Jump to content
IGNORED

Very, very, basic question


LBob

Recommended Posts

I am interested in setting up a music server using a Mac Air book as the computer. I would like to keep the cost under $3,500 if possible. The simpler and more user friendly the better. I am not technically inclined nor do I wish to be. I just want easy access to my CD collection via something like ITunes. Most of my music is classical (500 or so CDs) plus another 100 miscellaneous.

 

I have (as suggested) read the FAQs; however, I have some very basic questions. I would appreciate any help/suggestions. So here goes:

 

1) Exactly what hardware would I need to purchase and how would it be configured?

 

2) In practice, how reliable are computer audio systems. I just read a horror story posted by one member whose system kept crashing for weeks.

 

3) Are there any products that really stand out in terms of performance or reliability?

 

2012 MacMini 8G ram -> Audirvana + 3.0 -> Mcintosh MHA 100> Nordost > Audeze LCD X

Link to comment

1. Minimally, you need your computer and some speakers. But I suspect the answer you are after is something like this: You need (or at least want) an external (probably USB) DAC (digital analog converter), a volume control (pre-amp or passive buffer), and an amplifier, and some speakers. It is possible to get units (like mine) that integrate the DAC, pre-amp, amp in one box. Then you need to pick some speakers. Ideally, you don't want them to be the limiting factor. I would put 1/2 to 2/3 of your budget into speakers.

 

To rip the CDs, you need a CD drive (apple sells one that pairs with the air, or use a different computer), and to store the music, you will need an external drive. You want to rip lossless files, so they will take up more space.

 

2. Very. The air has an internal SSD, which means the most likely part to fail (a conventional HD) shouldn't fail.

 

3. I like the Peachtree Audio products. There are numerous other alternatives.

 

Link to comment

I should have included that I currently have a stereo system. Wilson Sophia speakers, Ayre preamp and Bryson power amp, and I already have the Mac Air. So my budget will be just for the DAC and whatever else I need.

 

 

 

2012 MacMini 8G ram -> Audirvana + 3.0 -> Mcintosh MHA 100> Nordost > Audeze LCD X

Link to comment

So get a mac mini, an external dvd drive, and a dac. The mini will be the server for your music; you'll need the dvd drive to rip your music, and the air can be used to control the mini. You didn't say what your budget was but you can get a pretty reasonable dac for under $500 like this, http://www.amazon.com/Musical-Fidelity-V-DAC-II-MKII/dp/B005K8CSZ2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1318481508&sr=8-2l; or this http://www.amazon.com/Peachtree-Audio-DAC-iT/dp/B005DPC4RO/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1318481540&sr=1-1.

 

Edit: this is a good source for reasonable, high quality cables for your new system, http://www.bluejeanscable.com/. The mac mini can be used as a server to play music anywhere in the house if you want to extend your system with a streaming device like this, http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-930-000090-Squeezebox-Touch/dp/B002LARRDA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1318482314&sr=8-1.

 

Edit: computer based playback systems are generally very stable. The thread you are referring to probably involved some special gremlins that decided to visit Paul (the user with the music server blues), :).

 

Macmini (as server)-> AE Express/SB Touch-> Dacmagic plus -> Outlaw RR2150 -> PSB Image T6 (dedicated 2 channel audio system)

Macmini (via toslink)-> NAD T747 -> PSB Imagine B/SVS SB2000 subwoofer (home theater)

Macbook Pro-> Peachtree idecco->PSB Imagine Minis, Energy ESW-M8 subwoofer, Beyerdynamic DT880 (home office)

IMac->audioengine D1 dac->airmotiv 4 (work system)

Link to comment

Since LBob has $13K Wilson Sophia speakers (are they series 1, 2 or 3?), he probably wants a DAC good enough to consume most of his $3500 budget.

 

One possibility is my DAC, the Metric Halo LIO-8. It retails for $4K, but Steve Devino sells it for $3,455:

http://www.graniterocks.com/GraniteRocksLive/LIO8.html

 

Steve is extremely knowledgeable, and he is very generous about providing almost unlimited hand-holding to get your Metric Halo product integrated with your Macbook Air and your hi-fi system.

 

Another option is the Ayre QB-9 for $2,500.

 

I consider the Metric Halo much more open and detailed, but it may be too much of a good thing if you have the Sophia series 1 or 2.

 

The Metric Halo includes an analog volume control with 0.5 dB steps, controllable with the Apple infrared remote. The Ayre is fixed output, so the Ayre would require either an analog preamp or usage of digital volume control in your music player software.

 

HQPlayer (on 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 iMac 2020) > NAA (on 2012 Mac Mini i7) > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

Link to comment

I actually missed the bit about the 3.5k budget in the OP's first post but the mini is still a good choice as a server with the mac air as the front end and then as Bob Stern (and I appreciate, of course, BobStern's discussion on what makes for a good speaker) pointed out there are a lot of choices for a dac in your budget. If you want something close to being a no brainer, fool proof set up and (as an alternative to the mini), the auraliti and the equipment you need to make it run (dac and hard disc) probably comes closest: http://www.auraliti.com/.

