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First DAC, have a year's worth of learning, but a week to make a decision.


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Firstly, let me say this site is amazing and the member communities knowledge clearly dwarfs my own.

 

That said, I've recently purchased a new stereo (main components should be in my signature).

 

My next / last steps are for audio play back from my new Apple macbook pro (15", two USB ports at rear).

 

What I've learned so far is that I should:

1) Backup all my CD's to AIFF with error correction.

2) Copy the backups to the Apple Lossless Encoder.

Fine, can do.

 

Intentions:

1) Stream playlists from iTunes so I'm not having to swap CD's or keep them all in my living room.

2) Utilize my NAS drive where my songs will be stored.

 

Want to buy:

DAC (looking at the Arcam rDac - don't want to spend too much).

Possibly using the Arcam rWave USB dongle (so I can use the Apple - surfing while streaming).

 

 

My question(s):

1) What kind of degradation might I expect from the wireless aspect of my intentions (given that there are two hops).

2) I've been told that 48 hours is sufficient to burn in my new components and speakers, seems kind of slight, thoughts?

3) Should there be a loss with the rWave product, I was intending on using the USB interface. Should I consider the digital out instead?

4) Any red flags, or things that I've not considered? I hate spending money twice.

 

Thanks in advance for the help, sorry for the questions, the OCDs are kicking in and I want to finish the configuration.

 

Mark.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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Off to a good start, but here are some recommended modifications:

 

Rip your CD's (not backup) to AIFF files using XLD with accurate rip enabled. If you rip using iTunes, you will end-up doing it all over again. The SQ is best with XLD with Accurate Rip enabled:

 

http://tmkk.pv.land.to/xld/index_e.html

 

Alternatively you can rip using dbpoweramp on a PC with Accurate Rip enabled, but the tags will be messed-up.

 

Streaming playlists from itunes is fine in the beginning, but the SQ will suffer there also. Once you have a good DAC, and assuming that the rest of your system is up to snuff, I would recommend Amarra or Pure Music players.

 

Other things that are important:

 

1) fresh install of Mac OS

2) lots of memory - 4GBytes is good, 8Gbytes is better

3) SSD for the OS

4) RAID drives for music storage

5) if you use USB, no other devices on USB, not even mouse or keyboard

 

 

I would recommend that if you can afford it, just get a new Mac Mini. You can buy all of this already done from:

 

http://www.mach2music.com/

 

I recommend that in order to get a broad education on this, that you visit these other sites:

 

http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/bbs.html

 

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?board=133.0

 

http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?icomp&1&ctg&0&50&

 

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/list/46

 

"1) What kind of degradation might I expect from the wireless aspect of my intentions (given that there are two hops)."

 

None. Ethernet is a packet-based protocol and this is just a data transfer. If this had degradation, there would be data errors writing to disk etc... Dont worry about it.

 

2) I've been told that 48 hours is sufficient to burn in my new components and speakers, seems kind of slight, thoughts?

 

Not enough for high-end gear. Many devices contain Black Gate capacitors or teflon and polystyrene in the caps. These take up to one month to finally settle-in. Dielectrics must "form". At least a week for good results.

 

 

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

 

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That's a great reply, my Sunday is shot now :)

 

I intend to do this on a macbook pro, which is on route from the assembly line as we speak. It has a 2.8GH i7 with 8 Gig of ram. I ordered the top of the line just last week (hopefully, this fresh install is sufficient).

 

Raid, likely not, but I'll have redundancy, so loss would not be a risk.

SSD, couldn't justify it at this time, I blew about 10k in the last month all told and was getting cheap. I opted for the 512G - 7200 upgrade. When the price comes down a bit more, who knows.

 

No other USB devices intended. Just the one that plugs into the rDac (should that Dac win out).

 

I should have thought about the network protocol and assumed that the devices would use sufficient buffers to ensure a smooth playback.

 

The mac-mini you posted a link to looks interesting, but at this point, I have no video in my living room, I want to keep it pure.

