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A sad week for me. Need your advice


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I've been an audiophile with many very expensive CD players with very nice transports. Units like the Sony SCD-1, CDP-XA7es and many more. This week, two units stopped playing. Many of it's parts are no longer available so they will end up on eBay for parts only.

Instead of buying a new expensive CD player that will fail in the next 10-20 years. I need help/advice on building the BEST music server that sounds as good or better than these expensive CD players.

 

- What software to rip and playback.

- what hardware to use, storage, links, DAC

 

Budget is $3000

 

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XXHE is the best software by a mile, it runs on PC, supports it's own dac which is specifically designed for the software.

 

Not for the faint hearted but absolutely stunning.......

 

Trying to make sense of all the bits...MacMini/Amarra -> WavIO USB to I2S -> DDDAC 1794 NOS DAC -> Active XO ->Bass Amp Avondale NCC200s, Mid/Treble Amp Sugden Masterclass -> My Own Speakers

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Just a few quick ones. :)

 

(1) How much music do you need to store? 500 CDs or 5000?

 

(2) Do you already have a good DAC, or can you reuse one of the broken player's DACs?

 

(3) Are you wanting to do a one time buy, or do you plan to upgrade over time?

 

(4) Is streaming the music to remote locations around your home or office important?

 

(5) Will it be 2-channel stereo only, or do you want to explore multi-channel audio or video too?

 

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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Here is where I would start then.

 

I would choose a Macbook Pro or Mini, and a Halide Bridge to feed the Ps Audio. The Pro will, out of the box, sound a little better. The mini is far more customizable. Max the memory on either system.

 

800 CDs, if ripped to ALAC, will take up between 350 to 400 gigabytes of space. If ripped to AIFF, about twice that, between 700 and 800 gigabytes.

 

With only that much storage, a NAS unit might be overkill. I would purchase a pair of external firewire drives. Use one to store the music, and one as a backup drive.

 

For software, start with iTunes, and if you don't like the sound, try Pure Music and Amarra, or one of the other nice players around.

 

The low end MacBook Pro (you don't need a high end model) configured with a remote control and 8gb of RAM is $1418 from Apple. You can buy the memory from a third party and save $100.

 

A Halide Bridge is about $460, delivered.

 

Decent 1tb external drives are about $100/each ($200)

 

$1418 MacBook Pro (Apple)

$ 460 Halide Bridge (Halide Design)

$ 200 Firewire Drives (Amazon)

====

$2078 -> Hardware costs

 

Pure Music is $129, Amarra Mini is $300, iTunes is free.

 

Try iTunes first.

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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I agree with the recommendations.

 

I disagree with your title.

 

It is a happy week. You have come across a blessing in disguise. The new system will probably sound better, and be easier to use. Whatever hard drive solution you get, buy 2. Then backup through OSX.

 

2.26 GHz Mac Mini (Late 2009), 8 GB RAM, 2 External Seagate 7200 RPM 1TB / Firewire 800/ Wavelength Wavelink/ Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC / Nordost Blue Heaven IC / Musical Fidelity KW 750 / Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable/ Magnepan MG 3.6r with MYE stands / Custom purpose built listening room

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I would suggest using MAX for ripping. It's available from sbooth.org. Stephen Booth is also the developer of Decibel, which is another OS X playback software.

 

BPT 3.5 Ultra/Reference 3A Reflectors/MSB Technology S201 Amplifier/MSB Technology Analog DAC/MSB Technology Network Renderer/Audirvana +

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IMO, I have a Meridian upsampling CD player that cost $4,900 back in 2006. It was a great sounding unit and still is! It sits on my rack and looks great, the issue is I NEVER use it! Since I switched to my Mac Mini (2008 model, yes an older one)and ripped my CD library (2,200) to ALAC, I have been ecstatic. I still use the DAC in my high end pre/pro to great satisfaction. I was interested in purchasing a new DAC, but there are so many to choose from and my system sounds so good now, that I have not made the purchase yet. Because of CA, I have learned that the software players make things sound better. I demoed Pure Music (very nice) I am now checking out Fidelia (so far very impressed), and I am now trying to acquire Higher Rez music (not so easy). But I have to say there is no need to use a CD player or transport anymore as my computer based system sounds just as good for far less investment and kicks butt when it comes to ease of use and convenience!.

