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Moving (Don't Laugh) from CDs to Digital but Playing the Music on my Stereo -- How?


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After reading the dizzying posts I feel more discouraged than ever. Here's the problem. My (I know, I know) CD changer has finally broken. I must move into the

21st century they tell me and digitize all my CDs. But how do I play

music on my stereo if it's all digitized? Ideally there'd be a small

box with a CD tray and enormous hard drive that would rip my CDs and

provide a remote control with a perfectly logical (to my way of

thinking) navigable display. Is there such a thing?

 

So far, I'm thinking I should get a Logitech Squeezebox with my music

on an external hard drive attached to my PC, software on my computer,

signals sent over my wireless router to the squeezebox that must be

wired to the stereo. It seems cumbersome, but it does provide that

remote control I'm hoping for.

 

Since I came up with this on my own, I'm doubtful it's the best solution. I guess the most important thing is to be able to sit in my living room and listen to music without having to go to the computer. What is the better solution?

 

Thanks.

 

Allen

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Maybe you can tell us more of what your requirements are, budget, what kind of computer you currently have. If you're just looking for CD (rebook) quality, an easy way to rip & remote control, there's many options.

 

Rascal

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks for the replies so far.

1. My budget is $500 or so.

2. I have a PC with Vista.

3. I am looking for quality at least as good as that of my current system with a Denon receiver and decent bookshelf speakers.

 

I do not want a PC sitting next to the stereo. Although perhaps, say an iPod sitting next to the stereo would be okay.

 

Thanks again,

 

Allen

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Squeezebox or Sonos seam your best course of action. Either connected via analogue or via digital into your Denon receiver.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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Thanks Eloise! I looked at the Sonos and love it. Instead of getting the bundled set I will get a Bridge, Zone Player and Controller. That should bring me in at $800 rather than than the $1000 for the bundle. But it is pretty much exactly what I want.

 

Allen

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You said your budget was $500.00

 

Another, (possibly)less cool but (possibly) more functional, workable solution would be to get an Apple Express for $100.00

 

Put the laptop at your chair and stream to the Airport Express across the room.

 

This may not give you the highest quality sound available (the Sonos doesn't either) but is cheaper and gives you an excellent entre'/introduction to the world of PC music.

 

If you like what you hear, you could improve on things at that point with a DAC. And you are still probably under $500.00 and the equipment is appropriate to the rest of what you have

 

You can use other software besides itunes to stream to the AE with the addition of an ~$25.00 helper program like Remote Speakers or AirFoil

 

my 2c

 

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I would second the suggestion of the Airport Express as a good entry-level option. However, I wouldn't overlook the value of including a DAC with this option. The AE was my first foray into computer audio. However, I was disappointed with the results. Even with my old, mediocre Kenwood integrated amp & CD player, CD's sounded much better than iTunes played through the AE. The poor analog output of the AE was at fault. Using the AE's digital output through a DAC can significantly improve the sound quality. There are good-quality DACs on the market in the $90-300 price range.

 

I still use the AE in my secondary system, through a Musical Fidelity V-DAC ($300), into a Rega Brio 3 integrated & B&W bookshelf speakers, with very nice results.

 

Rascal

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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Hi Allen

if you are happy playing CD's may I suggest you just get another CD player? $1000 buys you a fairly decent second hand CD player these days on A'gon. Computer audio requires a) a computer b) ripping all your CD's c) a transport (eg Squeezebox/Sonus/Airport Express if you aren't using the computer) and finally an off board dac - it gets complicated rather quickly. And expensive.

Just a thought...not need to rush into computer audio playback if you are happy doing what you have been doing.

 

Best Wishes

Andrew

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Not sure if you have one, but a iPhone or iPod Touch can work as a Sonos controller for free, or if not cheaper to buy (I think) and ore versatile than a Sonos controller - or check out second hand ones.

 

If you can run a piece of Ethernet cable from your router to your first Sonos player you don't need the Bridge either.

 

The AirPort express is another good suggestion, you'll probably want an iPod Touch or iPhone to control iTunes on your PC but very good for the money. Run a digital cable into your AV Receiver.

