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Am I On The Right Track?

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Hello Everyone, another new member looking for advice from those who have gone before! One of the first things I learned about proceeding in this direction was to protect your time investment with your storage devices. A friend of mind helped me build a dedicated server using a RAID 5 array with 1.5TB of storage for this endeavor. My computers and audio equipment are in different rooms in my home so direct connection would be very difficult. Other than that and my existing audio equipment, the rest has been developed from articles in magazines and what I have been able to get from my initial reading of the forums on this excellent site.

 

My current plans are as follows:

Use EAC to read my collection in full resolution (AIFF?) and import into iTunes.

Use Logitech Duet or Squeezebox to interface through a wireless network.

Use the digital output of the above to feed an external DAC. I am currently looking at a PS Audio DLIII modified by Cullen Circuits.

Analog output to my existing audio system.

 

I hope to get the best possible sound from this type of setup. Any suggestions, comments, etc are very welcome. Although I am somewhat audio savvy, I have very little experience in this arena.

 

Your help is greatly appreciated!

 


Gary

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Hi Gary - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. You are on a really nice path to a really nice sounding system. I think your choices are very smart for your specific needs. Go with the Duet because it has a pretty nice remote. But, then you won't be able to play the music through iTunes. You may want to look into an Apple device like Airport Express or Apple TV. Otherwise just go with the Duet adn Squeezecenter software. You'll be pretty happy with the system compared to physical discs.

 


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Hi Chris,

 

Thanks for responding so quickly! The main reason I selected iTunes was that I use an iPod when I travel, etc. and I like the its file management interface. I was under the impression that the Squeezecenter software would work with iTunes in this fashion? I would hate to think that I would need two applications to manage my needs. Since my computer is in another room, I had ruled out the Airport Express and right now I just can't bring myself to having a computer/laptop in with my audio equipment just to select albums and hit play. I guess that perfect solutions are just hard to come by . . . . . .

 

Best regards,

 


Gary

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I'd take the simplest path, Gary.

 

Mac Mini/hard drive array>Airport Express>external DAC>analog system>iPod Touch for a remote control.

 

That way you keep to one application (and the best one at that - iTunes) for home and mobile and all the advantages of Core Audio built into the Mac's OS. Another option is a Mac notebook, with your hard drives plugged into an Airport Extreme in the computer room. Then you can use the notebook as a remote, and add in an Apogee Duet for a high-end headphone system that can access your entire music library from anywhere in the house.

 

Some think that you need to add a digital transport/reclocker at the AE to remove jitter and convert optical to coax before going to your DAC. I seriously doubt that is necessary, but let your ears be the judge.

 

Tim

 


I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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If you rip to with EAC and then import to iTunes I don't know if you'll end up with decent tagging, so try a tester first if you insist on going this way.

 

I'd suggest going the full Apple route though. Rip with iTunes to Apple Lossless. Control that library with an iPod Touch; an interface I loved so much I sold my Duet.

 

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Hi Gary - Tim's suggestion is a very good one. Use the iPod Touch or iPhone and leave the computer elsewhere if you need to.

 

The SB software does work with iTunes but I think it's a real downer of an app and it's required to play music through the SB units.

 

You'll get to your goal. Everything that you need is available right now. Let me know how I can help.

 


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Thanks guys! These suggestions have opened up my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. I was really hoping that this would happen. The whole idea of the iPod Touch/AE interface was something I had not seen or considered. This option would also allow me to begin with my current hardware and proceed from there.

 

I was also somewhat skeptical about the EAC/iTunes issue and it would appear that most are comfortable with the error correction capabilities of just using iTunes? Any additional comments on importing selection, AIFF, etc. Vs Apple Lossless, etc?

 

I assume the optical connection from the AE is the preferred method for current and future high resolution audio? I thought I had seen that this cable is available from a known source? Don't most external DAC's preform adequate jitter reduction and make this issue somewhat mute? I am not familar with the devices that Tim mentioned to perform this function before inputing this signal into the DAC. Is there a link for these types of discussions?

 

Chris, other than the PS Audio DLIII and Benchmark DAC1, are there others that might be on your short list for my research and review?

 

Lots of good answers lead to more thoughts and questions. Thanks for taking the time to enlighten me and help me achieve my freedom from too many silver disks.

 


Gary

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Gary, I wouldn't even consider the use of the devices I mentioned until you have the system up and running and are listening. If you hear a problem, then look for solutions. And let me know what you hear, because I'm of the belief, as are many who have studied it, that jitter is a non-issue in contemporary gear, within the limits of human hearing. If you run into anyone claiming jitter is audible in modern equipment, check, as I have, to be sure their studies have employed methodologies to reduce psychological bias. IE: double blind listening tests. Any study unwilling to verify the audibility of their findings through ABX testing is highly suspect, in my view.

 

If you can't hear it, it isn't worth spending money on. If it can't be verified in double blind tests and you hear it, you're probably a victim of your own psychological bias.

