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jazzfan
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Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

After reading the review of the $6,000 McIntosh music server in the January 2008 Stereophile and the reviews of the $6,500 Arcam music server, the $12,000 Sooloos music server and the $6,000 to $7,800 Qsonix music server in the December 2007 Absolute Sound I can't help but wonder who are all these people willing to shell out big bucks for, well for lack of a better word, nothing.

Okay, all these music servers are not exactly "nothing" but there's no denying that they ain't much. So what exactly do you get for all that money? Let's see..1) a very expensive hard drive with no backup (except for the Sooloos), a cute user interface (in the case of the Sooloos and the Qsonix) and an inferior built in DAC.

Are these manufacturers kidding us or what? For $6,000 (the price of the least expensive of these music servers) one can quite easily assemble a state of the art computer/music server system with all of the following components:

1) A very reasonable desktop computer with a 19" monitor ($1000)

2) An external hard drive with 2 tetra bytes of storage with full back up (A Drobo with 4 750GB hard drives - $1200)

3) A wireless router ($50)

4) A Slim Devices Transporter music streaming device, which includes a first rate built in DAC and balanced and RCA outputs - $2,000 (but can be bought for around $1,600)

5) Balanced interconnects ($500)

6) Slim Server software (needed to operate the Transporter), Exact Audio Copy software (needed to rip one's CD to a hard drive) and FLAC software (needed to losslessly compress the ripped music files) (Free)

For a total of $4,750 which leaves one $1,250 to buy a nice laptop computer so that one can control the Transporter via a nice interface instead of using the remote.

Of course I didn't even add in the additional cost of having to buy a separate external DAC (approximately $2,000 and up) that one would need to bring any of the so called high end music servers up to the sonic standards of the Transporter. I also didn't take into account the fact that many people already own a computer and a wireless router. Adjusting the overall cost for these two facts we come up with a minimum total for one of the "high end" music servers of $8,000 versus $3,700 for a Transporter based music server system.

Based on all of the above, I'd say that several high end audio manufacturers have discovered another cash cow similar to the "high end" wire cash cow that they have been milking for years.

BillB
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Bingo!

bifcake
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

What you're paying for in these music servers are:

Brand names
Nice interface that does not require you to be a computer maven to operate (at least in theory).

I agree with you 100% though that if you're computer literate, there is absolutely no value in any of these packaged solutions.

RGibran
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Nice C.E.S. wrap up on the subject by JI.

Never under estimate big money. Plasmas rule! Large music server touch screens will impress friends and guests. Folks that pay these prices also pay to have mundane tasks like ripping music done by others. These are the fortunate few that know music sounds better when loaded by the butler wearing white gloves!

The nonsense started with the $20,000 Linn. We haven

Jeff Wong
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


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The nonsense started with the $20,000 Linn.

Yeah, but, what amazing music the CD12 produced. Its sound was so liquid, smooth and refined. At the time, it seemed to me it made the top of the line Meridian upsampling behemoth sound like it was playing sandpaper.

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
Nice C.E.S. wrap up on the subject by JI.

Thanks for the link.


Quote:
Never under estimate big money. Plasmas rule! Large music server touch screens will impress friends and guests. Folks that pay these prices also pay to have mundane tasks like ripping music done by others. These are the fortunate few that know music sounds better when loaded by the butler wearing white gloves!

I've been rewatching some of the episodes from the Wooster and Jeeves BBC produced TV series from the early 1990's and your reference to the butler cracked me up. Only thing is that it would have been Jeeves and not Wooster who knew what good sound was.


