Can Mac/PC compete with High End CDT??

Dear All,

I want to believe (do you?) that the Mac or PC approach can work, at least be good enough. Being that my prime source is analog digital music is secondary but at the same time compulsory for recent and actual recordings.

Reading reviews and opinions floating around online I was curious to hear for myself in a high end system, a sort of A/B singular test was needed; away from commercial pressures and inexperienced ears.

Full of great expectation I head to a fellow audiophile's den, both of us motivated to get to the bottom of this question ourselves.

So we got ourselves organized and ended up with a promising menu: Esoteric P0, Weiss Dac 2 D/A converter, Mac with Amara/iTunes then Kondo Dac with the Esoteric P0 and then Weiss Dac 2 D/A converter using fire wire interface from Mac/Amara/itunes via the Kondo DAC.

All the “virtual music” was obviously uncompressed format.

Preamp Absolare, amp New Audio Frontiers Ref 845 and Acapella Triolon Excalibur and some very good cables.

Being used to the sound of Kondo electronics and Goto horns that furnish my listening room, fed by micro seiki SX8000, CEC TL0x Cd transport at 1st I must say that I was disappointed with the sound that the P0 was delivering via the Weiss Dac.

I will not be long-winded here: this was not good. The sound seemed broken, out of pace, lousy trebles, one-dimensional bass and very nasal voices.

The resolution of the electronics and speakers told the cruel truth in this 70m² dedicated listening room. No fine-tuning I have ever encountered could solve this even with the widest stretch of imagination.

So the Mac/Amara/iTunes? Okay no gain no pain! Here it was no pain all gain, I mean, it sounded the same including the flaws but with the added advantage of mac based music selection as opposed to cd loading. This seemed promising, made me jump to the conclusion that the culprit was the Weiss DAC, not the fire wire interface.

So in goes the Kondo DAC driven by the P0, okay! I will lack vocabulary here it is truly amazing. My host and I within the 1st seconds looked at each other, not even in the listening seats, we agreed with each other without saying a word! Then we let the CDs play on, simple as that!

We kind of played around here knowing deep down that the next step was the “juge de paix” (for those who don’t master French that is “peace judgment”).

So we wired the Weiss Firewire/spdif interface to the Kondo Dac using the Mac/Almara/iTunes.

As it stands I had spoken to Daniel Weiss (owner/designer of Weiss Audio) a few days before and he explained to me that CD transport and Mac/PC was fundamentally the same thing; delivering 0 and 1 and the interface was just passing those 0s and 1s to the DAC.

So? I may have to repeat myself here : The sound seemed broken, out of pace, lousy trebles, one dimensional bass and very nasal voices.

The Kondo DAC was telling us all about the sources. I walk way from this with knowing that Mac/PC is not ready to replace a CD transport in high end system dedicated to experiencing music and all the emotional treasures that it has in store for us to enjoy.

So what does this mean? I think that in certain preamp/amp speaker combinations the hard disk be it mac or PC may work and certain reviewers will confirm this. However, if that system resolution comes to change, that its goes up the ladder, then the flaws in this approach will become apparent.

It would be advisable to ascertain your future with music and the associated audio equipment before marching towards the immaterial virtual music world.

Well a good friend of mine who hides in the shadows of the Bavarian landscape warned that no hard disk system could compete with the better CD transports, he is perfectly correct!


Given your short lived exp with trial and error, CDP vs HDD/DAC and the whatever interface, I would amend your friends statement somewhat…

Better said, “…. I would agree, so far.”

Blanket statements such as this or that setup blows away this or that setup could very well be accurate, subjectively or imperically, yet it/they do not cover all the setups available.

This could be a matter of simple settings being amiss with the software, or the file type & formats… and not the error or fault of the setup. IOW, ‘operator malfunction’ and even an overlooked configuration issue…. Or and I don’t mean this in a derogatory manner, but it could be user bias too.

My audio world is quite myopic, but my experiences with HDD vs CDP as sources has grown at some length over these past years and there are numerous factors which will surely affect playback and hence, sound quality using PC or Macs as source units.

Just ‘cause everything being used is ‘spensive, don’t mean it was setup exactly right or truly optimized. Sounds to me as though it was not. Or it’s software installation is in error… as both ways used the same DAC, right?

