Digital Audio Streaming Guide

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MisterMat
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Digital Audio Streaming Guide

Postby MisterMat » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:30 am

[size=xx-large]Digital Audio Streaming Guide[/size]


[size=x-large]Introduction[/size]

This introduction is aimed at people who come from the world of CD players and turntables, and who are new to the world of streaming audio. Digital streaming is where we store audio on a hard disk instead of on CDs. The audio is then retrieved for playback.

Advantages over CDs include:

- Not having to physically change CDs
- No problems with scratched CDs
- No CD tray or laser to get damaged
- Music is backed up so if you lose a CD you still have your music
- Ability to store music in one place but play music in different rooms in the house

What about music quality? It's likely to be much the same as from your CD player. There are theoretical advantages in both approaches that are beyond the scope of this guide. There is also a small but growing availability of high resolution digital downloads (24-bit recordings).

However the advantages of digital streaming over CD are largely convenience and reliability.

Getting started with digital streaming can actually be quite simple, but there are a few choices to be made to choose the solution that is right for you.

With any digital playback medium, you need something to store the data, something to control it and something to play it. With a CD player, the music is stored on a CD, controlled and read by the CD player and converted to audio with a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter). With streaming, there are considerably more options about how we store, real and play back the music, and you will need to consider these three factors when deciding upon a solution: Storage, control and playback.


[size=large]Storing Music[/size]

You will almost certainly want to store your music on a hard drive. It is possible to store your music on an SD card, USB stick or flash drive, but for most people with large music collections this is neither practical nor economical.

There are different possibilities about where the hard drive is located and how the data is accessed, and this greatly depends upon what we will use to control playback. The choice of where to store your music will probably be driven by your preference on how you wish to control your music. Here are some popular options:

- Store music on a hard drive inside your PC, Mac or dedicated streamer
- Store music on a USB hard drive to be attached to your PC, Mac or streamer
- Store music on a NAS, a hard drive that is attached to your network

There are various ways to encode the music which will be covered later.


[size=large]Controlling your Music[/size]

You will need a way to select music to play, skip tracks, change volume, as well as organising your music and setting up playlists. This is the most important thing to consider as this is how you will be interacting with your music.

The main decision is whether you want to use a computer to control your music, and this will be covered in the next section. Computers offer superior flexibility but may require more configuration to set up.

The alternative is using a dedicated streamer, such as Sonos or Squeezebox. These typically do streaming and nothing else, and are often (but not always) cheaper, quieter and smaller than a computer, and will provide support for a remote control.


[size=large]The DAC: Playing your Music[/size]

A DAC is a digital to analogue converter, and converts the digital signal to audio. There is one in every CD player, and in order to listen to streamed audio you will need one. Some amplifiers and preamplifiers come with them built in, but it is often more flexible to buy a separate DAC. Most streamers come with DACs, and depending on your requirements the attached DAC may be good enough for your needs, but if you have a high fidelity system you will find the quality on the cheaper models to be poor and it is usual to use a separate DAC.

The great thing about streaming is you can choose a method to control your music that gives you the best possible interface, and then buy a separate DAC that gives you the best possible quality. You are not stuck with having to choose the tradeoff of having a streamer that has a lousy interface and superb quality, or vica versa.


[size=x-large]Using a computer to control your music[/size]


A key choice to be made is whether you are happy using a personal computer, whether a PC desktop, PC laptop, Mac, Macbook, or Mac mini, to play music. A computer is flexible and powerful, and a laptop gives a good degree of portability. It also comes with built in storage, is easy to attach extra storage to, and allows a wide range of programs for allow audio playback.

It can in fact be an all in one solution, offering Storage (internal hard disk), Control (you using a keyboard and mouse and looking at a monitor) and Playback (really good sound card).

However, you may not want to have your computer switched on when you want to play music, nor have to stare at a large screen or may prefer using a remote control.

You may opt instead to use your computer only for storage, and then have a streamer to read and play it. If you already have a PC or Mac that is on 24/7, and is not going to cause noise problems when listening to music, you may wish to use it to store your music.

Here are some of the possibilities:


[size=large]The Media Centre[/size]

An all in one dedicated media centre, with music stored on the hard disk, and music controlled with keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Although it is possible to use a high quality sound card for playback, it is preferable to use an external DAC, because of the excellent choices on offer and also because it can be used with other sources if required.