 

BTW as I type this post, I am using just plain old ITunes and it sounds great as well!

 

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The jury is out on that one. More to the point how accurate the rip is to begin with.

 

Here's a great page

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-CD-Ripping-Strategy-and-Methodology

 

I use Foobar2000 as it includes Accurate RIP, calibration for your computer's CD drive, freeDB lookup and you get a full report of each rip. Codecs are whatever you have installed on your PC, if you want ALAC, go to iTunes.

 

A test performed by HIFI Digital magazin (2/11) rated Foobar (1.1.2) above both Exact Copy (1.0) and iTunes (10.1.1).

 

AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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I don’t really know if iTunes is the best but I have tried MAX (and still use it to convert FLAC files) and XLD and for the life I me I could not tell any benefit to using them. Others tend to really recommend them.

 

I would say that I think Pure Music is worth it if for nothing more than auto switching of sample files (this does not happen automatically in iTunes using a Mac) but I also think it sounds better than iTunes as a player. In case you are not aware of it both Pure Music and Amarra that have been recommended are software players only and work in tandem with iTunes which essentially becomes a data base manager (which is really all it is since Quicktime is the actual default player in a Mac).

 

"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it is not open."
Frank Zappa
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I agree with most here except on the DAC front so my $0.02....

 

- Mac Book (Pro) with 2 external HD's hooked up by Firewire.

 

- Output the audio stream via USB using "The Bridge".

 

- Input audio data into the Naim DAC using the Naim DC1 BNC to BNC coax cable.

 

Use i-tunes for ripping (WAV, see below) and library. Don't use i-tunes for playback as it'll only give you ear fatigue!

 

Use Fidelia software for playback (it's basic and very simple to use, has a small footprint on the Mac and sounds great. Cost is $20 + a little extra for the remote i-phone app). Fidelia also auto switches the sample rate to match the file being played.

 

Bonus; the Naim DAC has the ability to accept WAV files via USB stick which is proving to be a most excellent option for playback of hi-res files. It'll also accept an i-phone/i-pad.

 

The above set-up will give you the results of a medium to highly ranked CD player.

 

BTW, based on my experience, try and keep the computer stuff well away from the audio gear and if possible use a separate mains spur for the Mac and HD power supplies.

 

 

 

Naim 282/250/hi-cap/cd5xs/dac/stageline, mac book pro/fidelia/amarra hifi/halide bridge, rega p3/24, focal utopia scala

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Did you read the thread where the OP commented he has a PS Audio DAC?

 

I would be (IMO) a step too far as an initial investment. Start with the PS Audio linked to MacMini (or a PC) with MF V-Link; Halide Bridge or (possibly) Wavelength Wavelink. One everything is setup an you have a baseline then you can look at "upgrading" the DAC with a Naim (or other).

 

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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Is "The Bridge" that much better than M2Tech? It's twice the cost. I don't have much interest right now in high-Rez files. I still buy CDs so 16/44.1 is good enough right now.

Is Bus Powered FireWire Hard Drive better than USB? I thought a wall powered HD is better because it's not using the power from the Mac.

 

I am gonna stick with my DAC right now. Those Naim DACs are pricey. I ordered an Apogee Duet 2. I hope it's better than my PS Audio since it's more curent.

 

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The Halide Bridge is very good indeed, and the cost includes a very high quality USB cable, with either RCA or BNC connectors. It's very good indeed.

