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rogergraham
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Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

I'm a bit baffled that the review of the Linn didn't at least make a passing comparison to the (far cheaper, but apparently extremely capable) Transporter? I'm not sure if the the Transporter handles the hi-rez files that the DS does, but still - surely it's the obvious choice for a comparison?

I also don't understand the opening comment 'Even the most savvy Stereophile reader might wonder what a "network music player is"'. Presumably, almost every Stereophile reader has heard of (or owns!) a Transporter?

Likewise John's final "Wow!" in commenting a measured performance that in quite a few respects seems to be less than that of the Transporter, which received a good, but not quite so effusive, summary.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
I'm a bit baffled that the review of the Linn didn't at least make a passing comparison to the (far cheaper, but apparently extremely capable) Transporter?


Answer:


Quote:
Presumably, almost every Stereophile reader has heard of (or owns!) a Transporter?



Quote:
"...measured performance that in quite a few respects seems to be less than that of the Transporter"


Which specifically?

BTW, the Transporter always handled 24/96 and 24/88.2 capability has been released in beta.

RGibran
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Damned if you do, damned if you don

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Yeah, yeah, yeah and yada, yada, yada...so the $20k Linn sounds better than the $2k Transporter especially when playing high resolution material. Now, pray tell, where is one going to find all this wonderful high resolution material to feed this beast? If you're going to say the Linn web site, then add another couple of k to that $20k figure, since Linn ain't afraid to charge for their high resolution downloads.

I say buy the $2k Transporter and use the leftover $18K (yeah, like I just happen to have enough money laying around so that that $18k seems to be "leftover") to cover that cost of ripping and buying a whole lot of CD resolution material.

And that's not even taking into account the rather poor user interface on the Linn. Hey Scotland, did you even hear of or see a remote control???

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

They don't need a remote control They bill themselves as a DAC. Hence, the source would have to have a remote. By positioning themselves as a DAC, they have been able to completely get away from all development in terms of user interfaces, software, interoperability, etc. So, they created a DAC and a gift that keeps on giving in terms of half assed support services for which they charge a bundle.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
Likewise John's final "Wow!" in commenting a measured performance that in quite a few respects seems to be less than that of the Transporter, which received a good, but not quite so effusive, summary.

My "wow" specifically referred to the Linn's sound quality playing my hi-rez files of "Live at Merkin Hall," not its measured performance. I had thought this was clear from the text on p.63; my apologies if it was not clear.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
They don't need a remote control They bill themselves as a DAC. Hence, the source would have to have a remote.


Linn describes the Klimax DS as a "Digital Stream Player" not as a DAC. Of course, there is a DAC in the box, but the interface to the streamed data is TCP/IP not the S/PDIF interface used in most audio DACs. While both the TP and the Linn have outstanding performance, the Linn chose to design to the UPnP A/V standard vs. the proprietary architecture used by the TP. This compliance means that the various components of a networked music system can be provided by multiple vendors provided all components comply with that standard. There are many UPnP-compliant servers that may be used with the Linn or any other compliant player (e.g. Roku or Streamium). I agree that the user interface for the Linn is lame and hard to justify for the price charged. At that price, it could have been more like the SooLoos interface. The remote shown on the Linn site is a Samsumg ultra-mobile PC that could easily run a more complex UI. While each vendor of UPnP-compliant players is currently delivering their own user interface, there is no reason that an entreprenurial designer could'nt create a sophisticated user interface that could be used to control any compliant device.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


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While each vendor of UPnP-compliant players is currently delivering their own user interface, there is no reason that an entreprenurial designer could'nt create a sophisticated user interface that could be used to control any compliant device.

My own opinion is that the operative word is not sophisticated but simple - and I wonder which company is best placed to do that?? Cross this with this and imagine where you end up...

Btw, I also think that general purpose computing devices like UMPCs, PDAs and (sorry Elk) tablets generally make pretty poor RCs. They're the wrong size, the wrong shape, battery life sucks and they don't have the appropriate hardware UI elements (e.g. volume buttons that don't control the volume!). So I think companies like Logitech (and of course Sonos) are on the right track.

Linn? I personally think they are missing a trick in this area. At Christmas we were invited for drinks at the house of a well known author in London (good friends of ours live next door and our kids are all the same age etc.). The guy has over

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Both excellent points.

UPnP compliant is, in my opinion, the best way to implement a music server. My Olive is UPnP compliant, making it easy to integrate with a NAS, and other computers sharing the network. I was quite amused that when I turned UPnP on, my Olive happily found my wireless laptop and the few music files on it. It also found the files on my desktop that I use to load my portable player.