There are solutions that allow use of a remote control, for example Mac users can use the iPod Touch or iPhone to control iTunes.

Either a Mac or PC can be an excellent Media Centre solution. The Media Centre can be either a highly specced Mac Pro or PC, could be your ordinary day to day computer, or a small and low powered solution like the Mac Mini.


[size=large]Mac Mini[/size]

The Mac Mini is a variation on the Media Centre, and is a popular due to being small, quiet and low powered whilst being powerful enough to stream audio and video. It also very usefully offers a digital optical output.

Audio can be stored either on the Mac Mini's local hard drive, on a location on the network or on a memory stick or USB hard drive. It has built in wireless as well as a wired ethernet connection. Prices start at around £500.

The iPod Touch or iPhone can be used as a remote control for the Mac Mini as with any other Mac or PC running iTunes.

There is a wealth of information on how to set up the Mac Mini as a home media centre, this guide by SimonJ is an excellent place to start.


[size=large]The Computer As Storage[/size]

You may opt to use a separate streamer, but may wish to store your music on your computer for later playback. This could be an existing computer, or a dedicated low powered computer running Windows Home Server.


[size=large]Airport Express[/size]

A computer can also be used to send audio to an Airport Express, which communicates with it either wirelessly or via wired ethernet. If you’re already bought into Apple’s iTunes system and are happy using a Mac or PC, this is a good option to consider. Note that if you’re using wireless and you have a bad signal, this could cause dropouts in the audio.

For a really comprehensive guide in getting the Airport Express and iTunes on a Mac, Mac Mini or Mac TV to stream audio throughout the home:
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/conte ... n-Part-One
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/conte ... n-Part-Two
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/conte ... Part-Three

Again, the ever useful iPod Touch can be used as a remote.


[size=x-large]Streamers[/size]

Let's now consider several popular streaming solutions:


[size=large]Sonos ZP90[/size]

Sonos is probably the most easily set up, robust and easy to use streaming solution. It is not the cheapest however, at £265 for the Sonos ZP90. You will also need a remote control, either the official Sonos control, the CR200 (£265) or an iPod Touch (£165) or iPhone running the free Sonos software. It is also controllable from a PC or Mac. Both the PC and the iPod Touch software work well.

It has an internal DAC but it is not designed for hifi application so most users will probably want to buy a separate DAC.

It does not have any storage so your music will need to be stored elsewhere, either on a PC, Mac or NAS that is attached to the same network. Sonos has an advantage over many streamers that it can access audio that is on any shared folder on the network, and does not require any special software to be installed.

Once you have attached the Sonos box to your network and have a shared folder set up with your music, setup is very straightforward.

It also comes with support for multi room audio straight out of the box. One Sonos unit must be attached to your network with an ethernet cable, but after that additional Sonos units can be added throughout your house which can operate wirelessly, operate simultaneously and can all be controlled from the Sonos application.

Sonos only supports up to 16-bit 44.1KHz (CD quality) audio, which might be an issue if playing high definition digital downloads is a priority.


[size=large]The Squeezebox Duet [/size]

£229 buys you the Squeezebox and also a remote control. This is another popular streaming solution, and somewhat cheaper than Sonos to get started.

It also does not have any internal storage and so requires your music to be located on a PC, Mac or NAS that is on the same network. One complication here is that it requires the Squeezebox Server software to be installed on the same network as where your music is located. The software can either be installed on a PC, Mac or NAS that resides on the same network.

Setting up the Squeezebox Server shouldn't be too difficult for someone who is comfortable with computers and networking, but this will be more involved that setting up Sonos. Setting up the Squeezebox Server on a NAS is a popular choice, but do note that not all NAS boxes work well with Squeezebox Server though some come with it pre-installed.

Like Sonos, the Squeezebox comes with a DAC but for serious applications you will probably want to use a separate DAC.

Squeezebox supports up to 24-bit 44.1KHz audio.



[size=large]The Squeezebox Touch[/size]

The Squeezebox Touch (£265) supports 24-bit 96KHz audio, connects to USB drives, features internet radio and has a big colour touch screen, all for the price of a Sonos ZP90. It also comes with a remote.