I may look more into it in the future, but for now, all I have (will soon have) is the mac.

 

I'll start going through the sites you posted as well.

I'll search around here for LP conversion, I intend to do that to an extensive rare collection and want to do it correctly.

 

Thanks again,

 

Mark.

 

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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RIP your CDs to the highest possible quality. If on a Mac then AIFF or Apple Lossless as a minimum.

 

ABSOLUTELY have a back up hard drive and a redundant back up drive (possibly stored remotely) and do this incrementally as you are ripping your CDs and regularly thereafter.

 

I have read good things about the Arcam DAC (but have not listened to it) and respect Arcam products in general. I have always like the Cambridge Audio DacMagic which I think is a terrific value for $429 but it has one major flaw in that it does not support 24/96 files via USB (it does support 24/96 via its other digital inputs).

 

You may wish to consider a playback software like Amarra or Pure Music for use with iTunes. One of the tedious aspects of using iTunes if you have or will have in the future 24/96 files is that you must manually change the set up for these files in Audio Midi Set Up each time and this includes closing iTunes, opening Audio Midi, making the change between 16/44.1 and 24/96 and then reopening iTunes. Use of those third party options will provide auto switching between those file types and some feel a better audio quality than using iTunes by itself.

 

Good luck and enjoy. I have found this method to be an extremely satisfying way to access and listen to my music.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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I set up the prefs as outlined in a tutorial.

It seems to be working, but it's been humming for 10 minutes and has only competed 6%

The macBook Pro is brand new (opened the box tonight 2.8G, i7 with 8G of RAM).

 

Does it really take 60 minutes per CD?

Something must be wrong, even on my old Windows Laptop, it was quick (30 seconds per song, using Media player - was ripping it to MP3 196.

 

EDIT: Switched from CDParanoia to Burst, and it works fine now.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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A/D conversion for ripping LP's is a difficult nut. You can certainly buy inexpensive devices to do this, but the quality will not be there in the rips.

 

You might consider Mytek. They are not too spendy and the results are decent.

 

Professional results requires Sonic Studio, Lavry etc.. Big Bux.

 

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

 

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I bought a NAD pre-amp for my turntable that comes with a USB out.

 

http://nadelectronics.com/products/turntables/PP-3-Digital-Phono-Preamplifier

 

It's bundled with software already (light version):

 

http://www.alpinesoft.co.uk/?partner=NAD

 

I'll try it out, and decide after I've ripped a few if it's good enough for me.

 

I'm determined to not play an LP until I source a proper LP cleaning kit. It's kind of sad, the trouble I have to go to, to find this in Toronto. Even companies that sell LP's still don't sell the kits.

All of the companies that I've tried in US won't ship to Canada.

 

I'm looking at the Spin Clean Record Washer MKII:

http://www.amazon.com/Spin-Clean-Record-Washer-MKII/dp/B002UKSZUU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1290105913&sr=8-1

and a static brush to go with it.

 

Just have to find a vendor that will ship to Canada.

 

I looked into the vacuum type cleaners, but don't want to spend that type of money. Once I digitize it, I'll likely put my collection back into storage (LP's anyway).

 

I've just got the XLD software configured properly and am about to begin the huge job of re-ripping my collection.

 

AudiophileWannabee is going to rename himself AudiophilePoverty pretty soon.

To think, (10,000 dollars later), that this all started with a power bar :S

 

Again, thanks for the tips so far, I've learned a lot.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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Thanks again Steve, as I read the sites you've posted and start to understand them more, I've come to realize, I've bought a nice "entry level" audio system lol.

 

I will try my NAD PP-3, as I've already purchased it.

Hopefully it will do.

 

Perhaps with the genre of music I have on LP it will be enough (mostly old rock, British, blue grass ...).

 

Regarding the drive I was going to use for backup/streaming, I'm no longer comfortable with it.

 

Do you have any advice for a raid drive setup to be used with a Mac?

I'm shooting for at least 2T to start.