 

Or if you're looking for a new CD player (though I assumed you meant by CD changer a 100-400 disc device) look at something like the Cambridge Audio 740/840 which have digital inputs so later you can utilise it as a DAC.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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This forum is incredible, by the way.

 

To clarify:

I do not want another CD Changer. (1) It takes up too much room, (2) you have to enter all the titles manually (well many of them), and (3) it's not easily scalable nor at all flexible.

 

I did say my budget was $500, but that's a target budget. Since I had to pick a starting point, that was it.

 

 

To address some of your wonderful suggestions:

1. I don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch -- only an iPod Nano. I've abandoned the idea of using an iPod interface due to the extra steps of synching and charging.

 

2. My goal is not to have anything resembling a PC in the living room where the stereo resides. Why not? you may say. I have no answer.

 

3. The dreaded DAC. I never even heard of one until this forum. To represent myself a tiny bit better: I am a classical musician. So, I need good quality, but probably not nearly as good as many of the visitors to this forum require. Which is where, I imagine, the DAC comes in.

 

I'm pretty in love with the concept of the Sonos, but Audiophile forum author, iamimdoc, mentions that the quality is not that great.

 

Can a DAC be used there, or is there no improving the sound I'll get from a Sonos?

 

I may as well throw this into the mix. At one time when I had decided I could record demo CDs at home, I bought a Xenyx-S02 Preamp. Naive perhaps, but can this perform the DAC function? To my utterly simple way of thinking, since the preamp accepts a CD input then it's possible that it does a digital to analog conversion automatically?

 

Thank you all so much. This is really fun and edifying!

 

 

 

 

Allen

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Allen,

 

I'm slightly puzzled by your abandoning an iPod Touch because of syncing & charging. These are pretty automatic steps. Did you have a bad experience w/ your Nano? You get so many more functions with the Touch & it's about $150 cheaper than the Sonos controller. On the other hand, there is something to be said for the simplicity of buying all pieces of your music server from the same manufacturer.

 

I think most people here can relate to your not wanting a computer in your stereo room. No explanation needed!

 

The sound of the Sonos MIGHT be improved (to your ears) with the addition of a DAC. The Sonos has digital (required for input to a DAC) as well as analog output. Also, some Denon amps have a digital input (meaning they have a built-in DAC). If so, you could try the digital output of Sonos into the Denon's digital input and compare that to the Sonos analog output into the Denon analog input. But if you're in love with the Sonos, I wouldn't worry about adding a DAC at this point.

 

I had mentioned a DAC in reference to using the Airport Express, which has (IMO) a rather poor analog output. I believe most people would have no trouble hearing the improvement a decent DAC would make in this specific case - it's significant step up.

 

I don't know about the Xenyx pre, but the fact that it accepts input from a CD doesn't mean it performs DAC functions. Most CD players output analog only (though a handful have a digital output as well), the D-to-A conversion being done internally in the cD.

 

Hope this helps,

Rascal

 

A: Mac Mini => Peachtree Nova => LFD Integrated Zero Mk.III => Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 | Musical Fidelity X-CAN V-8 => AKG K 701

B: Airport Express = > Benchmark DAC1 => Rega Brio-R => B&W DM 601 S2

C: Airport Express => AudioEngine A2

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Thanks, Rascal. I don't know what it is with me and iPods. I've had one for years and never use it. I have had bad experiences synching. There are missing files that correspond to some of my music in iTunes (I haven't any idea why that is. The files are all on my computer but suddenly, I guess not where they used to be. Certainly something I did). As I recall, the synching function complains about this every time it happens. No problem, I thought, I'll manually synch. But I find this difficult only probably because I don't really know the intricacies of how it works. Everything about iTunes and iPods wants automatic synching it seems.

 

Charging. My iPod constantly has a low battery. But I don't leave it plugged into my computer because, with an external hard drive, a midi keyboard, PC speakers, a digital recorder, camera and "video" camera -- well...

 

I have to say that I just don't like my iPod. There. I've come out of the closet. Perhaps I'm the only one in the universe, but I'm not afraid any more. :)

 

I am encouraged to hear that I won't need a DAC with Sonos.