 

Some prefer digital coaxial to optical (jitter again) but again, be sure you hear problems before you spend $140 (Trends UD-10) or $900 (Empirical Audio) to solve them. I'm guessing that if you take optical out of an AE into your Beresford, you're going to hear beautiful music that's as good as, of not better than playing the cd through the Beresford.

 

AIF vs. Lossless: Lossless is lossless, and iTunes it is so easy to use that there is no real reason to do anything else. Just make sure you turn on error correction in iTunes and what plays back will be a bit-perfect match to what was on the original CD. I've ripped hundreds of CDs and every error I've found on my hard drive is duplicated on the original disc.

 

And enjoy. It is a wonderful way to manage you music library, you will find yourself listening to things you haven't put in your cdp in years.

 

Tim

 


I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Hi Gary - In my opinion iTunes rips as good as anything else. The only negative part is you don't get any feedback in terms of a log file etc...

 

Lossless v. uncompressed is totally up to you. I like AIFF uncompressed.

 

Monster sells a mini optical to standard toslink cable.

 

There are a ton of DACs out there with many feature sets. The DLIII and DAC1 both have very different feature sets and really good sound. You should be able to demo these DACs. I suggest starting lite with the built-in DAC in the AE and then trying something else. The AE will give you a baseline to compare anything else to.

 


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Sorry Gary, I got you mixed up with someone, somewhere, who has a Beresford DAC. If you don't have an external DAC yet, I'm with Chris. Start with the DAC in the AE and go from there.

 

Tim

 


I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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At this point in the discussion, I think it may be important to know what I have on the audio side to help determine my path between the AE and my audio system. Then again, it might not change a thing . . . .

 

I am currently using a Audio Research Preamp, Bel Canto Power Amps, a heavily modified Jolida Tube-Output CDP and Dynaudio Spreakers on my 2 channel system. I also listen to my vinyl collection on this sytem as well. I provide this information as I'm not sure that I would be satisfied with the analog output from the AE feeding this equipment. Of course, this is purely my current opinion with nothing other than previous experience with other audio components to back it up.

 

I am extremely excited with the iPod Touch/AE solution moving forward. This is far and away the better solution for me vs. my initial concept. I guess that I could feed my HT PrePro with the digital signal from the AE to get a base line for going forward using the HT bypass on my ARC Preamp? My HT system was built around Rotel components several years ago, no slouch but not near the sound quality of my 2 channel system.

 

Tim, you seem to be very knowledgeable and well respected on this site. My I ask what your background is? I'm guessing that you are connected to the recording industry in some fashion, artist, engineer, combination of the two?

 

Both you and Chris continue to be invaluable to me and I really appreciate your expertise! I now have several friends and family members watching my progress before they also take this step forward.

 

 

 


Gary

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"Tim, you seem to be very knowledgeable and well respected on this site. My I ask what your background is? I'm guessing that you are connected to the recording industry in some fashion, artist, engineer, combination of the two?"

 

I don't know about respect, I think I probably just have a higher post count than most :).

 

I'm an old (the operative term) musician and advertising/marketing guy, Gary, and as such, I have more experience with pro studio gear than with high-end home audio. That's good and bad. Pro gear tends to be what most audiophiles would call clinical and unforgiving (but very revealing). On the other hand, the studios, both music and production (film, video, audio for all of the above), tend to be almost exclusive users of Mac systems.

 

Enough about me, to answer your question, if you don't think you'll be happy with the DAC in the AE, all you need is a DAC you like the sound of, that will take optical input from the AE and output analog RCAs to your system. You may even be able to use the DAC built into your Jolida if it has the appropriate connections.

 

Tim

 


I confess. I\'m an audiophool.

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Hi Gary - I suspect you won't be satisfied with the audio quality of the DAC in the AE. This is just based on your current setup. I think you are going about this the right way. Just use something as a baseline like the HT bypass & digital in on your HT preproor whatever you want. Then you can make changes later that are more expensive and really make sure you're getting the sound you want.

 


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Well, for the last few weeks I have been putting my time and effort into getting all this equipment up and running. I purchased the PS Audio DL3 with the Stage IV modifications by Cullen Circuits and the sound is incredible! I was so impressed by the Cullen modification that I have ordered one of their Wyred for Sound amps to replace my Bel Canto and Rotel amps.

 

I have two issues that remain:

 

1. I still have not been able to connect to the Airport Express through my existing wireless network. I am using a Linksys wireless router and have only been able to connect through an Ethernet cable. Any suggestions as to what the problem might be? I had no problems with getting the iPod Touch to connect and it works perfectly at this point.

 

2. I am getting the occasional dropout even with the direct wiring. It seems to me that during my initial reading that this was a fairly common problem and a simple fix by changing some settings in iTunes?

 

I had reduced my efforts in adding the rest of my collection to the server until I had some of the hardware issues resolved. Now I can't wait to wade through the other 5-6 hundred disks and free myself to enjoy all this effort has to offer to a music lover!

 

Thanks,

 

Gary

 


Gary

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Hi Gary - Sorry it took so long to get to your post here.

 

1. Are you trying to connect to the Airport Express to play music through it or just the wireless network function etc...? Can you connect directly to the AE without using your existing wireless infrastructure? You may have to change some of the simple setting on it. I've seen similar problems.