I evaluated the Squeezebox Touch for a week and reviewed it here:

http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/mybb/sh ... ?tid=13849

Short version - good quality S/PDIF feed (better than Sonos), 24/96 works as advertised, USB is extremely problematic, Squeezecenter can be tricky to set up and for large libraries doesn't run properly on lower specced NAS boxes, preferring a full blown PC (Atom processor or better). Touch screen isn't that practical, remote works well but only at short distances, fortunately replacement interfaces for PC and iPod Touch are available. Apparently the DAC is very good, not much short of a DACMagic (unverified).

Also see:

http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/mybb/sh ... ?tid=12653

Conclusion: if one is willing to deal with setting up Squeezecenter and accept a slightly less solid experience than the Sonos ZP90, this offers excellent value for money.

[size=large]Xtreamer[/size]

This recent device streams 24-bit 96KHz audio (24-bit 192KHz over HDMI) and also video, for the bargain price of £99. Unlike the Sonos and Squeezebox devices, you install your own hard drive in the Xtreamer, so a separate NAS is not required. You can also attach USB sticks or USB hard drives. Users have spoken highly of it's technical capabilities but have indicated that it is currently let down by it's poor user interface.

http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/mybb/sh ... ?tid=11165

There is an Xtreamer Pro coming out.


[size=large]Linn DS range[/size]

Linn produce a range of high priced streamers, the Sneaky (£900), Majik (£1800), Akurate (£3900) and Klimax (£11,400) DS range. They require either TwonkyMedia installed on the NAS or a special mode enabled that I can’t remember at the moment. I tried the Majik and personally didn’t like it, however these get good reviews and have a popular following. The included software is terrible.


[size=x-large]All In One Solutions[/size]

There are a few solutions you can buy which will do it all. They will rip your CDs, store the data locally, and come with a remote control to allow you to navigate your music collection without having to use a keyboard or mouse. Note that in order to do so these products require you to use a monitor or television, which is understandable given the complexity of navigating your media but detracts from the simplicity of using a remote somewhat.

This is an attractive proposition for the buyer who wants the convenience of digital streaming without having to worry about home networking or computers, although these products are necessarily computers they hide it as much as they can. Also note that if you need to use them to access storage on your network, some degree of networking knowledge may be required.

Disadvantages are that you lose the ability to upgrade parts of the product, a lack of flexibility, and very high price points compared to the equivalent functionality that can obtained elsewhere, for example from setting up your own media server or using a separate streaming box.

In other words, you are paying a premium for convenience and simplicity.


[size=large]Naim HDX[/size]

This is an all in one solution built on the Digital Fidelity platform. It can rip CDs to a local hard drive, but can also play audio from USB or networked sources, and itself act as a network source for remote clients. However it aims to be as close to a stand alone box, and as little like a PC, as possible.

In terms of control, it has a touch screen panel and can be controlled using a laptop, but in order to control using a remote it requires a screen to be attached.

It comes with two mirrored 400Gb hard drives, which is only enough for 600 CDs.

The cost? £4500.

http://www.naim-audio.com/products/hdx.html


[size=large]Aurora Media Centres[/size]

These are basically PCs in small cases running Windows 7 Media Centre.

They aim to be your solution for all your audio and AV needs as they stream both audio and video, have support for DVD and BluRay, and output HDMI and up to 7.1 channel playback and allow use of 2Tb hard drives. Some models come with TV cards and support catch up TV.

Aurora hope you will buy one for every room in your home, as they are designed to network together.

Prices range from £2300 to £4100.

http://www.auroraeuphony.co.uk/Aurora-Media-Centres


[size=x-large]DACs[/size]


Here I will make some personal recommendations with regards to DACs for streaming. A lot of streamers are relatively high jitter sources compared to the best CD players, however many modern DACs can cope very well with difficult sources. It is a good idea to look out for a DAC that has excellent jitter rejection, especially if you are using a noisy source such as a desktop PC.

I have personally found the Cambridge Audio DACMagic (£230) and Benchmark DAC-1 (£900) to cope very well with noisy sources and both sound excellent. Other DACs that I have heard also work well with difficult sources include the Bel Canto DAC3 (£2200) and PS Audio DAC III (£900). The Music Fidelity V-DAC (£140) gets good reviews. There are many other excellent DACs out there I don’t know enough about to specifically recommend.

