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Has Hi-Rez already made my digital music server obsolete?


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Hi,

 

I just read about the Reference Recording HRx, which led me to your review here, and, well, FINALLY! - A place where I think all my questions come together!

 

So, here's my question and a little background. I'm an old 70's- 80's audiophile, once in the business and then life intervened and I almost lost touch for close to 15 years. But a couple of years ago interest in my hobby was re-kindled, and I, essentially, was looking to get back in and, if possible, leapfrog the lost time. Having almost missed the entire CD generation, only using a big box cd player occasionally, I set my sites on the new digital music horizon. Quite accidentally, I stumbled onto the Squeezebox and quickly set about turning an old Windows 2000 computer into my dedicated music server, ripping files into WAV and FLAC. (I'm using the SB wirelessly). I thought I'd upgrade my SB by adding an outboard DAC, and chose a non-upsampling old school DAC.

 

However, now that I'm back 'in tune', I've been following the demise of SACD and the new Hi-Rez downloads. Having poked around here, in less than 5 minutes, it appears that I've discovered that my current setup will not, or never, support anything past 16/44.1. Is this correct? And, is the limitating factor both the Squeezebox AND the DAC? (The DAC is a Promitheus Audio, the little company in Malaysia that makes the TVC pre-amp that's gotten nice reviews in hi-end audio circles, and pretty good sounding!). AND, if this is true, what's my best course of action to get back on track for hi-rez playback? If the problem starts with the Squeezebox, is there any way of upgrading it (perhaps Bolder?.....) that will salvage its usage, or should I just part with it (it wasn't expensive anyway - I can give it to my daughter and new husband) and just start over? I have two computers- one is the Win2000 box (an older 750 mhz AMD box) and a newer XP system (a Dell with a 2.1 GHZ Intel). So, would I start there and go back to connecting my PC directly to my system (what I did before buying the Squeezebox), using a soundcard? In other words, without switching to a MAC would I purchase something like the Linx Studio AES 16e (any other Windows options here?), put it into an XP or higher Windows box and connect it to an upsampling DAC, like the Weiss Minerva or Berkley? And since these guys are around $5,000, would a Benchmark DAC 1 work essentially the same, if not quite as well?

 

Well, I'll stop. Lots of questions, but I really would like a source that can somehow facilitate the uncertain future of digital audio, and right now, if I understand what I've read, I'm at a dead end.

 

Thanks! AND THANKS SO MUCH FOR THIS WEBSITE!

 

Daina

 

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Hi Daina - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. In the big picture you're headed in the right direction and asking the right questions. Your current components will leave you dead in the water as far as high resolution playback goes. Playing the high resolution files at 24/96 to 24/192 is a function of everything from your computer up to the analog outputs of your DAC. For example you could have the Weiss Minerva which will handle 24/192, but if you feed it with an Apple Airport Express you're stuck at around 16/44.1. Conversely if you have a Logitech Transporter that handles 24/96 and feed that into a 16/44.1 DAC you're out of luck as well.

 

In my opinion just ditch the Squeezebox. I'm sure you could find someone somewhere that would turn it into a 24/96 device, but I wouldn't keep it around for high resolution audio.

 

I'm not sure what you're willing to spend so I will give you my opinion on a great system. Use your XP PC and a Lynx AES16e outputting to a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC. You should really be amazed at the sound with this combination considering the software is setup correctly.

 

You also mentioned the DAC1 from Benchmark. You should be able to get a sound card that outputs coax at up to 24/192. The DAC1 PRE doesn't have an AES input so coax would be the connectin of choice to get above 24/96. You could also get a DAC1 USB that does have an AES input. Then use the Lynx card to output high resolution into the DAC1. There is a very big difference between the Minerva & Berkeley DAC and the Benchmark DAC1 series. Since the Minerva & Alpha are quite a bit more money you could always start with the DAC1 and sell it online if you want to upgrade. If you are satisfied with the sound then you just saved a few thousand dollars!

 

Let me know if this just raises more questions or you want to continue the discussion. I'll be happy to help :-)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Hi Daina,

 

I guess I'm the contrarist here.

 

According to its designer, the Squeezebox won't do anything over 48K, period. That's all the faster its little processor will run. There is a feature that will "play" 24/96 files, but what it really does is drop every other sample, so that's of no real use. That feature is there to allow people to synchronize Squeezeboxes and Transporters for multi-room background music.

 

At this point, you face the decision to either go (relatively) whole hog for a high-res system now or do an interim solution to tide you over until you've amassed a considerable high-res collection, by which time there will likely be a new generation of equipment to choose from. Being basically cheap, I've taken the second path. Unlike Chris, I like the SlimDevices system. I'd be happy as a clam if their next generation of gear were to support 24/192. If not, and something else looks better at the time, that's OK too, as I don't have a ton of money in the Squeezeboxes.