 

Edit: here is Chri's review http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Auraliti-PK100-File-Player-Review

 

Macmini (as server)-> AE Express/SB Touch-> Dacmagic plus -> Outlaw RR2150 -> PSB Image T6 (dedicated 2 channel audio system)

Macmini (via toslink)-> NAD T747 -> PSB Imagine B/SVS SB2000 subwoofer (home theater)

Macbook Pro-> Peachtree idecco->PSB Imagine Minis, Energy ESW-M8 subwoofer, Beyerdynamic DT880 (home office)

IMac->audioengine D1 dac->airmotiv 4 (work system)

Link to comment

Just tossing my two cents in the ring. :)

 

(1) The various music players will, with varying results and varying amounts of frustration, provide a significant sonic boost for your machines. They vary from very low cost (Decibel, Fidelia, Audivarna+) to about $130 for Pure Music, to $99-$695 for Amarra. They all have free trials, so pick the one that sounds best to you.

 

(2) With your setup, as has already been mentioned, pretty much all you need is a good DAC and Cable, and you are off in the running. There are a lot of good DACs, and darn if they don't all sound different. Budget say, $120 for a top flight USB cable, and then take your Macbook Air and Cable around to some stereo shops and have a listen. (You can use iTunes straight, or better yet, test a few of the music players out at the same time.)

 

It's time intensive of course, but simple enough to do. :) I expect you already know that given the gear you already have.

 

-Paul

 

 

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

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment

I haven't heard the DACs so can't comment about them. (My current DAC is a 20-year-old Theta that works fine for the CD rips I play.)

 

Regarding players, my favorite is one Paul's mentioned but misspelled, Audirvana Plus. (We all have words we just can't seem to say or spell correctly, and the trade name of this player apparently does that for Paul.:-) Mentioning this not to be pedantic, but in case you wanted to download it, the correct spelling makes it easier to find.

 

Regarding cables, Paul (from his previous posts) and I have both liked Audioquest's Forest ($50 or less in shorter lengths) and Carbon (around $110 in shorter lengths). Wireworld cables have also gotten good reviews here, though I personally preferred the Audioquests to the Wireworld Starlight.

 

The Air may actually be enough capacity for the number of CDs you have, but if not, then a Firewire or eSata external drive is a good idea. An external USB drive is probably easier to find, but it's been mentioned in various threads here that having both a DAC and an external drive using USB at the same time may not be the best thing for sound quality (assuming the DAC uses a USB connection - the Metric Halo I believe is Firewire, so a USB external drive would be best to use with it, I would guess).

 

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment

LBob,

 

My two cents is that if you are thinking about $3,500K just on the computer and and DAC and not the rest of your system, then a good question to ask yourself is whether you:

 

a) are happy to tinker and tweak the system - computers are highly configurable and this may detract from your enjoyment because setting up and maintaining a system can be cheaper but does require attention - perhaps even a hobby in itself!

 

b) just want to buy something knowing that it is going to give you excellent sound.

 

If its option A then, then the FAQs are a good start. This site also has equipment forums on DACs but best to go listen.

 

If it's option B, then perhaps a mach2mini, sonore, PS Audio, NAIM unitiserve may be better. The list goes on but it sounds to me that you want minimal maintenance and stuff that you can load your CDs in and forget about it.

 

 

 

 

Rega Brio-R, Calyx Coffee, Monitor Audio, MacMini Server (intel) 2011

Link to comment

(I did not purposely misspell solidarity, but there it is, with a red underscore, and it seems hypocritical to change it.)

 

Audivarna+, gets automagically corrected by Google and turns up the right site as the first hit. Hence, one need not waste neurons on such superfluous trivialities. (You can of course force google to, well, google "Audivarna+", but I was afraid of what the diva pictures might show.)

 

I would like to second the idea of a separate Mac mini as a server. This frees up the macbook air as a controller, and more importantly, as a laptop you can take away from the setup without inhibition.

 

Importantly, it also has a firewire out, which the Air lacks, so if you take Bob's advice (which is always a good thing to do), that firewire to the Halo will be an asset.

 

Link to comment

Hence, one need not waste neurons on such superfluous trivialities.

 

I stand keereckted. :-)

 

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

Link to comment

As you will quickly find, what seems like a basic question in reality opens up a can of worms and lot's of side issues.

 

Just looking at the size of your music collection and it seems that a Mac Mini (or Airbook for that matter) would seem to be inadequate as far as hard drive size unless you are tacking on another drive. Already you have a small but potential complication. Quite honestly if it truly is simple that you desire then you could simply get a decent $600-$700 PC that had at least 1TB hard drive, load it w/ iTunes, rip at a decent

level, then attach it to your network, add a Squeezebox Touch @ $300, an iPad @ $500 for control (both Squeezebox or iTunes)

run the Squeezebox into something like a Rega Dac @$1000 then into your preamp and off you go. If you have not sampled what this kind of setup will sound like through your system then you do not know what you are missing. It is superb.

 

Of course if you spend more then there is more to be had.

