helpful.

 

George

 

 

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Hi Turboglo - thank you very much for the professionally worded post here. This is the kind of feedback that is needed to move this wonderful hobby of ours into the next phase of great sound. This site is 100% dedicated to all levels of computer audiophiles. One of the many reasons I founded this site is because music servers can deliver such great sound quality and they actually are easy to setup & use.

 

You are correct about the large communication gap between those very schooled in computers and those a little less learned. I think one of the major problems causing this is the lack of civility in most Internet forums. People are so hesitant to offer much information for fear of a sophomoric attack from another reader. I think it will take people a little while to get used to the fact that we don't have any of that around here. I like to think this is the friendliest forum on the Internet. This hobby is supposed to be enjoyable and nobody likes those who take the fun out of it.

 

Your point about the computer savvy readers who post to show off is a good one. What I have found is those people really don't know what they are talking about. It takes a very in depth understanding of something to be able to teach someone else in terms they can understand. Most often people who claim to know a great deal, and post comments that don't really answer the question, don't know as much as they think they do.

 

For the most part everyone on this site who responds to questions has good intentions. I've had conversations with many of them offline and found them to be very down to earth people.

 

When it comes to getting a question answered I think the impetus is on both the original poster and those offering answers. For example, if someone simply asks "What is a NAS?" but they receive answers that don't really help them, they should keep asking and tell the responders what level of information they are looking for. Some people are happy with the explanation that a NAS is just a hard drive that plugs into a network. Others want to know what NAS stands for and the origin of the product. Yet both people could ask the same question "What is a NAS?"

 

More than one person has suggestion that we need a glossary around here and it is something I am really considering. The one thing that holds me back is that this information is readily available from places like Wikipedia. After reading your post Turboglo I now understand that the Wikipedia answer is not going to help a beginning audiophile. People need real world answers with examples of how something works in their system. I guess I have a little project on my hands :-)

 

Anyway, thanks again for posting such a well worded suggestion. Keep asking questions around here or feel free to email me personally if you're not getting what you are looking for.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Thank you both for your thoughtful and civil responses. I've been practicing my deep breathing and I feel better now.

 

I would be happy to contribute whatever I can to help in your endeavors. I think I'm a pretty good editor. When reviewing something, I like to put myself in the position of the neophyte (which is close to the truth, when it comes to this hobby) and assess whether or not the salient points are being communicated.

 

I started writing a little "Computer Audio for Dummies" introduction just for grins. Let me know if you want to take a look at it. It will only be a couple of pages long.

 

I agree that the beginner does have a degree of responsibility to do his/her own research, but it's easy to get lost in a sea of information. I think this site has great potential to serve as an ark to those of us who sometimes feel as if we're drowning.

 

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I often remind people just how easy to use and well accepted the iPod is for computer audio. Earning a Stereophile rating of Class D is not bad for any audio device. Class A or B audiophile ratings usually require more expensive and complex hardware/software solutions. I believe many of the people on this forum use Mac computers and I don’t mean to be snobbish but for Mac users audiophile level computer based audio is easy and very user friendly. I happen to use a Macbook Pro laptop and iTunes (the same software that 10-200 million users use on their iPods or computers) to feed my DACs through either toslink, USB, or firewire inputs. I’ve dabbled with Max, Play, and Cog software but iTunes is my mainstay. Windows PC audio with EAC, foobar, and possible analog/digital I/O cards is much more difficult to achieve optimal audiophile quality sound though one could settle on iTunes and USB for convenience.

 

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Hi Turboglo,

 

Welcome to the forum.

 

This forum very young. There are individual threads on HeadFi that probably have more posts in them than this entire community has.

 

As a consequence, if you have a specific question, the chances are very good that there is no post here yet with the answer, let alone one written by someone who has that right touch of writing style and depth of knowledge that lights up a post that whispers to you "HERE is the answer you seek".

 

Like you, I look for answers on forums all the time and rarely ever post anything. Generally, I don't have to. Fifteen other guys have had trouble with the same #&^%& problem that I have and know exactly what kernel parameters to put in my boot loader, or whatever. In get my answer and go on my way.

 

This isn't that kind of forum. Here, you've got to interact with the natives, which is one of the reasons I like this forum actually. It's a bit more of a social thing, but without often degenerating into idle chat.