 

Another issue to think about is whether or not you want to have a computer in your music room. Most of the folks on this forum don't mind and like controlling their systems that way. Personally, I really don't want a computer in that environment. (I have compromised to the extent that my interim lash-up involves using an old laptop as a player, but I don't expect that to be the situation forever.)

 

-Carl

 

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Thanks so much, Chris! This is a fantastic website and will definitely recommend this to my audiophile friends! This is what I needed to know, so now I have a decision to make, that's for sure. I thought I'd reached a place to pause in my search (who was I kidding?), but compared to the analog only days, we're dealing with progressive format changes, and very little real leadership, not to mention lot's of alternatives that have made convenience more important than sound. It used to be that everything, in one form or fashion, led to higher quality sound, even if it was just noting that "this year's entry level unit has 80 percent of the performance of last years flagship". Now we have competing formats and misinformation that leads people to pay as much for a "Polaroid-esque" mp3 as they would for the original painting WAV, in the name of convenience, or laziness.

 

I always try, whether it be with audio equipment or camera gear or anything else I invest my money in, to make decisions that make upgrading easy, but this time I find myself in the corner. Information is everything. Now, I'll have to figure my way out, but at least I have one reliable place to go to remained informed!

 

Thanks again!

 

Daina

 

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Hi Carl,

 

Thanks so much for your comments! You bring up some great points and I imagine you and I have a lot in common! Firstly, anyone who invests in 'hair-shirt audiophilia', like I did with the Promitheus TVC has to be considered something of a cheapskate. I'm always looking for a way to get a lot out of a little. I've gotten to know Nicholas of Promitheus pretty well, and he's a super nice guy. I liked his TVC so much that I bought his DAC over others like the Benchmark because A) it was less expensive, and B) I'm loyal to those who've helped me. No doubt his DAC improved the sound coming out of my Squeezebox, so I've already 'won', so I'm not going let this new information get me down too much.

 

And, like you, I was very happy to put my 'music server' in the closet with my 600 or so records, and just choose my music from the convenience of my couch. It was a major benefit to me. So, like you, I'd be very happy to find something that allowed me to not have to sit in front of a computer to select and play my music. (I recently was demo'd the new Linn Music server (I believe it was the Akurate; not the Klimax. The sound was really spectacular, but when I noticed that they had to make their playlists from a computer - even though it was a laptop - it was a turn-off that made me decide to 'wait for now'. Of course, Linn doesn't give anything away either!).

 

So, does your 'second path' mean, essentially, waiting to see what's coming? Or is there some other interim step that you've taken? I'd appreciate any guidance here, either way. I'd be interested to learn if Slim Devices/Logitech, or anyone else, has any plans for future generations that include hi-rez compatibility. I'm certainly all about letting the R&D costs trickle down to future generations of products at lower prices. With the Lynx card at $650 or so and the Benchmark at a grand or so, it's not a killer, but, yea, I just got that computer out of the living room a few months ago! :)

 

Well, great counterpoint and both you and Chris have given me tremendous food for thought in an amazingly short amount of time - leapfrogging my previous knowledge in just a couple of hours.

 

I'll keep you both posted!

 

Thanks again,

 

Daina

 

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Hi Daina,

 

My "second path" consists of an old laptop and an external soundcard that I had in hand that gives me SPDIF out to my DAC, which works up to 24/96 on its S/PDIF inputs. The few high-res files I have, I just keep on that machine's hard drive. I use a very simple player software. It's crude, but it works just fine for the small number of high-res files I have. Luckily, my DAC does 24/96, so I figure I'll be in good shape for the near future. At this point, it's enough of a victory to see a few vendors selling 16/44.1 downloads without DRM. By the time higher-resolution files are really prevalent, I'm confident the hardware makers will be tempting us with all kinds of goodies, including, I have to assume, a 24/192-capable Transporter. (The current Transporter does 24/96.)

 

I listened to a Transporter very briefly at CanJam, by the way. It sounded quite nice. I didn't hear it enough to form an opinion of whether it would be my cup of tea, though. At first blush, it reminded me of the Benchmark, which in turn, is very nice but not quite my taste. Then there is the tube output version that ModWright does. A new ModWright dealer has popped up near my house. I have it on my list of things to do to see if he has that piece and take a listen. If that works out, I'll post some impressions here.

 

-Carl

 

 

 

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Hi Carl,

 

Thanks so much for the info. Now, do I understand it correctly that you have a Squeezebox as well as the laptop, and if so, are you feeding it into your DAC too, using a second input and then the laptop feeds the DAC's other input? (My DAC has two inputs - I feed my pedestrian CD/DVD player into it as well as the Squeezebox).

