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bluesman

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About bluesman

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    Crusty Old Curmudgeon

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  1. Goldilocks was an audiophile. Price is one of those weird dichotomies that seem to provoke ire and joy over unpredictable and inappropriate issues - it's only "just right" when the buyer's desire exceeds his or her ill defined and ever-changing threshold of sanity. I watch in wonderment as people with $50k systems complain bitterly about the exorbitant cost of a $5 mobile app and carp incessantly about the missing features in the free mobile version of Photoshop when (of course...) they stood in line to buy the original for hundreds of dollars. The problem with A-B-X comparisons of high res to Redbook seems to me to be the lack of top quality recordings of top quality performances that are reduced to Redbook from original high res masters. I'm not convinced that I can hear a real, consistent, meaningful difference between DSD and 16/44 on the few good recordings I've been able to hear in both formats. But the heightened attention to every detail (including choice of program and quality of the actual performance) in many current hi res recordings is clearly audible, and I think we're getting higher quality program material in many of the hi res files I've bought or been given to enjoy than are available on or derived from CDs. Call me Goldilocks - the price is just right when the content appeals to me, especially if that performance (recorded that well) is unavailable in a less expensive format. I honestly hear no consistent difference in my live recordings of my own instruments and of the bands in which I play when capturing them in 16/44 or 24/192 on Audacity and other DAWs, despite many attempts to find one.
  2. None of the ideas we’re discussing is “bad” - most of us could live happily with any of them. I haven’t had a chance to live with a Node, so I can’t comment on the SQ or usability. But it’s an ARM processor driving a last generation 24/192 DAC, so it’s probably (at best) the sonic equal of a Pi plus a typical mid grade last generation 24/192 DAC. My SMSL SU8 is a current gen XMOS USB DAC with native DSD, non-degrading gain control, balanced outputs, and a very nice remote for $250 - and it sounds stellar through my PrimaLuna Prologue Plus and Focal towers when driven by a $35 Pi. I never use BT to send audio files to a DAC because I think it sounds a little veiled and flattened, so I wouldn’t use the Node’s BT. If you would, it becomes more attractive. With a DAC that has a non-degrading gain control, you don’t need the added size, cost and complexity of an integrated amp unless you also plan to use vinyl and/or other sources with line level outputs. I’ve also lived with an integrated DAC-amp and loved it. My Wadia 151 is an example of a great device that’ll connect a source to your speakers with no other hardware. I drive mine with a Pi or a Beaglebone Black running MPD, and it sounds great through my Focals and even my original 15 ohm Rogers LS3/5as. This “power DAC” approach also weds you to both DAC and amplifier, but I wanted to see how the concept worked and it wasn’t crazy expensive. There’s no right or wrong here. It just makes more sense to me to go with the simple alternative to a more expensive system that’s likely to sound no better and to be obsolete sooner.
  3. You're certainly exploring some great paths to better sound, and almost all of us could live happily with most of your ideas. But you're embarking on a trip of sorts, and the best route to your destination may reveal itself only after you look at where you are, where you're going, and what your assumptions and expectations are for the journey. You're looking at some very fine equipment that will serve you well. But there are other, simpler and less costly solutions that offer better sound quality with equal functionality, plus money left over for better speakers and more music. First, I may be missing it but I can't tell from your post exactly how many roles your laptop is playing and whether you plan to continue using it in your new audio system. If you're now using it as a one box solution for file storage, Plex server, and player, you might want to consider parsing those functions to dedicated components for better performance, more flexibility, and cost effectiveness. Even if you want to minimize the number of components and interconnects in your new system, you might well consider using dedicated file storage if you're currently keeping your music files on your laptop. You might get a simple USB HDD for the laptop or add a NAS (perhaps a better choice for a few reasons about to come up) along with online or other remote backup that I and many others consider essential. I haven't lost music files, but I did lose over 400 important photo files once and hope never to experience that horror show again. I can't imagine how terrible it must be to lose a TB of flacs and have to rip or download it all again. If you'd consider a NAS, you can reduce your box count by getting one that will run a Plex server (e.g. some models of QNAP, Synology, WD - here's a fairly complete list). If your other networked devices would be accessing the NAS with any frequency, running two separate ones or a NAS for music and a USB HDD for general LAN use would enhance reliability and glitch-free operation (but probably not sound quality). You're not tied to the Plex server or the NAS unit with this approach. You can replace