If so it’s obvious the personal confuser has something amiss. Somewhere. Somehow.

At very least though and once again, your shoot out isn’t THE final word, as you’ve so indicated…. It’s merely YOUR final word given what you have on hand with which to experiment…. ‘so far’.

Of course if this exchange is all you will do for investigative purposes for PC vs CDP performance ratios, and you’re satisfied, then it’s all good for you, and that’s great!

It does come off demonstrative and short sighted to remark that A vs. B gave you the impetus to discount ALL other such variations and thus their own challenges. To your findings. There’s a bunch more ‘B’ setups out there you haven’t heard yet, I’d bet. I’d not go all in on one vs another, just yet.

I’d like very much to get about my area and interchange components with other like minded sorts but so far I’ve not found too very many quite as forthcoming as myself nor as open to this interaction either… despite the potentially enormous mutual benefit the end result would be. Consequently I’ve my own perception and ears with which to ascertain gains & losses. Better and best.

Thanks for the comparisons of those two particular agendas though. Please, don’t stop there though, if using pc or Mac as source remains alluring to you.
You might want to try using the networked music player (Roku, Squeezebox, etc.) approach before drawing any final conclusions about viability of a computer/hard disk as a source of music. With this configuration, your audio system is isolated from any nastiness that might be associated with a computer that is not necessarily designed for high end audio. In this configuration, a device designed for good digital audio source delivery (the networked player) and an external dac perhaps does all the work associated with making music out of bits and bytes. The computer truly just delivers the bits to the player using a standard network connection. There is nothing in a network connection that affects sound quality in any way. That all occurs when the player sends the bits to the DAC. I will vouch that this approach can deliver sound that competes with the big boys.
Agreed. I am now running a Squeezebox using FLAC files into a Bel Canto DAC via coax 75 ohm digital cable into Pass X1 Pre into Bel Canto Ref1000Mk ii amps and I cannot tell the difference vs. my Bel Canto CD1 used as a transport via AES/EBU connection into the DAC3. Cannot tell the difference. Either way, it sounds great. Much depends on the DAC.
wow, I have a mac book pro and was contemplating moving forward but got caught up in all the forum discussions and quite frankly got a little frustrated. Probably due to my lack of computer knowledge. Im caught between upgrading my systems source (CD, Pre) or the new weiss dac. Used tubed AR equipment and the Weiss are in the same monitory ballpark. You keep writing and ill keep reading. Still on the fence here. The convenience of a computer music server is not my objective, the best sound is. great forum you guys....
computeraudiophile DOT com is the place to go for lots of this discussion. The whole process is extremely frustrating for sure. I think convenience is where it's at with computer audio, not necessarily to get the best sound. I think the sound is a wash now, with better DACs and server options, which makes it worth doing for the convenience of having all your music loaded in one place in high res files. I have set up a squeezebox upstairs in my 2 ch system and one downstairs on my HT system and run a coax digital cable right into the DAC in each system (into my Pio pre/pro downstairs and my Bel Canto DAC3 up. Plus you get streaming internet radio from all over the world, very awesome. My wife loves getting her hometown Philly stations in Texas which makes me a happy guy because she indulges my hobby.....
a few month ago, one of the review in TAS tested the benchmark dac with different transport and yet they sound quite different.( the unit is supposely immune to jitter).
there was a big discussion on why. i am not a computer person, but it seems there are still issues that hasn't been fully resolve yet. i am sitting on the fence about ripping my 1000+ cds in server
"one of the review in TAS tested the benchmark dac with different transport and yet they sound quite different.( the unit is supposely immune to jitter)."

Haven't read that but my guess if true is that different transports perhaps had different approaches to error correction that might impact sound. Optical drives are inherently error prone. Disk storage and networks are less so. I doubt you would hear any difference with different computer based music servers serving up files to a network player. You might when different computers interface directly to the same DAC in that different software, interfaces and other factors might come into play. You might hear a subtle difference between say a Roku Soundbridge and Squeezebox interfaced similarly to the same DAC, but I would question whetehr the difference here would be of any real significance.
"I doubt you would hear any difference with different computer based music servers serving up files to a network player"

Very well said, Mapman!
Mapman - I agree, errors are very likely. Even with two identical transports one might have film or dirt on the lens while error correction is very loose (has to operate in real time). Also not every transport is "bit transparent" invoking DSP processing (volume control etc.) ITunes might be the guilty party as well, with its volume control and effects enabled.

