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About bluesman

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    Crusty Old Curmudgeon

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  1. Many thanks! We love Argentina - we were in Buenos Aires three years ago and Mendoza last November. As long as my wife can sit and sip a Fernet Branca & Coca Lite, she'll listen to music for hours with me!
  2. A Pi is an excellent choice for a front end. You’ll need player software and a DAC to feed your PL. As you already have JRMC on a networked computer, just access Panel at your PC’s IP address on port 52199 through the browser on the Pi and you should be both fine & happy. If you bought a JR master license, you can also load JRMC on the Pi, but Panel works well at no cost. There are dozens of great inexpensive DACs to put between the Pi and the PL, and you don’t even need one with a volume control because you’re driving an integrated. I have this setup at multiple zones throughout our home - its value, utility and sound quality are all equally high.
  3. No. The NUC is a dedicated Roon server and my main source for listening at home. I have JRMC on multiple Pis and a Win10 PC, so I can stream externally for travel. Roon is still LAN-only as far as I know. I hoped that my wife would use Alexa to play music on JR, but that hope was dashed on the rocks like a skiff in a nor’easter. So I showed her how to ask Al to play music through her own speaker from Amazon Music. Hasn’t happened yet.
  4. That's exactly what the NUC with ROCK does - I haven't touched it since I set it up about 6 months ago. Unlike my Win10 PC, it updates itself in the background without letting me know about it. I couldn't recommend this more highly. I brought up elasticity of price largely to point out the vulnerability of pieces like your Mac (and many items on my closet shelf) to the growing availability of better stuff for less money. Even now, its resale value is more dependent on buyers' love of Macintosh than on its sound quality. Similarly, Sonos can get their price for what you and I agree is marginal SQ because of the convenience and relative simplicity they offer. Many friends have house-wide Sonos and love it. My wife is like your friend's wife - she has never put on our sound systems for herself in 47 years of marriage. I recently set up Alexa to do this for her by adding the House Band skill, so we can say "Alexa - call house band; play XXX in zone Y" and JRMC plays what is asked in the requested room(s). I don't know how to make it any easier than that
  5. [WHOOPS - somehow this got partially posted above. Sorry!!] There's a concept in economics called price elasticity of demand, John - it's a measure of change in demand for something if nothing about it changes except the price. The other relevant economic concept here is that of substitutes, which are simply goods that can replace each other in the same use. A substitute good with positive cross-elasticity of demand will be bought preferentially if its price is lower than the alternatives. And the demand for any good drops when a true substitute is introduced at a lower price. The simple truth is that there are now many less costly substitutes for the vast majority of products in what you've chosen to call the mid-fi market. Innovation, technology, and globalization have ganged up on all those huge, heavy 4 and 5 figure source players, amplifiers and DACs because the same or better sound quality is now available at a fraction of the cost in smaller and more flexible forms and products. Once you decide what you want to do with and for the woman of your dreams, you have a world of choice. Supply of substitutes for those expensive monsters of old is high and growing, thanks to cross-elasticity of demand. I assume you've already set up Sonos to access your NAS - if you haven't, do it now. One simple alternative is to put a second Play5 in your main listening room and leave your big system as it is. The WOYD can play Sonos to her heart's content when you're not there with her, and you can both listen together to the same source material on your main system to alleviate your suffering. You'd just have to tolerate lesser SQ elsewhere in the house, but that's probably a lot easier than finding another WOYD You could certainly sell your current stuff and put a wonderful new system together for what you get. Your Mac is probably still worth well over $3k if it's in good shape and you still have the remote. You can get equal or better SQ (at least, in my opinion and experience) for what you'd get for the Mac from a NuPrime IDA-16 (about $1700) or any of a number of integrated amps from Arcam, Peachtree, NAD, Yamaha etc. Even the $600 PS Audio Sprout 100 is a seriously fine amp. As good as your Bryston DAC is, you might want to get into higher res. Pieces like the Sprout and the NuPrime IDA-16 are all digital (i.e. the DAC is pat of the device) and they do DSD. I can't honestly say that DSD itself is a life changer. but the new recordings now available in native DSD seem to me to be better conceived, engineered, made, and produced than many remastered releases of commercial recordings. And excellent classical releases abound. By Zuma, I assume that you mean a C.A.P.S. Zuma, which is still a good source. But you could make yourself a simple renderer / streamer / player from a Raspberry Pi for under $100 total and see how it compares to the Zuma - if it's as good or better, sell the Zuma too. I have multiple Raspberry Pis with different players driving systems throughout our living space, and they're all excellent. For my server, I built a NUC running Roon ROCK - and it's simply stellar. And I'm currently running DACs from Ifi (DSD - $135), SMSL (DSD - $250), Emotiva (24/192 - $500), and Pioneer Elite (MC 24/192 in a 7.1 receiver). Cost certainly remains a critical factor in decision support for audiophiles - but it's now a fraction of its former self and SQ is better than ever. The above suggestions barely scratch the surface of the bold new world that awaits you. Enjoy!!!
