What is your primary digital front end?

What is your <I>primary</I> digital front end?
CD player
34% (188 votes)
Hi-rez disc player
11% (63 votes)
5% (27 votes)
Music Server (computer-based)
36% (198 votes)
Music Server (dedicated: Sooloos, Sonos, etc.)
10% (55 votes)
3% (18 votes)
Total votes: 549

Reader Charlie S. wonders what you use for digital music these days? What is your <I>primary</I> digital front end?

Will's picture

Will be getting a music server soon.

Mullard EL34's picture

Computer-based front-end (24-bit/96KHz output via Layla-3G PCI card from Echo Digital Audio), using FLAC files served from a centralized FreeNAS server. I keep the file-server stocked with FLAC files ripped from my own CDs as well as high-resolution FLAC files from a number of commercial sources (HDtracks, HDTT (High Definition Tape Transfers), Reference Recordings, etc). The sound of the music is outstanding!

emiser's picture

I have about 10k CDs, so the Mac mini and hard drives with dig link III (USB) is the most convenient, but I'll admit my CD player through the dac sounds better

Joe Kolb's picture

Gradually building a library of lossless music files ripped from CDs. I don't have room left for additional hard media.

Lila's picture

A PC. It has an ultra-low distortion (& low noise, etc) (modified) Creative Elite Pro sound card. It has a 2V output so it is my only "preamp" (I don't believe in additional preamps). The channel separation I had noticed compared to another good sound card is also really amazing.

Charlie S's picture

I just converted to a Squeezebox Duet with a Bel Canto DAC. Works great and great sound. The computer to Squeezebox is a better transport than my CD player.

Al Earz's picture

I have been using the Ayre C5xe and a Denon 5910ci for surround. I don't anticipate changing anytime soon. My focus has changed primarily to LP and I only buy a few CDs and those are the releases that are not available on vinyl. Maybe someday, when we can download hi-rez digital music that can equal or surpass LP sound characteristics, then I will buy into it. I have been suckered along to many times with SACD and DVD-A and I always gravitate back to vinyl. I would love to have a medium that doesn't have ticks and pops, but nothing else delivers that analog sound.

samuel monraz's picture

I'll never use anything less than a CD.

G.C.  Van Winkle's picture

Any inexpensive, but competently designed (as tested by JA), CD or DVD player combined with the Benchmark DAC will outperform all but the most expensive players and digital separates. I'd rather spend my money on the music.

Scotty Thompson's picture

Dumped SACD and a universal player to get back into a great dedicated Red Book machine. SACD has turned out to be a marketing ploy for the classical labels now and the fidelity is nowhere near where the format can deliver. Since Blu-Ray will more than likely be the future format of choice for most classical labels, ditching SACD was a no-brainer.

thequietman's picture

Modded Sonos with PS Audio DAC 3 (modded by Cullen Circuits), ease of use and sound better than any CD player I have heard.

Bob D's picture

I still use my more than decade-old EAD T1000 and DSP 1000 combo. I've yet to find any one-box player that does better.

macksman's picture

Linn Ikemi, apparently discontinued. Too bad. Punches way above its weight in the $3500 range. Listening to Nils Lofgren's Break Away Angel just now, how pretty. Like a record. For the record, all the best to all of you out there.

Dimitris Gogas's picture

More than 90% of my digital music is in CD. My CD player is working overtime, my MP3 player is somewhere in a closet, my PC is streaming music once in a while.

WalkerTM's picture

Have not found anything to really beat the sound of a pristine record. Not even SACD, so I just have a decent CD-Player to use for casual listening.

Travis Klersy's picture

My only digital front end is a CD player, but it only gets used every few months. Viva analog!

Eric's picture

Now that I have my NAS-PC system working well (Windows Media Player v11 on PCs with HDMI out), I will not go back to physical CD playback.

Cihangir Güzey's picture

CD for home, Sony PSP for vacation and headphone listening at home. Original CD ripped as AAC with Sonic Stage (free Sony software) for PSP usage. PSP sounds fantastic with a good earphone.

Prithvi's picture

I have a Linn Akurate DS.

Anoni Mouse's picture

Wadia. Even the new Naim HDX music server only has a claimed frequency response of 10Hz-18kHz. I think music servers are a good idea in principle, especially those that re-read a CD until all, or nearly all, the bits have been harvested, but in practice a good CD player still sounds better—for now.

Fred's picture

Looking for a nice music server, though . . . .

James Irving's picture

It's the best sound quality I've ever had and it's so convenient.

Al Marcy's picture

400 DVD changer.

Teresa's picture

Yamaha DVD-S1700 SACD/DVD-Audio player. Nothing digital can touch SACDs. High-rez downloads come close, but they are way more expensive than SACDs at discount. And I like the cases, booklets and feel of a real product. I also download free MP3s at 192kbps or higher but I prefer their sound upsampled to AIFF during burning to CD-R. These CD-Rs from my Yamaha totally blow away the original music files as heard on my computer. I only use the computer to record free music files; for playback, it's my Yamaha SACD/DVD-Audio player. I see no "sonic" need for a music server to the present time.

George Pougas's picture

Soon my main source will be a computer-based music/video server, feeding both a USB benchmark (for audio system)and a A/V Denon amp (for the complementary video system). What if the magazine devotes a column on computer-based servers: tips; latest developments; new PC components available; readers' settings, succes or not stories. Import assistance from the PC magazines of the group!!!

Daniel's picture

In recent months, my digital front end has very definitely switched from CD player to a PC-based system. I am running the freeware Foobar 2000 player (including the Windows Kernel Mixer bypass) on a laptop. To hold the files, I bought a couple of 350 gigabyte USB hard drives (one for backup - about £60 each) and am connecting to the hi-fi with an external USB DAC. All discs are ripped to the lossless *.wma format and it sounds superb for the money. Video is played with the (again, freeware) VLC Videolan Player, which appears to handle every format imaginable. The DAC is a StyleAudio Carat HD1V, which doubles as a headphone amplifier. At about £130, it is very good value, and was the catalyst for my switch from CD/DVD player to a computer-based setup. You can spend more and get more performance, and it would be more convenient if I had some kind of wi-fi setup, but this is a superb entry-level option.

EG's picture

dCS Verdi La Scala, Elgar Plus DAC and Verona master clock. Sublime digital.

Ivan's picture

I own two Squeezeboxes (now called "classic"—I didn't like the duet, which I returned for a refund).

Olav Sunde's picture

Modified SB3 (analog out direct from DAC) with SqueezeCenter running on a ReadyNAS.

fred moncozet's picture

J'ai commandé un Wadia transport i 170.