Swap the Squeezebox Touch and Rega out for something like one of the networked devices that have built in dacs now out there from the likes of Linn, Naim, Meridian, PS Audio, etc. and get ready to really hear something amazing. Then you can start to listen to downloads that are available in 24/192 and really be stunned.

 

Lot's of options out there. You have a good system. You should get something good for it.

 

David

Link to comment

LBob,

 

Since you are not technically inclined and prefer to remain that way, I suggest avoiding the Metric Halo LIO8. The basic setup, even the cabling, will require more involvement than you probably want. (I personally love the product, its sound and the great support from Steve Devino at Granite Rocks.) If you change your mind and want to technically tinker, I can't imagine a more flexible device.

 

There are a myriad of great USB DACs in your price range and they are unanimously easy to use. Following the line of reasoning of using separate paths for the DAC and Data Storage you might want to take advantage of the Thunderbolt port on your Mac Air book. Thunderbolt being a new interface has limited options but external drives are available, although pricey.

 

Good Luck

 

Greg

 

\'08 MacMini/OS X 10.7/4G/160G SSD - iomega 1TB - Pure Music 1.82 /Amarra 2.3.1 - Weiss DAC202 - Kimber Select KS1120 XLR 1M - Bel Canto REF1000 MKII - Audience AU24 2.5M - Magnepan 1.7[br]\'08 iMac 24\"/4G/500G - Sony CRU_840A - G_Drive 2TB - DroboFS 3TB - Pure Vinyl 3.0 - Metric Halo LI0 8/4 - VPI Classic - Van den Hul Frog - S300iu - Kimber 8TC - KEF Ref 201/2

Link to comment

They are the series one. It was love at first sight (hearing). Had lived happily with Maggie 1.6qr for years till then. Plus I got a stone bargin (6k) for a slightly used set. So you think the Ayre QB-9 might be a better match?

 

2012 MacMini 8G ram -> Audirvana + 3.0 -> Mcintosh MHA 100> Nordost > Audeze LCD X

Link to comment

David

 

Regarding

 

"Swap the Squeezebox Touch and Rega out for something like one of the networked devices that have built in dacs now out there from the likes of Linn, Naim, Meridian, PS Audio, etc. and get ready to really hear something amazing."

 

What is a "networked device?" Is this an all in one system like the Olive?

 

I thought about those but was concerned that once you pick one you are stuck with whatever level of technology/quality it supplies. You couldn't upgrade. Plus I wondered about archiving, and being able to move files to another system if I wanted to for some reason.

 

 

 

2012 MacMini 8G ram -> Audirvana + 3.0 -> Mcintosh MHA 100> Nordost > Audeze LCD X

Link to comment

The Metric Halo products all have a non-defeatable volume control, so there is no advantage to inserting a preamp between a Metric Halo DAC and a power amp. You can see from my sig that I don't use a preamp.

 

For my taste, I consider the Sophia series 1 to have a "white", dry treble, so I would prefer to mate it with mellow electronics. If your Ayre preamp is the K-5, I would consider that suitably mellow. The Ayre QB-9 DAC has a similar mellow character.

 

If you bought the Metric Halo DAC, you could sell your Ayre preamp, but you'd lose the mellowness.

 

Perhaps you should reflect on whether you're more likely to be annoyed by recordings that are too bright or too mellow. That will tell you which direction you want to move your system.

 

If you buy directly from Metric Halo, they have a 30-day satisfaction guaranty with no restocking fee. Steve Devino is $500 cheaper but has a 15% restocking fee (when I last checked).

 

HQPlayer (on 3.8 GHz 8-core i7 iMac 2020) > NAA (on 2012 Mac Mini i7) > RME ADI-2 v2 > Benchmark AHB-2 > Thiel 3.7

Link to comment

I just picked up one of those today, and played around with it a bit. It does sound very very good indeed.

 

I hacked around in it a little bit and got it to recognized the Proton off the USB port. Sounds really good now, playing off a Vortexbox upstairs. ;)

 

Gapless, bit perfect, Async USB playback, from a $225 device. My wife loves it. The iPhone/iPad add works fast and looks good too.

 

Thanks for the tip Dave.

 

-Paul

 

Oops- pulled a snap crackle pop sound on me - must be sending data to the Proton the same way it sends Integer mode data. I put a USB hub between them and it seems to have rid me of the snap crackle pop nonsense. -PR

 

P.P.S - or maybe not. Just one or two occasional crackles (not loud) occasionally.

Wonder if I can borrow that Benchmark back. I only have a Beresford free here, and it is not the worlds best DAC.

 

 

 

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

Robert A. Heinlein

Link to comment

A networked device is a UPnP renderer that can play your files from a simple PC (or Mac) or NAS where your music is stored.

So, it is not like an Olive because it is not limited to their hard drive or their playback dac. The ones I am referring to are software upgradeble, use standard network protocals so that they can be used with pretty much any format you wish including FLAC. Much more open to upgrades along with the simplicity of using pretty much any computer (ie. a simple 1-2T

with 4-6G of ram for around $600-$700).

 

David

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...