  6. There's a concept in economics called price elasticity of demand, John - it's a measure of change in demand for something if nothing about it changes except the price. The other relevant economic concept here is that of substitutes, which are simply goods that can replace each other in the same use. A substitute good with positive cross-elasticity of demand will be bought preferentially if its price is lower than the alternatives. And the demand for any good drops when a true substitute is introduced at a lower price. The simple truth is that there are now many less costly substitutes for the vast majority of products in what you've chosen to call the mid-fi market. Innovation, technology, and globalization have ganged up on all those 4 and 5 figure source players, amplifiers and DACs because the same sound quality is now available at a fraction of the cost in smaller and more flexible forms and products. Part of that flexibility is being able to direct your music to systems of varying quality and complexity at the same time. Once you decide what you want to do with and for the woman of your dreams, you have a world of choice. Why not just put a second Play5 in your main listening room and leave your system as it is? She can play Sonos to her heart's content when you're not there with her, and you can both listen together on your main system.
  7. We’re spoiled rotten! Audiophiles have a wealth of riches at our beck and call, many of which deliver performance within a hard drive’s throw of the best you can get for far less than the cost of traditional top tier products. If you’re thoughtful, patient, and realistic, you can acquire the components of a wonderful computer-based audio system that provides 90+% of the sound quality and functionality of “the best” for about 10% of the cost. Just do your homework, which now includes reading this series! CONTENT AND APPROACH Almost all Audiophile Stylers know far more than the average bear about consumer audio, and more than a few can teach the rest of us a fair amount. But this series takes a structured approach to the subject, so a uniform fund of knowledge among all readers and participants may add extra value to the effort of reading it. We begin with a discussion of the origin and maturation of home audio, putting evolutionary emphasis on the structure of audio playback systems and the essential elements comprising them (including the functions they provide and their relative costs). This includes a comparison of analog and digital systems based on the signal path from archived source material to your ears. After we lay out the systems and processes in simple terms, we’ll examine each node on the signal path in detail. We compare multiple hardware and software alternatives for each, after 5 months of downloading, installing, buying, borrowing, tweaking, combining, and generally wringing out dozens and dozens of devices and programs. We start with retrieval of static archived files and their conversion to the clocked, dynamic data streams that serve as input into the system. We look at front end hardware and software in separate articles, installing, evaluating and comparing several of the open source software players you can install on current devices like SBCs. We include legacy devices like that old laptop in your closet, many of which can still pump some fine sound files into your system, especially if made after 2003 (the start of generally available 64 bit home computing). We move through the playback chain to line level digital-to-analog conversion and the many inexpensive alternatives for getting digital music files into analog amplifiers, including both onboard DACs in motherboards and several “digital interfaces” designed and sold for use by musicians for digital recording. We also include several surprisingly fine, basic audiophile DACs priced under $500. Once the data file leaves the front end as an analog waveform, it’s just another line level AC signal seeking volts and amperes to power the engine that pushes audible air pulses to your ears. As this part of the signal path is the same for analog and digital source reproduction, there’s already a wealth of information out there on pure analog amplification. We’ll confine our discussion to equipment with specific advantages and suitability for use in computer-driven systems. Of more interest here is a large and growing market for digital amplification from source file to output, with conversion to analog occurring only in the output stage. More and more such devices are reaching the market at prices that make them ideal mates for SBCs, legacy devices, white box PCs etc. Many are found in the pro audio and recording sections of musical instrument stores. Some are sold for sound reinforcement or other industrial uses, and they compare well with more expensive consumer pieces. The manufacturers may be unknown to home audiophiles, but many are pillars of pro audio. The last area of interest is the “bargain bin”. A lot of high quality professional audio equipment is available at very low cost because it was discontinued, traded in, pawned, or otherwise disposed of in a nontraditional manner or location. Amplifiers like the Alesis RA100 and the Stewart PA100B can be bought used for under $100 in excellent condition – and they sound far better than most products sold new for anything close to that price. The astute but impecunious audiophile can free up crucial dollars for more or better stuff by buying wisely. So we scour pawn shops, sale racks, used equipment bins etc to find worthy bargains. HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE This is not about being cheap for cheap’s sake. It’s about the new value proposition in audio: sound quality and cost are no