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Jabberwock
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A fork in the road

Some History:

Hi, I am new to the world of Audiophilia, it has only been a few months since I picked up Stereophile. I was at a Chapters (book store) trying to find something to help me fall asleep, when I came across Stereophile. I was looking to buy some speakers for my computer, so I decided to grab it. Within days I was launched into a world of tube amps, vinyl and crazy $10,000 wire. Rest assured though it is a world I have come to love. So it wasn't long before I bought my equipment, nothing fancy (I am university student), a pair of PSB Alpha B1s and a NAD 325BEE integrated amp (w00t Canadian Combo, kind of like Poutine), I am using my computer (currently onboard audio) and an old DVD player I have, for playback.

The Dilemma:

It is just about time for my oh so needed next upgrade. Logically I need to improve my source of audio playback. My problem is universal, Analogue Vs Digital, CD/SACD vs. DAC/Computer, Squeezebox? I was hopping you could help me make my decision, adding insight and info I may have over looked or not come across during my researching. My budget is entry level, low, around $500 it is flexible but the more frugal I can be the more money I have to actually spend on music (and food).

My options (you are welcome to add more):

dcstep
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Re: A fork in the road

With a $500 budget you really can't go both vinyl AND digital at the same time unless you're a really good and knowledgeable buyer. I'm assuming that you're here because you need help.

You say you've already got CDs, do you already have vinyl also. If the answer is no, then go with the Oppo universal player as a source. If you've got a lot of mp3s you can convert them to disc and/or connect your player to your NAD.

I think vinyl demands a $500 entry level budget, unless you really know your way around and can find a used deal. However, I wouldn't recommend it yet unless you've already got some vinyl or have a source in mind.

Music servers are in a period of rapid development. I think that within a year there'll be hi rez servers available. As a student you probably don't have your mansion yet, so I'd just stick with a real flexible deck for now OR, if you insist, use your computer as a server. There's much discussion in a different forum here at Stereophile.com

Dave

linden518
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Re: A fork in the road

I think you can definitely get a decent CD set-up w/ $500. The cheapest quality route seems to be Oppo Digital 980, which everyone raves about. I haven't heard it, but I've heard someone using an older Sony Playstation 1s as CD source, and it sounded pretty damn good to me. You can pick one up for like 40 bucks, and it will be a good hold-over until you save up for a nice CD player.

I have a Squeezebox 3 & the sound quality is nothing to write home about, unless you run it through a DAC. I've chosen to get Cambridge Audio 840C, which is a CDP that can serve as a DAC: kill 2 birds w/ 1 stone, as I run my Squeezebox through it. The chip inside Cambridge Audio is pretty killer... I think Esoteric also uses the same chip. I think you can also use 740C like that, & it's cheaper. So my advice on the digital front is: get the SB3 and Oppo (or the PS1), and when you upgrade, get a nice CDP which has digital input and lets you use its DAC for your SB.

I'm trying to learn about getting into analog, too, so I can't really help you there. But it does seem costlier than getting into digital, so if I were you, I'd take care of the digital end first. Then really save up for a nice analog system that you'd be happy with.

smejias
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Re: A fork in the road


Quote:
I've heard someone using an older Sony Playstation 1s as CD source, and it sounded pretty damn good to me. You can pick one up for like 40 bucks, and it will be a good hold-over until you save up for a nice CD player.

If you use the PS1, be sure to use a model with RCA inputs (model SCPH-1001). Those who support the PS1 as being a good audiophile-quality alternative also recommend running it for at least a couple of weeks before seriously listening.

John Marks will offer his thoughts on the PS1 in our April issue.

Jabberwock
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Re: A fork in the road

Thank you for your replies. First of all, the $500 dollars is not strict, and only meant for one of the mediums. I am heavily leaning towards vinyl, mostly because I grew up in the digital age and wanna know what all the hype is about and actually having something physical as opposed to a file on a computer. I live in Toronto I know of a few vinyl shops but nothing spectacular close by, I would have to drive a little bit to obtain vinyl. That was my main concern with it. Although I do have a really good used CD shop, nearby.

One last question, why would I need RCA inputs for the PS1 if I am only using it for CD playback?

Thank You

linden518
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Re: A fork in the road

Yeah, I forgot to mention the SCPH 1001 model... I don't think other models cut it. From what I've heard, too, you should keep the PS1 on at all times.

You need the RCA connection so you can hook it up to your amp's unbalanced RCA input.

P.S. - Can't wait to read John Marks on PS1

BillB
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Re: A fork in the road


Quote:
Yeah, I forgot to mention the SCPH 1001 model... I don't think other models cut it. From what I've heard, too, you should keep the PS1 on at all times.

You need the RCA connection so you can hook it up to your amp's unbalanced RCA input.

P.S. - Can't wait to read John Marks on PS1

I think this needs correction - he asked why he needs RCA INPUTS on the ps1 if he is just outputting the signal from it - in which case he is right, no need for RCA audio inputs into the ps1.

linden518
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Re: A fork in the road

Oops. Thanks for the correction, BillB. Should've read it more carefully.

BillB
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Re: A fork in the road

No sweat. I neevr mak enny mistooks, mysselff.

rabpaul
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Re: A fork in the road

Can I suggest to concentrate on just one of these and only when you are comfortable with it to move on.
As you are already PC based look into the Sonus System. When a good used DAC comes along you are pretty much set.
Vinyl would be next. Look into Rega or a used TT. There will lots of people who will advise, so you will be in good hands.
Skip SACD as you are just never going to match a Sonus/DAC with any cheap SACD system.
BTW the SB Duet looks like the answer from Slim Devices to the Sonus System so may want to wait for it.

tomjtx
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Re: A fork in the road

X2 on the Slim Devices Duet with new remote.
I am a beta tester for both and it is a great interface. The remote also works with Transporter so if you upgrade later you will already have the cool remote.

Elk
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Re: A fork in the road


Quote:
X2 on the Slim Devices Duet with new remote.
I am a beta tester for both and it is a great interface.


Are there any new features provided or is the improvement just the existence of a neat remote with a screen? That is, can the Duet do anything the SB cannot?

It appears to me that the only difference is a really cool remote that incorporates a display, instead of a boring remote and reading the display off of the SB or Transporter itself.

Jabberwock
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Re: A fork in the road

I was wondering the same thing. The Duet uses a different DAC, tom do you know if there is an audible difference between the two.

Thank You.

Elk
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Re: A fork in the road


Quote:
The Duet uses a different DAC,


Really?

Do you know more?

Jabberwock
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Re: A fork in the road


Quote:

Quote:
The Duet uses a different DAC,


Really?

Do you know more?

All I know is:
The original Squeezebox uses a Burr Brown DAC.

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