 

With that in mind, just ask - and if somebody slips into babble, just say "Dude, what ARE you saying?!"

 

From your post, it sounds like you are well on your way to listening to and hopefully enjoying computer-provided audio. When you get your DAC, there should be instructions, which generally boil down to "plug one end of the thing into your computer and the other into your stereo system and turn it on". Sometimes, but not always, you might have to install a driver from a disk the manufacturer gives you. Then you play music with whatever music player you feel like. It's generally that simple, and it usually (cross your fingers) actually works.

 

The level of maturity of this industry segment is such now that for beginners with relatively simple aspirations, stuff pretty much just works. Once your aspirations start to grow, it's uncharted territory. Then you'll be on the same slippery ground as the rest of us ;-)

 

I'll welcome you to the forum with some unsolicited and possible unnecessary advice about computers. (Which may come in handy here later). Free advice, mine particularly, is of course worth... well, you know.

 

There are basically three kinds of computer systems on the market, distinguished by the operating system software they use. There are Open Source systems like Linux and BSD, which are finicky and frustrating but are morally commendable. You may need to encounter them enventually when you advance to the point of wanting a centralized music server, but they are poor choice for a player for you now because drivers for your hardware are likely not to be available.

 

Then there are the commercial, proprietary systems - Windows and Macintosh. (Side note to nerds: Yeah, I know I'm glossing over the fact that Macintosh is partly open source. I'm pretty sure this guy could care less at this point.) You will use one of these systems. It really, REALLY doesn't matter which one. They both work, They both have good and bad points for audio. They both are sold by companies that do really bad things in the marketplace and they both are frustrating as hell. When you simply want them to do something, they either simply won't do it or won't do it simply.

 

The common thread is that all computer systems are frustrating, especially so when you are trying to do stuff that's new and groundbreaking with them. They frustrate beginners. They frustrate professionals. It's just their nature. You're not at all alone. Everybody here faces the same challenge - to beat the machinery into shape so we can listen to some music on it. And everybody needs to vent once in a while :-)

 

Cheers,

 

-Carl

 

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It's easy in forum threads that a topic starts out basic and ends in something less so... and I can understand your frustration.

 

I may not participate in many forums/sites but I have seen a few... and this one is pretty well grounded.

 

I work in the IT industry in a support role - and I always get a kick out of the occasions when I help someone who responds "you must feel like I am some kind of idiot for doing this". Whatever digression they have committed is usually minor, and I am fully aware that the kind of work they do with their pc is way beyond my ability.....

 

So if you have questions, fire away. If I can answer, I will.

 

Do we need a new user forum here - dunno, depends on demand, capacity, resources...... I think people can learn enough fairly quickly here to get them started. But there are always questions.

 

I became interested in options for serving music this year after learning about the Airport Express and the possibilities it presented. The rest I learned here.

 

And now I am listening to Getz/Gilberto on the modest system I put together and enjoying it as I write.

 

Good luck with your endeavors, and if you have any questions.........

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Carl. I like your comments about the bad behavior of Apple and Microsoft. If I was more morally upstanding myself, I would force myself to learn Linux, but for now I'm shackled to Apple.

 

So now that I've got everyone's attention, and I've gotten everyone's permission, I'm going to try to get some questions answered. Here goes:

 

I've ordered an Altmann Attraction DAC. It's a funky contraption that's basically an electronic board glued to a piece of wood, connected to a car battery. Not pretty, but it's gotten rave reviews from some audiophiles I trust.

 

My plan is to start out using my MacBook to run iTunes. I will connect to the DAC via Toslink. I know that some people find the optical connection to be inferior, but Charles Altmann says that through his DAC, it sounds great. So that's how I'm going to start. (If I want to experiment later, I'll probably go the USB route and buy something like the Empirical Audio Off-Ramp Turbo2, because the Altmann does not have a USB input.)

 

Right now I have a dedicated home theater in my basement and a Lynksys wireless router hooked up to a DSL modem in a different room in the house.

 

The issue of storage and backup is where I start getting really confused. What kind of storage (what the heck is RAID?), where to place it, how to rip CD's and upload them onto the external hard drive, and how to later access the files?