Quote:
The nonsense started with the $20,000 Linn. We haven
CharlyD
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

It's amazing to me that only a few of these packaged server/player/DAC solutions support hi-rez audio at sample rates of at least 88.2 kHz and word size of at least 24-bits. And I'm not aware of any that support more than 2 channels. All this functionality can easily be had in PC-based systems (with the appropriate sound card). But, like many of you out there, I'm not willing to include and expensive, difficult to maintain, general purpose PC in my entertainment system. There is a significant opportunity for a hardware vendor to offer a networked device that will allow playback of hi-rez, multichannel audio. One fairly simple implementation would be to have a networked device that could decode the content into uncompressed PCM and output that over HDMI. There are a number of recently introduced A/V processor/receivers that could render that content. Or, just include that capability in the processor/receiver. Such a device could be DLNA compliant to allow connection to any DLNA media server.

tomjtx
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Jazzfan,
Bravo, but let's talk even cheaper
Let's assume everyone has a computer already.
Tp =1,600
500 GIG external HD with USB2 99.00 x 2 for a backup= 198.00
router 50.00
new slim remote which has a screen 299.00 with album art etc.

About 2,147.00

any old balanced ic's at 100.00 or so

Oh yea, a new Jetta diesel with all the money saved :-)

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

That's all well and good but you forgot the gold plated, directional, pure copper custom USB cables to connect the external hard drives to the computer plus the fully shielded, powered USB port, and the custom built power supplies for the every piece of equipment. Also the deluxe air purifier and deionizer, since only with pure, clean and ion free air can one be assured that every bit of data transmitted over the local Wi-Fi network is picked up by the Transporter. (White paper available upon request.)

As you can see, the coming hard drive based music server systems will offer no shortage of opportunities for pricy high end tweaks.

CharlyD
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
As you can see, the coming hard drive based music server systems will offer no shortage of opportunities for pricy high end tweaks.


I was discussing this trend toward networked audio with a good friend who happens to be seriously into tweaking, and he went into a panic over the concern that he would have to replace all the CAT5 in his house with Transparent.

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
I was discussing this trend toward networked audio with a good friend who happens to be seriously into tweaking, and he went into a panic over the concern that he would have to replace all the CAT5 in his house with Transparent.

CAT5, how quaint. Wireless is the way to go, hence the purified and deionized air. And I almost forgot all the reflective panels one will need to help direct the Wi-Fi waves to the shortest possible path of travel. Ah, the sweet smell of snake oil

andy_c
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:

4) A Slim Devices Transporter music streaming device, which includes a first rate built in DAC and balanced and RCA outputs - $2,000 (but can be bought for around $1,600)

Is that true on the street price for a new Transporter, and if so, where?

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:

Quote:

4) A Slim Devices Transporter music streaming device, which includes a first rate built in DAC and balanced and RCA outputs - $2,000 (but can be bought for around $1,600)

Is that true on the street price for a new Transporter, and if so, where?

Try doing a search via Google and Ebay - that's how I found mine for around $1,600.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
Try doing a search via Google and Ebay - that's how I found mine for around $1,600.


From whom did you buy it?

tomjtx
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Search ebay, it's 1599.00 with free shipping.

That is one great deal.

andy_c
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
Try doing a search via Google and Ebay - that's how I found mine for around $1,600.

I had previously searched Google and didn't find anything under list. Strangely, there were several vendors selling them above list (buy.com for example). I'll check out ebay.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
I had previously searched Google and didn't find anything under list.


And apparently no one wants to share their find either.

CharlyD
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

I entered "transporter" in the search field at eBay and selected Consumer Electronics as the category. Here's the link.

Grosse Fatigue
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

As far as I am concerned I am buying the new "duet" coming out from slimdevices with their new remote control a la Sonos.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Their new remote is indeed cute . . . at least in pictures.

The problem with the Duet however is that the sound device is the same as the Squeezebox; only 44.1 and 48kHz support.

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
Their new remote is indeed cute . . . at least in pictures.

The problem with the Duet however is that the sound device is the same as the Squeezebox; only 44.1 and 48kHz support.

Apparently the Duet remote will be available as a stand alone product and will work with all Squeezeboxes and Transporters.

