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Everything posted by bluesman

  1. Your analog experience may be a bit ahead of your digital fund of knowledge. The "best" DAC chips on mobos and PCI/e cards are pretty much all on gaming hardware. But gamers are not concerned about the kinds of noise and distortion that plague audiophiles, and all the fiddly bits and "extra features" on gaming boards make electrical noise. Some even have fans, so they also make mechanical noise. And the internal power supplies in most standard computers are electrically and mechanically noisy by themselves. Gaming sound cards and boards seem to be limited to 24/192 - I don't know of any PCI/e card or any mobo with an onboard DAC that will play higher resolution files. Especially if you want to be able to listen to even basic DSD files at their native resolution, you'll have to go to an external DAC. If you really want an internal sound card, the best ones I've heard are the Creative Sound Blaster ZxR and the Asus Essence STX II. I think they both have TI (formerly BB) DAC chips, but I don't remember the details. I looked for one a few months ago to put in the PC I use for my DAW. But I got a "digital interface" instead (M-Audio 2x2 in this case) because the specs are as good as or better than the cards, there's more flexibility, they're less expensive, and they're easy to upgrade / repair / replace without taking your computer apart. If you want to bring your excellent 20th century analog taste with you into the 21st, I'd go with an external USB DAC with a good power supply for sound quality, flexibility and value. Your Genelecs are nice speakers that may benefit from balanced inteconnects. There are some great DACs now with balanced outputs and seriously fine SQ for $400 or less from SMSL, Topping, and others.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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...
  6. This is why Gucci cables sound better. Here's a close-up of their USB line:
  7. 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 😀
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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!” 😝
  12. 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.
  13. 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!!
  14. 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 🙂
  15. Ahhh - that's yet another downsizing adventure! We had a wine cellar in the house that held about 10 cases on display racks and about 100 unopened standard 12 bottle cases. My life plan was to rotate the stock, laying up fresh ones as we drank a perfectly aged bottle about once a week. When we decided to downsize, I planned to convert the closet next to the front door into a climate controlled glass enclosed storage area for about 50 cases, assuming the cooling unit could be vented and drained into the building's vent and plumbing systems. It turns out that there's no way to do that from any usable location in the apartment. So I now have a pair of commercial 10 case storage units in the kitchen - and a pair of 3 case open racks in the dining room - With our newly reduced capacity, my plan is to have one properly aged bottle a month until I die. It is what it is.....
  16. Thanks! I agree that there's often something "extra" from speakers that stay flat below 30, and it seems associated most strongly with larger drivers. I think it may be in some part related to the volume of air being moved with each stroke of the cone. A small woofer has to travel much further (and therefore faster) than a large one to move the same amount of air at the same frequency. Air is compressible, so I suspect that a smaller cone that's moving further, accelerating faster, and "punching" harder generates a slightly less precise pressure wave because it has to move the air molecules around more rapidly. This probably compresses them a bit more at the beginning and separates them a bit more at end of each excursion of the cone than they should be. The hysteresis curve of their repetitive motion is aggravated by this nonlinearity, and it's probably audible. If this is correct, it would be causing mechanical distortion of the waveform that would slightly blunt the attack and smear the decay of each cycle. Maybe that's why big cones tend to generate more natural sounding deep bass fundamentals. And using EQ to push small cones harder would compound this problem, although true DSP could theoretically correct for much of the problem. I've also previously offered (and been criticized for) my theory on natural intermodulation among the instruments in an ensemble. A performance generates IM among all the tones and overtones being played. As this IM is part of the performance, it's captured in the recording unless each instrument is acoustically isolated and individually mic'ed. If the basses are bowing an A at 55 Hz, and the cellos are playing E above it (82 Hz), the sum and difference tones are recorded along with the notes being played. This adds a 27 Hz component to the source signal at several dB below the notes that generate it. A speaker that's already down 6 dB at 40 will simply not pump out much of that 27 Hz tone. As the same intermodulation is again generated on playback, it's reinforced by the intermodulation on the recording. I suspect that it's part of the sonic richness we're discussing. I also strongly believe that this phenomenon is a major reason for the inability of reproduced music to sound truly live, but that's a different story for another time.
  17. I've used many pro IEMs over the years on stage. I have Westone custom ear molds for them, which I use regularly with the Shure system at the club where my blues band is the house band. But I discovered consumer IEMs for under $100 that are really fine. I found the JBL Reflect line while checking out earbuds at a local big box store, where I really liked (and bought) the Contour 2. The Mini 2 is the same unit without the over-the-ear cable routing that helps hold them in place. The SQ is quite good, with surprisingly tight and solid deep bass anchoring a nice, neutral presentation with great dynamics and spatial presentation. Comply tips make a very comfortable and secure seal that brings out the best from the bottom end. I wear them for hours at a time while traveling and have absolutely no discomfort.