 

I do not have ANY hi-rez files at this time, and I'm not sure I'd be inclined to get any unless I had something that took advantage of its capabilities. I did a quick inventory and discovered that both of my additional computers are pre-PCIe. So, I'd have to find a sound card that worked on a standard PCI slot, OR start over - either a new motherboard or new computer altogether, which, I guess, could include a MAC.

 

My son in law is a Systems Admin and has helped me when my Squeezebox setup runs into problems, which it does from time to time and I've found the Squeezebox forum of no real help- my issues are unique to my home network. It's the one thing I don't like about the Squeezebox - that being that I don't have the confidence that if I tore it down and moved it, or changed network hardware, I could get it back up and running. Furthermore, he and my daughter went in together and bought me the parts for a new computer last Christmas (which replaced the Dell), but he talked me into giving Linux a shot. So...that's what this computer is and I'm still using it. This box runs on Ubuntu, and it's completely free of the problems that PC's run into. And, if that's not enough, I recently started working from home and my work computer that was provided to me is a laptop running Windows Vista, that I got when I went to work for, believe it or not, Microsoft! Can you believe that? Linux, Windows, and now, to even consider a MAC (which I've always wanted to try - the Christmas gift was a surprise - so I couldn't exactly say "I was actually thinking of trying a MAC") is computer schizophrenia!

 

Allright, I digress. Well, I'm going to have to do some serious research. By the way, what DAC do you use?

 

Thanks again!

 

Daina

 

 

 

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Hi Chris,

 

I do have another question - doing an inventory of my two extra computers led me to determine that they are both pre- PCIe, so would the Lynx AES 16 work as well, it being a PCI bus card? It appears, on the surface, that it would work. Otherwise, I'd either have to a)install a new motherboard in one of them or b) replace it entirely with either another Widows machine or go ahead get the MAC solution.

 

Thanks again!

 

Daina

 

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Hi Daina,

 

Hmmm. Note to self: Daina works for Microsoft. I guess I'll have to go easy on the Open Source rants :-)

 

Yes, the bulk of my digital music - some 12,000 songs, according to SqueezeCenter - is served to my Dacs by the Squeezecenter/Squeezebox combinations. I have two Musical Fidelity DACs, an X-Dac v3 and an X-Dac v8. One has an optical input and S/PIDF and auto-switches between a Squeezebox and an old Rotel CD 855 used as a transport. The other has an abundance of inputs - S/PIDF and USB with manual switching between them. The Squeezebox and the old laptop/M-Audio external sound card combo are connected to that one.

 

My home network is probably remarkably similar to yours. It's a SOHO affair for our household needs and my wife's business. The server does network backup, file server and music server duties as well as being my desktop. It runs on very unassuming hardware, on Mandriva 2007. My wife's workstation and my main work laptop both run Windows XP. Her laptop, my secondary work laptop and the little machine I'm using with my high-res files (about a half dozen albums at this point) are Macs.

 

The only problem I have ever had with Slimserver, now "SqueezeCenter", has been installing the thing on distributions other than what SlimDevices considers mainstream. I think they like Fedora and Suse, if I remember right. A friend of mine had some troubles installing on one version of Ubuntu. On Windows, for him, it "just worked" straight away, right out of the box. If you're interested, I just posted my tale of upgrading to SqueezeCenter 7 on on Mandriva 2007 on the forums at SlimDevices. The super-short version is that I was able to trouble shoot the installation very easily when I used the tarball instead of the RPM (DEB, in your case, I think). On Mandriva, after a bit of initial fiddling, Slimserver has run for me for months and months at a time with no intervention on my part at all. Some people here have complained about the server's web interface not being very intuitive, but I just haven't had a problem. I configured it once and basically have never had to look at it again.

 

It's my personal prejudice anyway, but I'd say your Ubuntu machine would be the best choice for server duty. It should run more or less forever without fuss and it's easy to maintain. If you decide to install the server on Ubuntu and need some help, give a holler and I'll offer free advice that's worth every penny :-)

 

Moving Slimserver/SqueezeCenter from machine to machine should be a doodle. Just move your saved playlists and the config file (or you can recreate it in five minutes time) and don't worry about the database. Just do a re-scan, which the server will do on first run anyway, and it will build a fresh one.

 

The clients scan the network and do the network configuration from their end, so if you move the server, they'll find the new one. Actually, they'll let you choose which server to attach to, if you have more than one. I did give my clients fixed IP addresses, but only because DHCP has some strangeness (that's my fault, really) on my network. It's no biggie, but it made things easier for me. I have a fixed IP for the server and hostnames are in hosts files on the various machines. I don't run DNS.

 

I thought the SlimDevices customer service and the participation level on their forums were exemplary in the old days. Now, with Logitech, their service seems to be good, but not like it was. That said, the people on their forums are still pretty cool. It might take a little while longer to get the answer you seek.