Struts is also correct; the UI is critical and needs to be both intuitive and powerful. While I enjoy using my Nokia N800 internet tablet to access the Olive via VNP (or via the Olive's built in web interface), this interface does not rise to the level of elegance required to make it truly desirable. It may be that this is one of the reasons I remain less than fully enamored with music servers; I have yet to see an interface that a truly love.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

I stand corrected. It's an ethernet, tcp/ip enabled DAC.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
I stand corrected. It's an ethernet, tcp/ip enabled DAC.


Exactly, a "Digital Stream Player".

I share your reaction to the name silliness, but perhaps it is a good idea. If they called it a DAC we would expect it to have S/PDIF and AES digital inputs - which it doesn't. <--dumb

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:

Quote:
I stand corrected. It's an ethernet, tcp/ip enabled DAC.


Exactly, a "Digital Stream Player".

I share your reaction to the name silliness, but perhaps it is a good idea. If they called it a DAC we would expect it to have S/PDIF and AES digital inputs - which it doesn't. <--dumb

Based on Linn's current pricing structure, imagine what the KlimaxDS would cost if it had S/PDIF and AES digital inputs. I'll take a wild guess: twice the entire GNP of Scotland, give or take a few hundred thousand pounds.

struts
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

I guess I just don't understand why people get themselves in such a lather about the price of this thing (I realize you were just poking fun jazzfan, but check out the suds over on the Slim Devices board!)

Prof. Malcolm Hawksford, one of the leading researchers in the field of digital audio (who reviewed the Klimax for UK Hi-Fi World, the reprint is available here), told me in an email correspondence it was about the 'cleanest' digital he had heard - and he's heard some. So despite the fact I haven't heard it myself yet I'm prepared to believe it's a SoA product. And we all know that there are waaaaay more expensive SoA products out there.

So it doesn't do this or it doesn't do that, who cares? Surely those are issues for prospective purchasers. I am sure Linn has done their sensitivity analysis and the market will vote with their wallets. If it sells well then surely whether it is due to 'brand cachet' or perceived sound or build quality is somewhat moot.

The rest of us can just cheer and wait for the trickle-down. I see the Akurate DS is already released...

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

+1

The last incremental improvements in any pursuit are always screamingly expensive. Why are so many surprised and appalled by the reality of diminishing returns?

My impression is that the objections are fueled as much by the inability to afford the product as anything.

I really want to play with one of these critters myself.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Gentlemen,

You're both right but that still doesn't mean that Linn and quite a few other high end audio companies over charge (and over charge quite a bit) for many of their products. And just has with other very expensive consumer goods there are always less expensive alternatives. Linn is not stopping anyone from buying the slightly less expensive Transporter and, in fact, their pricey Klimax DS may end up helping to sell more Transporters, as in "I looked at the Klimax but felt that the Transporter was a better deal."

Since I play in the "trickle down" league and not the "State of the Art" league, I'm really not that upset with Linn's pricing other than the fact that gouging is still gouging. Add into this the fact that Logitech isn't exactly fair in the pricing of their own products, e.g. their products have the same list price in US dollars and Euros -> a SqueezeBox costs $299 in the US and 299euro in Europe but 299euro is almost $450 (about 50% more than the US price) and even adding in the VAT that still leaves an almost 30% increase in the European price versus the US price. So basically if you want play in any league in high end audio, you have to open up your wallet and hope that the bleeding stops before you run out of money.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
I guess I just don't understand why people get themselves in such a lather about the price of this thing (I realize you were just poking fun jazzfan, but check out the suds over on the Slim Devices board!)

I just read most of (and scanned through the rest of) that thread over on the Slim Devices forum - boy, do those guys know how to get their panties all tied into a knot!

All that bickering and not even one of them has heard the Klimax DS other than via an in-store demo.

I noticed that on this thread no one has knocked the sound of the Klimax DS - how could we, we haven't heard it - rather our comments have been limited to:

1) It's user friendliness, as in no remote control, poor user interface, etc.

2) It's comparatively high price with respect to several other network music players currently available.

3) The limited availability and high price of high resolution digital music files.

No one has stated anything about how the Klimax sounds other than JA, who has actually heard the unit in an environment other a dealer demo.

Compared to the thread on Slim Device forum, this thread is filled with much more reasonable statements.

struts
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

jazzfan,

I agree with much of what you are saying but when you state that Linn is over-charging you tend to present your subjective opinion as an objectively determined fact and disregard swaths of economic theory in the process.

Define 'over-charge'. What is the 'correct price'? You use the term 'gouging' in its pejorative sense, i.e. 'ripping off', but I believe that all you are really saying is that in your opinion Linn charges too much for its products. An economist's definition of 'gouging' applies specifically to instances where a seller takes unfair advantage of sudden shifts in supply or demand (usually for necessities), e.g. in the case of a disaster or national emergency. In the case of the Klimax DS there are no distortions of either supply or demand and so I would argue that the word, and therefore the concept, is inappropriate here.

Your argument, as presented, implies that the 'correct' price is a 'cost-plus' price and that anything priced higher is 'over-priced'. I would submit to you that 'value pricing' is an equally valid pricing mechanism.