 

A Musical Fidelity V-Link is just about as good, but you have to supply your own USB cable. I have not had the pleasure of listening to A Wavelength USB->S/PDIF adapter.

 

(Edit: I notice I weasel worded that - my opinion is that the Halide Bridge and V-Link produce much better sound that M2, though the M2 sounds good. Wavelength will if anything, sound as good or better than a Halide Bridge.

 

The new Apogee Duet 2 is USB based, so I would again, go with Firewire Drives. )

 

Note that everything recommended bypassed the Mac's optical output and used USB to output the sound. Moreover, everything recommended uses Asynchronous USB connections. This type of connection is almost always found to be superior to the built in optical output from a Mac (or a Windows PC for that matter.)

 

As a general rule, when you use USB to output the sound, use Firewire Drives to avoid any possible bus issues. Conversely, if you choose to use a Firewire based DAC to output the sound, use USB drives.

 

This is a Mac thing by the way, on a Windows PC, using Firewire drives usually leads to nothing but trouble. Under Windows, use USB and accept the tiny bit of degradation that may happen.

 

In this case, using a MacBook with USB Audio (Halide Bridge, V-LInk, Wavelength, M2Tech) it makes sense to spend a little extra to get Firewire based external drives.

 

-Paul

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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1) I believe that 800 CDs ripped to AIFF will actually consume about 500 GB of space on a hard drive (probably a little less depending on how long the CDs are). IIRC, the formula for AIFF is 1 hour (of music) X .60= File Size.

 

2) The benefit of using a program like XLD to import your CDs is that you get a log (report) telling you how accurately you imported the disc and whether there were any problems encountered. If you're importing 800 CDs, better to find out at the time, rather than when you actually get around to listening to one of the discs.

 

3) I'm very happy with my original Apogee Duet used as a DAC. The Apogee Duet 2 is different in that it is USB rather than Firewire. That means it will get less power than the Firewire model (unless you use the AC adapter) and will interface with your Mac using a different protocol.

 

So it might sound better than the original Apogee--or it might sound worse. Think it would be worth listening to both in your system before you decide. Please report back with what you hear.

 

Most hard drives (like the Oyen I use) have multiple interfaces, so you can connect by either Firewire or USB as you change DACs.

 

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After much trial and error, my advice is to go with a Bryston BDP-1 Digital Player into a good DAC. I have been through the mill of first using an optimized MacMini then an optimized MacBook Pro as a music server feeding my ARC DAC 8. In both cases, I replaced the internal HD with a solid-state drive onto which I loaded Snow Leopard then shut down all non-essential services (per the Amarra guide) and used a variety of music players, including Pure Music, Amarra, Audirvana and Decibel. I should also mention that I was using the proprietary drivers from Audio Research which allowed up to 192 x 24 via USB and the Cardas USB cable. I also used an external HD onto which was loaded the music files with a Firewire 800 connection to the computer. Despite all this, I just couldn't get a sound that satisfied me.

 

So, having been very satisfied with my Bryston equipment (I also had a BP-26 pre-amp and a BDA-1 DAC before the ARC gear) I was intrigued by their new digital music player. I auditioned then purchased one and the difference it made was striking, even to my non-audiophile friends and my spouse. Without waxing too audiophilic, the best way to describe the sound from the BDP-1 is much more inner detail, incredible imaging with rich timbres but most of all a relaxed, open and natural presentation. Overall, it was the most realistic and natural (analogue-like, if you will) sound I have ever heard from any digital system. The MacMini and MBP have been retired. Ditto for my Pioneer Elite Blu-ray acting as a CD transport. All of these are so inferior I just don't bother listening to them anymore.

