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Mac or Not


Labarum

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The mac solution is certainly seductive - it all just works.

 

In many ways my easiest step forward is an Airport Express and an iPod Touch. The Express to stream music from the study PC to the lounge and Touch to control the PC from my armchair.

 

I have Beresford DAC which would increase the quality of music so streamed, but will the Express handle files better than 16/44.1? If not, then its a MacMini of an AppleTV, and that TV box has serious limitations.

 

For all Apple's seductive good looks, I do wonder if I could get more value for money and more flexibility in the long term from a PC system running Windows or even Linux, given that with the help of my son (and with bits already in the house) I could build the bare bones of a silent HTPC (even boot from the LAN) and let the system grow with me. I have a Shuttle PC behind the TV now, and can stream Video to the big telly. I can stream audio too, but it is a little noisy for serious listening

 

Has anyone experience of using an Netbook as a remote control device? The eeePC was the first, but there are others with better screens and keyboards now, and more on the way?

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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IMHO..Brian...it's mac, mac, mac!

 

Yeh I know there are folk out there who say you can build a cheaper PC system, and Media monkey is better sounding etc, but hey there is more to computer audio...like how much your system crashes mid track and how easy it is to network, even how easy it is to turn on/off!

 

Gez...have you actually used Vista!..let alone network it!

 

Do yourself a favour. Get a mate to show you an iphone with "remote" for itunes..see how easy it is to control and use itunes on a mac..even runs an appleTV.....go turn a mac on and see how quite it is! Take some stress out of the computer side of things so you can concentrate on appreciating the music! (No I'm not an Apple employee)))))

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

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No contest.

 

A Mac looks the part, gives you the best and easiest to use interface, and has the underlying rock solid stability of its Unix based OS X.

 

I have to use Windows PCs at work, but I wouldn't use anything other than a Mac at home.

 

Chris.

 

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Yes, I have tried a Mac. My son has a Macbook Pro and an iPhone. Nice stuff. Won't play Flac, but Apple Lossless will do the same job. Annoying that Apple do not support open standards in music but make a big fuss about it in Office Docs.

 

A clone box I can open up and stick all sorts of cards into has some advantage in a fast moving market.

 

Both my PCs run XP - the study PC would run Vista but my Hauppage TV card doesn't like it.

 

 

 

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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Hey brian,

 

nice to see another pfmer over here. The airport express wont support higher than 44.1/16. It'll playback other standards it's just resampled. It works very well with a Bereford dac, I think that a naim cdx/xps/hiline is marginally better, but I suspect it's just the effect of the hiline!

 

I actually bought a mac because of an iPod and iTunes. Now we have 4 iPods and a macMini. The macmini is very quiet and will higher resolution streams. I'm aiming to attach this to my system.

 

regards

 

Peter

 

Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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Brian ....dont worry about "open standards" apple has 85% of the digital music market anyway. How more open can you get!....In any case there are lots of programs out there that will convert any format into AIFF/Apple lossless.

Use itunes on a mac....you'll never look back......AB

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

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1. If I run a Macmini through a Beresford DAC and take the fixed output straight to a power amp the only control I have of volume is through the Apple Remote. Does that mean I am limiting bits early in the replay chain and compromising quality?

 

2. My concern about Apple's reluctance to make iTunes read Flac and Ogg (for starters) is philosophical: it's my data and I'll make my own decisions. At the practical level Flac is so common it must be a pain to convert or open another application to read common file types. I am watching the development of Mozilla Songbird.

 

3. My other concern about Macmini is to do with TV options. A Freeview tuner is available. What about Freesat, or at least a generic sat tuner? And if I get that far will any such sat tuner be sensitive enough to pull down British TV is Cyprus (3.5m dish needed). In a could of years I could in in Nicosia. But technology is moving so fast . . .

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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Hi Brian - Using the Apple remote will degrade the sound quality and change bits. How noticeable this degradation is will be up to you. Some listeners don't notice anything while others can't stand the sound.

 

I don't share the same level of concern about Apple's lack of FLAC support. It would be nice, but there are certainly other options to work around this. I do think your assumption about FLAC being so common is not yet a reality. Among computer audiophiles FLAC is very common, but if you asked many of the people who've purchased the 163 million iPods sold to date I am willing to bet they've never heard of FLAC. I'm right with you on the Songbird watch!

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

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

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Where is it talked about elsewhere on the web?

 

I too have been waiting for an anouncement.

 

Bluray, yes. HDMI, retaining the DVI so a TV and a Monitor can be used together?

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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So, as I thought, in theory the best quality is achieved by running all digital volume controls at maximum and adjusting the replay volume in the analogue domain.

 

So, its a passive preamp between the DAC (if it has no variable output) or a preamp just for it's volume control?

 

How do modern amps control volume? Years ago I seem to remember the best remote control volume controls used motorised pots! But these days? Is there a way of managing the gain of an op amp?

 

or do most folk just leave the pre-amp/volume control out?

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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Hi Brian,

 

Using the digital volume control will reduce the available resolution, if the resultant output to the DAC (via the AE) is re-quantised back to 16 bits. However, small adjustments (< 6dB or 1 bit) aren't going to have a big impact on sound quality.

 

Using a passive preamp between the DAC and power amp may not necessarily be better that an active preamp. This depends on the detailed design of the power amp. Some are not very well buffered at their inputs and therefore degrade significantly if fed from a high(ish) impedance - such as you would get from a passive preamp. If the preamp is feeding active speakers, there should be no problem with the passive approach.