  18. A PARABLE OF ADAPTATION While sitting in the sand meditating, an ancient sage noticed a man crawling toward him with a boat strapped to his back. The sage walked over the man and asked why he was carrying a boat across the desert. The man replied, “I needed this when the desert was an ocean”. REALITY CHECK THIS IS A 24/192 USB/OPT/COAX DAC PREAMP W/REMOTE CONTROL 50WPC AMPLIFIER IT IS THE SIZE OF A PAPERBACK BOOK THIS IS A COMPUTER (RASPBERRY PI ZERO WIRELESS) IT IS SITTING ON A QWERTY KEYBOARD BREAKING NEWS! My introductory piece on the audio value proposition has brought an unexpectedly large and positive response, for which I’m very grateful. But I’m frankly quite surprised at the preponderance of inquiry from Audiophile Stylers interested in smaller, less costly and complex systems because they’re downsizing, simplifying, or otherwise consolidating their space (both physical and emotional). My wife and I just went through this, with unbelievably great results – she actually turned on the music herself today! So I thought a special installment on the audio value proposition and lifestyle change would be a useful addition early in the series. The following facts and philosophy proved very valuable to us as we moved from a 4000 sq ft home to a 2000 sq ft condo apartment, entered our 70s, retired, and optimized our resource base to secure the most enjoyment we can for the rest of our lives. Downsizing is widely considered to be an accommodation to aging, and it often is. But the concept applies equally to those who are simplifying, compacting, or otherwise reducing one or more scopes in their lives for any reason at all. While aging is probably the most common stimulus (as it was for my wife and me), everything from a spiritual awakening to economic change to new demands on time and other resources can precipitate a change in the course of your life. With each change comes a choice - go with the flow or get pulled under by the tide! Each of us has his or her own value scale to guide us in prioritizing use of our time, our money, and even our emotions. Somewhere deep inside, we each know what’s most important to us. We even know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, despite ignoring that little voice more often than we should and at our peril. When faced with an impending life change of any significance, the adjustment process starts with a reassessment of one’s value scale. Knowing what’s important to you is critical to making change work for you. Your wants and needs may not change much, but you’ll almost certainly have to move some up or down on your scale. If your wants are incompatible with impending change, you’re doomed to disappointment. This installment of The Audio Value Equation might best be considered a users’ guide to the reviews and comparisons in the rest of the series. To the many readers who have expressed concern about downsizing in response to the concept of developing your own audio value proposition, I say don’t worry, be happy, the world is your oyster, it’s going to turn out fine! All you have to do, to paraphrase the wise carpenter, is think twice and cut once. After defining and acknowledging your resource base, you’ll find a world of sources, systems, and settings in which to enjoy yourself beyond your wildest dreams. For us, it starts with 10 principles of happy living: There is no such thing as “the best”. There are many alternatives and substitutes for pretty much everything in the world that you could ever want, and you can be happy beyond belief with any of multiple choices. Know what’s really important to you. Most of us don’t really know what it is that we value in our favorite things – we just know that we love them, and we rarely think about why. What you have now and/or have coveted forever is convenient and comfortable – but it’s not the only way to satisfy your wants and needs. Opinions without experience are of limited value. We have many strong likes and dislikes of things we’ve never encountered in our lives. We’ve read about them, heard them praised, and seen the awards others have given them. But we have absolutely no idea if we’ll like them ourselves. You don’t need as much as you think you do. We can live happily (often more happily) without a lot of things we always thought we had to have. We don’t realize this because we’re creatures of habit. We’re a tad slothful, we don’t like change, and we don’t stop to consider whether what we’ve been doing for X years is still as rewarding as it was when we first got it. Change is opportunity. We especially hate (and deny) change that makes us consider our own failings, mortality and frailty. Downsizing is often a response to life changes perceived as limiting and constricting, so we cling to our stuff in the vain hope that we’ll wake up with a check from Publishers’ Clearing House, perfect hearing, and a full head of hair. This ain’t gonna happen – but you’re getting along without those things now and there’s a lot of excitement waiting once you lose the baggage! Everything is a compromise. You’ve “learned the hard way” so many times by now that you must realize you’re tough enough to do it at least a few more times. As long as the positives are stronger than the negatives, you’re a winner! You won’t know if you don’t try. The fact that you didn’t like something in the past does not mean that you won’t like it now. I can’t even remember why I didn’t like a lot of things in my past, including cilantro, the sound of accordions, and dogs. But I love ‘em now! Unrealistic expectations can lead to snap judgments that keep you from finding greatness. First impressions can be spot on, but they can also prevent you from looking past a silly and largely irrelevant flaw. Approach everything with an open mind to see what’s really there. Let your senses guide you, not a desire to preserve the past. None of us has done everything right every time. We’ve all