 

Thanks,

 

Mark.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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Hi Mark

 

If you are looking at making the RDac your first Dac then I say that is a great choice. I recently upgraded from a Dacmagic to an RDac and am not looking back. I am simply stunned by the pacing and rhythm of the sound produced by the RDac, probably because I use the USB connection from my Macbook, which I basically plonk beside the system and plug in - no fancy setups. I use Itunes playing back AIFF files.

 

Having used an asynchronous connection I wouldn't dream of switching back to any other input. On my system I have heard tracks on toslink (via Airport Express) literally fall out of tune, and then listened to them played back perfectly through USB.

 

David

 

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Hi David, you have my attention.

This is a very similar configuration to what I was going for.

Tomorrow, I was about to go out an buy a raid solution with the intention of hanging it off my Airport Extreme. I also intended to stream AIFF files from this raid drive (via wireless connection).

 

Now, I believe the Airport Extreme gives me the N protocol rather than the G, but I'm nervous that what I was going to attempt would not be sufficient.

 

Do you think the N protocol will be enough (no other activity on the network while streaming)?

 

If this is not a viable solution, I'll be forced to buy two 2TB externals, one wired to the router (for mac and tune backup), and another wired to the mac for playback.

 

Thoughts?

 

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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Hi Mark

 

When I first discovered Airport Express I figured it was the absolute bomb. The whole wireless thing seemed awesome - leave my Macbook in the other room and then use the Ipod Touch remote app as well - that made it even cooler. Then I found at times some tracks sounded a bit off (poorly timed). I found a specific example which was The Outsider by A Perfect Circle from the Thirteenth Step album. Over Toslink it simply fell apart. So I made a note to try it over USB directly. I experienced no problems with the timing at all.

 

I have the N protocol AE and found it rarely dropped out with the Dacmagic and pretty much never dropped out with the RDac. But that doesn't mean it was always consistent in how it sounded. I also tried it with a Wyred For Sound Dac1 once and couldn't play a song from end to end without multiple dropouts. (BTW, IMHO the WFS Dac1 is rubbish - don't even go there). I concluded the DM and RDac had better buffers to compensate for the erratic transfer of data.

 

Although I love the convenience of the AE I simply stopped using it because I find the flow of music (not talking dropouts here as there are none with the RDac & AE combo) is more consistent directly over USB. I now know that if my system sounds off then it's me and not my equipment.

 

I now listen to that Perfect Circle album from end to end in a single sitting and find it amazing. I used to listen to a track here and a track there off different albums, but that was because I was never committed to the music. The asynchronous connection draws you in and keeps you there. I find I don't lose interest in listening the way I would over toslink (my only other real experience).

 

Which is why I recommend the RDac because you can give both solutions a try. AE's are cheap so give that a go and also trial the async USB connection if you can.

 

As for external drives, I just use the onboard one in my Macbook, which I cart around the house with me. I understand that you get better sound and stuff from a more sophisticated setup, but first things first: get the music coming out of your speakers with perfect rhythm and timing. I find the async connection does that. Honestly, I have to smile when I see how expensive some dacs are and note that they don't even have an async USB connection.

 

Hope this helps

David

 

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I'm trying to leverage off a single purchase to get the Apple Time Machine working with it.

 

From what I understand about the Time Machine, the drive has to look like a HFS drive. I'm not seeing this reported on the QNAP website.

 

I'll keep digging and report my findings (unless some audiophile enlightens me first).

 

Thanks,

 

Mark.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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I have a Seagate FreeAgent kicking around, I suppose I should try it first when I get the new router tomorrow.

 

It's not ideal, but he bottleneck will be with the wireless network even though the drive is a low performer.

 

Thanks for the tips.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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I am not sure I understand what is at issue for you here but I have run an iMac with my iTunes library located on an external hard drive and used the Time Machine as the wireless router (it also fulfilled duty as the primary system back up device). From that I wirelessly streamed and synched my iTunes library to an Apple TV which was connected to an external DAC and then to my main audio system. This worked quite flawlessly for me for about two years.