longer directly proportional. At the dawn of hifi home audio, price was a fairly accurate reflector of quality. I built my first amplifier for less than $10 from parts I bought at Radio Shack in 1958. The 1958 RS catalog offered a 10 watt Realistic integrated amp for $30, while an Eico 50 watt integrated amp was $70 as a kit and $110 assembled. A Dyna MK III (a womderful 60 watt power amp) was $80 as a kit and $100 assembled – and the Dyna preamp was $40 as a kit. In the same catalog, a Mac C preamp and MC60 power amp were a combined $300. For reference, the newly introduced Chevy Impala started at $1735 and median US household annual income was about $5k. We first year baby boomers were literally born with and grew up alongside the phenomenon called “high fidelity”. Equipment got better and better, and there was more & more variety in each price category. And the cost structure of retail audio stayed about the same well into my college years (mid-1960s). My first “proper” stereo amplifier was a Realistic SA-203 I bought for $15 assembled, and it went to college with me in 1964. But Radio Shack had an after-Christmas sale that year, at which I got Eico stereo preamp and 70 watt power amp kits for about $100 and built them both in a 2 day binge during our intersession break. That was serious money for a college freshman in 1965 (as was the $35 I got paid for playing the guitar at a wedding) – and it was also seriously good sound! For reference, median US household income had risen to $6900, and $100 in 1965 are worth $810 dollars today. But today, you can build a computer-based system with excellent overall sound quality, wonderful ease of use, and amazing flexibility for even less. AUDIO SYSTEMS, THEN AND NOW The same options exist that we had 50 years ago - systems can be assembled from components or integrated in one box - with speakers, if so desired. At the dawn of “high fidelity”, we had entire systems in self contained consoles: We still do. They take up a lot less space, but they serve the same purpose – they play music well for people who want a one box solution. Serious audiophiles could assemble component systems of amazing complexity back in the day... ...and we still can: The choices are equally varied and exciting, and the building blocks do the same things whether analog or digital. They turn a stored image of music into a living presentation of the original performance. But size no longer matters. Cost correlates less tightly with sound quality. Most of us can have audio that pleases us greatly in smaller, less expensive, less complex systems than ever before. This series is a guide to finding the stuff that will do it for you in some of the simplest, least expensive packages possible. THE ESSENTIALS In the digital age, we no longer have to buy dedicated audio hardware to listen to music at home. A computer, tablet or smartphone will do the job with no added hardware beyond external speakers if needed and/or desired. No additional purchase is necessary to stream internet radio or play CDs and digital files - it’s never been easier or less expensive to listen to music at home! Most of these devices come with at least one music player embedded in the installed software. Beyond these, there are many open source alternatives available at no cost, to give you alternatives for functionality and user interfaces. I can’t encourage you enough to support the creators and maintainers of the open source software you like. Visit their web pages and consider a donation (no matter how small) to help them do more. You can get pretty good sound from your computer with a little tweaking and a nice pair of powered speakers. But once you decide to go beyond your legacy devices for audio, the sky’s the limit. There are many excellent choices among the parts of a modern audio system, and sound quality improves far more rapidly than cost, especially at the lower end of the spectrum. As that relationship often reverses in the upper reaches of cost, the thrifty audiophile can decide how much is enough…..and stop there. Once you understand the components of an audio system and their functions, you can make some great sound for peanuts. In most categories, 85 to 90% of the best possible sound can usually be had for 10 to 15% of the most expensive alternative. Some of you are asking “How is this possible?”, while others are muttering unkind things about me. If you’ll all suspend disbelief for a little while, many of you will find some useful information you can use to optimize your sound while meeting your budget and expectations. SYSTEM STRUCTURE The basic architecture and function of home audio systems haven’t changed at all: program material enters the system from storage media and is optimized for transformation into an audible signal of air pressure waves pushed to the listener by transducers at the other end of the signal path. We just do it differently now, in ways that add tremendous value at every point in the signal path. Analog sources are tangible representations (physical, electromagnetic, optical, etc) of program material, while digital sources represent the exact same material in data streams. Both analog and digital archives have to be optimized and transformed into a stream of pulsatile air pressure so we can listen to them, and the stages are functionally similar despite drastic differences in how they work. Designing and building systems to convert program material into audible sound requires both strategy and tactics. Strategy is an action plan for achieving a goal, and tactics are ways of using available resources to implement that strategy. Whether the source is digital or analog, the “strategic plan” is pretty much the same. Turning a static representation of music into a