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I am using a dedicated G4 cube to run Titletrack software which is a CD jukebox changer program that also can mix and manage playlists that are exclusively Mp3's or CD's mixed in. What's great about this approach (at least for us) is we have a dedicated music system in the sunroom. Over in the corner (tucked away) is a stack of CD jukebox changers with a Nirvis DMX digital switch. Whatever source is playing, it routes into a P1-A, P3-A combo that then converts into the pre-amp, amp section. This way, anything playing, whether it's MP3's from the computer or a CD changer, get's the best possible processing and amplification with only one place where we need to manage it. It's great!! I was really attracted to the Escient based changer controllers, but the cost was a bit much. I spent the money I saved on more music!!
The titletrack program is very easy to use and set up, and saved me from ripping all my CD's into MP3's in order to manage them into playlists. Now my playlists options are endless, whether it's of music I already own, or unusual music downloaded from the net!
Justlisten, the G4 was purchased Micro Center in suburban Chicago. It's a 433, 128Mb, 30Gb w/ CD-R; it cost $1,050. I considered an iMac or a Powerbook, but that would have limited me to Firewire I/O, which is quite limited and somewhat expensive. (I only know of two models, the MOTU 828 ($795) and the Metric Halo I/O ($1,495)). The RME sound card I ordered only cost $430.
iTunes is super cool, I use it here at work. The interface is much simpler and the design is cleaner than some of the other utilities I've seen. It plays both my old Napster downloads and newer Gnutella/Limewire files. However, simultaneously playing Snood while listening to iTunes seems to halve the volume through my Grado SR60 headphones.
I'm curious what iTunes and Titletrack are - I guess they're Macintosh programs? How do they interface to the stereo - through a digital output on a soundcard or something else?
Mnmatt - I'd be very interested in how you're set up with the jukebox changers - who writes the Titletrack software and does it physically interact with the changers?
I have two Sony CD changers and have it set up to control them with the Nirvis Slinke controller from my PC. The controller costs $$$ and they give you the jukebox software. Conceptually it works great - fabulously flexible keyword assignments and infinite flexibility for playlists, etc. In reality, the jukebox software is the most bug-ridden software I've ever allowed to crash my computer more than once. I've tried to coax it to behave because I want the functionality in the worst way, but it's a bad piece of software and I've probably now given up. I'd love to know some alternatives, especially if somebody has some success stories.
The other cool box I've seen is from a company called Lansonic. It's a hard-disk based "jukebox" with an ethernet interface on the input side, hard drives for storage in the unit, and an audio-component output side. It connects to a network and looks just like an NT server to other computers on the network. You can control it from any browser on the network, and it can play songs from any location on the network. I'd go for it in an instant if I was convinced it actually worked reliably, but it's a relatively new product and, like Nirvis, is probably a hardware company that writes the accompanying software "because they have to" and many companies like this produce bad software.
I love the best possible reproduction path when I'm sitting to specifically listen, but the technology exists in spades to have your whole music collection at instant access, and that's what I want. Unfortunately, I haven't been too successful coming up with the right mix to accomplish this (and, I agree - the Escient stuff is just too expensive even if it works flawlessly). -Kirk
Kthomas, you are correct, i tunes is an Apple software product. It comes pre-installed on all new Macs or it can be downloaded (for free) from the Apple website. i tunes primary purpose is to handle the conversion to and organization of MP3 files. Fortunately, the program has the flexibility to handle uncompressed files at the original 16 bit, 44.1K rates. Although some Macs have analog I/O, I would recommend adding a soundcard with digital I/O and connecting the computer to an outboard DAC. Music can be sent into the computer either by using the computer's CD drive, it takes about 4-5 minutes to rip a CD, or by using the digital input on a soundcard and any audio software that can produce a WAV or AIFF format file. Additionally, i tunes burn songs using the computer's CD-R.
The cost of the computer, monitor, sound card and hard drives quickly adds up, but a Mac running i tunes can directly replace a CD player and a CD-R. Also, since the music is contained as computer files, it opens up the possibility of DSP manipulation of the music - EQ, noise reduction, whatever.
Have you considered lossless compression (100% accurate with 50% size) such as www.monkeysaudio.com. For more info check http://www.firstpr.com.au/audiocomp/lossless/ .
I've also looked at the www.lansonic.com solution but I find it a little too expensive and you're forced to use their compressor. For PRO models they offer their own lossless compressor SonaPak.
My latest solution is to use my PC with external FireWire HDs (100GB each) and an www.lynxone.com audio card with AES/EBU output to my Tact Audio RCS 2.0 preamp. Remote control can be done wirelessly (802.11b) using my notebook or a Compaq iPAQ handheld.
Email me for more.
Iamnemo, I'm not familiar with any of the compression programs. HD space is fairly cheap, so I figure why compress. Three questions, have you addressed back up issues, have you tried the A/D converters on the Lynx (what's your opinion) and do you find Firewire cables to be directional?
I've only had my system set up for a few weeks, but I love it. It's so much easier to access music.
I purchased the RME card as well but put it in a homebuilt PC (PIII, 933Mhz, 512 MB) with QuietPC power supply, CPU and case fans and disk drive enclosures. I also put dynamat around the inside of the case and it's virtually silent. I run the Toslink digital out of the RME into a Monarchy Audio DIP 24/96 and then into a CAL Alpha 24/96. I'm using Winamp for now to play all of my CD's which are ripped using Exact Audio Copy (EAC) onto 4 60 GB hard drives. I also upsample some songs using Cool Edit 2000. I've tried Monkey's Audio but had problems with upsampled songs which were then compressed with Monkey's Audio and not being able to be played with WinAmp.
make sure you're using exact audio cd. only one that makes sure you are getting exact wav file dupes to the hard drive. my question is, if i'm using a sound card to an outboard dac, do i need to have one that does d/a conversion? it's redundant.
are there sound cards that just export digital to spdif or aes without a d/a converter on board. why should i pay for one when i'm going to use my outboard killer chord dac?
This is just the setup I am thinking about doing - only using an iBook (laptop) with an ext firewire hard drive to store & play the music.
Someone referenced using digital I/O vs analog. How bad do you think the standard analog I/O on the laptop would be? It's just a standard haedphone jack, but, in my quick tests, it doesn't sound very noisy at all.
For digital I/O, what would I need? I know that I can drive the sound output to the USB port (e.g., for USB speakers), so maybe there is a USB-to-spdif converter (or something) so I could use an external DAC.
I have done something very similar, but have beeen unpleasantly surprised with the results in my setup. My normal source is a DVD player (coax out). I am also using a G4/400 running OS X with an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 card (also coax out). Both feed into a Tact RCS 2.0 and from that to a Musical Fidelity DAC. I record all my CD's as uncompressed AIFF files.
The files from the computer sound markedly worse than the same CD played through the DVD player! Not as bad as MP3 but more digital sounding. Bits are supposed to be bits but I am not sure that iTunes is allowing the file to go through unaltered. OS X has a digital audio subsystem called Core Audio which manipulates digital audio files in 32/96 resolution but iTunes forces a downconversion back to 16/44 which I think is causing the problem. This is just ahunch, but I do have another data point: when I play CD's through another program (Whamb) I can use the Mac as an upsampler and output in 24/96. It sounds awesome! Only problem is Whamb's interface is not nearly as good as iTunes (which I love) and it does not play AIFF's, only CD's and MP3's. any suggestions?