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Confused, Green Newbie needing Clarification


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Gents:

 

I have just sold a ModWright Transporter with a goal to set-up a computer to DAC to preamp music system. Last week I evaluated a PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC in my system. I steamed music by Squeezecenter to a Touch by Spidif to the DAC to the Preamp to Amp. It was easy, added a component and a cable versus the ModWright Transporter and enjoyed the sound produced. However, I want to set up a system as follows: External Hard Drive (Music Files) to Computer to DAC to Preamp to Amp.

 

To accomplish my objective I am looking at a computer oriented friend build me a dedicated PC based music server (with high quality parts and power supply) or going to a Mac Mini based system. The confusing part is that I have some folks indicating I will need a premieum after market sound card (Lynx) in the PC based system. Would you tell me if this is true and if so what would I gain over a Mac based system?

 

Thanks in advance.

 

Ken

 

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There's nothing like one way to go about this... a lot boils down to the available interface between the DAC and computer. With the PWT/PWD combo, or the PWD along, hooking up to a computer CURRENTLY has options based on TOSLINK, S/PDIF, and 24/96 USB. . When the network bridge is available, then you'll have another option for how you play your files.

 

As far as I know, the USB implementation is adaptive, not Asynchronous, so it's not for the highest level of performance- it's like the Bryston in that regard.

 

Now, the other options are all variations on a theme- coaxial S/PDIF, TOSLINK (optical S/PDIF), or AES/EBU which is a balanced version of S/PDIF with slightly different protocols and higher signal levels. The "weakness" is that all of these transmit the clock along with the signal, embedded so to speak within the signal, so they are susceptible to varying degrees to signal correlated jitter. Use the search functions, there are many discussions on the forum.

 

Frankly, this just comes down to how high you want to set your sights, as regards the interface. The only reasons no one is recommending a Lynx card for the Mac Mini is because you can't put one in it! A Mac Pro, you can. The Lynx card is recommended as a high quality AES/EBU interface to DAC;s like the one you've selected. (my best friend in Denver has a PWD, have spent some time listening to it- it's a good performer, nice midrange component).

 

Now, with a Mac Mini, you've got a few options, but not all the options of a Mac Pro or PC with expansion slots. you could hook up to the PWD just by USB. Or the optical TOSLINK- both will have a bit more jitter than desired, though. A likely better solution would be to use a Hiface, a moderate cost USB to S/PDIF coaxial converter, and connect via that. I have one of those (Hiface) and it works quite well, especially for the price.

 

I also have a Mac Mini, and personally I think that connecting the DAC via Firewire is the way to go, but then that "limits" you to DACs that have Firewire interfaces. One can do a lot worse than be limited that way. There are some really decent sounding Firewire solutions at a variety of price points, starting around $400.

 

For a little more money than the PWD, you could go with a Metric Halo LIO-8 on Firewire. You need to have a Mac to setup one of those to it's running configuration, and the cabling is a bit non-standard, too- it's a pro studio item, but highly regarded. Again, the search function is your friend.

 

If you already have the PWD and the Mini, my suggestion is to get a Hiface for now and see how that works for you. If you don't have the DAC and Mac Mini, my suggestion is a bit more research.

 

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