 

Eventually, I'll probably get a dedicated Mini for the music room, but for now I'll be using my MacBook. So let's say I'll be using the MacBook and iTunes to rip CD's in AIFF format or Apple Lossless. So now the file is sitting in my iTunes library that's located on my internal hard drive. Now what!? Can I have my external hard drive(s) located in another room and upload the file through my home network? How would I hook all that up? Would it be best to just have the hard drives sitting in my music room connected directly to the MacBook (via Firewire or USB?) What about backup? Can I have something like Time Machine/Time Capsule do it automatically? Is there a reason to get rid of the Lynksys and buy an Airport Extreme base station?

 

Please be gentle on me.

 

P. S. As I was writing this, I got Airdronian's latest post. Thanks. It's nice to know that there are some merciful IT folks out there!

 

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Alright it's time for some answers, or maybe just opinions based on experience and knowledge.

 

Your choice of DAC and using the Toslink input is a great start. Who knows you may be totally satisfied with the sound and won't need an upgrade. You will need a mini-Toslink to standard Toslink cable to use the optical output on your MacBook. That's what I use when I am testing optical DACs. Here is a link to the product page, the bottom two are the mini to standard cables http://www.monstercable.com/productdisplay.asp?pin=790 .

 

The issue of storage and backup is a huge one that many audiophiles don't research enough. If you haven't read the articles I wrote on the audiophile music servers (CA01 - CA04) I recommend them. There are storage options listed in each one. A better article to start with is my article about storage from simple to grand. Here is the link http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/178 . I'm sure it won't answer all your questions, but may help a little.

 

There are so many options when it comes to storage that one simple recommendation is impossible. Let's start with some basic audiophile concerns. Sound produced by the disks is a major issue for some people, including myself. If sound isn't that big of a deal storage becomes much easier. You can attach an external hard drive solution directly to your MacBook and be done with it. What you do then is move your iTunes Music Folder location through the iTunes preferences to this new external disk. The music just resides on this disk as if it was internal, no real difference.

 

I opt to have my storage outside of my listening room so I don't really care if my storage is as loud as a Gulfstream Jet (little exaggeration). There are a few ways to accomplish this. If your router has a USB port that works with disk, you can take that same external drive discussed above and connect it to the router. Then just change your iTunes Music Folder location to this location and you have what is called a NAS drive. Network Attached Storage. I use more of a traditional NAS system. My external drives have an enclosure with a network port. I just connect a network cable from my NAS enclosure to an open Ethernet port on my router. I think I get better performance this and I am not tied to a router with a USB port.

 

In my opinion RAID is the way to go if you are serious about this. Redundant Array of Independent Disks. You can use anywhere from two to "a lot" of disks with RAID. RAID1 is the simplest to understand. You have an external hard drive enclosure like the Western Digital MyBook. Inside it has two disks. With this in a RAID1 configuration you would only see this as one disk and be able to use the capacity of only one disk. Internally the disks are mirrored so losing one of them is no big deal. You can replace the bad drive and they will synchronize once again. RAID5 is what I use on my NAS. This requires three or more disks. I use a five disk enclosure and have my RAID5 array use all five disks. The disk appears as one huge drive on my Mac. Internally the NAS unit stripes the data across all five drives, but does so in a redundant way (parity). If I lose one of the five drives, the other four drives contain the information that as on the lost drive and my music plays on like nothing happened. When I replace the bad drive the data that was on that drive is copied back to the new drive automatically. RAID5 allows you to use more of your disk space than RAID1. RAID1 use half of your disk to create the mirror. RAID5 only consumes one-third of your disk in this three disk scenario.

 

Backup - To be honest with my RAID5 array I don't use any backup. I will take the risk of losing two drives at once or losing the whole NAS unit. I have the physical CDs for much of my music anyway. The downloaded albums I have I try to make copied on my internal drive which is backed up with Time Machine. When the number of downloaded albums becomes very large I may burn DVD data discs of everything or look into something additional for backup. I'm really not that concerned about it though.

 

 

I will stop here for now. I'm sure I missed a few questions and answered a few you didn't ask, but we'll keep the discussion going until you don't have any questions left in the tank :-)

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Thanks Chris! That's all REALLY helpful. I'm surprised I hadn't come across the link for article on storage that you wrote.