 

I probably wouldn't make a music player client machine in Linux because of lack of software and drivers. But I can't get into any sort of partisan excitement either about Windows or Mac. They're all about as glamorous as a rusty pair of pliers to me. Windows and Mcintosh both work for home audio - sort of. And I'm sure they'll both mature and become non-annoying at about the same time, so go with what you've got on hand that's paid for, I say.

 

That said, I think the little plastic-cased 13" Mac laptop - (Note to Steve Jobs: The black one, thank you. Just send the long-term review sample to my house.) - is pretty tidy, IF you're sure you won't have compatibility problems and you don't mind the price. I my experience (I've been responsible for 50 or 60 of the things since the aluminum cases came out) is that the plastic case is superior to the aluminum one, which crumples like a beer can at the slightest insult. I don't get a warm and fuzzy about my MacBook Pro 15". I don't get a warm and fuzzy about my Dell, either. Like I said, rusty pliers. Just my $.02.

 

-Carl

 

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Hey Carl!

 

Very entertaining comments! :)! :) I guess, being a recruiter makes me a bit of a mercenary, but I'm about the last person that I thought I'd find working for the Evil Empire. Even though I live in the land of the Empire, I've spent most of my 10 years as a technical recruiter recruiting for the other technologies, and, in fact, spent the previous 2 and half years working in house as a technical recruiter for a local open source shop and was even the administrator of the local Perl User Group. Most of my best friends are Perl devs. But things changed and I found myself looking for a job again. I think I got this contract gig at Microsoft mainly because I changed my negative attitude towards them just enough that no one noticed. Having said all that, my Ubuntu system is my first trip to open source land, and, all in all, I've been very happy. I even took a very old Win 98 laptop and installed Xubuntu on it. Sometimes, I sit in front of the tv surfing the net with it. This is all to say I'm in a very awkward spot at the moment, platform-wise! I was ready to completely turn my back on Windows, and suddenly, I'm supporting it!! Geez!

 

One of my Perl friends has a Squeezebox - he talks of writing some stuff for it. As for me, I modified a simple script that I found on the SB wiki that displays a World Clock on the SB when in screensaver mode. But that's the first bit of code I've written since college- and THAT was Cobol and Basic, so you know about how old I am! Speaking of issues with the Squeezebox, most of my problems were solved when I went with a static IP address, but occasionally, the thing goes through a stage in which it loses connection for no apparent reason. My son in law, the Systems Admin, scratches his head about it almost as much as I do. We've tried everything, but sometimes it's just not happy. Today, it just turned itself off and then turned back on and I went through the set up steps with it and in about 45 seconds or so we were back playing music again. That's a very minor annoyance as are the days when it'll play for about 45 minutes or so, and then 'lose connection'. I refresh my network adapter and fiddle with my router's antenna, and I never, almost never turn the music server off anymore, and this way it stays pretty happy.

 

My experience with the forums have mostly revolved around this issue, back when my problem was much worse than it is now, and I just kept getting the same advice - the advice meant for the problems that 95% of the problems were about. Mine was not about that, having tried EVERYTHING that was suggested, for over a month. At one point, I turned my back on the forum because one member, thinking that I was total newbie to technology basically chastised me for not taking responsibility for making the thing work. I responded, essentially explaining, again, that I'd tried all that, and so had several other people more technical than I, and that I didn't buy the thing to play around with network settings or to get my rocks off learning 'new cool things' about my Squeezebox - I bought it to play music! Period! I don't go back much anymore. And therein lies my problem - I have very technical friends on the one hand - the guys I recruit - but the other side is filled with the exact opposites. And I'm right in the middle. Actually, truth be told, I'm probably really much closer to my non-technical friends, but I really LOVE talking about technical stuff, especially to my less knowledgeable friends! Now THAT'S and admission!! I consider myself a techie wannabe, and I'm happy to be that. I can talk about and understand, from a lay perspective, what my technical friends do, and I can turn around and explain it to my techno-phobe or techno-ignorant friends. I can walk some of my friends through computer setup issues, but I still need help sometimes myself, to the same extent as my non techie friends do.

 

Anyway, I digress again. I've considered turning my Win 2K box - my currrent music server - into a linux machine. I still might, but even with my own limited experience with my new Ubuntu box there are times when I get really put off by the lack of available software, as well as how easy going some of my Linux friends are about what I consider to be major shortcomings in the software I need to use in my piddly little job. ("Sure it's a 'processes words' but it still can't do ..... , and I REALLY NEED THAT FEATURE to my job at its most effective!). Anyway, I WANT TO BELIEVE in the whole open source thing and that's what keeps me using this one, but, after spending 10 or so of the years before Windows working around in other systems (various dedicated operating systems and many flavors of Unix), I don't really get excited about going back to the days where I had to learn how to do something like installing something manually with sudo apt-get because the 'package manager doesn't work with that'. And I've considered a Mac because, well, they're kind of cute, I guess.