 

If you're wondering about the interface, it is good but not yet up to iTunes standards. I use either Firefox running Minion or MPad on my iPad as my control interface. Both are very useable. Hopefully, the interface will come up to iTunes standards over time. I rip my CDs and convert my Hi-Def FLAC files into AIFF using XLD with embedded artwork and send them into iTunes on my iMac. I then back up the iTunes music folder periodically onto an external HD using Chrono Sync. I then attach the HD to the Bryston. This is not as convenient as I would like but it's not too much bother. I also offload new files to a thumb drive if I want to hear them right away on the Bryston. All in all, this system works very well. I've read that you can transfer files to the Bryston wirelessly but that hasn't worked so well for me on my home network. I prefer the hard wired data transfer over streaming anyway because of the potential for data loss over a wireless network (I used to periodically hear dropouts when streaming via iTunes or Airfoil to my Apple TV - which I didn't discuss here because it is also sonically inferior to the Bryston; this includes both the 1st and 2nd generation Apple TVs).

 

So, my advice is to save yourself a lot of bother and just go with the Bryston BDP-1, you won't regret it. BTW, I have no commercial affiliation whatsoever with Bryston. I can, however, speak highly of them as I had a personal tour of the factory before buying my 28B monoblocks and was very impressed. I have also in the past had to ask questions of James Tanner (VP) by email and he has always responded promptly and honestly.

 

Bryston BDP-1>Audio Research DAC 8>Audio Research 40th Anniversary Reference Pre>Bryston 28B Power>KEF Reference 207/2. Shunyata Hydra V-Ray and Power Cable, Cardas Clear IC and Clear Beyond Speaker.

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I love Bryston, I have the 4BSST power amp, it is awesome. However, I do not see the purpose of this player (BDP-1), not only is it expensive but it needs an external DAC and hard drive. I have used my 2008 Mac Mini for over a year as a server and the results are phenomenal. I do not have a fancy DAC yet and I am trying out the various software players, so I use standard Itunes mostly. Yet the sound to my ears has been equally as good as my high end Meridian CD player. The Bryston uses a Linux operating system so it should have all of the same issues that any computer would have as to how it affects sound. By the time you purchase this unit and a stand alone DAC you will be out 2-3 times the cost of using a computer based server. To each thier own!

 

Excerpt from Cnet- The Bryston BDP-1 High-Resolution Digital Music Player was designed to give audiophiles easy access to music files from USB storage devices. It's purely a player and therefore doesn't have a built-in hard-drive, streamer, or a CD player/ripper. The BDP-1 must be used with a digital-to-analog converter, and I'm sure most buyers will team the player with the company's stellar BDA-1 DAC.

 

Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13645_3-20008850-47.html#ixzz1KkCsXRUN

 

 

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To soundsolutions11 ("everyone has their own experience"); I agree, everyone does have their own experience. Moreover, too many audiophiles get caught up in the equipment and forget that the purpose of this hobby is to enjoy the music. If your solution pleases you, then rejoice and enjoy. There are many paths to audio enlightenment.

 

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, I have had experience working in a high-end audio store, have listened to a lot of live, acoustic music and have also played the French Horn in the past and now the guitar so I have a sense of what real music sounds like and how a good high-end system should sound.

 

I have built my current system over the past eight years with a number of side paths before settling on the current set up which now finally pleases me because it sounds "right". Every piece of equipment I have added has been auditioned extensively before purchase, except for the ARC 40th Anniversay Pre-amp and the Bryston BDP-1 (more on this later). Every piece has been judged on it's own sonic merit, even the power cables. I have learned a lot about what makes a great sounding system and not to prejudge something before listening. I agree that the BDP-1 seems expensive for what it is, physically. But that is the wrong metric, judge it for what it does for your music. And, don't prejudge it before you hear it.

 

Because I now live over 500 miles from the nearest decent audio shop, I can no longer just waltz down to my local dealer and listen or borrow gear to take home. I have had pieces shipped to me from my longtime audio dealer for audition but that is a difficult process. With the Bryston, I knew about it and followed its progress for months but I was also skeptical, as you. I was also determined to get the sound I wanted out of my computer based system, for all the reasons that one can find on this website. Besides, I don't mind tinkering and learning and I read multiple forums as I tried to optimize my MacMini and then the MBP (which sounded better). This took a lot of time and money but still I couldn't get the sound I wanted. My spouse observed this all with amusement and said that I should just buy the Bryston and stop fussing with the computers.