I wonder if Kondo DAC was connected directly to MAC with coax or maybe used Spdif output of Weiss DAC (bit transparency lost?). If it was direct connection to MAC then was it coax or Toslink? Toslink makes two time more jitter, on average, than coax and bad plastic Toslink might be even worse.

I cannot tell the difference, with my Benchmark DAC1, between CDP and Aiport Express (getting signal from Mac-Mini server).

Optimizing the computer in use for this exercise is very important, and it will provide an audibly distinct improvement..

Meaning background services that aren't critical need to be shut down. these services are listed online at various 'pc geek' sites. A goodly number of them can be shut down by simply reading the description of each and making a prudent decision

Or by the one at a time method, so you'll know if it needs to be turned back on real soon, and which one.

When in doubt you can Google the service name and find out if it’s vital or not for media services/playback.

I switched my M Audio 24/192 card into a newer XP Pro Desktop which I have yet to fully optimize. I found also a newer itteration of the software for this device at the MA web site. I installed that newer app and was not happy with the results. Did a bunch of checking online, and with the system services on board the new pc, and ultimately reverted to the previous version of the software.

Big improvement!


It’s the FM circuit. Huh? Yep… the “Freakin’ Magic” ckt. Beats me, but it’s better now and as yet, again, not fully optimized. In fact I had to install and uninstall it a couple times before it settled in and acted at it’s best.

Pits or bad sectors on the hard drive? Could be. It’s moot now however.

So some greater attention to setting up the server/PC/Mac does improve things, or such are my experiences.

I need to say here as well that the new pc is not sounding as good so far as the older one yet. Optimization? Maybe. Not run in fully? Perhaps. Stand & isolation? Could well be as those were changed too.

So all in all, I’ll say be persistent and eek out the best level of performance which is available to you from front to back, just as you would with your standard audio system. They have much in common in terms of setup techniques.

My pc HDD music system is Ethernet direct… not wireless.
We were very satisfied with Macbook Pro-Weiss AFII-DAC 1mkII-Gryphon Mirage-Colosseum-Posiedum speakers. Amazing sound, great PRAT
My experience is with lower cost gear than described in the OP, but FWIW:

I replaced a heavily modded Musical Fidelity A5 with a Macbook, playing iTunes/AIFF, into a PS Audio Perfect Wave Dac, via a Locus Design Polestar USB cord.

I could not do direct comparisons (CDP traded in on DAC), but the Mac/PW was a very obvious improvement over the MF CDP.

I A/Bed the Mac as transport vs a modded Jolida JD100 as transport: I thought the Jolida was very slightly better; a local audio manufacturer, with vastly more experience than me, slightly favored the Mac as transport. Probably safe to conclude that any differences are not huge, one way or the other.

My experience suggests that with a bit of fooling around, you might very well get performance you're pleased with using a computer as transport, and I'd not undersell the convenience, which translates into hearing a lot more of your collection, IMO.

So Acrylic, I'd advise experimenting; I predict you'll be pleased. I second Swanny's suggestion of computeraudiophile dot com, which is a great resource. It does take a bit of work to "go computer", but I doubt it's out of line with the energies many here expend on their hobby.

I will share my experience concerning using a music server, a new Mac server, and various cd players and transports. I do think Soundlistenings conclusion are grossly premature.

Two years ago I got an Exemplar music server that uses Windows XP home with a S/P DIF output. It uses Foobar and EAC as software. I have driven several dacs with this server, but mainly a Xindak Dac-5 as modified also by Exemplar. During this time I have had several cp or universal players also as well as several dacs. One, the Lindemann 820S had a digital input so it was also used as a dac.

I never heard a circumstance in which the cd or universal player did not sound better used as a transport to the external dac. Nor did I ever hear an instance in which the Exemplar music server did not sound better than any optical transports into the dac. Although as a Mac person, I fretted about how user unfriendly and cumbersome Foobar and EAC were, I concluded that servers were the future and certainly were quite convenient in use.