 

I think it's 'cool' that I have married the computer with at least "mid hi-fi". Sometimes I get a small internal chuckle knowing that I don't even have a hi end CD player (I don't! I currently rip everything I get with EAC directly to my hard drive into FLAC or WAV, and 'archive' the CD by putting it in a CD storage case, possibly never to be played again). Most of my audiophile friends are far behind the curve here, but I'm becoming more convinced that the answer is in these 'emerging' digital solutions. I am becoming fairly sure that whatever comes along digitally speaking that pushes the resolution envelope, I'm more likely be able to handle it if my hardware and software are 'up to date'. I'm not sure the mainstream manufacturers have the clout or the stomach to duke out the 'next' format. And even if they do, I don't know if it will be anything more than a moot point if my server and DAC can handle the resolution. We'll see. I read in Stereophile today that one company is convinced that flash memory sounds better than hard drives. Yep! Well, thanks again for all your advice. I may give you a shout when I figure out my next step!

 

Take care,

 

Daina

 

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Hi Daina,

 

You may have already eliminated this, but it sounds a bit like you're getting hit with power sags.

 

I have the worst power in the world, as far as momentary outages are concerned. Everything "computer" or "network" in the house is on UPS, but sometimes I get hit with so many momentaries in a row that I'll lose my WiFi access point for a second, despite the UPS. That'll take down connected laptops or the Squeezeboxes. A burst of RF noise can do the same thing, although, thankfully, that's one demon we don't have - often, at least.

 

The audio equipment is not on UPS. Most of it sails right through because of the giant filter caps in the power supplies. But the Squeezeboxes have wimpy little power supplies. I've seen a playing Squeezebox lose its display over and over and finally the display will freeze on the 10th or fifteenth hit in a row. A sleeping Squeezebox will sometimes just go dark and come up with "Right arrow to set up networking" once I get it going again.

 

-Carl

 

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Hi Carl,

 

First of all, read the last paragraph, whatever you do. Way cool. You can skip my 'Day in the Life of a Partially Happy Squeezebox Owner" if you want, but the last paragraph might actually add to the conversation on this site. Ok.. here 's the boring part....

 

Well, just about everything you described has certainly happened, more than I care to remember, but only with the squeezebox. My Microsoft laptop sits underneath my keyboard shelf, and is almost never NOT on - It's wireless and I don't think it's ever gone down, except for once when the internet went down in my area. I've noticed and am constantly checking the signal level to my access point on my music server. My wireless router is on a wall across the room from the music computer, which resides behind a door in a closet - about 15 feet away. The signal level seems to drop over time, so I'll refresh when it starts acting up or when the signal strength gets down below 45%. The SB itself is about halfway in between on a shelf, directly in line with the router.

 

Oh, wait, this happened when my main computer was also the music computer and it was hard wired to the router, about 1 foot away. In fact, at times, I even ran the SB wired (has both) too. It's really a bit of a mystery. It's pretty happy these days, although it did what you described in your second paragraph just today. So, I looked around and noticed that my router had been knocked off the wall and was on the floor. I put it back up, refreshed the connection on the music server, and it seemed ok again.

 

I too, did the fixed IP address thing, and that has made things bearable ever since, about the only thing that I can point to that actually has made a difference. At one point, before I started using a fixed IP address, there were times when the router would, I guess, get confused. It might be able to play the SB, but then my computer's internet connection would go dead or vice versa, or they would both work, but then Voip wouldn't work. Every combination of the three happened. (It's fairly high Cable internet connection, in case you're wondering, close to 6 mb/s, according to speedtest.net). And there was a very long time in which using the Squeeze Network was just an exercise in futility - it just would not work for more than a few seconds before 'rebuffering' or just stopped working altogether. It's been so long now and we made so many changes to the network settings that I actually do not remember why it started working again.

 

Nowadays, the Squeeze Network, is marginally reliable. For example, just tonight, a friend of mine from LA suggested I turn on KCLU - I'd told him I could 'pick it up' from here. So, I found and it started and it would work for about 30 seconds and then rebuffer for about 5 and repeat over and over again. So, I thought, 'well, maybe it's just the station', so I switched to another in the LA area. It worked fine and so did another, so after about 5 minutes, I went back to KCLU to give it one more try. It worked flawlessly for the next 2 hours, until I turned the system off. No real clue. It's like it had to 'work' with one station for awhile, then it could work with the other. That is an example of the kinds of issues I have with it. I've learned to just work around it, but it's never worked as well as I had hoped. But just well enough, and most of the time nowadays with the SqeezeCenter. However, if I turn the music server off, or reboot, I might have to reboot two or three times before the SB works. Like just now, I needed to upgrade my AVG virus software and it required a reboot (Don't have to do THAT with my Linux machine!). I haven't checked it yet to see if it's working.... let's see....all right! We made it through a reboot without needing another! I did that low cost power supply upgrade that was mentioned here and there on some of the forums - the $10, regulated wall wart with certain specs, that you can buy in various places. I don't think it's made any difference, but I feel a little better.