 

Allen

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1) The sound quality of any of these device is ok/great/wonderful/amazing to 99.9% of the world. This is an _audiophile_ site and sound quality is a big issue so you must consider that with a very LARGE grain of salt when shifting through potential solutions. The only way to know for sure about how things sound _TO YOU_ is to listen. One man's floor is absolutely one man's ceiling in the audiophile world. The performance - price curve is pretty flat pretty quick now a days and only you know what is acceptable.

 

Some may disagree but some of the differences in software might be the difference between a high end professional violin and a Stradivarius. Some of the differences in hifi equipment might be similar. Adding a DAC might or might not help depending on downstream eqpt, room setup, etc.

 

Only you can decide what is important and meaningful to you. Remember, after all of the advice you will get, you are the only one on the couch listening in your music room.

 

2) If you listen to mainly classical music (and have mainly classical CD') you might have issues with cataloging them in itunes. (Not sure what happens in Sonos.) This issue has been discussed in this forum. Thus PC based software may be the better choice for you. Most of these pieces of software are free (or can be used free for 30 days or so). You may want to rip 10 CD's or so, download a few programs and import the CD's into the program and see if you like/hate the user interface.

 

In my opinion, the interface is one of the major issues that makes this fun or a chore. (This is supposed to be fun after all). Some people will wear the hair shirt for a piece of software that might sound fractionally better. Other prefer ease of use.

 

3) I think the Sonos is OK sonically. I actually though the AE is OK too. I added a DAC and got not much improvement. Your mileage may vary. Most other would disagree as you have already seen. But this is complicated stuff and answers/solutions are not always absolute for a host of reasons (other eqpt, interfaces, room, etc).

 

I believe you can add a DAC to the Sonos. There is even a website (at least a few years ago - in California I think) )where the Sonos could be hot rodded and outperformed $20,000 CD players, etc, etc

 

4) Xenyx-S02 Preamp - probably not but I am unfamiliar with the device and can't find much in the internet. It seems to be professional unit for mixing, etc.

 

5) Not sure if you consider the laptop to be a computer in the living room (I know it is.. ) as it is used to control the AE and is used as a giant remote control. It sits with you, not at the stereo (which might be worse).

 

To get no apparent computer in your listening room your solutions would be

Sonos or equivalent (Squeezebox, Linksys, Phillips, etc)

The AE, but you have to have something to control it like an IPOD or an IPAD (but there has to be a computer somewhere)

Some other stuff that would be pricey

 

 

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Great post / thoughts there iamimdoc... I especially liked... "Some may disagree but some of the differences in software might be the difference between a high end professional violin and a Stradivarius. Some of the differences in hifi equipment might be similar. Adding a DAC might or might not help depending on downstream eqpt, room setup, etc."

 

The Sonos does sound like a great solution for you. My experience of CD changers is that they are not the best (in quality) and my little experience with a Sonos would be that it's analogue output would easily be as good probably better than the CD changer you had before. The Sonos also has a great remote.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

From what you describe and your budget, the SB Touch would be the perfect solution. $300 MSRP, and will do exactly what you describe in the setup you describe.

 

The internal DAC is quite good and sound quality is very good. Definitely good enough unless you are looking for a very hi-end "audiophile" level or reproduction, which you say you aren't.

 

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Path: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: Ropieee (RPi3b+ with touchscreen) + Schiit Modi3E to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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Came to mind, not mentioned above. It's sort of a computer, sort of another box that doesn't look like a computer. It's got a hard drive for storing music (expandable with third-party programs if it's not enough space), can view the interface on your TV if you have one nearby or control with Touch if you get one, and can start with the internal DAC or buy an external if you like. Limited to ITunes interface unless willing to dabble in third-party add-ons.

 

 

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Thank you iamimdoc for the psychologically and emotionally reassuring post. Thanks Eloise for the initial Sonos suggestion. Everyone has been so great. It's been cool to go to a forum where people don't just push what they like but really try to find what would be best for the poster.

 

All of these posts should be compiled into an article entitled something like "Making Your First Move to a Computer-Based Sound System." The title needs to be punched up a little.

 

Sometimes reading the posts on other threads I do feel like there is a single best way and I'd be missing out if I didn't find it, so iamimdoc's post was really, really great. It should be a preamble to the forum. :)

 

Thanks again everyone!!!!

 

Allen

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