 

2. Your getting dropouts when connected via USB from your PC to DAC?

 

Once I am clear on the issues I'll be happy to help :-)

 


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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Hi Chris,

 

Yes, I am trying to connect to the AE wirelessly to play music on my 2 channel system in another room. It appears to work fine when connected directly. I performed all of the "normal" operations to set the unit up, but when I try to disconnect the cable and convert to wireless, Airport Utility can no longer see the AE.

 

I am connected from the AE to the DAC using the optical connections. The dropouts were minor when I initally connected using the Ethernet cable.

 

Any ideas or secrets would be great!

 

Thanks,

 

Gary

 


Gary

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I'm still having problems with my wireless connection to the AE from my PC/Linksys router. I can connect with the Ethernet cable, but everything I have tried so far does not seem to get me past this point in the process. So close, but yet, so far! I am only one interior wall and about 8 feet between each device involved.

 

Gary

 


Gary

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I think you need to setup the AE in Bridge mode. that way it acts like a wireless access point and your router still does all the "network" functions. You will have one network then and all clients should be able to talk to each other. The wizard should guide you through it.

 


Founder of Audiophile Style and Superphonica

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As I recall the Apple terms in the setup utility were to have the AE "join an existing wireless network" You will need to specify the wep or wpa key your wireless network uses, and ensure the MAC address of the AE is entered into the router if you filter these.

 

I also remember that there was no real indication that the process was successful. After you establish all the settings and see if you see the AE as a DHCP client on the router. It is probably a good idea to reboot the AE after the settings are changed and saved.

 

Mine was a bit of a chore setting up (probably due in part to my unfamiliarity with it) but has been quite reliable once set. I do get drop outs at times but when I see the swings in signal strength on the laptop in the same room I do not blame the AE.

 

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So far, no luck with setting this device up in the wireless mode. I have tried all of the solutions I could find on Apple's website, Airdronian's, and attempting to set up in the "bridge" mode. Is there anything esle that could be causing my router to not see the AE in wireless mode?

 

Thanks,

 


Gary

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I am guessing at this point that the AE is not acting as a dhcp client to your router. This is how I see mine from the router mgmt interface. The router assigns it an address like it would another wireless device like a laptop.

 

Do you have a laptop, and if so can you see the AE listed as one of the wireless networks available ??

 

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My router sees the AE (both direct connected and wireless, only offline) and definitiely assigns it an IP address just like it did with the iPod Touch. That is the only other wireless device I have on this network. Once I configure the AE for wireless operation and disconnect it from the Ethernet cable, Airport Utility no longers sees it making AirTunes inoperable. I might view this as a challenge if I was more savy in this area, but I'm not, and this is more frustrating that expected! :-)

 

I'm not ready to give up on wireless just yet . . . . . . .

 


Gary

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Gary.

 

Don't know if this will be useful, but I gave up on WIFI with my Squeezebox - due mainly to signal distance and penetration. I then discovered the "home boxes" that you plug into the mains. These distribute an 80+ Meg network anywhere around your house. One caveat is that the squeezebox needs an extra switcher (£20 Netgear jobbie is perfect) between it and the wall plug converter - it couldn't find an IP address when plugged directly into the wall plug converter for some reason.

 

I went a similar route to you a couple of months ago. I sold my Naim CDX/XPS after borrowing a DAC1 Pre from the UK importer and running uncompressed AIFFs (ripped with iTunes by the way.) The result was pretty astonishing and quite perplexing, having bought into the whole Naim thing for the past 15 years and the various power supply upgrades they flog.

 

Anyway, my new setup is:

 

Family PC with an outboard 500 gig G-Tech firewire drive - uncompressed 44/16 AIFFs with error correction ripped in iTunes, networked via the wall plugs, Squeezebox running optically into DAC1 Pre (the analogue inputs allow me to run a Technics 1210 turntable - just to stop me getting too giddy about all of these zeros and ones) which feeds a Naim 180 power amp and Shahinian Arc speakers.

 

I don't find the SB software too bad and you can reference it to your iTunes database if you want to run that in parallel for iPods etc. I don't actually use the iTunes feature in SB - I just drag and drop the entire contents of my music drive into iTunes and then use it for local playback on the family PC. That way, iTunes doesn't dick around and try to reorganise everything. Probably flawed logic - but it works fine for me.

 

Ben.

www.bengiles.co.uk

 

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Hi Ben,

 

I'm real close to giving up on the wireless connection method on my system as well. It's really a shame that this technology is still somewhat suspect in operation and reliability. If I had long distances, multiple obstacles, etc. between the two devices, I could understand my difficulties. This is not the case as I am only about 3m between the AE and my "top of the line" Linksys router! I checked out the Netgear Powerline devices and they look like a viable solution to hard wiring. They are fairly expensive at a retail price of $150 a pair USD. My solution may just be a few feet of wire through the attic to make the wife happy. She, and the dog, are not happy with the cable I have running across the hallway!

 

Thanks for sharing your trials with me.

 

Gary

 

 


Gary

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