 

I finally got to hear the BDP-1 briefly in a audio shop while travelling. I pulled out my MacBook and did an A/B comparison under less than ideal conditions in a crowded shop with a poor set-up. I immediately heard what the BDP-1 could do, despite the environmental limitations. So, I ordered one and, when it arrived, plugged it in and listened. The sonic improvement was immediately obvious, straight out of the box, cold. With a couple of months of continuous break in, it is amazing. I have a couple of friends with very good ears (one is a professional opera singer) and they were also very, very impressed.

 

As an aside, I purchased the ARC 40th Anniversary Pre-amp (Ref 40) also without audition and strictly on its reputation. I already had the ARC Ref 5 and it was amazing (as is the service that ARC provides, I should add). I read the reviews on the Ref 40 and decided to take the plunge after negotiating a trade-in deal with my audio crack dealer. OMG, is all I have to say. It clobbered my Ref 5 straight out of the box, cold, but that's another story.

 

Back to the Bryston BDP-1, the reason I think it works so well is because it has been optimized for one sole function; to read digital files and deliver as pure a data stream as possible to an outboard DAC. It is therefore free of all the unavoidable extraneous noise that exists in a computer that must also handle WiFi, video and many other musically non-essential functions (yes, I had all those things shut down on both the MacMini and the MBP and yes, that did make a difference). I can tell you that you don't know the noise is there until it's gone, it really is striking. The BDP-1 clobbers the MacMini and the MBP in their most optimized form. In summary, don't judge the BDP-1 until you've heard it.

 

Bryston BDP-1>Audio Research DAC 8>Audio Research 40th Anniversary Reference Pre>Bryston 28B Power>KEF Reference 207/2. Shunyata Hydra V-Ray and Power Cable, Cardas Clear IC and Clear Beyond Speaker.

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I do not believe that I have prejudged the sound of anything here, I have commented on the fact that the hardware offers nothing spectacular in COMPARISON to hundreds of other solutions. I have zero doubt that you are excited about the sound and I have no doubt that the sound is pleasing to you. But the largest percentage of people here on CA and other forums have Mac Mini's and/or Mac Book Pros and also others have windows based servers with various outboard DAC'S and USB drives. Everyone's system is very pleasing to them just as yours is to you. The reason I commented is because you gave advice to the OP to scratch the idea of a computer based server for the Bryston. I totally disagree with your recommendation as while the Bryston may be a fine product, as I stated , there are other solutions that will give you fantastic sound for far less money. I also find it hard to believe that your claims about the Bryston's SQ hold water as you are the only one to rave about the Bryston at the expense of a Mac based server, with all due respect!

 

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Great choice - and the sound is pretty darn decent too. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why iTunes, running through the same USB interface to the same Dac to the same amp to the same speakers, will sound different coming from Windows than from a Mac. It's a bit perfect data stream from both machines, but the Mac sounds better. The bass is deeper and the soundstage has much more depth.

 

I would up replacing the Windows 7 machine with a spare MacBook today. I've been holding off for the new Mac Minis that will probably come out this year, but the sound is way more enjoyable from the Mac. Probably configuration issues.

 

In any case, by putting the MacBook in place, I can experiment with trying to get J. River to act and sound right to me on the Windows machine - without the natives getting restless!

 

In any case, try a $169 Music Fidelity V-Link with a $20 USB cable. If you buy it from Amazon, you can return it with no problems if you don't like it. I use one to feed the S/PDIF coaxial input on several DACs, and it always sounds much better than using the Mac's built in optical.

 

Worth a try at least, and you can always add it on later.

 

-Paul

 

 

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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