This from the Wikipedia article on pricing which contains a pretty succinct summary of the issues here.


Quote:
A well chosen price should do three things :
  • achieve the financial goals of the firm (e.g. profitability)
  • fit the realities of the marketplace (will customers buy at that price?)
  • support a product's positioning and be consistent with the other variables in the marketing mix
    - price is influenced by the type of distribution channel used, the type of promotions used, and the quality of the product
    - price will usually need to be relatively high if manufacturing is expensive, distribution is exclusive, and the product is supported by extensive advertising and promotional campaigns

struts
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

jazzfan,

Again I agree with most of what you are saying. A couple of points:


Quote:
1) It's user friendliness, as in no remote control, poor user interface, etc.

I think criticism of the UI is slightly misguided in that the Klimax DS is just a DAC (albeit an ethernet DAC). It is the UI of the Linn hard-disk replay system as a whole that is lacking. As I said earlier, I agree that this could be a major miss considering the segment they are targeting. However, in Linn's defence, by supporting UPnP they allow the Klimax DS to be used in the context of any multi-vendor DLNA-compliant system giving free choice of Media Server and Media Controller elements. To the best of my knowledge Slim Devices's products do not support these open standards.


Quote:
Compared to the thread on Slim Device forum, this thread is filled with much more reasonable statements.


The Slim Forum certainly has more than its share of 'audio taliban'. Probably one of the reasons I generally prefer to hang out here!

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

struts,

Anytime is one is discussing the pricing of something within an enthusiast hobby, be it audio, watches, wine, automobile, fishing equipment, etc., there is always going to be some disagreements about the fairness of the pricing for certain items - it comes with the territory. However, that does not change the fact that many Linn products are often perceived to be priced rather highly, even within these "enthusiast" terms.

I stand by my assertion that $20K is a lot of money to charge for a unit that needs another several thousand dollars of equipment to be able to operate. Not operate properly or fully but just to operate at all. It is also over priced when compared to several of the other choices currently available. Nonetheless, as you stated, the market will ultimately decide if the $20k price is fair.

As for it being just a DAC - this is not entirely true. The Klimax DS is a networked DAC which can only be used to play back files (music) transmitted to it via a wired Ethernet network. Most, if not all, other DACs have digital inputs on them which allow the user to use several different sources, including but not limited to, a network music player with digital outputs. So when viewed in this light the $20k price becomes even more absurd.

struts
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
As for it being just a DAC - this is not entirely true. The Klimax DS is a networked DAC which can only be used to play back files (music) transmitted to it via a wired Ethernet network. Most, if not all, other DACs have digital inputs on them which allow the user to use several different sources, including but not limited to, a network music player with digital outputs.


I had a similar view initially, but as I started to look into this networked media 'convergence' thang more closely I realized that this is just a product conforming to a completely new architecture and (arguably) with rather poor backwards compatibility.

When I said the Klimax DS was 'just a DAC' I meant it was no more than a DAC (and therefore didn't really need a UI), when you said it wasn't I think you meant it was actually less than a DAC. In fact, if I have understood the whole thing correctly, in the DLNA world it is actually a 'Digital Media Renderer' (DMR).

A DMR needs to be able to support Media Formats (WAV, FLAC etc.) supplied either from the Internet or from a Digital Media Server (DMS) using a network protocol (IPV4) over some physical network (ethernet in the case of the Klimax DS but the DLNA standard also embraces 802.11 a/b/g). It must also be capable of receiving control signals from a Digital Media Controller (DMC) using UPnP V1.0. That's it! There is no provision for archaic synchronous protocols like S/PDIF that embed timing information in the datastream. Who needs them? None of the current DLNA-supported media formats contain any timing information!

Whether we like it or not, our hobby (or at least this little corner of it) is heading towards a brave new world. The consumer electronics brands are a couple of steps ahead of us, and the pioneering networked audio companies like Sonos and Slim have been ploughing parallel, if proprietary, furrows.

I suspect in years to come we will look back and realize that Linn was actually the first high-end brand we had ever heard of to 'get it' and laugh about all the stick we gave them. In fact I suspect that here, as before, as much as we might hate to admit it Ivor is just a little bit ahead of his time.

Maybe not. I am not a 'Linnophile' but I am a card carrying neophile, so I am as biased as they come!

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Once again Struts you present a very well reasoned and researched post.

Edit: And you do so without being nasty or rude and your posts are filled with useful information rather than useless option, you are indeed a true gentleman and I really enjoy these exchanges with you.

I agree with almost everything that you wrote, particularly -


Quote:
I suspect in years to come we will look back and realize that Linn was actually the first high-end brand we had ever heard of to 'get it' and laugh about all the stick we gave them. In fact I suspect that here, as before, as much as we might hate to admit it Ivor is just a little bit ahead of his time.