If you’re connecting from a desktop and want to us USB, it’s worth considering a DAC that is specifically designed to work with noisy USB sources. Wavelength DACs have asynchronous USB which theoretically means really low jitter. The Fubar II USB DAC (£120) sounds interesting.

Most streamers come with DACs included but most of them are of poor quality. Streamers designed to be have decent DACs include the Logitech Transformer (£1300) and the Linn DS range. Manufacturers of these streamers claim that having a combined streamer/DAC allows for lower jitter and thus higher audio quality.


[size=x-large]Network Attached Storage (NAS)[/size]


It is possible to use a PC for this purpose, and indeed one can buy a very small, cheap PC which will operate as a NAS and also has the flexibility to do other tasks. This is technically involved and outside the scope of this FAQ. Alternatively you can use an existing PC and this will work fine. However consider that keeping it on may be loud and it will probably use more power than a small dedicated machine.

Otherwise one can buy a specialised box for this purpose, called a NAS. Different NAS boxes may contain either a single hard drive, or 2 or 5 hard-drives in RAID configuration for redundancy. A single hard drive will suffice. RAID 1 uses two hard drives which contain two identical copies of your data, which offers some protection against hard drive failure. However, RAID is not a substitute for proper backup solution.

An entry level NAS will cost around £100-200 depending on features and whether it has space for one or two hard drives. Brands include the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo, Buffalo LinkStation, Iomega StorCenter, Synology and QNAP.

I don't feel comfortable making any specific recommendations.

Besides the number of hard drives, watch out for fan noise, which can be loud on some models, supported hard drive models (some NAS boxes recommend you only use certain models of hard drives), maximum hard drive size (1Tb on some older models), also if your streamer requires software to be installed on your NAS to enable it to access your music, it is a bonus if this comes preinstalled.

For hard drives, low power and quiet operation are more important than performance. I recommend the 1.5 Tb Western Digital Caviar Green SATA 7200RPM which you should be able to pick up for £80. It’s fast, quiet and cheap.


[size=x-large]Connecting to your DAC[/size]


There are three ways to connect your player to your DAC: USB, optical and coax. Some DACs also have a wireless option, such as the Chord QBD76 DAC which uses Bluetooth. We will only consider the wired options here.

Disclaimer: There are greatly differing views about what digital cables to use. Some users maintain militantly "any cable will do", others insist that it's worth spending hundreds of pounds on cabling to get the most of your equipment. It is up to you to determine what is true for you. These recommendations are personal and may converge from the objective tone of this guide. Please feel free to do your own thing.


[size=large]USB[/size]

If you are using a computer then USB is very convenient as all modern computers support it. However one issue with USB is that many but not all DACs have poorer audio quality with USB than optical or coax. Some DACs are specifically designed to work well over USB, particularly those that use asynchronous USB, but if you're considering using USB then it's well worth selecting a DAC that is known to work well with it, as many DACs add USB support as an afterthought.

I recommend using any in spec, well constructed USB 2.0 cable. The one that came with your DAC is a good bet. If you are really that worried about electrical noise, use a laptop and run it off batteries. Or buy a DAC that is specifically designed to work with noisy USB sources. Or use optical. On the other hand, some respectable sources maintain that up market USB cables can really can make a difference.


[size=large]Coax and Digital[/size]

Many computers support coax or optical output (all modern Macs even laptops support optical output which is very handy) or you may be able to add a sound-card that gives you these options. For desktop computers, prefer optical to prevent electrical noise interfering with the signal.

With streamers such as the Sonos or Squeezebox, coax or optical are both good options. Conventional wisdom is that coax is superior for shorter lengths, but it is likely that there will either be no difference between the two or that different DACs will respond differently to different cables. If in doubt, for short lengths use 75 ohm coax, and for lengths of over a few metres, use optical.

If you have a modern DAC with excellent jitter rejection you should not have to spend more on cables than is necessary to ensure that it is in spec. I personally recommend either cheap optical cable or 75 ohm coax (Belden 1694A is a good choice at £14). This is a contentious area. Some DACs, particularly older ones, may degrade in quality quickly when used with a source that is less than optimal and may respond problematically with certain cables.

Digital cables do not have specific sonic characteristics independent of the equipment that they are connecting. It is possible that some cables will perform differently with different equipment. There is also the possibility that an out of spec cable may produce changes in tone due to timing errors that may be deemed subjectively pleasant.

