PC based audio

joel

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I'm looking for some opinions here on PC /laptop/IP based audio.

My feeling is that laser based audio (CD, DVD, BD) is if not quite dead, then at least on its last legs.
Saving your whole music collection stored losslessly on hard drives (with hopefully a secure back up) just makes sense to me.
When record companies realise that they can make more money and protect local interests , buying on line will eventually become the norm (even here).

Who really needs players with moving parts that can break?

There are however a few issues that need to be resolved, and the main one in my eyes is format.
What formats (and I use FLAC for the music on my PC and even little media player) is currently widely supported, and more importantly will be supported into the future?

What is the best way to get your music data of your hard drive?
Where should the decoding be done?

As an aside AVSA took quite a lot of flack when we started featuring Media type devices. This as these weren't seen as real Hi-FI.
As it turns out we were correct to trust our judgement that this was a segment worth looking at. 
 

KenMasters

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Well, I don't use a CD player anymore, but while my solution is somewhat PC based, I'm really not the sort to go for a HT PC. It makes no practical sense for me as I don't have things like movies and TV shows on my PC and I don't play PC games.

I simply use my i-Pod, connected to my reciever digitally with my reciever doing the D/A conversion. For my needs, I feel it's the most simple and elegant solution.

I have my entire music collection stored on my i-Pod losslessly, ready to play on my system, and when I hit the road I just pick it up off my dock (fully charged) and make my way out the door. And if ever anything where to happen to my i-Pod, it's all backed up on my portable HDD (and vice-versa).
 

Rodney_gold

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The way to do this is to isolate the player and the PC - if you try to set up a direct PC to hifi link you are faced with a few issues.
You need a decent pc and soundcard , you need to have the PC near the system or will be limited as to it's mobility if hard wired and there is all the digital/analog/clock/jitter  hash to contend with.
The only audiophile format to use is a lossless one , and the reason most use formats other than wav is cos you can tag the track easily , facilitating searches , adding tons of info and artwork.
Easiest is to set up a music server and to run a wireless streaming device like a logitech touch etc. The PC can be stuck away anywhere , it can also just be a NAS and you use your home wireless router to send the data to a buffered device that decodes it to SPDIF or an analog signal. the device is placed near your hifi.
The biggest problem with this is the user interface, some devices will need a tv screen , some have their own screen and some can use Ipods/ipads/iphones as a controller - ideally you want to be able to see what you are selecting and have an interface that is intuitive to use. In terms of utility , the interface will make or break the device.
As to sound quality , well if you put out SPDIF , you will get as good as it gets and sometimes better than a transport. Most cheap devices have ok'ish dacs , useable but not high end.
Once you go puter based and realise that its as good as it gets re "old high end digital front end" , you will never go back. Add in the fact that you can play high rez tracks and it gets even better. The hardware is also REAL cheap - a touch is now $299 and you can use an old laptop or pc to host the server. wireless routers are R600 or so...
Limitations re wireless have nothing to do with quality - it has more to do with the wireless network capacity - if you stream a 24/192 feed that is decoded from lossless on the server side and have a whole lot of other stuff on the wireless network , you might have problems in terms of stuttering and dropouts , but you can wire with network cable which STILL isolates the pc from the device as it streams packet data and not an actual SPDIF or analog signal.
This is the future, I have 2800 cds on HD and use this and wireless streamers as my source on a variety of pretty high end systems and actually find myself listening to about double the amount of music as before as well as listening to stuff I had forgotten about.
Problem in SA with DL's is lack of bandwidth , that too should become less of an issue in the next few yrs.
 

Audio Bug

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I ripped my CD collection in WAV lossless to a portable hard drive (1TB for R1k) and connected it to the USB port on my Marantz SR7005. However, I found the sound to be a bit tinny or bright when compared to CD playback. Bought a WireWorld USB cable and this improved the sound somewhat, especially the lower frequencies, but the higher frequencies are still a bit bright. Is this an unavoidable cost for the convenience of having all your music on a hard drive?
 

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I believe a possible solution for this in the not too distant future (Couple of models already available) is for the mainstream Hi Fi manufacturers to market component sized media streamer / dac devices, which can have the software upgraded via the net, thus preserving the seperates domain.

I see Rotel & Marantz both offer Internet 'Tuners' which can also be streamed to from a PC, not a huge leap to add hard drives and appropriate software / codecs, building on their experience as 'stereo' manufacturers.

The Linn Uniti (at a very high price!!!) springs to mind, surely this will get cheaper as other follow suit?
 

KenMasters

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Rodney_gold said:
This is the future, I have 2800 cds on HD and use this and wireless streamers as my source on a variety of pretty high end systems and actually find myself listening to about double the amount of music as before as well as listening to stuff I had forgotten about.

Wow, that's a lot of music. I consider myself lucky if I can find even ten albums a year I like enough to buy.

Antman said:
The Linn Uniti (at a very high price!!!) springs to mind, surely this will get cheaper as other follow suit?

A friend of my wife's has a NaimUniti, very cool little unit. He doesn't use any of the more advanced features though, strictly CD and i-Pod.
 

Byrd2

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joel said:
As an aside AVSA took quite a lot of flack when we started featuring Media type devices.
No pun intended ... :)
joel said:
There are however a few issues that need to be resolved, and the main one in my eyes is format.
What formats (and I use FLAC for the music on my PC and even little media player) is currently widely supported, and more importantly will be supported into the future?
The FLAC format is open source. It has no DRM management and will therefore not have a future as a commercial format.

joel said:
What is the best way to get your music data of your hard drive?
Best way is ripping with a "secure" ripping program such as EAC or dbpoweramp that has the ability to do multiple reads of the same sector to ensure that the disk is being read properly.

joel said:
Where should the decoding be done?
Depends on what you mean. For me the most convenient is usualy the best. Ipod or even PC running into an asynchronous DAC. (I don't believe in hash from the PC so it doesnt enter the system ;D ). I prefer those that don't need to have an external screen / monitor attached though. Just a psychological comfort thing though.
 