 

Currently I am running the same iMac with external drive connected via USB to a Wadia PowerDAC.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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In the past week or so, I've been a slave to re-digitizing my music to the AIFF format.

I finally bought a proper USB cable (Monster - it's soso, but was an impulse purchase) and decided to download the Pure Music player demo.

I powered up the rDac for the first time and played a local file from my MacBook Pro.

 

It was terrible. There was this crackle snapping sound. I changed from 96 to 41, same thing, I toggled hog mode, same thing.

 

Started to think I had a bum dac.

Before I went back to the website, I tried it with just iTunes.

Played clear as a bell.

 

Before I dig deep into the website and learn what all those settings mean (yep, weeks of disposable time shot as I've never attempted to understand the technology to this degree), I wanted to check if ...

a) Someone recognizes these symptoms and might advise.

b) Someone might share the settings they use for this player.

 

Thanks,

 

Mark.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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Hi Mark

 

Take a step back from your setup. You say Itunes sounds clear as a bell, yet PM sounds rubbish - perhaps that's because it is. The PM guys themselves say it is optimised right out of the box, so why put yourself through the heartache of trying to set it up 'properly'? It's already optimised and what you hear sucks.

 

I did the exact same thing as you - downloaded and gave it a shot. I couldn't see what the fuss was about - at all. So I trusted my ears and ditched it. In my opinion, it amounts to nothing more than an elaborate equalizer that sits over the top of Itunes and sponges off it - not at all in a graceful way either. If Itunes could sound better, Apple would have made it that way - they're not dummies.

 

I think people have a problem with stuff that's free. But to keep it in perspective - Apple has the economies of scale to put something kickass into the market place that will ultimately net them a bucketload of download revenue - much like Sony takes a hit for every PS3 sold.

 

Trust your ears and trust your gut. Get the Macbook plugged into the RDac by USB and move forward from there. Using Itunes with AIFF it can easily sound as good as a CD.

 

David

 

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Hi Mark and Steve,

 

"...Using Itunes with AIFF it can easily sound as good as a CD..."

 

The only place I would differ is that I find playback performance from iTunes (or any good server app) exceeds the sound of the CD played on any transport/player in my experience.

 

 

 

 

 

"...If you rip using iTunes, you will end-up doing it all over again. The SQ is best with XLD with Accurate Rip enabled..."

 

In my experience, iTunes gets short shrift all too often. If the rip is a good one (I've used iTunes with good success), the result can be proven to be identical to the master from which the ripped CD was made. I've done this numerous times, performing a null test in soundBlade using captures made just ahead of the DAC chip in my ULN-8.

 

So, if I can show the iTunes extract to be indentical to the master, down to the bit, I would wonder how anything else can be better, much less "best". If it is different, it would be by definition, a departure from the master.

 

The place I can see XLD and other apps using Accurate Rip offering a potential advantage is in the reports they provide. These may give the user confidence in the quality of the rip. But as to sonic differences, as I see it, if the iTunes rip is a perfect match for the master, the only way to go from there is down.

 

All that said, I have experienced a few issues over the past year with iTunes rips. These were not a function of iTunes but of the CD drive I used to rip the discs. When I changed CD drives and ripped again (still with iTunes), the issues went away. So, an Accurate Rip report might tell one the CD drive is not the one to use. In my experience, dropouts in the audio do the same thing.

 

Just my perspective of course.

 

Best regards,

Barry

www.soundkeeperrecordings.com

www.barrydiamentaudio.com

 

 

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I tend to agree with you Barry in that I think iTunes takes some hits that are not deserved. I have tried some of the other tools for ripping CDs and found no distinct advantage to them. I also have tried Pure Music and though I much prefer the auto switching of sampling and bit rates I do not hear any sound quality advantage.

 

iTunes could probably be better. iTunes is not perfect (and I am not referring to bits) but I think it is a very solid tool and one I will keep using until I can definitively hear and see a difference in something else.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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So, I've been back and forth with Pure Music support and at this point, I'm totally puzzled.