Nonetheless, I still feel compelled to offer at least a slight counterargument. The KlimaxDS, while being all of the things you stated, e.g. a high end DAC wrapped up in a DMR package, it still remains more of niche product for well heeled and somewhat adventurous audiophiles, which is a very tiny niche indeed.

The many things the KlimaxDS does not do far outweigh the few things that it does do, even if it does those few things at a state of the art level.

For example the KlimaxDS is about as far away as you can get from a "plug and play" device. Granted the SqueezeBox/Transporter system isn't completely "plug and play" but compared to the KlimaxDS it's relatively easy to get set up and running. Just try and remember that lots and lots of people have computers and that lots and lots of those computers have lots of digital music on them, even if that music is in some lossy compressed format. Perhaps Linn and Logitech should get together and work out a deal where Linn lends you a SqueezeBox to help you get your "feet wet" in the world of music servers and the sells you the KlimaxDS once you're hooked on the ease and convenience of a music server.

Where I do think that some Linn products will make much more of impact is with the lower priced DS units that are in the pipeline. Granted these units will still suffer from the lack of a good user interface and the difficult set up requirements but being affordable to a larger number of people, these units will go a long way in helping to move the concept of a hard drive based digital music system into the mainstream.

struts
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

I appreciate the compliment jazzfan. I enjoy it too. I mean if we were all saying the same thing all the time we wouldn't really learn anything, would we? Putting the whole price/value discussion aside for a minute I suspect we're in complete agreement on the point of fact here, we just see it from very different perspectives.

The Klimax DS is not a product for everyone, granted. However as far as I can tell from the DLNA Interoperability specs (V1.0) it does everything a DMR should do, so in that context it can't really be described as lacking. I submit that you are not viewing it in that context but in the context of a 'current' digital replay chain where DACs have S/PDIF inputs and source components have remote controls. However the fact that being a 'pure' DLNA DMR ill suits it for use in legacy systems (in contrast to, say, the Slim approach) doesn't appear to have been a concern of Linn's. A surprise I agree.

The Linn software does indeed look pretty clunky (you can download it from their website) and I am surprised they haven't polished it further before releasing their first DLNA product, let alone a 'statement' product. Linn would doubtless argue that their dealers will set all this up for you but I doubt even the extremely well-heeled want to have to (have their butler) call their Linn dealer every time they want to compose a playlist!

So I agree, that the Linn Digital Streaming System UI is weak (as defined, the Klimax DS doesn't really need a user interface per se, just a UPnP interface). However, I still think that the defence that it supports an open systems architecture and that 'if you don't like Twonky just use something else' is still valid, at least in theory. The problem is that DLNA is so immature at this point that in practice the choices are somewhat limited.

However, this is an interesting move from Linn, a company I think more people would associate with 'proprietary' and 'vertical integration' rather than 'open systems'. Maybe it is just a pragmatic acknowledgement of where their core competence lies in this 'brave new world'.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Once again struts your points are well taken and I completely agree with just about everything you wrote but.....

(Come on you knew there had to be a but)

couldn't Linn just as easily put some standard digital input on the KlimaxDS and marketed it has a digital stream player with digital inputs. DUH!!!

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
I am not a 'Linnophile'

But I'm getting worried your perhaps sipping the kool aid!

RG

struts
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
couldn't Linn just as easily put some standard digital input on the KlimaxDS and marketed it has a digital stream player with digital inputs. DUH!!!

I am sure Linn looked at it but decided it would add too much to the cost

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
couldn't Linn just as easily put some standard digital input on the KlimaxDS and marketed it has a digital stream player with digital inputs. DUH!!!

Yea, the audio taliban would have greatly appreciated it. At least they could hook up their Behringer DSP's and truly had improved sound. Maybe Ivor is ahead of the curve.

RG

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Way to go Struts! Actually taking the time to download the DLNA Interoperability spec and read it (or at least some portion of it). Your assessment about why there is no S/PDIF input seems to be absolutely correct. S/PDIF is not among the supported protocols in the standard and, even if such an input were added, there would be no way to access that input with a compliant control point (user interface). I also agree that DLNA/UPnP has promise of a brave new world in consumer electronics, but we're still a long ways off from true interoperability. It's going to take a major player (e.g. Sony, Microsoft) to adopt these standards and offer complete systems (DMS, DMR, DMC) before this can really take off. I'm certainly not holding my breath for this to happen.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Thanks CharlyD. I wish I was deserving of the praise but I have to confess that I tried to download the actual Interoperability Guidelines document but was put off by the $500 fee (cheapskate! ). So I pieced things together using publicly available information. I found this paper and this presentation particularly helpful.

As an aside, I notice that Sony and Microsoft representatives are respectively the Chair and Vice-Chair of the DLNA. Whether they are participating to 'drive' the market or 'pace' the market will no doubt become apparent in due course!