I still don't get all the fascination with album cover art. My iPod shows album cover art and looking at the tiny album cover on the small little iPod screen tells me absolutely nothing about the music playing. I would prefer a simple text display listing songs, composers, personnel and recording information. And that's the reason that when I'm playing music through my Transporter I like to keep a laptop computer handy so that I can go online to the All Music Guide and look up the information on the album playing.

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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
I would prefer a simple text display listing songs, composers, personnel and recording information. And that's the reason that when I'm playing music through my Transporter I like to keep a laptop computer handy so that I can go online to the All Music Guide and look up the information on the album playing.

Sooloos offers that, but at a high price. However, the company has plans of introducing several lower-cost iterations of the product in the near future.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
I still don't get all the fascination with album cover art.


I am with you. I adore having good album notes and information, but having cover art on a portable player or remote is useless eye-candy at best.

I was just discussing this with a friend last night. His is an all digital system starting with a large NAS and ending with a pair of TacT digital amplifiers. Only the output from the amps is analog. Even though he is a programmer, has never ending faith in digital and is using Slim Devices equipment he also sees no need for cover art.

He misses the physicality of location however; that is, knowing that the CD you want to listen to is on the third shelf from the left, second row. Even with a large collection this can be quicker and easier than finding it on a server.

Finding it on the server takes the next mental steps of mentally recalling what the CD is - rather than just "knowing".

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
...He misses the physicality of location however; that is, knowing that the CD you want to listen to is on the third shelf from the left, second row. Even with a large collection this can be quicker and easier than finding it on a server.

Finding it on the server takes the next mental steps of mentally recalling what the CD is - rather than just "knowing".

After living with my hard drive based music system (and ONLY that music system) for going on something like 5 months, I know exactly what you mean. Nonetheless when I'm back in the US and faced with my rather large vinyl and CD based music system I still don't get a chance to hear everything that I might like to hear since pouring over that collection looking for "something I haven't heard in a while" can be an arduous task.

It goes something like this:

Having all one's music stored in less than one square foot of space: Wonderful

Playing a given selection without having to get up, look of the LP/CD, clean LP, clean stylus, put on record clamp, etc: Wonderful

Never having to get up and refile (or worse yet, misfile) all the LPs and CDs taken out after a long listening session: Wonderful

Not having one's music collection exposed to the prying eyes and hands of friends and relatives, especially during parties: Wonderful

Being able to search for all one's "Miles Davis" selections without having to look through various LPs, CDs, SACDs, etc.: Wonderful

Not having the LP/CD cover and liner notes handy to look at: Unfortunate

smejias
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
He misses the physicality of location however; that is, knowing that the CD you want to listen to is on the third shelf from the left, second row. Even with a large collection this can be quicker and easier than finding it on a server.

I think this depends on what server you're using, and how well you understand it. Watching the Sooloos guys navigate through their touch screen, for instance, I have no doubt that that "physicality of location" exists.

BillB
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Point taken, but my comment just on this line:
"Not having one's music collection exposed to the prying eyes and hands of friends and relatives, especially during parties"
I LIKE my friends and relatives to look at, handle, appreciate, ask about, and ask for play of my music collection. The physical "existence" is good in this case.

smejias
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
Point taken, but my comment just on this line:
"Not having one's music collection exposed to the prying eyes and hands of friends and relatives, especially during parties"
I LIKE my friends and relatives to look at, handle, appreciate, ask about, and ask for play of my music collection. The physical "existence" is good in this case.

Okay, I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record (heh), but I just want to share this with you:

The guys at Sooloos, and others like them, are also aware of this. They emphasized the fact that their server was created during many late nights of parties, where they had friends coming over specifically to share music. The Sooloos system is the product of all of these concerns you guys are mentioning, and other similar systems will follow, I think.