 

I get a terrible crackle when I use Pure Music, but not iTunes.

I've checked everything asked of me by support (try each usb, cold start MacBook Pro while connected to the rDac, ensure that the mac is plugged in (yep, he asked), try different USB cables, ensure that the power settings on the mac preferences are set to power hog...

I've tried it setting "sample?" at both 96KHz and back to 44.1KHz.

Still crackles.

So I start playing around with things I don't understand...

I uncheck the "Strict Device Validation".... No crackle.

I turn it back on and cold start the mac and try again .... No crackle.

 

At this point, I'm getting discouraged. Can't have inconsistent!

 

I'm starting to think, to heck with it, maybe I should just go with an AppleTV, accept the 44.1 limit, and be done with these problems.

The perk will be that I can still use my mac when I want without interrupting playback.

 

Note: my ultimate direction was going to be to get the Arcam rWave product when it comes available in 2011, but I'm getting a little nervous of blowing additional money on something that might not work the way I want it to.

 

Thoughts (on either the AppleTV, the rWave, or the Pure Music problem)?

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Mark.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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Couple of new discoveries...

 

The crackle that I asked about in the previous post only happens when I set the sample to 24/96 rather than the default 16/44.1 (that iTunes uses).

I tunes plays fine. Pure Music plays fine if it's at 44.1.

 

Does anyone have any insights? My only course of action at this point is to return the rDAC and get a new / different one.

 

Second, I did have a question regarding if there might be a problem playing the AIFF songs (about 50MB each) over the wireless-N.

The answer: Plays flawlessly in iTunes, in Pure Music, there is a bit of a lag between each song (have memory play enabled).

 

Any thoughts on the up-sample crackle? Could it be my rDAC?

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Mark.

 

NAD: 356BEE, 545BEE CD, PP-3 Phono Preamp, 555i Turntable[br]Arcam: rDac[br]PSB: Image T6 Tower speakers. [br]Apple: iPhone 4-32, macbook pro 15\" (nov. 2010), Time Capsule 2TB[br]

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Don't give up Mark. It is more likely a set up issue than an equipment issue but of course anything is possible.

 

Have you tried eliminating Pure Music as the issue. Try and leave PM closed. With iTunes closed open Audio Midi Set Up and select the changes to 24/96. Close Audio Midi Set Up and then relaunch iTunes. Do you still have the crackle when playing back 24/96 files only with iTunes?

 

 

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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Rereading your post another thought comes to mind. You mention that you are setting the sample rate. Why are you making that change? One of the benefits to PM is supposed to be the ablility to make the sample and bit rate conversion on the fly without having to open Audio Midi.

 

Check your PM guide for set up recommendations again and again you shouldn't have to or be making any sample or bit rate changes in Audio Midi (if that is indeed where you are doing it) when using PM.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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Have you read this from PM?

 

Apple’s Audio MIDI Setup (AMS) application (in Applications/Utilities) should be used to set

up the audio device before launching Pure Music. It’s best to select the Built-In device for

the input and output in AMS, and then use the Advanced Audio Setup feature (explained

above) to determine the audio device used by Pure Music, especially if using

Hog mode or the iTunes Remote feature. Do not make any changes to the audio device

sample rate in AMS while Pure Music is running.

Some audio devices may behave unpredictably if “hot-plugged.” Always restart the

computer after connecting a FireWire or USB audio device.

If using the computer’s Built-In Optical Digital Output

The built-in digital output behaves differently from all other audio devices. If you want to

use Pure Music’s Upsampling feature, the audio digital output (if you have a toslink optical

cable connected) has to first be set to the desired sample rate in AMS without anything else

running. The initial sample rate setting is only accepted if made in AMS, and with iTunes not

running.

1. With iTunes NOT running, select Built-In Output in AMS and change the sample

rate to 96 kHz.

2. Launch Pure Music. When the Pure Music window appears, before you do

anything else, check to be sure it says Built-in Output 96 kHz in the meter bar.

Then, the Upsample button will be enabled.

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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