the NAS for any reason and reinstall Plex on the new one, or you can replace Plex on your NAS (assuming it meets system requirements) with a new server package if one comes along that has more of what you want. A Plex server is fine for audio on a Raspberry Pi 3b+. It's pretty easy to install and configure if you just follow the instructions found on multiple web sites like this one. DSD is a bit problematic for Plex, but some players can be configured for DoP to send bit perfect dsf files to USB DACs as DoP (see here for a more thorough discussion). If you run a Plex server on a Pi, you should use another device to "play" the files (i.e. to convert them into a digital data stream for your DAC). You can run Plex Media Server or Rasplex on another Pi, and (as you already know) you can use many devices as endpoints and renderers for Plex-served files. Be aware that using a web browser for Plex access & playing limits audio quality - the Plex Media Player is a better player by far. You can also Chromecast from a Plex player, and the Plex server I put on a networked Pi shows up as a library source in JRiver Media Center on one of my PCs. If you're going to buy a DAC, you have a few functional alternatives. The 2Qute's successor is the Qutest, as I recall - but neither of them has a gain control so you'd need an "integrated" amplifier or a simple zero gain "preamp" with a gain control ahead of a power amp. If you go for a DAC with a good gain control (i.e. no effect on the bit stream), you can drive a power amp directly. Unless you plan to use the excellent phono stages on the Rogue, you're wasting money and complexity on the integrated version when you can buy one of the stellar basic amps now available at very reasonable cost from Rogue, PrimaLuna etc. The Aurender is a very fine piece, but it's a perfect example of being completely tied to complex functionality. It has fine specs, does a lot, and does it well (albeit at what I consider to be a high price). If one of those functions dies, you have the entire device to deal with for service or (heaven forbid!) replacement. Should you want to adopt an advance in any single function that comes along to improve sound quality, you'd have to either replace the entire unit or buy a stand-alone device with the desired functionality and bypass its obsolete embedded predecessor. I know the A100's specs are impressive - but so were a gig of RAM and an SSD a few years ago, and you can now buy a good i5 PC with 8G and a TB for under $300 new. Even this crusty old audiophile now owns 3 DSD capable DACs only 2 years after explaining to my wife that I was very happy with our 24/192 units. So a simple, reliable, configurable, scalable path to what you seem to want would be something like a Plex server on a NAS or Raspberry Pi, feeding your files over your LAN/WLAN to a simple renderer / endpoint (e.g. Rasplex on a second Pi, Plex Media Player on the device of your choice, Kodi, etc) driving a DAC and power amp at each listening point.
  4. You're speaking my language! It's not only possible, it's simple - there are now so many great products out there that the only reason to spend a lot more is to gratify the desire (or the need, if you suffer from that pathology) to spend a lot more. I'm just finishing up the next article in my Audio Value Proposition series. This one's about the front end, featuring my 6+ month comparison of 30 open source players on Win10, MacOS Mojave, and multiple Linux distros. I installed each on every box I have that would take it, including a 2018 full tilt boogie HP PC, simpler current PCs (i3, Ryzen, Celeron), multiple SBCs (including Pis, Beagles, and an Asus Chromebox), and a few of my legacies (e.g. a 2006 Toshiba Satellite U205 and a 2007 Athlon X2 64 Gateway "media" laptop). You can pump fine music into your electronics from pretty much any half decent computer made in the last decade, and I'm still amazed at how easy it is to get great sound from a bit perfect player running on a capable machine that costs under $100. Electronics & speakers are also falling in line. Excellent DACs with proper gain control and high res capability can be had for under $300, some with balanced outs and/or very nice remotes. My SMSL SU8 is great, and (apart from issues with a few design problems and the manufacturer's abysmal customer support) my iFi iDSD nano LE does everything well. A very nice pair of powered monitors like JBL 305s or KRK 5s will set you back about $250 when on sale (which is every other week at one of the big retailers), and a nice 8" sub like my Yamaha is regularly $150. Emotiva and similar contemporary makers offer a never-ending stream of better and better products at bargain prices compared to top names offering little or no marginal advantage. And many of the current crop of innovators offer great customer service, e.g. I've had fantastic interaction with Emotiva on everything from timely delivery of promised future products to a waranteed repair with 5 day turnaround on my Stealth DAC 5 years after purchase (USB on the C-Audio chip died). I'll be adding an article about each category of product above over the next few months to help those searching for such prizes. And although I'm not writing about video, I'm playing with it a bit and it's just as accessible from a lot of the players and devices I'm evaluating. As I type this, I'm watching an HD video of my blues band's gig from yesterday on a Pi 3b+ running VLC player with no compromises in what I see or what I hear. It's a wonderful world for audiophiles!! Here's a sample of what I've been looking at since January...