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
S/PDIF is not among the supported protocols in the standard and, even if such an input were added, there would be no way to access that input with a compliant control point (user interface).

Interestingly, there is provision for supporting non-TCP/IP-based protocols using UPnP but it is left outside the standard for individual manufacturers to implement as they see fit (and therefore offers questionable interoperability). This from the above white paper:


Quote:
With the development of the UPnP AV (and thus DLNA) specifications for digital media content devices, the basic device model was extended. All control interaction still only passes between Control Point and Device(s), but the Devices themselves interact with each other to pass digital content using a non-UPnP (
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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
However, this is an interesting move from Linn, a company I think more people would associate with 'proprietary' and 'vertical integration' rather than 'open systems'. Maybe it is just a pragmatic acknowledgement of where their core competence lies in this 'brave new world'.


Just to add to Strut's observation, I think Linn's manufacturer's comment found near the end of the March issue is especially telling, beseeching Stereophile to have a dedicated issue on server-based/digital music. Although they did have a relevant equipment under review, I don't think their request was 100% driven by the capitalistic impulse. I have no idea whether or not Stereophile actually covered the issue with any comprehensiveness in the past, but if it hasn't, I think the time is ripe for that. I'm sure many of us would love to find out Stereophile's angle to this side of hi-fi. TAS covered this issue pretty well, I thought, a few months ago, with a great step-by-step guide to building your own PC-based server (their editor-in-chief also concluded that the music from cheaper hard drive sounds better than from high-end CDPs.) It made me consider subscribing to TAS, but then a few issues after, their entire issue was essentially a gigantic advertisement of Magico. Weird.

Anyway, the point is: Stereophile - will you cover this area of audio for us readers? Not just reviews of different servers/streamers here and there, but a more comprehensive look at this trend along with a technical primer... the advantages/disadvantages of music delivery via server compared to CDPs, what works now, and what doesn't, and what audiophiles can generally expect in the short-term future, as well as the long-term. Maybe you can assign Michael Fremer to write the entire issue

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
...I have no idea whether or not Stereophile actually covered the issue with any comprehensiveness in the past, but if it hasn't, I think the time is ripe for that. I'm sure many of us would love to find out Stereophile's angle to this side of hi-fi. TAS covered this issue pretty well, I thought, a few months ago, with a great step-by-step guide to building your own PC-based server (their editor-in-chief also concluded that the music from cheaper hard drive sounds better than from high-end CDPs.) It made me consider subscribing to TAS, but then a few issues after, their entire issue was essentially a gigantic advertisement of Magico. Weird.

Anyway, the point is: Stereophile - will you cover this area of audio for us readers? Not just reviews of different servers/streamers here and there, but a more comprehensive look at this trend along with a technical primer... the advantages/disadvantages of music delivery via server compared to CDPs, what works now, and what doesn't, and what audiophiles can generally expect in the short-term future, as well as the long-term. Maybe you can assign Michael Fremer to write the entire issue

I second that call for a special issue of Stereophile on this very timely topic. I happened to read the issue TAS that you're referring to and I found it rather lacking since they basically ignored the market leaders (Slim Devices, Sonos, Roku, etc.) in server based music systems and only dealt with established high end audio company products or very expensive products from non-high end audio companies. Whether or not one thinks a simple SqueezeBox plus external DAC isn't in the same class with much more expensive solutions, this alternative should still be mentioned and compared with the all other options.

One other thing, while I don't completely understand all of the technical aspects of the whole DLNA DMR thing, I'm completely lost as to how Linn could build what several reviewers have already called the best sounding DAC and yet not have configured the unit to be compatible with a wider range of digital inputs. Color me puzzled and confused.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


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I'm completely lost as to how Linn could build what several reviewers have already called the best sounding DAC and yet not have configured the unit to be compatible with a wider range of digital inputs. Color me puzzled and confused.

jazzfan,

Leaving aside all the philosophical considerations about old versus new paradigms etc. for a second it may just be the case that Linn decided a S/PDIF interface would unacceptably compromise the sound quality of their 'statement' product. Afaik Linn has never offered a 'statement' product incorporating a S/PDIF interface (remember the CD12 was an all-in-one). Reviewers may be calling it 'a DAC' but I'd be very surprised if Linn were. Just a thought...

Edit: Just checked, in fact the CD12 does offer a S/PDIF output (there goes that theory). However, it is redundant when the product is used as intended in the context of a Linn system. So I'll rephrase my point, afaik Linn has never offered a statement product (any product?) with a S/PDIF input. They don't appear to 'believe in' S/PDIF.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Unidisk SC.

Kisto System Controller.

RG

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

OK, I give up!

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


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I happened to read the issue TAS that you're referring to and I found it rather lacking since they basically ignored the market leaders (Slim Devices, Sonos, Roku, etc.) in server based music systems and only dealt with established high end audio company products or very expensive products from non-high end audio companies.