Then I heard a new Mac running Amarra with its Itune software driving the Weiss Minerva through Firewire. I was wowed by what I heard as well as its convenience as it used Itunes. I have since gotten this system up and running here, with one addition. I have a SSD in the Mac. I have been told that SSDs sound better than HDDs. I have tried to assess this but the Macs have only one Firewire port. So I can only say that a HDD connected with the Mac by USB2 in inferior to a SSD. Overall this system far surpasses any other that I have used or heard.

It is quietness or the richness of very low level information, the realism of the sound stage, and the extension of the bass as well as its being well defined that is what so thrills me.

I have used the Minerva, which incidentally does not sound like the Weiss Dac 2 despite the statements that it is the same circuit, as a dac with S/P DIF input from both the Exemplar music server and optical reader transports. It still retains much of the character noted above, but I think Firewire is much better although I have no way of checking, as the Mac has no S/P DIF output and none of my other dacs has a Firewire input.

Enter the Exemplar modified Oppo 83 with its one bit dacs. I already had found the Oppo is not a very good device as a transport only. This still holds. But the mods have just dramatically improved this cheap unit although at a tripling of its price. But as a standalone universal player (I have yet to play sacds or blu-ray music discs), it is in many ways the equal of the Mac/Amarra/Firewire/Minerva. But it is a different sound. I should note that it only have about a week’s break-in on the Oppo and it has been better each day.

It, as yet at least, does not have the soundstage realism of the Mac server with the Minerva, but on piano and sax, I note a greater body to the sound or tumbrel accuracy.

I should note that I will soon be getting the new Weiss Dac 202 which replaces the Minerva. It is a 32 bit dac, although I have no idea why that would be an advantage given that we have nothing with greater than 24 music. I believe the Weiss DAC2 will also be replaced.

My conclusion is that digital is making great leaps forward of late, that music servers are in our future as they can read and reread discs until they get the information right, and that some will look primarily for realism and others for musicality.
I listened to several hi-end systems yesterday and yes, mac/dac can out do a reference cdp. I'm a computer dummy so don't ask the technical questions. We listened to Linn and Niam dacs feeding both Audio Research and Ayre pre and power equipment into several hi end speaker lines. The guy had over 60,000 lps and is an analog guru. He believes digital will prevail ( better than analog) as the ultimate for sound quality. The ease of operation/filing/access/storing/etc is all a secondary advantage. It was a great sound quality digital day.

He is putting together he recommendation as my music sourcing is heading that way. Im not the type of guy that wants to get caught up in all of the homework, so Ill take what he recommends. Of course its going to be the components he distributes. All I know is that the digital systems sounded equally as good, at worst, then the best cdp system I have ever heard and I have some pretty good stuff. This is coming from someone who went in wanting to prove computer/dac systems to be inferior.,

You guys are definitely on track, thanks.
Acrylic, for the last ten days I have had a modified Oppo 83 with the mods done by Exemplar Audio. Last evening I carefully compared it with my Mac/Amarra/Firewire/Minerva. It is very close with the Oppo with all the mods being $2500 and the Mac server being about $7800. I'm keeping both as the Oppo will play sacds and blu-ray.
Maybe something to read :

Interesting article but I think it overlooks a few things.

First is that the DAC has as much to do with how the computer sounds as it does in a CD player.

Second is that I would assert that a bit perfect digital stream is always preferable to one that is not, and that this is easier and more cost effective to obtain from disk storage (assuming the rip from optical to disk process is able to retrieve all or most bits in the source at least as well as occurs aboard a CD transport or player, which I think is a good assumption these days). Once you have all the bits in the data stream that should be there, then the end flavor of the sound will be determined by how those bits subsequently get converted to analog sound, which involves the things like a clock, DAC, jitter, and other factors in both cases.

The advantage of a good CD player will be that all these things that determine the end sound are integrated into a single box (or group of carefully matched boxes) by a knowledgeable vendor for you so you do not have to worry about mixing and matching the components well yourself. Good players will do all this very well but you will probably pay a premium in the end for an integrated end product. If you attempt to integrate the parts yourself, well this stuff is not simple and YMMAV.

I prefer using a networked music player (wired or wireless) with a network connection to the music server to connecting a computer directly. This approach helps keep the computer, which is an inherently noisy device in general nicely isolated from the audio system both physically and electronically.
Mapman - Very interesting point. Rip I use (MAX) reads CD like data CD - multiple times if necessary to get correct checksum while CD player cannot do this since it is operating in real time. For that reason CD player has very loose error correction. It gets of course much worse with used CDs (small scratches) while my server will never loose quality. Music on hard drive cannot get "scratched".