You have to play with a good server before you can understand the advantages.

dbowker
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

"but having cover art on a portable player or remote is useless eye-candy at best. "

Well... not for me. Many times I don't even know what the album title is so much as "that cover with those great songs, etc." In fact given that I have a couple thousand albums (between CD and LPs) often it's the cover art that reminds me of what songs are on the album. In addition it gives me a quick emotional reference to how I felt about the album in general. That's actually why I only recently started using iTunes, because they now have a nice cover art flip-book type of display. I look at a list of songs or albums and often my eyes sort of glaze over. On the other hand I agree having them all in a smaller space can be really handy. My record and CD storage is in two adjacent rooms due to the volume and I'm sure quite a few great albums get missed due to this fact.

smejias
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
That's actually why I only recently started using iTunes, because they now have a nice cover art flip-book type of display. I look at a list of songs or albums and often my eyes sort of glaze over.

I also love this feature. The new iPods also use it, and I'm jealous of anyone who owns one.

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:

Quote:
Okay, I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record (heh), but I just want to share this with you:

The guys at Sooloos, and others like them, are also aware of this. They emphasized the fact that their server was created during many late nights of parties, where they had friends coming over specifically to share music. The Sooloos system is the product of all of these concerns you guys are mentioning, and other similar systems will follow, I think.

You have to play with a good server before you can understand the advantages.

The Sooloos music server system costs $12,000, which includes a 2TB hard drive priced at $4,000. For $4,000 one could buy three Drobos, each with 2TB of storage capacity included.

So please do us a big favor and ask the guys at Sooloos why for $12,000 they could not afford to build in a decent DAC. For $2,000 one can get a Transporter (which includes a very nice sounding DAC) which works with one's existing computer and external hard drives....

....Oh wait, the high price must be because of the all the pretty pictures on the touch screen (question: do you think that the Sooloos will be able to find album artwork for all the rather obscure and out of print free jazz recordings in my collection? for $12K it better!!!) or maybe it's because of the ability of the device to pick my music for me. Hey, when I want my music chosen for me I just listen to the radio.

And for the record, I am playing "with a good server" - Slim Devices' Slimserver.

Jeff Wong
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Like any area of hobbies, there will be price points all over the map, and features that suit certain people--some products are just not for all people. There will always be the well informed hunters who will seek out all the necessary info and get something of high quality at a fraction of the cost of a nearly comparable item someone else is offering. Some people don't want to do the homework. Maybe a music server that costs 3x what you can build for yourself, or 7.5x what you're willing to spend just isn't for you. Companies charge what they charge for lots of reasons: R&D, health insurance for employees, you name it... maybe they can't even justify it, but, it doesn't matter. Some products might offer just the right features one seeks. I recently ended up buying a NOS phone because nothing new did something simply enough (thankfully, the phone I got happened to be reasonably cheap).

I wrestle with the same issues when it comes to rare books. Something missing from my collection might've cost $3.50 in 1962. Maybe I could wait and find a copy in a thrift store for 50 cents--it might take years to find any copy, let alone one in desirable condition. Maybe I could pay $200.00 to any of 15 dealers who have flawed copies of this title. Or maybe I would opt to lay out $1000.00 to $1500.00 to the 2 dealers who have nearly flawless copies to offer. The most expensive copies might seem ridiculous, but, no one else is offering quite the same book.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:

Quote:
That's actually why I only recently started using iTunes, because they now have a nice cover art flip-book type of display. I look at a list of songs or albums and often my eyes sort of glaze over.

I also love this feature. The new iPods also use it, and I'm jealous of anyone who owns one.


I suspect that whether one wants/needs cover art as part of the music selection process reflects how our individual minds work. That is, visual versus concepetual thinkers, etc.

When I made my initial comment I forgot about you guys that sort your CDs, LPs and books by color.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Drobos have come up a couple of times. What's neat about them? From my quick glance, they look like NAS. Is there anything more to it?

smejias
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
(question: do you think that the Sooloos will be able to find album artwork for all the rather obscure and out of print free jazz recordings in my collection? for $12K it better!!!)