You're right that they totally ignored those companies for a strange reason. And I absolutely didn't care about those fancy servers. But my favorite article was the one written about how to roll your own PC server, using a cheap Echo Gina soundcard. Building such a PC yourself would cost no more than $1500 - $2000 max, and when the ed-in-chief said he agreed that the sound from the PC server is superior to the sound from CDPs, he was responding to such a server, connecting directly to the amp w/o DAC. I think there are elegant enough solutions to make this PC server a noiseless component in any system. The prospect is tantalizing, especially considering that one could finally get rid of the CDP AND get better digital sound in the process.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:

Quote:
...I have no idea whether or not Stereophile actually covered the issue with any comprehensiveness in the past, but if it hasn't, I think the time is ripe for that. I'm sure many of us would love to find out Stereophile's angle to this side of hi-fi. TAS covered this issue pretty well, I thought, a few months ago, with a great step-by-step guide to building your own PC-based server (their editor-in-chief also concluded that the music from cheaper hard drive sounds better than from high-end CDPs.) It made me consider subscribing to TAS...Stereophile - will you cover this area of audio for us readers? Not just reviews of different servers/streamers here and there, but a more comprehensive look at this trend along with a technical primer...

I second that call for a special issue of Stereophile on this very timely topic. I happened to read the issue TAS that you're referring to and I found it rather lacking since they basically ignored the market leaders (Slim Devices, Sonos, Roku, etc.) in server based music systems and only dealt with established high end audio company products or very expensive products from non-high end audio companies.

My apologies for my rather late response to these points. I needed to think about their implications, as I am irked to see another magazine getting such praise in our forums. The facts are: 1) TAS ignored the whole subject of music servers up to the time they published their "special issue" on the subject; 2) Stereophile started publishing reviews of sound cards in nearly 8 years ago, and has written much about of the subject of setting up an audiophile music server over the years since -- in the magazine, in our now defunct enewsletter, and on our website. I even made the Airport Express our 2005 "Editor's Choice" (see www.stereophile.com/features/1205poty/index7.html) because with the AE's "Air Tunes" feature, all you needed to set-up an audiophile-quality music server was an inexpensive Mac or PC running iTunes and an AE. You could even feed the AE's optical S/PDIF output to the highest-end D/A processor you wished.

Yet the perception appears to be that Stereophile has lagged behind its competition in its coverage, because the other magazine has published a single, admittedly good article on the subject and flagged that issue as "Special."

I think the idea of our putting together all the relevant information in a single place is a good one. But I find it hard not to conclude from this thread that marketing is indeed more effective than reality in forming perceptions.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

I think that where TAS has been successful is by providing a very comprehensive article. Stereophile has reviewed sound cards and other components earlier on, but it never did a comprehensive report on integrating these components in new ways, identifying issues with computer based media servers and detailing on addressing these issues. So, it's not that we love Caesar less, we just love Rome more.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


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Stereophile started publishing reviews of sound cards in nearly 8 years ago, and has written much about of the subject of setting up an audiophile music server over the years since -- in the magazine, in our now defunct enewsletter, and on our website.

I remember that Digital Audio Labs CardDeluxe review. It was my first issue here at Stereophile, and we put the CardDeluxe on our cover. I remember wondering, "What the heck is that thing?"

Selfdivider, I'm not sure if you were a subscriber when we were sending out our excellent eNewsletters, but JA and Wes Phillips covered much of what you are asking for, I think.

Here and here, for instance.

Perhaps we can do a better job of putting all of this information in one place, or of directing our readers to the topics we have covered.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

As one who is almost exclusively focused on this corner of our hobby, I think this mags coverage of this trend and emerging products has been fabulous. In particular, your focus and web coverage on these products from the 08 CES was outstanding.

I have not read the referenced TAS article, however, if building a 2K PC with soundcard output direct to amp is the "way to go" idea some readers walked away with...I don't want to read it.

RG

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


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your focus and web coverage on these products from the 08 CES was outstanding.

Thank you.


Quote:
if building a 2K PC with soundcard output direct to amp is the "way to go" idea some readers walked away with...I don't want to read it.

I agree. The last thing you want to do is connect the dirty ground of your PC with the clean ground of your audio system. An S/PDIF optical connection offers an easy of way of making sure that this doesn't happen, as does WiFi.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


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I think the idea of our putting together all the relevant information in a single place is a good one. But I find it hard not to conclude from this thread that marketing is indeed more effective than reality in forming perceptions.


John,

Please let me preface this by saying I am a big fan of Stereophile and previously a subscriber for over ten years; I have never bought a single issue of TAS (and the issue in question is not available for free download yet so I haven't read it). I am also an enthusiastic, if sporadic, contributor to this forum. So now I have declared my bias.