waveform we can hear is done in a simple, logical chain of conversions, transformations, and transductions. Only the “tactics” differ – the same tasks are done in different ways by different systems. The form of signal storage dictates how we physically convert, transform, and transduce the acoustic energy of live performance into reproduction of a dynamic listening experience. Whether analog or digital, the static image has to be converted to a flow of physical energy through the air around us. Audio systems transform a stored, static image into an energy form that we can shape as we wish (EQ, DSP and other manipulation) before using it to recreate the original source signals with sufficient power to be heard. Figure 1 shows signal flows from recorded archive to reproduced program material for both analog and digital domains. It charts the steps in conversion of a static archive to audible sound, along with the kinds of devices used at each step. If the metaphor holds, you’ll see how the tactics are overlayed on a strategic framework that takes you from source to stapes. The next installment focuses on the front end. We evaluate and compare several OEM and open source players for ease of installation and setup, usability, flexibility, library management, program presentation, practicality, etc – and, of course, sound quality. FIGURE 1 - High Quality PDF here FROM PERFORMANCE TO PLAYBACK Program material goes through only one basic transformation to get from stage to speakers: the signal goes back and forth from a dynamic flow of energy to a static archive of that flow. Sonic energy is created by performers as a complex series of time-aligned molecular pulsations in air. It is heard as one waveform resulting from summation of all generated frequencies, along with secondary sonics resulting from the performance (e.g. intermodulation, room acoustics etc). That waveform has periodicity and a flow rate determined by a conductor or the performer(s) if without conductor, and that timing is what aligns the content so it is recognizable and repeatable. This is the first basic transformation: a static archive of the entire flow of sonic information (the musical score) is made dynamic by the performer(s) in a data transformation controlled by a clock. The data: The clock: The energy flow: That energy flow causes mechanical deformation of structures in our ears that is transformed into an electrochemical energy flow to the auditory pathways of the brain. This flow is yet another analog of the source waveform and is interpreted in real time by our central auditory apparatus as the sound of the performance. It’s also encoded into our cerebral molecular archives as memory (another static data archive of the source data), so we can remember and later recognize the sounds of individual instruments and works of music. Substitute a microphone for the auditory system and we have another energy transformation, this time from mechanical energy into electrical energy. Once again, it’s (theoretically, at least) a perfect analog of the source waveform that can be processed and turned into a durable static archive. This is done using the signal paths and processes described in figure 1, resulting in one or more of the forms of music storage with which we’re most familiar. Reproduction is then generated from those static archives with yet another animation of the data snapshot, clocked and transformed back into analog AC signals powering electromechanical engines (speakers) to push audible air pulsations to the listener. Archive: Clock: The same factors are critical to fidelity in the delivery of data at every stage, starting with the accuracy and stability of the timing process for interconversions of static archives to dynamic flows of information. Remember wow and flutter? They’re simply mechanical deviations from constancy of the rate of data feed from the vinyl archive to the output of the cartridge. Another form of mistiming occurs when rotational speed of the playback device differs from that of the archiving system, e.g. when a turntable fails to spin at exactly 33 1/3 RPM or a tape drive capstan motor fails to move the tape past the heads at a rate of exactly 7 ½ IPS. Similar timing errors occur in digital audio, e.g. accurate generation of a reproduced waveform requires perfect clocking of the data feed from the archived binary file. So, as can easily be seen, capturing, storing, and reproducing music requires similar processes regardless of the medium. The tactics differ, but the strategy is the same for analog and digital media. Having enumerated and explained these, we will use this framework to examine each system and process in the chain, identifying and prioritizing the factors most critical to faithful signal transformations. We can then search for value at every stage in the chain of audio reproduction, identifying products with great performance at favorable worth-to-cost ratios. The next topic will be an examination of the front end of the computer audio system. We’ll look at several alternatives for retrieving and pumping the content of digital audio files into the amplification chain, e.g. small box computers like Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone, Chromeboxes, and legacy computers lying in wait in your closet. We’ve installed and tested over a dozen audio-oriented packages on older PCs & laptops (both 32 and 64 bit), along with comparative evaluation and listening of several open source players on multiple SBCs. We’ll compare operating systems as audio platforms, focusing on the Linux family because most SBCs run on a Linux distro and most of the ad hoc audio software / OS packages are Linux-based or derived. Soon to come: finding value in computers for audio!