Some users like to spend more money on higher priced cables, this is absolutely fine but I strongly recommend buying a standard, in spec cable first to compare against, and buy more expensive cables either second hand or on sale or return then listen carefully.


[size=x-large]Ripping CDs[/size]


Much of your existing music is likely on CD. Ripping a CD collection is a time consuming exercise and it's important to do it the right way, because you really don't want to be doing it a second time.


[size=large]Ripping CDs on PC[/size]


There are two main choices, EAC and dBpoweramp.

EAC is often regarded as the best, though the interface can be a bit fiddly at first. It is fiddly to set up, but this only needs to be done once. Useful features include very reliable ripping and the ability to get metadata (artist, album name, tracks etc) form online databases. It is also free.

This is not a substitute for the getting started guide, but a few notes on EAC:

- Choose "Expert Mode" when you first run it. Yes, you're an expert, trust me :)
- The first time you run EAC, you will be asked to rip a CD in order to calibrate AccurateRip. This is automatic, and thereafter AccurateRip will check everytime you RIP a CD against an on-line database to make sure that your CD has been ripped with 100% accuracy
- You should use FreeDb before ripping every CD in order to get metadata (artist, album, genre, track names etc) from an online database prior to ripping
- Since you are using a PC, you should configure FLAC as your file type
- When you rip a CD, press ALT-G to get the metadata from FreeDb, then Shift+F6 to copy the CD

You can get it here: http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/en/index.ph.../download/
Here is a comprehensive getting started guide: http://www.teqnilogik.com/tutorials/eac.shtml

I have used dbPoweramp and it is also very good and easier to use than EAC. However it does cost $36 for the full version, and $24 for a but down version:

http://www.dbpoweramp.com/dmc-power-register.htm


[size=large]Ripping CDs on Mac[/size]


The two main choices on Mac are iTunes, and Max.

iTunes is the obvious choice, and if you're going to use iTunes to play your audio then it makes an attractive all in one solution.

There is plenty of information out there, however I cannot find a decent guide for ripping CDs to ALAC. Would appreciate if someone could fill in the gaps here.


Thanks to Djmac to telling me about Max:

"I use Max - very happy with it for converting lots of formats - seems to work well with Snow Leopard (I used it a lot for transferring Flac to ALAC with no major hassles - handles metadata quite well etc)"

Max can be downloaded here: http://sbooth.org/Max/

I can't find a getting started guide though the website and forums look helpful.

Features include error correction, support for a wide variety of formats including the important Apple Lossless, metadata lookup using MusicBrainz

Max can also be used to convert between file types, split single file CD rips using a CUE file,



[size=x-large]File formats[/size]



[size=large]File formats[/size]

The file format describes the way the audio is stored on your hard disk. They fall into the following categories:

- Uncompressed audio (aiff, wav)
- Lossless compressed audio (alac, flac)
- Lossy compressed audio (mp3, ogg, wma, aac)

Uncompressed audio is stored in exactly the same form as it is on the CD.
Compressed audio has had redundant information taken out of it so that it takes up less space on the disk and is either "lossy" or "lossless".
Lossy compressed audio has been changed in order to make the files extra small, but in the process the quality has been degraded.
Lossless compressed audio is not as small as lossy but can be uncompressed to be exactly the same as it was before it was compressed.


[size=large]Audio Quality[/size]

On a high fidelity system, lossy compressed audio can be noticeably degraded compared to lossless and I do not recommend it unless you have no other choice. It is best used for portable applications. At common bitrates (192kbps mp3, 128kbps ogg) there can be a audible loss of detail particularly in higher frequencies, and at lower bitrates there can artefacts such as squelching and clicking. Having said that, high bitrate lossless audio (320kbps) can be very hard or impossible to tell apart from CD. I would still recommend buying a larger hard drive than encoding CDs in a lossy format.

Lossless compressed audio will sound the same as uncompressed audio and on a given streaming device, unless there is a malfunction, they will sound identical on a given playback platform. Uncompressed audio is of course the same data that was read from the CD.


[size=large]Meta data[/size]

Not related to quality but also important. Metadata stores information about your music, such as track names, album titles, artist name, track numbers and genre. When this information is organised, you will be able to browse your music by artist name or genre, rather than browsing through folders.