That said I feel your conclusion is wrong, and possibly even does the contributors to this thread a great disservice. My own opinion is that your early recognition of computer audio and tests of sound cards and streamers is admirable and a credit to your personal open-mindedness and the editorial policy you espouse. However, with a few exceptions it does not seem to have rubbed off on your other contributors, nor the broader content of the magazine.

Let me explain. You have no doubt read Bruce-in-Philly's seminal thread (currently at 100 posts which puts it way to the right of the Stereophile Forum bell curve) where contributor after contributor has expressed the same frustration at how poorly the subject of high-end computer audio has been documented. Readers have contributed a wealth of experience born of a combination of deep subject-matter expertise, painstaking research and trial-and-error. I believe some of the contributors to that thread are some of the true pioneers (as in 'the guys with the arrows sticking out of their backs') of 'SoA computer audio'. Yet most of their questions have been answered by each other and the points they raise either addressed superficially, in passing or not at all in the magazine.

Some vendors have also made noteworthy attempts to fill the information void. Gordon Rankin of Wavelength and Elias Gwinn of Benchmark spring immediately to mind, as well as the very helpful contributions of Prof Malcolm Hawksford. Their input has (for yours truly at least) helped to illuminate some of the very pointiest points of this darkest corner of audiophilia and explain matters like bit transparency, the mythical kmixer, tagging and album art, none of which to the best of my knowledge have received any substantial coverage in Stereophile.

Your product reviews are excellent and I find lots else of interest in the magazine so please take this as criticism of the most constructive sort. However IMHO your comments belie your sensitivity to this subject. This is not about 'marketing' it is about reality and Stereophile is missing a trick. There is huge scope for a series of non-product-specific articles here, and among the current contributors you seem self-selecting to write them.

Suggestions:

  • Basics. Anatomy of a hard disc-based system. Different architectures (sound card, Wi-Fi streamer, all-in-one - e.g. Olive - etc.) pros and cons.
  • What is the difference between 128MP3 and 'Studio Master FLAC'? We know what you have heard but why is it so? Why is MP3 inherently compromised? What is more important to perceived SQ, bit-depth or sampling rate? Is 192kS/s theortetical SQ advantage rendered useless by current filter technology?
  • Bit transparency and how to achieve it at 16/44.1 and above. How to test for it. The computer as a high quality S/PDIF source. Best way to achieve at different price points.
  • Jitter. An update. If the 'bits' are perfect what isn't? What have we learned in the 10 years since your last article?
  • Silver disc versus hard disc. A pure AQ shootout at budget, mid and cost-no-object price points.
  • Signposts in the jungle. A comparison of file formats, rippers, taggers and players. Free versus charged. Pros and cons.
  • Hard disc audio gotchas and clues for the clueless. All the irritating things that catch you out. Tagging, cover art, iTunes bugs, pops and clicks, Windows output devices, etc.
  • Living with hard disc audio. Practicalities. To rip or to buy? Sources for hi-rez downloads. What happens if your disc crashes? Strategies to back-up 1TB or more of music.
  • The future. The likely impact of DLNA and UPnP. Why S/PDIF and RC5 might be things of the past.

I am sure other readers will have plenty of other ideas!

This is not the 'lunatic fringe' this is (part of) the future of our hobby. So please seize the opportunity to fill the void and address the niche that by this testimony most other magazines have not spotted.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Good constructive post, Struts.

Your suggestions as to what to cover are particularly good.

Other ideas:

USB transmission. What really is going on with this protocol and why is it such a challenge?

Similarly, is firewire a reasonable (i.e., good quality) format to employ?

What are the differences between consumer soundcards and "pro" quality study soundcards - and why should you care?

Interface options - there are tremendously strong opinions out there as to what to use and why. A good survey of the options would be of interest to many.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Great post Struts! I completely agree that what is necessary is education, not product descriptions. My impession is that these technologies represent tremendous opportunities for the hi-end market as new hardware will be required. It could also have a very strong impact on the purveyors of content we enjoy. Linn, MusicGiants, Itrax and others are now offering hi-rez, multichannel downloads that very few have the hardware to properly play. Wouldn't be great to be able to download a 5.1 channel, 24-bit/96kHz recording, play it at its full glory on your home system and be able to transcode it to a compressed, 2-channel format on your iPod for listening at the gym? And what are all the issues to consider to have such capability?

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Great ideas Struts.

I'm sure it'll be taken in the right spirit. I, for one, am at the cusp of a major hard drive plunge. I've been waiting for an all-in (HD/wireless/hi-rez) package, but I may just build my own if there's not an under $10,000 alternative before I move in mid-2009. (I think there will be).

I infuence a lot of people and others are asking what I plan to do. I'm telling people to wait right now, but I think this is a new frontier (has been for a while) that coming into maturity.