I'm not certain, but, yes, I think so.

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:

Quote:
(question: do you think that the Sooloos will be able to find album artwork for all the rather obscure and out of print free jazz recordings in my collection? for $12K it better!!!)

I'm not certain, but, yes, I think so.

I believe that Sooloos uses the All Music Guide database for their information so it shouldn't be to hard check out some of my more obscure titles against the AMG information.

smejias
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
I believe that Sooloos uses the All Music Guide database for their information so it shouldn't be to hard check out some of my more obscure titles against the AMG information.

Yes, Sooloos uses AMG and two other databases, in case AMG doesn't have the info. When we asked the Sooloos guys about it, they said it was very, very rare that they came across an album that didn't exist in one of the three databases.

Kal Rubinson
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:

Quote:
I believe that Sooloos uses the All Music Guide database for their information so it shouldn't be to hard check out some of my more obscure titles against the AMG information.

Yes, Sooloos uses AMG and two other databases, in case AMG doesn't have the info. When we asked the Sooloos guys about it, they said it was very, very rare that they came across an album that didn't exist in one of the three databases.

That depends on what you mean by "very, very rare."

Kal

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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Oh, Kal. That depends on what you mean by "mean."

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

While we could go on for quite some time debating whether or not the Sooloos will be able to find cover art for each and every CD in one's collection this little debate is really just a side track from the main issue.

And the main issue is that all the so called "audiophile"/high end music servers, in addition to being relatively expensive, fail the one basic test for any piece of audio equipment with high end aspirations - they don't sound all that good. And that's really what's important.

This sad situation is made even worse by the fact that several of these wannabe "high end" music servers are striving to be all-in-one solutions when, in fact, one would still need to purchase an external DAC to obtain true "high end" sound.

So once again I ask: why is it that a manufacturer of computer products (Logitech/Slim Devices) can get it "right" with the Transporter while the high end audio companies (McIntosh and Arcam) get it "wrong"? And not only do they get it "wrong" but they it "wrong" in the one area where they should know better, i.e. how the product sounds.

So yes, I understand that many, many people don't have or are unwilling or unable to learn the computer skills required to assemble a complete music server system from the ground up and that many of these people will be more than willing to pay a premium for a no-brainer all-in-one music server solution but that still does not excuse the lack of a good DAC within any of these products.

I should also add that only in Stereophile's review of the McIntosh music server was the less than stellar performance of the onboard DAC given a thorough trashing, with Wes Philips even going as far as stating that the same level of sonic performance could be had for much less by using a Squeezebox and an external DAC.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
So once again I ask: why is it that a manufacturer of computer products (Logitech/Slim Devices) can get it "right" with the Transporter while the high end audio companies (McIntosh and Arcam) get it "wrong"? And not only do they get it "wrong" but they it "wrong" in the one area where they should know better, i.e. how the product sounds.


This is indeed an excellent question.

Perhaps the answer lies in part because the resulting product feels so much like a computer and this hangs them up. It shouldn't, a CDP also feels a bit like a computer.

Similarly however, I would like an explanation as to why the Transporter is $2,000.00. There are many excellent sounding DACs the retail for about $1,000.00. The wireless reception and display of the Transporter is not that expensive (see, for example, SlimDevices own Squeezebox for $299.00). Where is the extra money going?

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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


Quote:
I should also add that only in Stereophile's review of the McIntosh music server was the less than stellar performance of the onboard DAC given a thorough trashing, with Wes Philips even going as far as stating that the same level of sonic performance could be had for much less by using a Squeezebox and an external DAC.

Yeah, kudos to Wes for that comment.

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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


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Similarly however, I would like an explanation as to why the Transporter is $2,000.00. There are many excellent sounding DACs the retail for about $1,000.00.