  5. This is why Gucci cables sound better. Here's a close-up of their USB line:
  6. Welcome to the wonderful world of SBCs! I agree strongly that you've found the right path to great sound and great value in audio. Your Rotel is an excellent unit with a solid AKM-based DAC that's as good as most, better than many, and inferior to only a few. It should sound wonderful with your Allo. I can't imagine that you'll find better sound quality from an external DAC without a long search, a big hole in your wallet, and the aftershock that comes when you realize how truly tiny the improvement is. Your Rotel even does DSD, so I'd use and enjoy what you have while waiting for the next big thing to arrive, prove itself worthy, and fall to a reasonable cost. It could be a while 😀
  7. The wavelength of a 44 Hz tone is ~25 feet, Chris. And a 110 Hz cycle spans about 11 feet. Your main axes are almost exactly at full and half wavelengths for your problem frequencies, and the sloping ceiling tunes the room with continuous half and quarter wave reinforcement for your problem humps. Moving the speakers will probably not reduce this by much, although “softening” the end walls and corners a lot should help. Depending on its dimensions, that stairwell may be making it worse by acting as a bass port if you consider the room to be an enclosure and the speakers as drivers within it. You might try blocking and/or narrowing it with something to see if there’s a meaningful change.
  8. This is typical for any and all records that are not truly collectible - and very few records are truly collectible. I've been given several small but enjoyable piles of jazz and classical vinyl by the adult children of deceased prior owners, because they tried unsuccessfully to sell them and finally just wanted to get them out of the house. I've disgarded more than half because they were filthy, scratched, and/or warped beyond use - and I enjoy the rest knowing that my son will continue to do so (along with the 2000+ in my collection) when I'm gone. Fortunately, mine are almost all in excellent shape, including the hundreds of 78s that passed to me from my family. So they're quite playable and enjoyable - but they're not worth much money with a few notable exceptions.
  9. No question about it - you’re another great example of one who understands and accepts compromise consistent with your own values and expectations. Moving to an apartment means I can’t crank it up any more. In fact, I don’t play our grand piano early or late in the day and instead use my Kurzweil through ‘phones at off hours. The grand is a similar accommodation to your larger system, in that it takes up enough available space to be useful in other ways (eg wine storage), yet I can’t really get the most out of it. But my wife knows how much I love it & we’re both OK with the compromises we have to make to keep it. As I said in the downsizing piece, the key to successful right-sizing is to know what’s most important to you and to let go of lesser concerns happily and without looking back. It’s great that you and I could do that, and I hope we’re helping others to learn how. Happiness and contentment are essential to a good life for us all, especially as we advance to later stages of life or must accommodate unexpected and undesired change. Audio enjoyment has the power to enhance our lives at every turn, if we pursue it thoughtfully.
  10. Interesting - Yamaha’s description and placement of it adjacent to the other inputs in the spec list is really misleading. They should either change the specs to clarify that it’s not a signal input or change the electronics so that it is. All I can think of to say is....”Yamaha, if you’re listening, find that missing input!” 😝
  11. According to the "specs" page on the Yamaha product site for the WXA-50, there is a usable USB input. There's no breakdown of supported formats by input, but it does say that the USB port is a usable input. Have you tried it? As for headphones, you can also drive a wireless DAC / headphone amp, e.g. the $200 Audiolab M-DAC.
  12. Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! You've found and combined great sound and great value in nice looking, space- and power-efficient, user friendly components with serious capabilities. The Yamaha also has a traditional vibe for those who like having a "stereo system". And using their app for all control functions (which I believe it can do from the description on the Yamaha product website - I haven't had my hands on this one yet), the electronics can also be hidden (with proper ventilation, of course) for those who lack the desire and/or the space to keep it in the open. Wifi, BT, ethernet, DSD, analog in / out, digital in (including USB despite what appears to be an erroneous statement in the review you linked, if I understand the Yamaha spec sheet correctly), adequate power for many excellent speakers, etc etc etc - many if not most audiophiles could live very, very happily with your system. A headphone amp is the only potentially serious design omission I see - but that's workable, e.g. drive a headphone amp from the line out jacks. I've always loved the serious Yamaha audio pieces - my B-2 power amp was one of the best sounding amps of its day, my 12" NSW-1 was a stellar sub (sadly sacrificed to downsizing), and the 8" Yamaha sub in our living room now is tight as a drum. I agree completely with the review you linked (except for the USB error, if in fact I'm right): "It won't provide competition to state-of-the-art separate products but it also doesn't embarrass. As such, I am going to put the WXA-50 on my recommended list." Enjoy it!!
  13. It’s a guide to the evolution and current spectrum of our collective wants and needs in audio computer software. For example, assuming that the first responders are a representative sample of the AS population, Linux is now much more popular than it was 7 years ago. So good articles about it will be more popular and useful now. And a growing openness to using different platforms for different needs suggests interest in interoperability, integration, and platform-independent software. The apparent decline of one-solution users also suggests an openness to innovation that’s missing from the “I only use [insert name here]” cohorts. So interest in novel new approaches and out-of-the-box products should be higher than it was for the Apples to Apples group, the Windows only bunch, et al. I hope it’s going to be useful to AS sponsors too. The best source of consumer interest info is the consumer 🙂
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