Rotten Johnny

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Byrd said:
The FLAC format is open source. It has no DRM management and will therefore not have a future as a commercial format.
I disagree, DRM in music has gone the way of the dodo.  You can already buy lossless music in FLAC format from a number of providers including bands themselves, Linn, HDTracks etc.  FLAC is being adopted specifically because of its openness and resulting interoperability.  Sure, Apple doesn't support it because it doesn't suit their business model of all things proprietary.  Instead they borrowed from the code, made changes to create their own format and include DRM support, much like Microsoft did with WMA lossless.  Few music etailers bother with selling Apple lossless or WMA format.
 

Rotten Johnny

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Audio Bug said:
Is this an unavoidable cost for the convenience of having all your music on a hard drive?
Could be the issue lies with your Marantz' DAC.  With a good DAC in train the results shouldn't be any worse than that you achieve playing back via CD.
 

Byrd2

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Looking at Intel's new processors with DRM at hardware level tells me things are going to be going in a different direction. When the companies can use a container format that can't be easily duplicated then I forsee a change. Another example of this hardware level protection is Macrovision, which was implemented years ago, but is now starting to affect consumers. Try recording something off of satellite. The death of windows has been predicted for years now by the open source brigade because of activation. Nothing has changed. You want the product you submit to the machine.
 

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audiomuze said:
Could be the issue lies with your Marantz' DAC.  With a good DAC in train the results shouldn't be any worse than that you achieve playing back via CD.
They should in fact be better eliminating the effects of jitter of the optical transport.
 

chipwelder

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Jeepers HDD's crash more regularly than CDP's / Original CD's... And SSD is still very expensive, but on that side I've had 2/5 Flash disks fail on me... so who knows what is reliable these days... except vinyl now - it may get scratchy, and is a b!tch to back up in case of fire...
 

Rotten Johnny

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I agree with Rodney in that once you have your collection ripped and readily accessible using a Squeezebox or like device, there is no going back to CD.  To my mind the single biggest weakness in digital audio today is the user interface.  Most are clunky (e.g. medi8ter, iTunes, SqueezeboxServer) and those that aren't are extremely expensive.  3rd party addons such as the iPeng software that turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into an effective wireless remote go some way to alleviating this, but in general terms it's fair to say that UI's still leave a lot to be desired.
 

Rotten Johnny

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Byrd said:
Looking at Intel's new processors with DRM at hardware level tells me things are going to be going in a different direction. When the companies can use a container format that can't be easily duplicated then I forsee a change. Another example of this hardware level protection is Macrovision, which was implemented years ago, but is now starting to affect consumers. Try recording something off of satellite. The death of windows has been predicted for years now by the open source brigade because of activation. Nothing has changed. You want the product you submit to the machine.
I've yet to encounter a form of DRM aimed at the consumer that hasn't been circumvented.  In any event, should it all get tied up at CPU level I really wouldn't care that much ... most of today's music is crap anyhow :)
 

Rodney_gold

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A 1 tb hd is down to R600 external , R400 internal , the price of 2-3 cds- buy a few, keep one on site , another offsite.
Consumers will not buy protected stuff, if the music industry doesnt see that, they doomed, they already smarting from trying to implement it..there is also the issue of fair useage..I want my music on my ipod , my hd and perhaps burn to cd..
Seems USB interface is not the best without asynchronous thingymebobs..dunno too much about it but spdif is fine , there is
NO overhead sonically to having your music on HD , in fact you might have a better copy as your rip might be more accurate than the cdp on playback
I have been buying cds from when they came out , early 80's ,its now 30 yrs on , my wife and kid buy as well , 2800 is about 1 a week each, I often bought a lot more when trawling boot sales/cash crusaders/pawnshops  etc - also bought a lot overseas at good prices
I don't listen to em all as its like 2800 hrs of music and even if I listened for 5 hrs a day , its almost 2 yrs worth. Still , I archived em all..some of my earlier stuff is actually not playable anymore , the cd that is,  due to mishandling and other issues.
In terms of 30 yrs on from now ,undoubtedly the hds we use now will be unsupported , but you just move up to the latest tech.
Can you buy a floppy disc reader these days?
 

Byrd2

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audiomuze said:
I've yet to encounter a form of DRM aimed at the consumer that hasn't been circumvented.  In any event, should it all get tied up at CPU level I really wouldn't care that much ... most of today's music is crap anyhow :)
I think it becomes more of a question of is it worth the hassle.

I agree that it is CRAP having to deal with, and that most of these schemes has been able to be bypassed. I am just pointing out what I think is comming from what I see in the hardware and the general attitude of greed of the music muckers.

One system which there has been no circumvention for yet (although I am sure somebody will tell me there is) is STEAM used in gaming software which by its nature requires you to be online. When we are all connected 24/7 with implants in our brains I bet we are going to have to pay sewerage tax based on how many times a day we take crap and the music moguls will be in on that deal, charging us extra for listening to tracks during "peak times"
 

oradba69

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I have also ripped all my cds to both 320kb mp3(varaible) and apple lossless.
Up to now I have used my pc connected to a cheap musiland dac.
Waiting for my arcam rdac, moving over to my imac and using this software:
http://www.avguide.com/review/pure-music-software-tas-209
Controlling everything from my iphone or ipad(if I can steal it from Charmain)  ;)
 
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