lived with choices made in haste and regretted at leisure. If you’re clinging to something because you can’t admit you made a poor decision, let it go! If it’s a sunk cost, it has no value to you – just give it away if you can’t sell it, and junk it if you can’t give it away. Life is too short to schlep that albatross around your neck. You can probably live without it. If you can’t live without it, find a better alternative. The sun will come up tomorrow, even if you made a less than stellar choice of something. If you define and allocate your resource base before actively making change, you’ll almost certainly not put terminal strain your budget. With some caution and a modicum of commonsense, the stakes are lower and remedies more available than ‘way back when you bought that expensive, limited production amplifier with the novel new circuitry that no one else used – and you found out the next year why no one else used it. PUTTING AUDIO IN PERSPECTIVE FOR MAKING CHANGES Audiophiles are fortunate beyond words and more so than most other hobbyists. Convergence of multiple technologies (old and new) has led to better music reproduction and better toys at lower cost from smaller & simpler devices than any of us would have believed possible not too long ago. Dramatic physical downsizing of audio systems now requires no compromise in sound quality, functionality, or fiddle-ability for anyone able to embrace digital or hybrid systems architecture. Even tube loving analog-to-the-enders can greatly reduce their space and energy requirements, along with the size and impact of their carbon footprint, without losing much (if any - YMMV) sound quality, functionality, or fiddle-ability. We’ve all struggled with stuff that we really wanted but that didn’t drop easily into our lives and that failed to bring joy to us or those we love. When you think about it, there are fairly few categorical needs and considerations to be met for accommodating an audio system: physical space for all the parts of the system including sources, e.g. vinyl, CDs sufficient mounting, support, cooling etc for safe, sound, secure housing of all components an acceptable listening area and environment adequate, accessible power sufficient access among components for interconnection and control concealment as needed for unattractive necessities, e.g. hard wiring, power conditioners PHYSICAL SPACE You can’t get a quart into a pint bottle, but audiophiles are duty bound to try! In the first 8 years of my marriage, we lived in a 1 BR apartment for 2 years before moving to a 2 BR unit so we could have children. After shoehorning Rectilinear IIIs into the 1BR along with a Mac MX110, two power amps, and my Thorens TT, I put a pair of 19” racks in the living room of the 2BR to hold a Crown deck, multiple preamps and amps, an SAE graphic equalizer, a dBx, an oscilloscope, a 3 way electronic crossover, a patch bay, and a host of revolving toys. The electronics were cooled by a pair of Rotron Whisper-Fans through ductwork made from anesthesia and respirator circuit tubing. And it’s better if we don’t even discuss the Infinity Reference Standards I snuck into our new house after #2 son was born. Space is a critical resource for audiophiles, and most of us manage to accumulate at least a few space occupying items as we gear up for sonic splendor. When the need to downsize and simplify brings reassessment to the table, we have to face reality and choose among conflicting priorities. While sound quality is a high and valid priority on anyone’s list, inertia and ego gratification fall below it on the sensible audiophile’s value scale. There’s great stuff in small packages today. Truly stellar sound can come from electronics and speakers of surprisingly slender stature, at very reasonable cost, with minimal compromise compared to either your legacy system or the one you were planning to buy before you found yourself at the crossroads. There were very few physically small high quality audio components before computer audio, none of which made much power. Transformers were basically iron anvils, and the more power you wanted the more iron you needed. A Dyna Stereo 70 power amp weighed 32 lbs, the original MC275 weighed 76 lbs, and the big Mac tube amps weighed up to 135 lbs for an MC2000. Those audiophiles suffering from even moderately advanced gear acquisition syndrome (aka “GAS”) developed many space-occupying lesions including turntables, tape decks, equalizers, noise reduction devices, tuners, etc. And, of course, any system worth having must let you hear, feel and enjoy the longest stops on the largest pipe organ in the world, along with all 97 keys on the Bosendorfer Imperial Grand piano used in a handful of pieces by Debussy, Ravel, Bartók and a very few others. DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL VALUE SCALE Here’s some breaking news: downsizing is not a pejorative term! To downsize is most often thought to mean making or using a smaller version of something, e.g. downsizing a car. Synonyms include to trim, retrench, reduce, diminish, curtail, shrink, cut, deduct, decrease etc – and all suggest or imply a compromise of one kind of another. But with the right mindset and motivation, downsizing becomes nothing more than maximizing efficiency to get the most benefit at the lowest necessary cost from everything you do and everything you have. Whether retiring or just simplifying your life, you need to get rid of everything that takes more from you than it gives you back. If you don’t, you’ll be short on joy and resources before you’re ready to push your “off” button. If you objectively assess how much “value” you got from those anvil amps and monster speakers you adopted so you wouldn’t miss a single dB at 20 Hz, you have to consider whether you even have any music that contains it and, if so, how often you listen to it and if it brings you great joy. You also have to assess available