I was wondering the same thing about the Transporter since its introduction. The EMU 0404 uses the same DAC (along with a very good ADC) for a tenth the price. This page has a picture of the TP with the cover off showing the wide open spaces.

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Interesting article. He sure stuffs a lot of stuff into that skinny box.

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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

Perhaps the "extra money" repays a costly R&D commitment? With $100,000 Turntables out there I don't hold anything against Slim Devices. Would we take the Transporter seriously if it cost less? Sure. Please let us prove it Logitech.

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


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Similarly however, I would like an explanation as to why the Transporter is $2,000.00. There are many excellent sounding DACs the retail for about $1,000.00. The wireless reception and display of the Transporter is not that expensive (see, for example, SlimDevices own Squeezebox for $299.00). Where is the extra money going?


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I was wondering the same thing about the Transporter since its introduction. The EMU 0404 uses the same DAC (along with a very good ADC) for a tenth the price. This page has a picture of the TP with the cover off showing the wide open spaces.

I'll try to answer these questions and comments based on what I know about the Transporter and Squeezebox.

The Transporter has: single ended and balanced analog outputs, an internal universal power supply (with detachable power cord), digital outputs and inputs, face plate mounted controls and twice the display area of the Squeezebox.

Plus I would hope that some of that $2,000 price tag is going for profit

As for all the empty space inside of the Transporter, I would think that it is mostly a result of the chosen form factor of the device and not some way of saying "Hey, look how much empty space we left in here, now don't you feel ripped off?"

Elk
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


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The Transporter has: single ended and balanced analog outputs, an internal universal power supply (with detachable power cord), digital outputs and inputs, face plate mounted controls and twice the display area of the Squeezebox.


Yes, but excellent $1k DACs have essentially all these things as well, except for the display. Of course, the Transporter also has a basic wireless receiver.

Thus, I would expect the Transporter to be priced at about $1,500.00 or a tad less.

I don't begrudge Logitech however for its pricing. It is fully entitled to make a profit.

I am also certain that the empty space is a function of the form. However, displays can radiate a good bit of noise and the physical separation may be a good thing.

jazzfan
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


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Thus, I would expect the Transporter to be priced at about $1,500.00 or a tad less.

And I paid $1,600 or a tad more for my Transporter. Pretty close.

jdm56
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

What I'd like to see is a Transporter with full line level pre-amp functionality. Consider the pc or NAS as just another source component, albeit a wireless one. How sweet would that be?

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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers


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What I'd like to see is a Transporter with full line level pre-amp functionality. Consider the pc or NAS as just another source component, albeit a wireless one. How sweet would that be?

Transporter has 4 digital inputs and outputs a remote and a wordclock in.
Not too bad for it's 1,600.00 street price.
So it can take a CDT or CDP with digital out.
I run TP straight to my amp. The only time I use my pre-amp is for vinyl.

peters
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Re: Over Priced (High End) Music Servers

I heard a lot of these Music Servers at CES, and frankly most all of them miss the point and don't sound very good either. There is a lot of proprietary nonsense involved in a lot of them too, like they can do something entirely new in this area.

I did hear one unit, only taking pre-orders I think, which did things a bit differently. They were not selling a "BOX" but a custom-built system with hand-picked parts, etc. Said it took them a year of testing individual components to see what actually worked best. While pricing was in line with the others, it used an outstanding external DAC along with some DSPs I think to really do some damage. Ripped CDs sounded very analog and they were even able to rip some Vinyl so that it sounded better than straight off the table - perhaps some digital audio processing?

Whatever, it is worth a few bucks to have someone do the research, cut through the crap and actually put together a unit which will deliver. Don't care about proprietary software or hardware unless it can sound MUCH better than this thing. Using standard pieces and software means I'm so much less tied into them as a company down the road and can grow this thing without having to go into debt.

In the end, of the couple of dozen or so units I heard, this one was by far the best, and very different from the others. Let me see if I can find that card...

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