 

At this point, I think that the easiest solution is the best for me. What I think I'm going to do is buy a Drobo (and drives) and connect it to either an Airport Extreme or its own DroboShare. Anyone have any thoughts on which would be better?

 

My understanding is that with this set-up, I will be able to rip CD's and they will automatically get stored in the Drobo (provided I set up iTunes this way). Is this correct?

 

One last question. When I'm playing a selection, exactly what's happening? Does iTunes on my MacBook instruct the Drobo to stream the file through the Airport Extreme (or DroboShare), then does my MacBook receive the stream through wireless?

 

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The Drobo is really an easy option with a lot of disk space and built-in redundancy. There are a few readers around here who have the Drobo and can (and have) share their experiences with us.

I talked with the Drobo people about using the Airport Extreme v. the Droboshare and they didn't really give me an answer that one would be better than the other. I think the Droboshare would be better, but there is no way I would buy it without first trying the Drobo through the AE. If it works great then you just saved a couple hundred dollars.

 

iTunes will treat the Drobo disk just like any other disk. It will be a little slower to rip CDs to it, but that is a little trade off in my opinion. Rip your whole library while it is connected via USB, then move it to the AE. When you buy CDs you can rip them without moving it back to USB because it really isn't that slow. Ripping 1000 CDs would add up though.

 

When you play a selection here is what happens.

Regular local disk mode - iTunes pulls the track off your local hard drive and send it out to your DAC.

 

Drobo (NAS) - iTunes pulls the track off your Drobo disk and send it to the DAC. OK that's an over simplification. iTunes pulls the track from the Drobo which send the track to your computer via the wired link to the AE. The AE send the track via wireless to your computer. There is no need to worry about an audio signal at this point because this data is no different than a local hard drive as far as iTunes is concerned. If you were to end the audio signal from iTunes to a DAC via wireless then you have a holst of things to combat. So, no worries with wireless disk, many worries with wireless DACs.

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Hi Turboglo,

 

Hmmm. It's sounding like things are getting complicated already. Really short version:

 

You may want to move toward a multi-room, server-client sort of system. That will mean many choices. You'll need to define the functionality you want the system to have. That will narrow the choices down to a few architecture options. Then there will be sub-choices regarding equipment and implementation. If that sounds a lot like implementing an enterprise IT solution, it's because it's the same process. But fortunately it breaks down to easy, simple steps. Baby steps first, then running leaps. Look at it this way. Any concept a large American corporation can manage not to screw up should be child's play to do in your basement without a bunch a pointy-haired executives in the way. Of course, you'll have us all throwing our opinions around. But that's different. Many of us have very little hair. Others have too much. But everybody here really likes music.

 

Here's the long version:

 

You can do multi-room with fully functionality computers acting as music players wherever you need them, which is Chris' method of choice. If you go this way, you'll likely have some sort of plug-and-play "appliance" for central storage of your music, but you'll have a computer everywhere you want to play the music.

 

The other approach is to have a central computer that handles the storage and coordination functions of handling your music and have "appliance" players feeding music to your stereo systems, background music systems and whatnot around your house. That's the classic multi-room approach as practiced by home theater designers and the like. There are a bunch of vendors out there who make systems that work this way.

 

I do a little of both, but my system is mostly server-client. To skip to the chase, I like and recommend the SlimDevices SqueezeCenter/SqueezeBox/Transporter stuff. SlimDevices is pretty much the only multi-room company to achieve significant traction in the audiophile community. That's because their stuff sounds good. They real audiophiles. They're Open Source people, and their gear doesn't cost a fortune. That seals it for me.

 

Now for an attempt at an explanation of the propeller-head stuff, hopefully building and providing background for Chris' posts. (And of course throwing in my own prejudices :-) But if I end up just sowing confusion, I apologize in advance

 

Some terms -

 

A "server", strictly speaking, is a piece of software that stores stuff or does stuff for another computer or computers. (We colloquially talk about the machine being the server, but it's really the software that's the "server".)

 

A "client" is the compliment of the server. It's a piece of software at the user end of the chain that takes something from the server and does something useful with it. (playing music, for example.)