substitutes, e.g. a really fine little sub, or maybe a pair of ‘phones like Sennheiser HD800s (spec’ed at 3 dB down at 14 Hz – haven’t tested, can’t confirm, but they pack a pretty solid punch down there). And once you sell the manse for a condo apartment, you may have to choose between the big system and a spare bedroom. OK – you loved those huge, costly amps and speakers. You flew close to the sun on wings of sonic gossamer, lifted by the air in your soundstage. You know in your heart that you can’t achieve that kind of ecstasy from small stuff at low cost. News flash: it’s 2019 – get that boat off your back, pilgrim! LIST YOUR ESSENTIALS, THEN FOCUS AT THE TOP Thinking through a subject will almost always raise your awareness of its secrets. Bass response is often the deal breaker for audiophiles when buying new gear, so let’s use it as an example of something about which you have to make decisions. Separating reality from your unsubstantiated beliefs and etherial desires is critical to making good decisions when downsizing (and at pretty much every other time). We’ll discuss many specifics throughout this series, but bass is probably the most dramatic issue for many audiophiles. How deep does your music really go and how much bass is enough? “It depends” - but the facts surprise many who previously assumed otherwise. For starters, most recorded music has little or no direct content below 40 Hz. Even a bass drum thwack has most of its fundamental content around 60-80 Hz. The spectral splash of percussive transients that gives definition to that kick drum is actually in the 3k-4k range, so “muddy” bass is at least as often the tweeter’s fault as it is the woofer’s. Further, the wavelength of a 40 Hz tone is 28 feet. So you’d have to be amazingly lucky to have neither troublesome reflections nor standing waves in rooms in which we normal people live, while neighbors lucky enough to live on a node of those long wavelengths originating in your living room will think there’s a typical thumping car stereo outside their windows. Physical acoustic treatment is notoriously ineffective for low frequency anomalies in rooms significantly shorter than 20 feet in longest dimension, while DSP can both improve problems down there and correct wide field frequency response issues in smaller rooms. Among ~2000 vinyl albums, ~1000 CDs, ~30 10 1/2” tape reels, ~100 7” reels, and over 10,000 FLAC files, I own one (count ‘em – ONE!) album on which the extra bass keys on a Bosendorfer are played, and I haven’t listened to it in many years. Although you will surely miss your water if the well runs dry, I’d bet that none of you has suffered much from legal bans and social boycotts of foie gras in 17+ countries around the world plus California by law (and many US restaurants who just believe it’s the right thing to do). We audiophiles, like hobbyists of all stripes, live much of our lives reading and planning and acquiring for experiences we want to have and might have and would love to have…….but probably never will have. As a result, most of our oxen spend their lives un-gored. You simply don’t have much (if any) music in your collection requiring 21” bass bins in any room, let alone a 10’x16’ condo living room with two seating areas and a wall unit. The lowest note on a standard 88 key piano tuned to concert pitch (A=440 H) is a low A at 27.5 Hz – and it’s rarely played. The lowest string on a standard bass is a 41 Hz E. The C foot on a classical double bass bottoms out at about 33 Hz and a 5 string bass (often used now in jazz, blues, pop and rock) only goes down to a 31 Hz B. A good, solid small speaker that’s down 6 dB at 50 Hz will still pump out clean, tight bass because every fundamental is “doubled” by its second harmonic (one octave above), and there’s enough of the fundamental for excellent attack and solidity. And as you won’t have room to stand your ProAcs 3 feet from the walls of the above described living room, you’ll pick up 3 to 6 dB of boundary reinforcement for your bottom end anyway just from wall & corner proximity. If you still need more, there are many excellent small powered subs you can hide behind (or even use as) an end table – we have an 8” Yamaha sub out of sight behind the couches in our living room when my rumble jones hits. “Ahh, but I’m an organ music lover!” you say. The lowest standard pitch on a pipe organ (called the “normal” or “standard” pitch) is the 64 Hz tone generated by an 8’ pipe, and the bottom descends from there as longer pipes are added up to the maximum stop of 32’ (which puts out a 16 Hz tone). Most of the world’s pipe organs go “only” to 16’ (32 Hz), with only the largest cathedral organs in the world having a 32’ pipe and in a few cases, two of them. There are only two 64’ stops in the world, as far as I know. I grew up with one, having been born and raised in Atlantic City, where the Midmer-Losh organ in Boardwalk Hall (formerly Atlantic City Convention Hall) has a 64’ stop. I actually got to play the thing once during rehearsal for our high school graduation, and I can promise you that it’s pretty impressive. And you’ll simply have to trust me that no audio system brings it into your listening room. The only other 64 footer of which I’m aware is the William-Hill organ built for the Sydney Town Hall in 1890. It was the world’s largest organ until my home town did the Midmer-Losh in about 1930, and “ours” is still the largest pipe organ in the world based on number of pipes (some of which are not currently functional and for which restoration is still planned). Philadelphia also has the original pipe organ in what was the John Wanamaker Building until that company’s bankruptcy and demise. As I recall, it’s now the largest fully functional organ in the world, having been enlarged and restored several times to its current grandeur with 6 manuals and about 30,000 pipes. The other world class pipe organ with which I’m personally