I also keep computer at the distance (and at different outlet), to avoid noise contamination, and transmit music wirelessly do Airport Express. Stereophile tested AE for transmission errors and found none. Received S/pdif information was identical to data sent. Word jitter was very low 258ps and my Benchmark DAC1 has huge jitter rejection.
"Rip I use (MAX) reads CD like data CD - multiple times if necessary to get correct checksum while CD player cannot do this since it is operating in real time."

That is a key point. Ripping can re-read to get data correct. CD players have real time constraints that creates limits. I believe most good players do some in-memory caching of data that can help significantly if done well.
This thread is killing me. I just bought a MAC computer, dcs Delius firwire DAC, and a firewire dcs Purcell upsampler to replace a high end single box CD player. Planning on upsampling regular CD to DSD sine that is the bulk of my collection......Hope this set-up sounds better than my current one.....this thread is raising doubts about this...

what is the concern?
Jaymark, I don't know about the Delius or Purcell, but I think music servers are the future, if for no other reason than ripping to harddrives and playing them is superior to optical drives.

I guess I understand your conversion of pcm into dsd on playback, but this is something I have not explored other than a short stay with EMM quite some time ago.
I am looking hard at the LINN AKURATE DS system as the server for playback of cds burned on computer, high rez digital internet downloads and net streaming. I'll need a long ethernet cable from my router to the DS Server, sitting on the rack next to the Ref 3, and a set of balanced interconnects analog out from the DS Server into the pre's input. The network attached storage box will bra located near the router, attached by a short ethernet cable to the router. The Linn Akurate DS is $6850.00 and has been offering a time limited package whereby, they will include a $3000.00 package, a compatible NAS box with the entire Linn catalogue of high rez downloads already loaded into it. The NAS also has the Linn compatible controller software already installed as well, making the system pretty much plug and play for the price. The only catch is that their offer officially ends next Thursday. If I miss the offer, I miss their music catalogue and a $500.00 NAS.

Please your thoughts, especially yours madman......

thanks Mike
sorry mapman , my commuter corrected spelling to madman.
Mapman - it was the lead post in this thread that unnerved me a bit given that I just invested a bing chunk of change in the set-up described and also sold my high dollar CD/SACD player...........

Freudian slip?

That moniker may fit me better...I might have to change. After all I've dropped a few bucks on this stuff over the last few years.

Oh well, at least I THINK what I hear sounds good......

There was a very active thread here recently where agoner PEttyOfficer vented about how complex modern digital was with all the interfaces, formats, etc. it is hard to deal with. What specs can you trust or even matter? I fear for most layman it can be very hit or miss. I jokingly said Petty should hire a consultant but I was only half joking. Technical knowledge is required to cut to the chase with this stuff. It can be quite hit or miss (and unnessesarily expensive otherwise.
Thanks mapman , great advice. Ill keep reading this post.
Being always a bit curious when the industry started a new approach ("music servers are better then red book CDs" - reminded me of "Mini-Discs are better than CDs") I compared a Sooloos server in my dCS-System. We feed the Sooloos with nicely cleaned CDs, demagnetisized and ionized by Acoustic Revive units. I have to admit it was one of the first units, they have done some improvement when Sooloos was incorporated by Meridian I heard.

Well it did not sound bad, I wouldn`t say so. From this day on I knew where I had to go. I am using a music server in my living room, for the family and for entertainment but not in my listening room. It depends what usuage one has. Starting from cratch a music server provides lots of nice features and advantages and makes sense. I do not believe anymore the fairy tale that even one of the best CD drives may bring down the quality of music in comparison to a hard disc drive. From my experience it is just the opposite. greetings from Bavaria
Thuchan - I've never heard any claims about Mini-Disk sounding better than redbook CD and nobody here said that "best CD drives may bring down the quality of music in comparison to a hard disc drive".