 

Modern amps still generally use motorised pots for their remote volume controls. However, there are some good quality electronic volume controls available from the likes of Analog Devices and Wolfson, which are normally configured around an op amp.

 

Chris.

 

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Brian,

 

Your touching on an interesting subject here. Effectively, a DAC such as the Beresford has a variable output and can be used as a preamp in an all digital system. No remote, though. I'm using my big rig preamp as a volume control. It does seem an overkill solution when the preamp can switch inputs, as well as record, in the analogue domain, whilst listening to another input.

 

Makes me wonder if oneday we'll be able to use a digital, or even software, based solution to do the same thing. I'd venture that for the most part the motorised pot is still the best solution. But, why not a GUI interface to control volume and such ?

 

Which makes me wonder how volume is controlled in an iPod, I can't listen to my iPod when it's set to maximum volume, is it in the analogue or the digital domain ?

 

Peter

 

Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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If the new Apple products do add some new hardware then certainly go with the Mac.

 

But to be quite frank, in its current form, whilst I'm more than happy with my Mac as a music server - it's brilliant - (and since I'm outputting bit perfect I fail to see how the PC software mentioned above sounds better) - it really falls short for video.

 

Maybe see what the announcement brings - a mini with a blu ray drive would be perfection.

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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If the new Apple products do add some new hardware then certainly go with the Mac.

 

But to be quite frank, in its current form, whilst I'm more than happy with my Mac as a music server - it's brilliant - (and since I'm outputting bit perfect I fail to see how the PC software mentioned above sounds better) - it really falls short for video.

 

Maybe see what the announcement brings - a mini with a blu ray drive would be perfection.

 

HTPC: AMD Athlon 4850e, 4GB, Vista, BD/HD-DVD into -> ADM9.1

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Chris. A very important issue here has been raised re volume control, if computer audiophiles intend to use a DAC as a preamp as well (don't we all !)

 

I'd venture to say volume control on a DAC is just about essential if you want to use it as a "preamp" as well.

My current DAC (a Northstar Extremo) does not have volume control. And I'm really missing this!

 

The valid points raised about software volume control sound degregation aside, what you really miss without physical volume control is fine tuning things when your attention has left the keyboard....not to mention blasting the living daylights out of your speakers when you return and forget to take a look at the software volume setting when you launch the next different (non itunes) program!

 

I know a lot of good quality DACS are now adding volume control. Wavelength, Benchmarc, your Berkeley etc. SteveN is also working on one over at Empirical.. Perhaps a list could be put together. This would also be a great topic for a DAC comparison....

 

AB

 

New simplified setup: STEREO- Primary listening Area: Cullen Circuits Mod ZP90> Benchmark DAC1>RotelRKB250 Power amp>KEF Q Series. Secondary listening areas: 1/ QNAP 119P II(running MinimServer)>UPnP>Linn Majik DSI>Linn Majik 140's. 2/ (Source awaiting)>Invicta DAC>RotelRKB2100 Power amp>Rega's. Tertiary multiroom areas: Same QNAP>SMB>Sonos>Various. MULTICHANNEL- MacMini>A+(Standalone mode)>Exasound e28 >5.1 analog out>Yamaha Avantage Receiver>Pre-outs>Linn Chakra power amps>Linn Katan front and sides. Linn Trikan Centre. Velodyne SPL1000 Ultra

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The Beresford has both fixed and viable output.

 

I too had been thinking of asking for a list of DACs available ordered according to price and perceived quality.

 

It is about time someone produces a DAC control Amp collecting together digital and analogue sources for onward routing to power amp or active speakers.

 

And if Mr Beresford would do it for a few pound more . . .

 

Brian

Squeezebox Classic - Beresford Caiman-Gator DAC - Quad 520f with Dada refresh - Quart 980s German Tower Loudspeakers.

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Bel Canto DAC/Preamps ...

 

e.One S300iu

 

" ... The high performance preamplifier uses the latest digitally controlled analog volume control and sealed relay switching to provide a transparent signal path for up to 4 analog inputs, including a USB Digital Audio converter and record and main preamp outputs. The USB DAC allows you to create a high performance audio playback system using your computer as the audio source. .. Bel Canto’s new single-knob user interface completes this easy to use package with a rotary control and switch integrated to provide volume control, input selection through one soft-touch control or from an IR remote." ...

 

http://www.belcantodesign.com/prod_eOneS300iu.html

 

Also ...

 

http://www.belcantodesign.com/prod_eOneDAC3.html

 

 

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I can't remember the model number, but about 10 years ago NAD produced a preamp with a number of digital inputs. Kalman Rushman (?) of Stereophile reviewed it. It also had analogue inputs. IIRC, the analogue inputs were converted to digital!

 

As the previous poster indicated there's not much short of the Bel Canto that does remote control for us cheapskates (or Beresford users).

 

regards

 

Peter

 

Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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wow - other beresford owners on the site. Your point #1 mentioned using the fixed output to a power amp and controlling volume thru apple remote.

 

Though you won't get remote control, you'll have a variable output available. Maybe not the best volume pot but it should give you the controlled output to the power amp to get you started.

 

 

 

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It appears that too much damage is done with software based volume controls, but in all honesty, I've never really tried. In anycase at low levels we can'tperceive low bass. So maybe the problem is moot ?

 

Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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