acquainted was another Atlantic City Midmer-Losh, this one in the Atlantic City High School building (now demolished) in which I toiled for 4 years. With 5 manuals and thousands of pipes, it was one of the largest and best organs in the world when built in the 1920s – and, again, no audio system I’ve ever heard can come close to the live sound of this instrument. Oh, yes – this organ only goes to 16’ as I recall. It’s now in a private home (!) in Arizona. Why do I go into this detail about organs? There are two reasons: first, I want to reassure you that I really do know what a pipe organ sounds like and I’m not giving you hollow advice or information. Second, pipe organ lovers may be overdramatizing their need for huge speakers driven by amplifiers whose output is measured in horsepower. There are so few recordings made on organs like the above that you needn’t fear having to tolerate a weak 64’ stop when you downsize. Even if you’re fortunate enough to downsize with sufficient space for giant components, their marginal cost over smaller stuff most often exceeds their marginal quality, and their size alone makes them less flexible in placement for best listening. Most smaller home environments are limited by their designs, dimensions, and physical properties in both providing naturally fine acoustics and responding to physical and electronic treatment to sonic improvement. So when placed in small rooms, it’s usually much easier to position and control physically small systems, and you can get stellar sound quality from some mighty small boxes. This is especially true when you can add DSP and subwoofers to computer based systems. The great news is that you can almost certainly get the same sound quality and functionality you have now from a system of components about 15% the size of your current stuff, for 25% of its equivalent new cost today. You can use the electricity already available in most modern apartments or townhouses, without the need to have an electrician run dedicated 20 amp lines (which you almost certainly won’t be able to do in many condos). In articles to come, we’ll drill down on each category of component to evaluate and compare multiple real world choices in home environments. But to start your thinking and focus your search for downsize-friendly items, there’s a list at the end of this installment of some of the things we’ve evaluated and our current selections used in the 5 systems now in our apartment. This is where the rubber meets the road, and it’s truly an exciting drive for the flexible, adventurous and innovative audiophile. HOUSING, FEEDING, POWERING ETC Our first apartment after marriage was a 1 bedroom unit of about 1000 square feet. My wife filled the closet with clothes and shoes. I filled half of the living room with a large, low, solid teak table that held the system described in the intro above plus a wooden box filled with turntable / arm setup tools and record maintenance aids: Zerostat, Memorex and Discwasher record brushes, stylus mirror and cleaning brushes, Signet ultrasonic stylus cleaner, stylus pressure gauges, alignment jigs, etc. Flanked by a pair of Rectilinear IIIs (pretty good and fairly large floorstanders most of you probably never heard of), the system was shocking to my new bride, whose family music center was an RCA portable stereo record player. Building codes were not what they are today, so there was only one duplex outlet at each end of the wall behind the system and another on each of the end walls. I plugged a “contractor’s” double duplex box on fat, ugly black 12 gauge 3 conductor cable into one outlet in each wall box, which thrilled my wife no end as it was all quite visible. But it did leave outlets for television, table lamps, vacuum cleaners, etc - so we lived with it. Those of you with legacy systems of considerable bulk and complexity already know that sources alone occupied huge amounts of your personal space. Shelf and storage space for records, open reel tapes, cassettes, CDs etc was at least equal to the combined footprints of electronics and speakers for many of us. And all that stuff was heavy - a hundred standard quality 12” LP records weigh about 33 pounds plus sleeves and jackets, and they take up about 17 1/2” of linear shelf space at least 12” high and 12” deep. Of course, records and tapes also had to be protected from dust and extremes of temperature and humidity while being gently held in a vertical position. Audiophiles without dedicated space, strong stable storage, sufficient power, and adequate HVAC were at an extreme disadvantage for sound quality, flexibility, and usability of their systems until the advent of digital audio. But if you’re “right-sizing” today, you can forget about almost all of the above issues. In fact, you can almost always put together a system that meets your requirements for it while blending into your space. The days of 19” rack mount cabinets for home audio are long gone – we’ve replaced them with very high quality “mini” rack and shelf systems that offer far greater stability, flexibility, and hideability while looking good enough to receive spousal approval. A few basic needs remain, including adequate power of adequate quality and the need for environmental control around devices. But even those needs are different now and more easily met in smaller residential environments. We have both knowledge and devices sufficiently functional and attractive for open use in our homes to ensure that every component in an audio system has clean, stable power from its own outlet along with temperate filtered air. The interaction of power line nonlinearities and EMI (both ambient and entering through power portals) are not yet as well understood for class D amplification as they are for traditional analog class A or B circuitry of any type (e.g. vacuum tube, traditional transistor, FET etc). But high quality class D amplifiers (OK – please save your flames