Kijanski - I can show you articles from magazines of the 90ies, even from Japan stating the superior sound from MDs. It was a rush into the new format. Look at the articles about music servers. One company claims they will stop producing CD-players - it is a kind of marketing campaign, isn`t it?
Kijanki, I cannot really say that I have seen written claims of HDDs being superior to optical, but in my experience that is clearly the case.
Tbg, is your experience based on special chains you compared, for instance with the same DACs?
Thuchan - I cannot understand how Mini Disks could be superior with it's smaller media and compressed format.

"One company claims they will stop producing CD-players - it is a kind of marketing campaign, isn`t it?"

Marketing campaign of what? Linn stopped making CDs and perkaps CDPs but only because market is poor, but as far as I know, they don't manufacture hard drives, computers or servers.

One comment related a little bit to the subject. Hard drive + DACs allows to play formats better than 16bit/44.1kHz becoming safer investment. There were attempts to make better CDs (SACD, HDCD, DVD-A) but in my opinion they failed. They failed for the same reason Beta, Minidisk, Zip drives and many others failed - greed. Iomega for instance had incredible chance to make Zip a standard in every computer (Dell was installing already). Instead of propagating their media at low prices they charged in order of $10 per disk and were suing everybody who made them cheaper. Sony did not learn from "Beta" failure and killed MiniDisk - standard perfect for car or laptop storage because of high licensing fees. Mentioned Linn was selling SACDs for over $30. SACD prices went down a lot but it is too late - they killed SACD and CD standard. If they would start with normal prices in order of <$5 most of people would not bother with downloads (plus you get booklet and box).
I have tested my Mac Mini music server system (with the latest version of iTunes) and it is BIT PERFECT.

Now having said that... you MUST not have anything in iTunes doing anything to the sound i.e., you can not use iTunes for volume control, you can not use the sound enhance, you can not use the EQ...etc.

It is as good or better than any of my former ref transports including the Wadia 7 and the Levinson 31.5. I use it with a Bidat (with Plus Mod) and the MSB Power DAC and soon to be the MSB Platinum DAC IV.

I download 24/96 from HDTracks and then convert to AIFF using MAX (a free and superb file convert utility) which upon completion automatically adds the content to my iTunes library.

OH... before some smarty pants asks :) How do I know it is bit perfect? Because the MSB Dac allows one to load the DSP based filter with new coefficients via sound .WAV files one can obtain on their site. If your' CD player or music server does not pass a BIT PERFECT signal to the DAC, it will emit a short burst of sound, if it is bit perfect... no sound is emitted and the filter is loaded. I have experimented and found that iTunes will pass BIT PERFECT sound when the above precautions are followed. I will put my mac mini with a glass (real glass) TOS up against ANY transport extant, and I have put it up against some serious hardware, with some gear matching it, but none surpassing it.

The sound is SUBLIME!!! Hope this helps.
Kijanki, you´re right. No one agrees today (!) on that Mini Discs sound better than CDs. But there were some forces who tried to push the format doing like I described. But let`s forget about this - it is history. You are describing the failed Sony strategy very well.

In the case of Linn I cannot understand what they are aiming at right now having gained a nice position in CD and SACD support. If you are watching the used High-End market on CD players and on CD drives it`s a lot of turnover right now. Many people seem to buy Top CD players. The final platoon? Don`t think so.
Thuchan, my experience is comparing music from the SSD in my Mac Powerbook Pro versus from my Western Digital HD connected to my Powerbook. The same Minerva was used for both. I have heard that single cell SSDs sound better than multiple SSDs find they are too expensive for my blood.

I did connect the WD drive both by USB2 and Firewire 800. The Firewire was sonically superior.
Tbg - I feel that investment in DAC and HDD is more secure now than in expensive CD or SACD player since server can play wider range of formats and is more flexible (plus internet radio). In addition it is easy to use - no CDs to change, playlists available, easy to find CD etc. Being not dependent on transport (that sometimes fails and is hard to fix/replace) is a plus as well.

There are still many top notch CDPs like latest Meridian with non-apodizing filtering or DCs Pucinni (I'm not going to spend $16k on Meridian).

I don't understand how HDD can sound different than SSD since both are synchronous devices with buffered outputs. Once data gets into computer there is no way of telling where it came from. People offer anti-vibration pods to place under external HDD claiming better sound. It might work under CDP since laser/media are not immune to vibration and data is asynchronous, but not in synchronously clocked data from HDD. Is this a placebo effect or something else was different during test (computer used, digital cable, Itunes versions, Itunes options etc.)
Kijanki, I have to retain a Blu-ray player as I have 400 sacds and want a quality blu-ray player, but I agree with you on convenience and greater accuracy of reading from memory rather than optical devices.