 

Now to make things confusing, some software can be a server AND a client, maybe even both at the same time. iTunes works this way. The client part is obvious. it provides an interface that shows you your music and it plays it. Alternatively, ITunes will stream music to another player (which, for practical purposes will be another copy of iTunes.) We don't usually think of it that way, but when we set up two computers to do file-sharing, each one becomes a file server and a file sharing client for the other.

 

So, you could run a computer with a copy of iTunes and a central store of music that will stream music to other computers. The music is all in one place and much of the "work" is being done in that central place. When you do this, the "server" iTunes' music collection appears in the left rails of the "client" copies of iTunes along with whatever music resides on the client machine's own hard drives or attached hard drives. (Mind you, I wouldn't likely do this with iTunes. There are better music servers. And we could have a quite a discussion on what technically constitutes "streaming", but we'll gloss over that bit. Actually, I'll confess at this point that I'm not real fond of iTunes period. It's just a personal thing. But it makes a good example.)

 

If you use a full scale computer for each of your client players, I don't see a lot of advantage to this approach. Chris' method would make better sense.

 

But if you favor a more stereo-component-like "appliance" for your player, it gets better.

 

I have two Squeezeboxes (They're small music players. They look like high-end alarm clocks), each connected to a DAC in each of my two systems. They consume very little electricity, make no noise and are controlled by a CD player-like remote. (Or you can have a fancy remote with an LCD screen that shows you cover art and what's playing if you like) They also sound good.

 

There are all sorts of functional benefits from doing the heavy lifting centrally, or at least I think so. Two or more Squueezeboxes (other companies' players do the same stuff) can be synchronized to play together for whole-house background music. I can control any player from the central computer, or any other computer in the house. If I had the fancy remote with the LCD, I could control any player from it. I can have "players" that are just pieces of software that run on any computer on my network.

 

On her computer in the office, my wife used to use iTunes attached to our file server. (essentially the NAS method) Now she uses a software player that runs off the central music server. She can access her playlists from any player in the house just as she can on her desktop. It's no biggie; it's just a little easier in this case. (There was also a more low-level propeller-head reason for making the change, too. But we'll skip over that part)

 

Chris' method puts the music files on a "file server" (The NAS box is a server that serves files, in "appliance" guise.) All the real work is done at the client end by a "real" computer that simply asks the file server to cough up whatever files it needs to turn into music and play. That' s a totally valid approach, especially if you LIKE touching a computer when you are playing music. Personal preference drives all this stuff.

 

Yet another method is to have one computer with a big ol' external hard drive (maybe even a RAID one) attached to it. But it doesn't sound like that's where you are headed.

 

A couple more observations and I'll stop.

 

USB vs TOSLINK. Some equipment sounds better with one or the other. Some sounds better with SPDIF. Whatever works in your case, well, works.

 

RAID arrays. They are a good thing. Backups are a good thing, too. RAIDs don't lose data like the Titanic was unsinkable. They are safer than a simple disk, but they require a bit of attention. If I had a dollar for every time I've seen a RAID fail and destroy data, well, I'd have ten or twenty bucks. BACK your music up to SOMETHING!!!! Your original CDs could be a backup. Simply copying you music files to DVDs will certainly work. If you really, really trust the places where you bought online music, their re-download features can be a back up. But be sure your music is backed up somewhere, somehow. Murphy's Law looks for people whose backups aren't up to date.

 

And you should know that in the SlimDevices product line that I like so well, only the expensive Transporter, which is a player with a high-end DAC built in, plays higher-than CD resolution files. Transporters cost two thousand bucks a piece (but they're real nice :-) but I have perfectly good DACs. This is way I also do computer-as-player. I'm cheap. High-res files get played and fed to my DAC by an old Powerbook.

 

(Squeezeboxes have built-in DACs, too. And they sound pretty decent for $300 devices, but they're not a high-end device on their own, IMHO)

 

Oh. A central music server can be any old computer. It doesn't get seen. It doesn't get heard. We're talking three hundred bucks at your favorite white-box computer place. Six or seven hundred and you can have it with a RAID array.

