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firedog
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HD based music server confusion

I want to build a PC music server setup. I will only be using the source unit to feed the digital out to my TACT 2.2 XP preamp, which has it's own internal DAC.

Questions:

1. Is there any reason (purely in terms of sound and not convenience) in using an SB3 or Transporter as an interface in such a setup? Will there be a difference in sound quality between the SB3 and the Transporter in such a setup?

In other words, if I use a dedicated PC music server with a good quality sound card (or external sound card), and then hook up the PC digital out directly to the input of the TACT, would that sound as good as a Transporter or SB3 when used as a digital interface only, and make the slim devices unit unnecessary?

Thanks

jazzfan
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Re: HD based music server confusion

Hi Dog,

First off, welcome to the forum - may all of your deepest audio desires and questions find a home here.

Now as for your questions.


Quote:
1. Is there any reason (purely in terms of sound and not convenience) in using an SB3 or Transporter as an interface in such a setup? Will there be a difference in sound quality between the SB3 and the Transporter in such a setup?

In other words, if I use a dedicated PC music server with a good quality sound card (or external sound card), and then hook up the PC digital out directly to the input of the TACT, would that sound as good as a Transporter or SB3 when used as a digital interface only, and make the slim devices unit unnecessary?

One of the main differences between the SB3 and the Transporter is the much higher quality internal DAC contained in the Transporter. If one is going to be using only the digital output of either the SB3 or the Transporter, then why pay all that extra money for a DAC which you're not going to use? Of course, there are other differences between the two units, such as the Transporter's bigger display, larger size and much better power supply but from a strictly sound quality issue when using an external DAC, I'd go with the SB3. By the way, I have both devices and like them both very much.

As for the other part of your question, sure directly connecting, as in via a cable, the digital output of one's computer, whether using USB or some other kind of connection, to an external DAC would make any music streaming device unnecessary. But think of what you lose when not using a music streaming device:

1) The computer and it's noisy fans needs to be very close to one's stereo. This is not the case when using a music streaming device. The computer can be remotely located.

2) One needs to use some type of music player and music library management software on one's computer in order to access and play back one's music. With a music streaming device one uses the server's software to manage and play back one's music. The Slim Devices units use the SlimServer software to play back and manage the music on one's computer.

3) In the case of both the SB3 and the Transporter, one gets a nice remote with which to control the device and navigate through one's music library.

4) With music streaming devices one can add several devices to the system and access one's music collection in several difference locations without having to have multiple computers. A Transporter in one's main audio system, a SB3 in one's bathroom and yet another SB3 in one's workshop.

I hope that helps to answer your questions. And being truly audiophile in nature, not make your final decision any easier.

Elk
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Re: HD based music server confusion

I have a friend who streams his digital audio to a Tact preamp which then travels digitally to two TacT amps.

He stores his music in FLAC on a NAS Raid server on his network and then streams the music to various SB3's throughout the house.

Remote access via the SB3 is simple and intuitive.

I agree with Struts. If you are going to go with a digital server a good interface allowing easy access is a must.

I doubt the Transporter would sound any better than the SB3 in this application. The receiver in this case is only passing the digital stream on to the next unit in line.

That said, TacT equipment does not have good jitter rejection and is very sensitive to what it receives. Thus, many TacT owners (such as my friend) have Apogee Big Bens or other similar equipment that re-clocks the digital data (but this is beyond what you are asking).

CharlyD
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Re: HD based music server confusion

I completely agree with the arguments for networked audio devices such as the SB3/Transporter, but streaming S/PDIF from a PC(or a USB DAC) has its advantages too:

  • Very nice laptops can be had that do not include fans and have quiet hard drives.
  • There are several choices for PC media players that can include sophisticated user interfaces with album art as well as far easier searching over what can be had with a 2 line display.
  • There would be no need for a network. A simple USB - S/PDIF converter is all that would be necessary.
  • DRM protected content dowloaded to the PC (e.g. from MusicGiants) could be played. SB3/Transporter have no support for DRM. With Microsoft's change in policy toward "Plays for Sure", I don't know if there will ever be support for DRM over networked devices.
jazzfan
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Re: HD based music server confusion

Hi Charly,

The only reliable way that I've found to deal with DRM wrapped content is to avoid it like the plague. If everyone else did the same then DRM would quickly and rightfully die, something that is long over due. Here's something I don't understand: one buys a downloaded version of a CD for the same or more money than buying the actual CD and one gets no disc, case or printed liner notes but one does get some nasty DRM, something that the real CD doesn't have.

struts
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Re: HD based music server confusion


Quote:
I agree with Struts. If you are going to go with a digital server a good interface allowing easy access is a must.

A sentiment that appears not to be lost on the folks at Slim Devices. Possibly benefiting from an infusion of universal remote DNA from Logitech, this looks like being one of the first fruits of their acquisition of Slim.

Hmmmmm, I feel another investment starting to beckon...

PS A little more clicking around reveals a rather sinister subplot:


Quote:
The Squeezebox Jive source code is available from our public Subversion tree.