  8. A router is not necessary. There is a way to use the Raspbery Pi as a Wifi router and the good news is that my original answer is correct after all - I KNEW I'd done this before. I found the instructions I was looking for HERE! It's been a while since I did it (the linked web page is 6 years old) and I simply forgot how. And when I did it before, Pis did not yet have onboard Wifi and therefore required a USB network adapter. Now that Pis have onboard Wifi, the USB adapter is not necessary. You have to install two packages: isc-dhcp-server and hostapd, but it's pretty straightforward overall. By following the linked instructions, you will be able to network an iPad and/or iPhone with the Pi, so you can control a music player. As I stated before, VLC is a pretty good player. Assuming the OP intends to use the Pi's onboard DAC and drive his stereo system with the analog output, no other player will sound any better. The only reason to install another player would be personal preference for look, feel, and library management. So, in summary, I'd buy a $35 Raspberry Pi and run the bone stock Raspbian OS on it. Plug the USB drive with the music files directly into the Pi and plug the analog audio output of the Pi into the line ("aux") input of the stereo system. Set up the Pi as a Wifi router per the above instructions, and use the remote app of choice on the iPad or iPhone to control the player. No muss, no fuss, no hassles!
  9. I haven't had a hardware Mac since 1998 when I went to business school & had to switch to a PC laptop. I run MacOS 14 on VMware from Linux boxes when I need to do something Mac-ish. Apples could be set up as a kind of WLAN back in the day using the Internet & Wireless-Sharing menu. Here's a link to the instructions. It would work as a WLAN router even without an internet connection. There's a similar function in today's Macs - here's a link to the how-to. As I recall, the Sonos Connect has to be on a wired LAN - it does not incorporate an internal router and can't function as one. But you may be able to use your iPhone (or iPad, if it has cellular capability - this won't work on a Wifi-only version), depending on which model you have. Make sure cellular data is turned on and activate the hotspot. It will display a password you can use to log other devices onto it. Connect a Raspberry Pi to the hotspot, connect your USB drive to the Pi, and you should be able to connect to and control the player from the iDevice if your model supports this.
  10. That was my thought. But I was unable to get VLC on a Pi to hook up to my iPad directly by WiFi. I’m still playing with it, but so far it only works using a wireless router to create a WLAN to which both are connected. Bluetooth was equally unsuccessful. Adding a cheap wireless router is probably the simplest solution. Set up a $35 Pi and control it from iThings.
  11. I’m researching this, as I may be wrong. I can’t find a remote app that will control a player via BT or a direct WiFi link without a WLAN. Apple used to sell a camera connection kit that could connect a USB drive to an iPhone or iPad. If it’s still available, you could use an iThing as the player with your drive as the file source.
  12. Assuming you’re not looking for serious sound quality, I’d use a Raspberry Pi. You can load any music player you like (Google it - there are at least 20), plug your USB drive into the Pi, and use its analog output to drive a line input on your stereo. Control it with your iStuff - Pis have built-in Bluetooth and WiFi for that connection. You only need an internet connection to download and set up the Pi. The Raspian OS comes with VLC player now, as I recall. It’s pretty good for basic music playback and management, so you don’t even need an additional player unless you prefer the look and feel of Volumio, Rune, etc to VLC. Any such player will sound the same through the analog output - and that’s not bad at all. You’ll need to put the appropriate remote app on your iStuff for the player you choose.
  13. I can not imagine how you concluded that from what I actually said. You didn’t - I did, because it’s true (except that the transients aren’t fake, they’re real). Having done all this and more on my high speed Crown deck and listened through Infinity Reference Standards driven by a Hafler 500, a Citation 2 and a Marantz 8b, I know it’s correct.
  14. That may be true if the goal is simply generating audio output that sounds "real". But it's total nonsense when discussing accuracy in reproduction, which seems to me to be what the OP was addressing. Sounding like one "thinks a piano should sound" is hardly a criterion for judging the quality and accuracy of any component of a playback system. The OP seems to me to be focusing on whether any element of true fidelity to the source is lost in conversion from higher resolution to lower, to wit: "Could there be anything in the original 24/352.8 file that is lost during decimation down to 16/44.1? If so, what could have been lost, considering there’s virtually no music signal above 10kHz anyhow? Is all this hires malarkey really much ado about nothing?" A mediocre recording of almost any "tack piano" (a piano with thumbtacks in the hammers to simulate old, worn felts) will sound a lot more "live" than a better recording of a poorly maintained Baldwin baby grand. The tacks generate sharp transient attacks on the notes, and there's a lot more high frequency energy in the signal - it's simply more convincing when played back through almost any system. The effect is useful in some kinds of music - I did it many times back in the '60s and '70s. By your criterion, this is good sound.
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