for that review) have integral management methods for both power line interference and EMI. These amplifiers are no more sensitive to power line problems than any other type. With appropriate system considerations like optimal circuit design and the shortest possible power and speaker wires, many sound extremely fine and can replace serious legacy hardware. INNOVATION IS YOUR BEST FRIEND As the impetus for this “special edition” was inquiries about helping audiophiles to downsize and other adapt to similar life changes, I’ll start by suggesting that one of the critical abilities for a successful morph is innovation in integrating your living and listening environments. If you still have a dedicated listening room after moving from the empty nest, you can ignore what comes next – but you’ll never reach equilibrium with the future if you don’t at least consider innovation as an aid to long and happy life. A lot of this is also about being greener, preserving our resources for future generations of audiophiles, and teaching them a better way to think about how their lives and loves impact their world. INNOVATION WITH LAYOUT, FURNITURE, STORAGE, ETC My wife and I typify the older AS cohort. On retirement, we downsized from a large 5 BR home we designed, built, and therefore controlled, to a very nice 2 BR condo apartment that’s “preconfigured” unless we want to do major renovation at considerable expense (which we don’t). The house was all ours – furniture, floors, walls, ceiling height, HVAC, etc were entirely to our specification. The condo is what it is, leaving us to integrate our stuff as best we could and find new items to replace what we didn’t want to being with us. So innovative integration was number one: figure out exactly what you need and find or build it. This applies both to your audio systems and how you fit them in your space. We learned in the first month that many years of having what we wanted had unexpected effects on our ability to compromise. We discovered that downsizing is a major compromise in itself, and it left us a bit more sensitive to the little things that make ya’ go “ugh”. What helped the most was our ability to wait until we found what we wanted & needed, rather than compromise purely to fill a space or provide a function. So patience and optimism are innovation number two: you can and will find what you want and need in a form compatible with your downsizing plans. You just have to wait for it. Use our approach to fashioning and housing our downsized audio system and sources as an excellent example. The best start is always to determine your needs, your wants, and the resources you’re going to devote to each. We did a fairly intensive needs assessment and decided to use the second bedroom (13’x18’) as a combined library and den, with a good queen sleeper sofa to accommodate the odd family members or friends we couldn’t persuade to stay at the very nice Hilton about a mile away 😁 Ooops! The library was also my listening room – there was no audio equipment in the living room of the house. Now what? You could hear the gears turning as we reached an acceptable compromise with no difficulty (well…..not much, anyway). We decided to put a smaller system in the multipurpose room, with powered monitors flanking a 39” smart TV and our computer and network hardware on the counter. Our Focal towers would go on either side of the grand piano at one end of the living room and be driven by a separate system living under the piano. Innovation number three is looking out of the box for what you need. In this case, there are some very fine and solid stainless steel shelf systems for commercial kitchens that easily support hundreds of pounds and provide for excellent air flow. We pieced 2 and 3 shelf systems together for both living room and library system support. The shelves shown on the library counter hold 3 NAS units, a network switch, an iFi DAC, an ASUS Chromebox, a NUC, a Samsung SmartHub, an Xfinity X1 box, and appropriate power strips for all. A similar unit at the left end of the counter holds an H-P PC, a Parasound preamp, an M-audio digital interface (ADC-DAC + headphone amp), 2 USB drives, and second network switch. My Thorens TD125 is barely visible on the counter at the left end of the picture. (Yes, I know I have to level the cabinet doors- I’ll get to it!) Remembering our requirement that the room also sleep two in a pinch, we got the largest sleep sofa we could fit along the wall. But respecting innovation number two, we searched until we found a sofa we loved that happened to be a queen size sleeper. It had to be right, since it’s also where we usually watch movies – we can eat on the coffee table in front of it and the desktop audio system is great for HT sound. Across from the sofa is a 15’ built-in having cabinets above and below a counter top with desk alcove. This left 46” from the sofa’s armrest to the back wall, which spans 50” from the corner to the window. So we had to find a 48” long, floor to ceiling shelf unit that looked good enough to live with and was both strong enough and deep enough to hold at least 1500 albums plus several pieces of audio equipment. This took about 3 months of searching, both on line and in every furniture store we could find. We were rewarded with the most solid étagère we’d ever seen by respecting innovations number 2 and 3! it’s exactly the right size in every dimension, truly gorgeous, and strong enough to hold hundreds of pounds despite being truly fine furniture. It was a display piece that I noticed through the window of a store that was going out of business – I bought it directly off the floor for a fraction of its original price. It also serves as my lab bench for audio experimentation and evaluation. INNOVATION IN SYSTEM DESIGN AND ACQUISITION Much of the current computer based audiophile spectrum is based on cutting edge hardware and software that changes and advances almost