"public subversion tree"? What kind of "remote control" do they really have in mind here? I'm scared...

jazzfan
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Re: HD based music server confusion

Struts,

I clicked through the links on message and I don't quite understand what it is you're trying to say. Is this remote meant to replace the standard remote that comes with the Squeezebox and Transporter? And if so, does it work with the Slimserver software/database.

On a slightly different note, I have a somewhat large hard disk based music collection (approximately 3500 albums, 2500 artists and 48,000 songs) and I don't find that the Slimserver interface works very well when I'm trying to find any given piece of music. There are several ways to browse and search and all of them are very effective at helping me to find what I'm looking for. In addition, the Lazy Search plug-in is a "must have" add-on and really helps to save time when using the Slimserver search function.

By the way, if you can find out any more about that remote, please let us know.

struts
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Re: HD based music server confusion

jazzfan,

I was making a slightly obtuse joke which may have confused the issue. Apologies if so.

Regarding Jive itself I'm afraid I have no more information than is posted in the Slim Devices Wiki. My understanding is that Jive is a sort of open SDK that Slim is making available to software developers to enable them to produce more fully-featured RCs for SlimServer on platforms like PCs, UMPCs, tablets etc. It is not stated anywhere whether they will be producing a version that runs on any of their own (i.e. Logitech's own) universal remote devices but one might logically assume so.

I am sure you can find more information in the threads at the Slim Devices forum. I haven't spent that much time there as I don't (yet) own any Slim products but it seems a very vibrant board.

rgibran may be able to supply further pointers.

RGibran
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Re: HD based music server confusion

Jazzfan,

In case you were not aware Slimserver is now

tomjtx
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Re: HD based music server confusion

actually I am a beta tester for the jive remote.

It is very nifty

How is that for an erudite review?

jdcolombo
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Re: HD based music server confusion

Why not a Mac?

My system uses a Macbook (retail price about $1300) with a Toslink cable from its digital out port to the digital input on my Musical Fidelity X-DAC. The Macbook can be run with a very simple IR remote. Using Apple's Front Row software (included with every Mac), the 13" screen gives a wealth of info, including album art. The screen can be read from across the room (at least, it can using Front Row 1.3.1; the new Front Row 2.0 has font size problems).

Storage can be on external hard drives connected via Firewire to the Macbook (I have several 500 gb Western Digital ones). Since Firewire drives can be daisy-chained, storage is virtually unlimited.

Plus, I've got a really nice computer to use on trips!

John C.

struts
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Re: HD based music server confusion

John,

Using a Mac definitely has its advantages not least of which, as you point out, that you get a pretty spiffy computer into the bargain!

However it also has disadvantages. Two in particular come to mind:

  • You need to have the computer and the hard-disks in the same room as the stereo and both of them contain noisy moving parts, particualrly fans. It makes little sense to pursue equipment capable of supporting better and better SNRs (such as 24-bit digital) while at the same time raising the ambient noise floor. This may be possible to overcome with an Airport Express, but that introduces another set of compromises. The digital output has pretty horrible jitter performance (it has no local crystal and needs to manufacture the clock from an asynchronous datastream), doesn't support high-resolution formats on its digital output (see next point), and I suspect you lose remote control into the bargain.
  • Dedicated audio streamers like the SqueezeBox and Transporter automatically adapt to the sample rate of the material being played, the CoreAudio subsystem in Mac OS X does not. That can be irritating if you have a mixture of CD -resolution (i.e. 16/44.1) and high-resolution (i.e. 24/88.2 or 24/96) material since unless you are constantly resetting the parameters in Audio MIDI set-up something is going to end up getting sample rate converted and/or truncated.

The Mac is a superb computing environment and in knowledgeable hands is capable of forming the basis of a truly audiophile HD-based two-channel music system, however IMHO it is in many ways no closer to being a piece of audio consumer electronics than a PC, whatever the 'Mac faithful' would try to have you believe!

jdcolombo
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Re: HD based music server confusion

I agree that noise can be an issue - though the Macbook is dead quiet when playing music (fan never runs). An iMac or Mac Pro would have noise issues, however. Hard drives can be noisy, but that can be overcome by using NAS in another room and connecting via Ethernet (I've actually gone that route recently).

Didn't know about the Core Audio issues; is this true when using the Mac's dedicated digital output via Toslink or only if using an external USB DAC? So far I haven't ventured into the higher-rez stuff, so this hasn't been an issue for me; BUT there are some mighty tempting things on the Linn Records site . . .

John C.

struts
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Re: HD based music server confusion

This is the way the CoreAudio subsystem has been designed. It is quite independent of which output is being used.

josepdarcy
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Re: HD based music server confusion

This feature in the Mac is not ideal but is only a minor irritation for some people and irrelevant to most. Currently the vast majority of the music I have on my Mac is at 44.1 khz and I guess it is the same for most people. Where I have high res stuff, I change the setting. I agree that over time there will be more high res stuff generally available and my guess is that the good folks at Apple and/or the freeware community will automate this functionality elegantly.
Obviously you need to be aware of the issue in the first place!!

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