I must say that I got a Mac with SSD on the advice of some top people in digital, but got a HHD to serve as backup. I decided to do the comparison out of curiosity. I have heard others say that it is the lack of moving parts that is the SSD advantage.

I must say that curiosity also lead me to using cd mats on cds while ripping to hard drives. This on my other music server as the drive on the Mac, of course, will not allow a mat. The ripping speed using Exact Copy was about 40% faster than without and the sound was much preferable. I demonstrated this at the 2008 RMAF. While I ripped a second copy onto the harddrive most were saying that this was a waste of time. On hearing the improvement, I heard many saying that this was impossible, but most left to buy the mat that I was using, the Millennium.

I have much training in psychology dealing with selective perception I know it works both ways, namely that if you don't want to hear a difference you don't. Clearly those in the room at RMAF did not want to hear a difference. In neither the mat experiment nor the SSD vs. HDD was there any difference in the test other than what was experimentally introduced and I don't think there was any selective perception. At least even were there, I wouldn't care.
Tbg - I absolutely believe that CD ripped as data (EAC, MAX etc) can sound better than CDP in real time but there are things that people believe (placebo effect) or don't (negative placebo effect) that are simply crazy. Below is fragment of one of the serious professional reviews of Bel Canto S300 amplifier:

"My friend Rocky, a long-time fan of Bel Canto products, predicted that the S300’s rubbery feet caused the ills I heard -- soft bass, subtle veiling. It seemed logical that the "lossy" footers dissipated some of the tremendous energy of which the S300 is capable. We removed the feet and balanced the amplifier on three massive ebony cylinders called Shun Mook Diamond Resonators. The results defy logic. Upper bass expanded filling the room; midrange took on a spooky verisimilitude."

How do you like this reasoning - soft bass because of soft amplifier's feet? This is as stupid as it comes. Maybe feet should be hollow to make sound more "airy" or kept wet to make sound more liquid? (Shadorne is about to jump in - he loves this kind of things)
Kijanki, well, I firmly believe in trusting ones ears. I have heard too many instances where implausible things are audible.

In the case of an amplifier moving a wire within a magnetic field clearly can induce a signal that isn't the music. I would never use rubber feet under anything. Springs and like-pole magnets, in my experience, also muddy the music. I probably have fifteen different isolation devices here that don't work. Some of them, I must say, are preferred by others.
"moving a wire within a magnetic field clearly can induce a signal that isn't the music"

- what magnetic field? I hope you're not talking about earth's magnetic field.
I probably have fifteen different isolation devices here that don't work. Some of them, I must say, are preferred by others.
Tbg (System | Threads | Answers)
Everything in perspective.

Tbg acoustically treats his room by placing various dots and buttons on his windows and elsewhere in the room. I have yet to see a professional recording studio or theater in Hollywood acoustically treated with dots and buttons.

The designers of these rooms may be the unenlightened ones...but I doubt it.
Kijanki, no I am talking about the magnetic field caused by the signal current flow within the component.

Tvad, now many professional recording studios have you seen. When you were in them did you see many highend power cords? I see that is one of your concerns at present.

Why would recording studio use have relevancy to this discussion? I suppose that you know most are now out of business as most popular music releases rely only on digital mixing of often home recorded digital tracks. There is very little capturing of recording sessions in studios.
Tvad, now many professional recording studios have you seen.
About a half dozen.

When you were in them did you see many highend power cords?

Why would recording studio use have relevancy to this discussion?
Because they are acoustically treated rooms, and the approach of the acoustic engineers in these rooms versus your approach to acoustic treatment may offer some some perspective your approach to other areas of audio relevant to this thread.


There is very little capturing of recording sessions in studios.
Tbg (System | Threads | Answers)
In fact, there is still a good deal of studio recording happening in Hollywood, although there are many home studios as you say. I have seen a few home studios as well. They are not as well treated acoustically as are the professional studios, but sometimes the lack of acoustic treatment in the home studios is purposeful.
TVAD, I have only seen one in Nashville. I was heavily treated with real monitor speakers and extended bass and good balanced cabling.