For this reason a file format that allows you to store metadata is desirable. Some playback systems, such as Apple's iTunes, store information about the music not in the files themselves but in a separate database, which serves the same function. The only problem with this is that this information is lost if you access your files from another program or in another location.

Most file formats support metadata. WAV does not.


[size=large]Suggested file formats[/size]

So, what format to use? Here are some suggested file formats, and the choice will largely depend on whether you are using the Apple system, which only supports a limited number of formats. In any case, do check whatever streaming solution you are considering to check any compatibility issues.

For non-Apple systems

Compressed lossless: Use FLAC. It is widely supported and supports metadata.
Uncompressed: WAV is widely supported however it doesn't support metadata so make sure whatever you are using to categorise your music has a separate database for metadata, which you are happy to lose if you change platforms. AIFF is uncompressed and supports metadata, however support is patchy.
Compressed lossy: Depending on your portable audio player, AAC is excellent but not always supported, OGG is good quality but likewise not always supported, WMA is decent for Zune players. Mp3 is widely compatible but the has the worst audio quality. Only consider encoding 160kbps and up, and for mp3 always use 320kbps.

For Apple systems

Compressed lossless: Use ALAC, otherwise known as Apple Lossless. It is universally supported on Apple systems and on some non-Apple systems.
Uncompressed: Probably your best bet is AIFF, which is supported on iTunes.
Compressed lossy: I recommend AAC, which is the lossy format iTunes defaults to (.m4a)


[size=x-large]Further Reading[/size]


[size=large]Sites[/size]

Computer Audiophile - great resource for using your computer as a high fidelity audio source:
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/


[size=large]How To Guides[/size]

Official Squeezebox Server Wiki
http://wiki.slimdevices.com/index.php/SqueezeCenter

Overview of using the Mac Mini as a media centre:
http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/mybb/sh ... ?tid=12276

Setting up the Mac Mini as a home media centre:
http://www.macworld.com/article/140087/ ... arted.html

Blog post on getting Mac Mini set up as Media Centre
http://www.iheartmatt.com/blog/2009/03/ ... ia-center/

Comprehensive guide to setting up a home server using Windows Home Server:
http://www.wegotserved.com/

Brief guide to setting up Foobar 2000 for bit perfect audio:

http://www.bit-tech.net/bits/2007/09/12/pc_audio_101/1

Guide to setting up Windows 7 with JRiver Media Center as a home media center:
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/conte ... figuration


[size=large]Software[/size]

Plex Media Centre for Mac
http://www.plexapp.com/

J-River Media Centre for PCs
http://www.jrmediacenter.com/


[size=large]Forum threads[/size]

Mac Mini as Digital Media Center writeup:
http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/mybb/sh ... p?tid=9325

Review of Windows Home Server:
http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/mybb/sh ... p?tid=6126


[size=large]Reviews[/size]

Sonos ZP80:
http://www.stereophile.com/budgetcompon ... index.html
http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2006/04/24 ... onos_zp80/

Logitech Squeezebox/Duet:
http://www.stereophile.com/budgetcompon ... index.html
http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/06/23 ... ebox_duet/

Logitech Squeezebox Touch:
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/conte ... uch-Review
http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2010/05/17 ... box_touch/

Logitech Transporter:
http://www.stereophile.com/computeraudi ... index.html

Musical Fidelity V-DAC:
http://www.stereophile.com/computeraudi ... index.html
http://whathifi.com/Review/Musical-Fidelity-V-DAC/

Cambridge Audio DACMagic:
http://www.stereophile.com/budgetcompon ... index.html
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/Cambr ... gic-Review
http://whathifi.com/Review/Cambridge-Audio-DacMagic/

Benchmark DAC1:
http://www.stereophile.com/digitalprocessors/108bench/
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/conte ... HDR-Review

Linn Klimax DS:
http://www.stereophile.com/digitalprocessors/308linn/

Bryston BDA-1 DAC:
http://www.stereophile.com/digitalproce ... index.html
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/bryst ... dac-review

Group test - wireless music streamers:
http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/09/05 ... streamers/


[size=x-large]Future topics[/size]


Subjects still left to cover:

- Windows Home Server (WHS)
- Home networking
- More on wireless streaming

Matthew.
Last edited by MisterMat on Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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algorythm
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby algorythm » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:16 am

One wonders what difference a USB to SPDIF converter would make to a DAC over the USB input...?