 

Happy listening,

 

-Carl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or you can do it with

 

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Hey Turboglo

 

I use a Drobo with Western Digital Caviar Drives. At the time, they were a good trade-off of speed and quiet. Somewhere around here there is a link posted to some tests on drives, but it's probably a year old or more now so things may have changed.

 

Here's my thoughts on Drobo depending how you intend to use it.

 

If you wire it direct to your Macbook you just run a usb cable and install the Drobo Dashboard. It's that simple. Then you tell iTunes to move your exisiting library of tunes, or create a new library of tunes on Drobo and you're off to the races. You can have multiple libraries (a library is a collection of music you ripped) and select the one you want when you start iTunes. Example - one set of songs on the macbook and another on the Drobo. Drobo used this way is consistent and simple. One thing I notice is that every once in a while a song will pause for about one second. Another thing I ponder, is that right now I use 2 750GB drives. If I add another 2 drives and increase the storage by two more terrabytes, I'm not sure what I will have. I've read Drobo can now access 4TB rather (the current max storage for Drobo). Prior was 2 2TB drives in one unit. If I have to re-format to get to the 4TB (or 3.5 for me since I use 2 750 already and 750+750+1000+1000=3.5TB) I won't be happy. I'll figure something out. Also, used this way I would put the Drobo unit in a drawer or something. You basically never touch it and while it's not really loud, in a room with no music you can hear it. Not loud, not silent.

 

Next, use via Airport Base. This works too, but the dashboard doesn't fully work this way. It is a bit of a pain at times as Drobo might sleep on you (hibernate?) and getting things started back can be a pain. MacBook can lose the drive (unmount maybe?) and then you fiddle to find it. Fiddle is a technical IT term encompassing solutions such as swear, frown, drink to excess, read bulletin boards, call for help, whine, etc. The solution seems to be to use Droboshare, which allows the Drobo dashboard to communicate back to the Macbook. Otherwise, it's a bit of a oneway street. It works, but not as consistently. To my knowledge you cannot sleep Drobo on a wireless network without Droboshare. Well, that's a lie. I think you can sleep it, but you might not be able to sleep and wake it.

 

From the little I've read, Drobo is really a direct connect USB device by design. Many use it wireless networked anyway. It works fine that way, for a while at least for me, then it would cause me to fiddle (see fiddle above). The manufacturer says Droboshare allows the device to be networked. Otherwise, the Drobo dashboard (which reports status and controls it basically) will send commands but not receive much info. I'm getting a little vague there, because that's about how it works. Different things happen when power goes out, when you intentionally disconnect it, etc. I'd venture Droboshare should fix those issues.

 

I'll eventually get Droboshare, and connect it via Ethernet port to my Airport Extreme Base and then all should be right with the world.

 

I'm pretty sure I'd buy Drobo again, but I'd view the cost as including Droboshare. There are probably some competitive alternatives out now, but I don't know about them. I tend to ignore that type of stuff now since I have Drobo. I guess if you said, gee, what kind of 4TB or so storage device can I get for about $750 without drives to the guys around here, they may have other alternatives.

 

I will say, when all is hooked up and working, Drobo is stupid simple! I like mine and have aptly named it "iTuneAFish" on my "Funky Chicken" wireless network.

 

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Turbo,

 

Being from Cincinnati, I have 4 Delta pilots on my block. There really isn't anything tough about any of this.

 

It can be very simple setup to pickup an Apple MacBook and any decent USB DAC and being running in less than 15 minutes. Allot of what you need to know for any product, not just mine is located on my Macintosh Page:

 

http://www.usbdacs.com/Macintosh/Macintosh.html

 

You don't have to really understand how MAC's work. They are not like PC's in that you have to know this that and another thing. They are pretty simple to run....

 

Since it all based on iTunes the interface is very easy to understand. If you have questions, just ask.

 

Thanks

Gordon

 

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Hey innertuber - Thanks for sharing your drobo experience. I agree there are "other" storage options available for the price, but you said it best with the term "stupid simple." I think this is the unit to get for those who don't want to configure RAID manually and don't really care about how the thing saves the data as long as it works.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Thanks everyone for the input and suggestions.

 

I've decided to approach this taking baby steps. I'm going to buy a Drobo and connect it directly to my MacBook in my listening room for starters. Later, if I feel that the noise is too much of an issue, I will figure out how to configure wirelessly.