daily. Few people have extensive experience with all available products, and there’s plenty of room for creative experimentation in every aspect of system design and implementation. With so much great stuff now available at what would be bargain basement prices for legacy analog equipment of the same quality and capability, it’s easier and cheaper than ever to experiment. It’s also cheap and easy to practice continuous quality improvement, when amplifiers of decent quality can be had for $250, computer sources like Raspberry Pis cost $35, and an amazing assortment of open source software is available for no more than you want to contribute to its creators if you love it. A lot of past innovation is begging to be tried again. Think about the “double Advent” adventure chronicled by Harry Pearson in TAS Vol 1 No 1. He raved about the sound quality of stacked Advent speakers pared in parallel, after citing as their 3 biggest drawbacks for audiophiles that they were commercially successful, readily available, and low in demands on back and budget. “It is very difficult to take a $120 speaker system seriously”, said HP in 1973! He then went on to detail how wonderful paired Advents were, to wit: “The bass, if anything had that certain low end sock that you hear in a good hall” “The upper strings, massed violins in particular, began to sound like massed strings” “relatively colorless”, “very smooth” “Quite obviously, a speaker system in the authoritative class...” Remember that $120 in 1973 is about $700 today. The Martin Logan 4i currently reviewed on AS is $249. For the cost of 4 of those those paired advents today ($2800), you can buy a pair of 4is plus a small ML powered sub at list price and have almost $2k left for the rest of your system plus a lifetime Roon subscription and dinner for 4 at a really nice restaurant. Nothing is stopping you from doing this kind of thing today. Given the ease of buying and selling high quality, popular, inexpensive equipment both locally and on the internet, there is no reason not to experiment like this - and you have every good reason to do so. Next time they go on sale, consider doubling up on two pairs of small Wharfdales, DefTechs etc. You may be very pleasantly surprised at the bass, the image, the soundstage, and/or other characteristics. Maybe there’s serious synergy in pairing small active monitors on each channel, or single driver wonders like the KEF – who knows? INNOVATE WITH SOFTWARE A lot of great audio programs are open source, and many can be run on small board / single box computers. The next installment of this series evaluates and compares dozens of open source players for Windows, Mac, Linux, and proprietary JEOSs (“just enough operating systems”). Beyond players, you can get and play with everything from processors and equalizers to electronic crossovers like the EKIO that will let you split your input into multiple frequency bands using the channels of a MC receiver or DAC to power single range drivers individually. With these crossover programs, you can experiment with crossover points, slopes, time alignment, etc to find and set up what you think sounds best. Many audiophiles prefer the SQ of one open source player to another. Try it & see if you’re one. You can even run Windows programs like Foobar2000 on Linux boxes using a program called WINE (“Wine Is Not an Emulator”!). It works very well and opens up a world of windows to Linux users at no cost. There are so many plugins for Foobar now that it’s impossible for me to catalog them all here. There’s a crossover program that lets you biamp or triamp as long as you have a MC sound card in or connected to your computer. Many of these crossover and MC programs will output bit perfect audio through HDMI as well as optical, coax and USB. So you can use a high quality AV receiver (also inexpensive these days) to drive a multi-amped stereo system plus subs, saving money and space when rightsizing. You can also run a home theater from the same unit if it has switchable speaker outputs. Innovate with software on your mobile device, too. Control, stream, monitor and share your files over your home network and out to the internet. I use 3 old smartphones as remotes in my home system. INNOVATE WITH HARDWARE You can and should explore the world of pretty fine equipment made for musicians. It includes ADCs, DACs, and system components for live music reinforcement, as well as recording, mastering, and playback software and hardware. I use an M-Audio USB audio interface for recording that has a stereo 24/192 DAC (from AKM, I believe) and sounds so good that I often listen to music on my AKG-701s through it. I love the huge gain control knob, and the entire device appears to be made extremely well of high quality materials in a metal case. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this as the DAC in a home audio system – sound quality is equal to my Emotiva XDRs and close enough to my Stealth to keep me happy. It’s not as flexible (e.g. I&O options and control, balanced ins and outs). But for a small, inexpensive, reliable home audio system with very fine SQ, it’s more than up to the task. And it cost me $100 brand new! With the arrival of the Raspberry Pi 4, you can have a serious little computer with gigabit ethernet, dual 4k HDMI outputs, a quad core 1.5G CPU, 4G of onboard RAM, and USB 3 – for $55! The default operating system (Raspbian) is pretty good for audio. You can also run any of several alternatives including Ubuntu Mate, which I like a lot. The 4 is a pretty competent little computer that can even hold its own against a stock ASUS Chromebox, another fine and inexpensive little audio source on which I’m currently running Ubuntu 18.04 and a host of servers dishing out everything from music files to 3 fully functional internet sites. I have a full JRMC instance on a Pi 3B+ that works just fine. If you’re curious as to whether something – ANYthing - might work, it’s cheap and easy to find out. Your old laptop may be just what you need to pump music into your system or home network. You can always let your home PC double as a music server while you’re sorting tings out – and you may find out it’s pretty fine at the job. INNOVATE WITH ANCILLARIES, CONNECTIONS ETC WiFi has changed a lot in only a few years. Multi-access systems are now commonly used for best performance in tough areas like thick-walled condo buildings with hundreds of surrounding, competing WiFi signals. You can consider a “mesh” system, a range extender, and other options for cleanest and most reliable WiFi transmission. I set up a range extender at the far end of our 2000 sq foot apartment, and we have no problem with Roku sticks at both ends of the unit. I set them up to test Comcast’s recent beta Roku app that streams our Comcast cable programming to Roku receivers….and it works great! Did you know that there’s now wireless HDMI? I’m also running a Nyrius Aries+ system in our condo, because there’s literally no place or way to run wire or fiber inside our walls and ceilings – the building is stressed concrete and many walls are only a few layers of drywall separated by furring strips. With wireless HDMI, we can have full cable programming (including On Demand) in rooms to which we can’t run a drop or an HDMI cable. Decide what you want and what you need when rightsizing. Then go out and find it – it’s probably already available. If it’s not there, look to commercial and other nontraditional solutions you can adopt and adapt. it’s out there, it’s inexpensive, it’s educational. And it’s fun. Best of all, new tech can make downsizing not only tolerable but downright great! INNOVATION WITH DESIGN AND PRESENTATION Downsizing really sucks up floor space! But there are other surfaces waiting to be used, and innovative ways to use them. My favorite example is track lighting – there’s some great mounting hardware on them there ceilings, just begging us to use it! It will help you blend speakers into the woodwork, and it’s powered. I’m building a pair of small platforms to suspend small, wireless, powered monitors using the fittings that support pendant track lighting. I use H track, but the other systems are equally fine and there are many accessories available for each. Adapters like the two on my desktop in properly mounted track will easily support systems like Audioengine 2+. Drive them with a BT dongle for a noncritical background system or as rear speakers. I’ll have mine up and running for the speaker evaluation piece. Keep your eyes and your mind open, and you’ll find many opportunities to innovate when choosing, setting up, and enjoying your audio system. There are a million ways to skin a GUI ! SO IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT DOWNSIZING…….. Relax! Do not worry about your sound system options. You don’t need half of the stuff and function that you think you do. You don’t need big, expensive, hot, ugly, boxy components and dedicated audio space with sturdy shelves and racks. You’ll still need clean power and enough outlets, but that’s easy to achieve these days. Cables and multiple outlet strips or adapters even look pretty good now, and there are many attractive ways to guide / conceal / manage exposed wiring in living areas. You can run your connections optimally for noise reduction etc with great ease. You’ll have better sound and more fun with your new system than you ever dreamed you could have with your old one. There are many ways to have great sound in small spaces for far less than the cost of the same SQ in your current system. You can set up a very nice system de novo for under $500 to give you music in your new surroundings while you reach equilibrium with them. You’ll have time to consider your audio value scale, decide on your compromises, seek the right equipment, and locate it in your new digs. Stay tuned for detailed presentations of your options in software, front end hardware, processing hardware, amplification, interconnections, and housing of your system. But also be on the lookout for solutions of your own. Remember the double Advent and let your mind wander a bit – you might be the next audio genius! And now back to evaluations and comparisons…….. Here's the list with some of the things we’ve evaluated and our current selections used in the 5 systems now in our apartment. homelist.pdf
  19. The forum search seems to show no poll on operating system choice since 2012. I'm wrapping up an AS review of current players and platforms for the Finding Value in Audio series, so I thought it was time to check again and compare results with the last one. Like me, many of you have multiple devices running different operating systems, both for different functions (e.g. server, player, control, endpoint, renderer, playlist visualization etc) and to evaluate differences for yourself. Because of this, the new poll includes more than the one from 2012, so we can have a data baseline for future analyses. There's so much hardware now that I'll start a new thread for that poll. I can only find the 1G of RAM version of the new Pi4 so far, and I want to both set it up myself and see how others are doing with it before I can prepare a thorough, current hardware survey and evaluation. With the new processor and 4 gigs of RAM, the audio possibilities seem great! And with a Win10 version coming for ARM that's not IoT and will allegedly run well on the new Raspberry Pi 4, at least some of you Windows lovers will want to try it - I sure do. So I'll wait a few weeks to see if the Pi4 becomes readily available with 4G of RAM and if we can openly and easily get Win10 for ARM. To refresh your memory, here's the final tally on the 2012 poll:
  20. 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!
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
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