I'm tempted to get one and try it out, they're cheap enough, but I was wondering if anyone else had tried this?

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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby b4sound » Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:30 am

Many thanks MM.

Brilliant document and good timing plus a very concise overview re a subject that I have been pondering over recently as you know.

Does it mean that if I can find a long enough optical cable (say 4 metres), the Mac Mini can be connected straight to a DAC without using Airport Express? :blush: (this had not occured to me until now!) You just saved me AUD150!
Naim Uniti2 > Harbeth P3ESR

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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby SimonJ » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:48 am

[quote="'b4sound' pid='152841' dateline='1268361012'"]
Does it mean that if I can find a long enough optical cable (say 4 metres), the Mac Mini can be connected straight to a DAC without using Airport Express? :blush: (this had not occured to me until now!) You just saved me AUD150!
[/quote]

YES ask all you want to me as I have this setup with WHS :D

Good write up MM and a man of my own heart ;)
Last edited by SimonJ on Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby b4sound » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:57 am

[quote="'SimonJ' pid='152846' dateline='1268383697'"]
[quote="'b4sound' pid='152841' dateline='1268361012'"]
Does it mean that if I can find a long enough optical cable (say 4 metres), the Mac Mini can be connected straight to a DAC without using Airport Express? :blush: (this had not occured to me until now!) You just saved me AUD150!
[/quote]

YES ask all you want to me as I have this setup with WHS :D

Good write up MM and a man of my own heart ;)
[/quote]

Thanks Simon.
... WHS? :huh:

Is it the Airport Express that allows the iphone/itouch as remote?
Last edited by b4sound on Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby leng » Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:23 am

Minor correction - it is possible to install your music on a NAS and run Squeezeserver on another device (say a laptop with limited storage) provided you mount the NAS storage on the server PC (eg windows share, samba, NFS) and point the Squeezebox music library at it. Squeezecentre is not a demanding app so this approach may be useful if you wish to reuse an old laptop with a low-function NAS.

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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby MisterMat » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:15 am

Cheers Leng I'll put that in when I have a sec. b4sound, yes you can use optical out of your Mac Mini and I would recommend this over streaming to an Airport Express, provided it's convenient to run a cable.

I need to include a links section for further reading since I don't have the knowledge to cover everything. Simon, can you link me up to your WHS writeup?

Algorythm, I'm using a USB->optical converter/headphone amp at the moment called the Musiland 01 US. I'll write a proper review soon but in short, it's very good running out of either my home or work desktop PCs, but when connected to my laptop I get audio dropout and the quality is poor. When it works, the optical output of it into my Benchmark DAC-1 is indistinguishable from the output from my Sonos ZP90.

I previously tried a Behringer UCA 202 which caused audio dropouts on both PCs, however after it was sent back to the retailer they told me there was physical damage to the USB connector which may have caused this. Then there's the M Audio Transit, which I'm sure someone here wrote about recently though I can't find the thread.

So yes this is a good option but due to the problems I have encountered it's difficult to recommend any single solution.

One thing I haven't tried is the Musiland 01 US optical output into DACMagic versus USB into DACMagic.

Oh, and please post your suggestions and links here. I only know so much!

Matthew.

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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby julianh » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:26 am

Matthew

Just stumbled on this whilst listening to music streamed from my Mac Mini into an AV8M as my CDP is off for an upgrade.

It may be worth pointing anyone interested in the Mac Mini solution towards this article --> http://www.macworld.com/article/140087/ ... arted.html and the ones that follow it.

It's USA focussed, but the advice is sound and I followed it to build my system. The only thing I wouldn't do again is upgrade the memory inside the Mini. The current base model comes with 2gb which is more than adequate.