Dave

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Interesting thread, this has become. (Why I am talking like Yoda, I have no idea.) But thank you, Stephen, for the links to the newsletters. Basically, I've been reading Stereophile from December of 2007, as my interest in audio has started from December of 2007. So I had no awareness of what had been covered in the past.

So my presumption was based on Linn's manufacturer's comment in the March issue, calling for Stereophile's comprehensive coverage of the digital music/server, etc. As I trust that Linn has been covered by Stereophile for many years, and Linn, as an audio manufacturer, reads Stereophile closely, I thought it was only reasonable to deduce that Stereophile hadn't yet covered the issue in a comprehensive manner.

I guess the key word here is 'comprehensive,' and Struts' points elucidate further on what was covered, but more importantly, what hasn't been covered yet by Stereophile. In a way, his concerns mirror what Linn wrote Stereophile about. As a new reader, of course I'd want to see these issues covered by Stereophile and not the other magazine, and I'm not saying that TAS has even covered all of the topics cogently. But that they did make a concerted effort to dedicate an issue to the topic.

Also, I'm surprised to find a strident tone in JA's comment that some of these perceptions - most likely mine, as I'm a naive newbie - are shaped by marketing. I doubt that and I find the formulation pretty reductive. I already mentioned that I was put off by TAS' subsequent issues & their marketing which led me not to read them further. The simple fact is that in that issue of TAS, despite the shortcomings of the coverage which some of us also wrote about, there were certain things that we learned about digital music - building own servers, for example - that we haven't picked up elsewhere. This is not only a legitimate concern, but is - more importantly - a mere fact. How is this colored by "marketing"? I don't understand, JA.

Plus, I feel that in open forums such as these, such discussions add to the vitality of the community. I can only begin to imagine the kind of a rivalry between this magazine and TAS (actually, I can't, as I have no idea of the history between the 2 mags), but most of us are music lovers or audiophiles first, and readers second. Personally, I choose to read Stereophile over TAS because the reviews are more perceptive, and, as I've already confided to Stephen last Friday, I don't think I can do w/o reading JA's measurements which complement most of the reviews, which have become my favorite things to read in Stereophile or pretty much anywhere. Yes, I've become a dedicated reader of this magazine, but that said, I have no dog in this fight. We'll talk about how to enhance the experience of listening to music, and so what if some issues are raised by the other mag which deserve merit? Besides, this thread should also make evident that TAS crucially missed the coverage on other aspects of servers, and we weren't blindly unequivocal about the praise, like a dumb herd led astray by the call of marketing, as it were.

Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Thanks for the great post, struts

Adding my two cents to the growing pot, think about what is already happening to the future of audio (and magazine coverage of things audio)...the field of audio is very quickly being swallowed up by the world of computers and several of the leading computer magazines, like PC Magazine, are becoming sources for reviews of audio equipment. Unless magazines like Stereophile move forward and remake themselves into the leaders on the subject of high quality computer audio they are in grave danger of becoming irrelevant.

Logitech makes good keyboards, fine mice and, because of their purchase of Slim Devices, very good music servers but they still make scary bad sounding speakers. The public is being fed a steady diet of audio advice by magazines and writers who have no business reviewing audio equipment. Stereophile needs to change this and do it quickly. Perhaps some of form partnership with one of the major computer magazines, where Stereophile handles the audio end and the computer magazine covers, well, the computer end of things. This kind of makes sense since just as the computer magazines shouldn't cover audio equipment, Stereophile should not be reviewing wireless routers, external hard drives and photo editing software (just some of the many "computer" items needed to run a music server system). For what it's worth, I found TAS's special issue on music servers to be rather poor with respect to the computer end of the system.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
Interesting thread, this has become. (Why I am talking like Yoda, I have no idea.)

Talking like Yoda, certainly you are, selfdivider.


Quote:
I'm surprised to find a strident tone in JA's comment that some of these perceptions - most likely mine, as I'm a naive newbie - are shaped by marketing. I doubt that and I find the formulation pretty reductive.

My apologies. For a number of reasons, some professional, some personal, I have a raw nerve on the subject of that other magazine.

Great comments, everyone. Much to think about, you have all given me. (Damn, now I'm talking like Yoda!)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

Fear leads to anger... Anger leads to stress... Stress leads to doobies... and doobies lead to twinkies.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
Why I am talking like Yoda, I have no idea.

LOL!

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?

JA - perhaps we can expect the Yoda-speak to creep into your Measurements sections? I guarantee a 30% spike in Stereophile subscriptions if that were to happen.

And this isn't just a platitude to stroke your ego, but thanks, really, for the work you're doing on Stereophile. I'd figure that any sane audiophile with a modicum of analytical abilities would know the substantial difference in the quality of reviews that exists between Stereophile and the other mag.

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Re: Linn Klimax DS versus SlimDevices Transporter?


Quote:
What is the difference between 128MP3 and 'Studio Master FLAC'? We know what you have heard but why is it so?

You make great points, Struts. I

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