 

Having said all that, I'm pretty sure I have lousy power too. I live in an apartment, and I have essentially nothing to protect me. I've been looking into that-it's on my list. I belong to the Pacific Northwest Audio Society and I've been asking around there, although I've about researched it to death on the internet already. I just haven't pulled the trigger yet. I had a ground loop in my system, which came into play when I got my Conrad Johnson power amp a year or so ago. I used the bandaid remedy of a cheater plug, but eventually did purchase a PS Audio cable for it - they have a removeable ground pin. It works perfectly, and, at least I feel I'm getting something for my money with a high dollar power cord. I'll move the other cable - a Signal Cable to another component soon. Well, I'm rambling again, but this does remind me that I really probably SHOULD do something about power conditioning.

 

Oh, my gosh! Almost forgot, at last night's Pacific Northwest Audio Society meeting, one of our members owns Puget Sound Studios - most likely the highest end studio and mastering facility around these parts, http://pugetsoundstudios.com, gave us an extremely cool demonstration. He had just come back from Tokyo where he recorded the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Jazz trio in hi-rez DXD! He brought his portable mixer equipment, hard drives, etc. and we listened to out-takes from the sessions in 32bit/352.8kHz through the club's system. He also played us some stuff through his EMM Labs CDSD-SE Transport and DAC 8 IV. He also demonstrated some mastering and recording techniques, making small changes on the fly and then comparing. Very, very cool. Check out his website - it's totally first class.

 

Thanks again!

 

Daina

 

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Gee, most of the time when people says "the network is down" they don't mean physically falling off the wall. :-) Although I have to admit the exact same thing happened to me once.

 

I have DSL. It isn't nearly as fast, but in south Florida, fast takes second place to what-is-restored-first-after-the-hurricane for me, so DSL it is. I've had no particular problems with SqueezeNetwork here. Individual internet radio stations seem to be about as reliable on as they normally are, which is to say, not very. Lately, I got a radio station URL from some aggregator site that had a feature that showed the station's uptime record. It was pretty horrible - like 80% seemed to be considered something other than a complete disaster. That's what it said, I think, for the station I wanted. Good grief. That's down like a day a week!

 

A few years ago, I had occasion to visit almost all the studios in town. Some historic places gave me goosebumps. But just about everywhere there were hundreds of cheesy op amps and miles of crappy wire. And those were the days when the only good op amp was one that wasn't living in an audio circuit. It wasn't anything like what I saw on Puget Sound's website. Way cool.

 

-Carl

 

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Hi again,

 

So, as I contemplate this new hi-rez world, a few new questions arise as to the exact conversion capabilities of some of the different DACs I've read about, principally, the Benchmark DAC (1, pre, usb etc) versus the Weiss Minerva and Berkeley DAC. If I understand correctly, both of the latter DAC's can accept digital audio at rates of up to 192kHz at a 24 Bit wordlength, and convert them into analog. The Benchmark, which I originally thought was technically the same states it it's information that it offers 24-bit, 192-kHz digital-to analog conversion (Digital Input Sample Rate Range of 28 to 195 kHz), but then mentions that its "fully digital de-emphasis circuit supports 44.1, 48, 88.2 and 96-kHz sample rates." I obviously must not understand the concept of de-emphasis, or something :). So, technically speaking, does this mean that the Benchmark does NOT have the same conversion capabilities? - or is Benchmark talking about a different feature? I guess I just mostly want to know that if I plop a, for example, HRx 176.4 file, or even a 192Khz file into a server that is capable of streaming this, will all three DACs convert this frequency accordingly? And, if it makes sense to explain it, and you don't mind, what is Benchmark talking about? Does that make sense?

 

Thanks!

 

Daina

 

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Hi Daina - For HRx tracks and full 24/176.4 support you want the Weiss or Berkeley DAC. The Weiss supports FireWire so it is simple to connect to a computer. The Berkeley DAC is trickier, but offers amazing sound quality.

 

I'll see if I can get Elias from Benchmark to comment on your above questions.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Hello Daina,

 

I can clarify any questions you may have about the DAC1/USB/PRE.

 

All units will accept 192 kHz / 24 bits on all inputs except the USB input. The USB can stream up to 96 kHz / 24 bits.

 

Regarding the de-emphasis circuit, this is only necessary with recordings that use pre-emphasis, which is very rare with anything past 1990, give or take. Needless to say, this will not affect the hi-rez recordings available today.

 

Please let me know if you have any more questions.

 

Thanks!