Julian
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby SimonJ » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:45 am

[quote="'b4sound' pid='152848' dateline='1268384240'"]
[quote="'SimonJ' pid='152846' dateline='1268383697'"]
[quote="'b4sound' pid='152841' dateline='1268361012'"]
Does it mean that if I can find a long enough optical cable (say 4 metres), the Mac Mini can be connected straight to a DAC without using Airport Express? :blush: (this had not occured to me until now!) You just saved me AUD150!
[/quote]

YES ask all you want to me as I have this setup with WHS :D

Good write up MM and a man of my own heart ;)
[/quote]

Thanks Simon.
... WHS? :huh:

Is it the Airport Express that allows the iphone/itouch as remote?
[/quote]

WHS = Windows Home Server which is the device I use to store all my media on. :) Check out my review if you want to learn about it. As for the remote using ipod touch etc you simply run itunes on the Mac Mini and then with the ipod touch you can remote control that itunes on the Mac = simple and GREAT! This is what I do. In this setup forget about airport express you dont need it
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming FAQ

Postby SimonJ » Fri Mar 12, 2010 10:49 am

@ MM Here you go...

http://www.rdhworld.co.uk/mybb/sh ... ome+server

Here is the PLEX link I use for movie streaming etc for Mac Mini

http://www.plexapp.com/

I have LOADS of info on how to use a mini as a digital hub and works 100% perfect and looks great. The new models on the way have an HDMI connection now too! :D
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming Guide

Postby purpleaardvark » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:07 pm

Matt great write up even a computer dufus like me understood all of it (ok some of the NAS stuff went a little over me?)
It appears that there's more than one way to skin a cat!
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming Guide

Postby MisterMat » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:10 pm

Thanks PA, I'll think about how it could be explained more clearly.

Could do with some diagrams if anyone here is capable?

Matthew.

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RE: Digital Audio Streaming Guide

Postby SimonJ » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:34 pm

[quote="'purpleaardvark' pid='152883' dateline='1268395645'"]
Matt great write up even a computer dufus like me understood all of it (ok some of the NAS stuff went a little over me?)
It appears that there's more than one way to skin a cat!
[/quote]

There are too many ways on how to do it for sure as everyone is in on it to make money. If yuo are not that technical chosse the Apple route as so easy and use friendly. :)

I am very technical and love it due to the fantastic user interfaces they provide and good looking kit but you do pay a price for that like Sonos too and I have both and are great systems.

[quote="'MisterMat' pid='152884' dateline='1268395841'"]
Thanks PA, I'll think about how it could be explained more clearly.

Could do with some diagrams if anyone here is capable?

Matthew.
[/quote]

We know who dont we.....are man in California ;)

MM you can add a bit about the WHS advantages over the NAS too as there are some great ones :)

Best WHS site loads of info, hardware and s\w reviews etc

http://www.wegotserved.com/
Last edited by SimonJ on Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Digital Audio Streaming Guide

Postby MisterMat » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:47 pm

[quote="'SimonJ' pid='152888' dateline='1268397260'"]
There are too many ways on how to do it for sure as everyone is in on it to make money. If yuo are not that technical chosse the Apple route as so easy and use friendly. :)
[/quote]

Actually I think the easiest routes to just get started are:

- Apple computer with internal storage connected to DAC
- PC with internal storage connected to DAC
- Sonos ZP90 connected to DAC, separate storage

Apple and PC are just ahead due to lack of need for external storage or a network, even. The platform is down to personal preference and I don't want to get into that here. Winamp, Foobar or JRiver Media Centre for the PC are easy to use. The advantage of the Mac is that it is an ecosystem where everything is designed to work together. iTunes is the way to go if you've got a Mac, avoid for the PC.

[quote="'SimonJ' pid='152888' dateline='1268397260'"]
I am very technical and love it due to the fantastic user interfaces they provide and good looking kit but you do pay a price for that like Sonos too and I have both and are great systems.
[/quote]

Yes, one thing this has thrown up is the simplest systems (Mac/PC/Sonos) are not the cheapest. However where one already has the hardware, the cost may already be paid for.

[quote="'SimonJ' pid='152888' dateline='1268397260'"]
[quote="'MisterMat' pid='152884' dateline='1268395841'"]
Thanks PA, I'll think about how it could be explained more clearly.
Could do with some diagrams if anyone here is capable?
[/quote]

We know who dont we.....are man in California ;)

[/quote]

Good idea. I'll see if he's game.

[quote="'SimonJ' pid='152888' dateline='1268397260'"]
MM you can add a bit about the WHS advantages over the NAS too as there are some great ones :)
[/quote]

Sure - would you like to give me your thoughts about it? I'm not that familiar with WHS.

Sweet link btw, added.

Matthew.
Last edited by MisterMat on Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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RE: Digital Audio Streaming Guide

Postby SimonJ » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:57 pm

Looks like we agree then MM hey :) I will get some data to you on WHS
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