 

Here's my next big hurdle. I've been trying to read online how to create a second music library in iTunes so that I can have all my full AIFF files copied to the hard drives in the Drobo. Right now I have a lot of MP3's in my iTunes Music Library that I can load into my iPod.

 

I've seen pretty good instructions on how to move the entire contents of my current Library onto an external hard drive, but I want to keep the MP3's on my MacBook and only store the new files that I rip onto the external drive.

 

Anybody have a link or some instructions?

 

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See if Chris answered this here - http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/171. Pretty near the end. Feel free to skip the saga portion.

 

Big picture what I think you are going to do is:

Hook up the Drobo.

 

Then copy your existing library of tunes to the Drobo (you might be able to skip the actual copy).

 

If you can't skip it, then you can delete the mp3 stuff you don't want off the Drobo, they will still be on the MacBook.

 

Now when you start iTunes you hold down (... I forget, command or one of those nearby) and it will pop up a little box and let you choose which library you want to access. You can then select the Drobo or the MacBook library.

 

Hopefully, You wind up with two libraries and thus are able to select which one to write to or play from. For me, it defaults back to the last one I used when I restart iTunes, unless the Drobo is offline then it give you the box again and makes you choose something it can (try to) find.

 

 

 

 

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I'm sure different people have different ways of creating additional iTunes Music Libraries. I happen to prefer setting up different users on my Macbook Pro since I have family members who have different tastes and sometimes sync their iPods to my computer. Thus my wife is more a video person and her iTunes library consists of movies and MP3. My iTunes library is all AIFF files on the Macbook 80GB internal drive but I have another larger library that is all AIFF on a 500GB external drive. The library on the internal drive is just a portable subset of the stationary external.

 

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audiozorro - You know, this is a pretty good idea for simplicity sake.

 

Turbo - Some things to think about -

 

1. We should probably discuss the pros and cons of each method to accomplish what you want to do. I also have two libraries. One contains all my AIFF files and the other contains sever formats that go onto my 160 GB iPod.

 

2. Then we should discuss the technical aspects of actually creating the library.

 

Does this sound good or are you set on a certain direction and just want the technical instructions on how to create the library? We can cover you on both, no worries. I can whip up some step by step instructions for you, and everyone else in your situation, one you decide what direction to go.

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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I just came back from the store that sold me the Drobo (Pro Photo Supply in Portland, OR -- Great store!), and one of their computer specialists helped me figure out how to do what I want to do. We were both kinda learning as we went along, with occasional reference to this site.

 

What I'm going to do is simply create a new iTunes library on my Drobo (by holding down the "Options" key while launching iTunes, then selecting "Create New Library" and choosing the drive and then naming the library). Then, as Innertuber suggested, I can choose the library I want the same way. By holding "Options" while launching iTunes, I can then "Choose Library."

 

I'm still waiting for my 2 x 750 GB drives to arrive. When they do, I'll let y'all know how it's worked out.

 

Thanks again,

Glenn

 

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Sounds very cool Glenn.

 

You'll have to watch out for a few things. With two different libraries for one user you will have to change the settings in iTunes every time you switch libraries. You drive and the import type such as AIFF or ALAC or mp3 etc... I wish this changed with the library, but it doesn't unless you login as a different user.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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So I received my two 750 GB hard drives. Got a screaming deal through Nowdirect: $119 a piece plus shipping.

 

Anyway, I also got an Airport Extreme Base unit. After a couple of calls to Apple customer care (the quality of customer service seems to have improved a bit in the past couple of years), I got everything up and running. I created a new iTunes library on the Drobo. (Since I don't use my old library of compressed files very often, switching won't be that much of a pain, since it defaults to the last one used.) I even got everything working flawlessly through my Airport network. But a problem developed as soon as my house mate started trying to use his PC on the network. We were able to get it so that both of us could use the internet, but then the shared Drobo could not be found. I'm pretty sure that it's because he's using a Windows machine. Frankly, I am sick of the Gates vs. Jobs Battle of the Titans ruining my life.

 

I guess I have to wait until Monday when Apple customer service is available again. At least I feel like it's all within reach.

 

 

 

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