Elias

 

Elias Gwinn[br]Applications Engineer[br]Benchmark Media Systems[br]Please help us spread the word about our free web-series www.BenchmarkMedia.com/MastersFromTheirDay - a video series about recording music - w/ FREE 88/24 DOWNLOADS[br]

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Hi Carl,

 

Yes, I asked Bruce, the president of Puget Sound Studios, for a little clarification on what rez we were actually listening to, because he had also brought along an EMMLabs with 24/96 capability and I was wondering if we were actually listening through that. Turns out we were, indeed, listening to full 32/352.8kHz files. He was using the Digital Audio Denmark AX24 AD/DA, http://www.digitalaudio.dk/ax24.htm. Another DAC I'm completely unfamiliar with, but it's obvious that the Pro Audio guys are leading the way here. Weiss, Lynx, Benchmark, Denmark, all from the Pro Audio industry. I followed the link to Digital Audio's website and then followed the link there to "dealers", and found one in Las Vegas, which appears to be the closest to me - it's called Las Vegas Pro Audio, and found a price list. And while this thing can do both sides - AD and DA, it appears that you can buy a two channel version of just DA and get it up to 384Khz, for about $5,600. It's called the AX24-DA2. I'm trying to verify that, but the price list is published on the dealer's website: http://www.lasvegasproaudio.com/diauded.html (then click on "DAD US Retail Price" for the PDF.) Lot's of money, but not much more than the Weiss and Berkeley. He also mentioned that his Digital Audio Workstation was a Pyramix, http://www.merging.com/.

 

Thanks!

 

Daina

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks so much for the clarification, Elias! So, this means that if I play, for example, an HrX file, at 176.4, the Benchmark will play that back with full rez, just as the Weiss and Berleley does, right? Also, last week, I had an opportunity to hear 32/352.8Khz files at my local audio club. One of our members owns a hi end Mastering and Post Production studio. He brought a Digtial Audio Denmark AX24 AD/DA. It does up to 384 Khz. Very expensive, pro audio piece, and didn't listen to it critically, but thought I'd ask if you guys at Benchmark had even heard of this thing.

 

Thanks again!

 

Daina

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Carl,

 

So, I've been poking around, looking at potential "plan b" options (as well as plan a!), when the thought hit me that the $650 Lynx sound card and $5k plus Weiss or Berkely DACs (or a new Mac Box etc.) can't be the only devices that could take me to 24/192 "nirvana". Like you, as I think we've both stated, I like the Squeezebox precisely because it gets me out from in front of my computer. So, through research and dumb luck or lack of it, I stumbled onto other cards that seemed to be after some of what the Lynx card does, the most intriguing to me of which was the M-Audio Audiophile 192, a 24-bit 192KHz sound card that, like the Lynx, is more directed to recording than to gaming or home theater. My son in law stated that their cards had pretty good reputations, particularly in the Linux community, and I thought I remember you mentioning that you had an M-Audio sound card on your laptop - probably not the same one, but I'm just wondering if anyone on the forum has anything to say about this card. It sells for about 1/4th the price of the Lynx, and I could pick up a Benchmark, put this on my current music computer, and stream my hi-rez files right out of it through it's digital coax rca cabing (using a bnc adapter) into the benchmark, and into my preamp AND STILL use the Squeezebox for everything from Redbook CD on down, if I wanted to, playing both sources through the same DAC. At that point, I think the only thing I could not play would be actual SACD discs, but there are more and more hi-rez sites popping up every day that offer DSD and higher files as a download or on a DVD that's only used for extraction to your hard drive (like the Ref. Recordings HrX files).

 

Do you know anything about this sound card? Does my idea sound feasible? I didn't find anything on this card searching the forum so maybe I should start a new link, but I thought I'd just put it out here for starters.

 

Thanks!

 

Daina

 

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I'm anxious not to make an ass of myself here and conscious of not being an Electronics engineer, so I've had a long conversation with Martin Grindrod, my business partner who had a long and distinguished career in Defence Avionics before starting a hi fi company, his comments I think are worth repeating.

 

He warns that in all Electronics design there are compromises and speed versus accuracy must be considered in a DAC. He doesn't consider the SB should be marked down because it SRCs to 48kHz and points out that although the ADM9.1s have a 24/192 DAC, his sample rate convertor actually feeds the DAC at 60kHz because he felt it was the best compromise. He sees not point in leaving an open door to RF frequencies when you hear almost nothing from a hi fi system above 12 kHz.

 

This statement (something similar) cause a war on UK Forums so I'll explain:

 

If you play music to a Spectrum Analyser you see that only about 5% of energy remains at 5kHz, your hearing loses sensitivity above 6kHz and a 1" tweeter beams like a torch at 10-12Khz, it puts such a small amount of energy into a room above this, that you won't hear anything even it's on the recording. A 16 Bit system has a 20kHz bandwidth because it seemed like more than enough at the time! The 24 Bit system gives a wider bandwidth still and, more importantly for sound engineers and producers, an improved dynamic range or Signal to noise ratio - if they use it.

 

Gimmell records are making some stunning 24 bit Classical Recordings available for download, but many other 24 bit records being sold aren't. They've been transcribed from old analogue tape recorders (11 bit resolution) using old electronics, mikes and other bits and pieces, so have a -60dB hiss and a more limited dynamic range. 24 Bit resolution gives you a 120 dB S/N ratio and an old valve mike has a hiss at -60dB and a hiccup for an amplitude response at 7 kHz!

 

I apologise for the aside, but I'm trying to give perspective.

 

Practical advice is 24/48 is good enough for replay and higher sample rates may cause more problems than they cure.

It's important to be able to get the best from 24 bit recordings as more and more become available. Don't go out and buy an expensive hi end CD player when the digital output from a cheap DVD player is more use and will sound better.

The main thing is to be able to play 16 and 24 bit, the sample rate is not so important.

 

Sound quality of a DAC is what matters most; we've had customers who've spent large sums of money on SACD players and been worried about buying ADM9s (the older model) because they couldn't play it. However, even without SACD our DAC was much better sounding and that's the problem - how to find the best sounding DAC.

 

Now I don't doubt this will produce objections from experts that I can't answer while Martin spends a week in Spain!

 

The other issues is streaming these massive files, speed falls off so quickly that wi fi is likely to be a problem.

 

Just my thoughts

 

Ashley

 

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If you have a good 24 bit recording and iTunes in a Mac you can try an experiment by changing the Bit rate and the sample rate of what you're playing while your playing it up to 24/96. Just go to Audio Midi, which is in Utilities in Applications and tweak away.

 

Ash

 

 

 

 

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Hi Ashley - Thanks a lot for such a detailed post. While I'm not sure I agree with everything 100% I think you have some very valid points and some solid engineering detail to support those points. Don't worry about starting a pissing match with your post. The readers of CA will respect your opinions and be happy that you offered so much detail. I like to think that the readers around here are a little above average and they are looking to increase their enjoyment of our fabulous hobby. Arguing over something like this only posses off all parties involved and really takes the fun out of everything.

 

Sorry for my little tangent :-)

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Hi guys,

 

So, how did these comments get into my thread? Yesterday, for the first time in a about 10-11 days, I made a post, asking if anyone knew anything about the M-Audio 192 Audiophile sound card. Today, I wake up and my inbox is filled with 4 or 5 emails saying I've received new comments. I follow the first link and it takes me directly to Ashley's comments that began with "I'm anxious not to make an ass of myself here and conscious of not being an

Electronics engineer". This was the next post after mine asking for information on the M-Audio. I've now read all the posts, and I can't find a connection between my post and these others at all! I can hardly drawn a connection between these posts and my very first one.

 

At the risk of looking like an idiot here, let me re-state my post that somehow started this newest thread. Please read:

 

"M-Audio sound card

 

Hi Carl,

 

So, I've been poking around, looking at potential "plan b" options (as well as plan a!), when the thought hit me that the $650 Lynx sound card and $5k plus Weiss or Berkely DACs (or a new Mac Box etc.) can't be the only devices that could take me to 24/192 "nirvana". Like you, as I think we've both stated, I like the Squeezebox precisely because it gets me out from in front of my computer. So, through research and dumb luck or lack of it, I stumbled onto other cards that seemed to be after some of what the Lynx card does, the most intriguing to me of which was the M-Audio Audiophile 192, a 24-bit 192KHz sound card that, like the Lynx, is more directed to recording than to gaming or home theater. My son in law stated that their cards had pretty good reputations, particularly in the Linux community, and I thought I remember you mentioning that you had an M-Audio sound card on your laptop - probably not the same one, but I'm just wondering if anyone on the forum has anything to say about this card. It sells for about 1/4th the price of the Lynx, and I could pick up a Benchmark, put this on my current music computer, and stream my hi-rez files right out of it through it's digital coax rca cabing (using a bnc adapter) into the benchmark, and into my preamp AND STILL use the Squeezebox for everything from Redbook CD on down, if I wanted to, playing both sources through the same DAC. At that point, I think the only thing I could not play would be actual SACD discs, but there are more and more hi-rez sites popping up every day that offer DSD and higher files as a download or on a DVD that's only used for extraction to your hard drive (like the Ref. Recordings HrX files).

 

Do you know anything about this sound card? Does my idea sound feasible? I didn't find anything on this card searching the forum so maybe I should start a new link, but I thought I'd just put it out here for starters."

 

Ok, thanks! That's it. Talk about tangents! Either I'm crazy or my thread's been outright hi-jacked! :) Does anyone have a response to my original question?

 

Thanks!

 

Daina

 

 

 

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