In fact, there is still a good deal of studio recording happening in Hollywood, although there are many home studios as you say. I have seen a few home studios as well. They are not as well treated acoustically as are the professional studios, but sometimes the lack of acoustic treatment in the home studios is purposeful.

Or because they are indifferent to capturing a performance and only interested in a recording that is loud and which can correct for their being out of tune.
Or because they are indifferent to capturing a performance and only interested in a recording that is loud and which can correct for their being out of tune.
Tbg (System | Threads | Answers)
I'll offer an example.

One composer/musician I know has a fairly well treated home studio in which he records guitar. For recording voice and the occasional solo horn, he often uses a hallway or an untreated room because of the natural ambiance it adds to the recording.

Recently, I saw the film "It Might Get Loud". There is a segment where Jimmy Page tells a story about the large country mansion where Led Zeppelin recorded many tracks including "When the Levee Breaks". This song has deep, chest pounding drums. A big, fat sound with lots of reverb. In fact, John Bonham placed his drums in the foyer of the mansion which has an atrium several stories high and hard surfaces everywhere. It was this physical space that provided the magnificent drum sound. None of it was done with electronics, according to Page.
"Kijanki, no I am talking about the magnetic field caused by the signal current flow within the component."

I'm not questioning that vibration of electronics might affect the sound somehow, but saying that "it seems logical" that soft bass comes from soft footers is plain stupid.
I recently built a music server based upon the cics Memory Player (cMP2). It has been both very rewarding and eye/ear opening to say the least.

In the past, I have tried using my daily office computer to stream uncompressed audio to my Playback Design MPS-5, but I always found the sound quality was boring and lifeless compared to discs played directly on the player. I quickly dismissed computer transports as a serious audiophile alternative, but a few months ago I came across a discussion on cMP2 and decided that I would see what all the fuss was about.

The philosophy behind cMP2 is to have a barebones computer configuration with an audio player whose goal is to maximize sound quality at the expense of convenience and features. It is not for everyone as it requires users to be a somewhat tech savvy and the user interface is a very basic and clunky compared to standard Win/Mac applications.

cMP2 consists of a recipe for putting together and tweaking the computer hardware and bios settings. It comprises two distinct applications: cMP and cPlay. cMP is meant to replace the standard Windows shell and cPlay is the audio player application. Both cMP and cPlay can run under Windows XP/Vista/7 without any of the recommended system optimizations; however, the sound quality will be no better than using something like Windows Media Player.

When I first loaded the OS and the cMP & cPlay applications onto my new computer, I played some audio tracks just to ensure that all the components were working and that I was getting some sound. The sound quality was the usual dull, murky, lifeless audio that I have always associated with computer based transports. So I started making changes to the bios to severely under-clock and under-volt the system. Also disabled all extraneous on-board peripherals that were not required for a music server (eg. power management, floppy, firewire, LAN, etc ...). Immediately, you could hear a big improvement in sound quality. The music came alive with greater detail and transparency ... but it was still a far way off from the sound I get from disc. Next procedure was the Windows optimization steps by disabling all windows services that are not required for our music server. Note that these steps will result in loss of regular windows functionality, but that is of little significance for our intended goals. Again, sound quality takes a significant leap forward and system latency starts to really improve without all the extraneous services running in the background (optimized system around 3-5 usec versus 70-100 usec on my daily computer).

The best way to run cMP is to have it configured as the replacement shell for XP/Vista/7. This avoids extra overhead and processes that are loaded with the standard Windows shell. I don't really see any advantage of using cMP if you do not use it in this manner. cPlay is an ASIO player that loads the song into memory before playback so that access to the disk I/O is not required during playback. It allows for up to 24/192 playback with either 145db/121db SNR or SoX upsampler. You can also configure cMP to use an alternative player to cPlay if you choose.

I was originally using digital coax to connect the music server to the MPS-5 and what a big mistake that was. Computer systems are inherently noisy and the coax connection was causing detrimental effects on the overall sound of my system. I never realized how bad it was until I turned off my music server and noticed how much better everything sounded. I have always refrained from using Toslink based on unfavourable comments by many people, but was I ever wrong with this assumption. The galvanic isolation of toslink resulted in superior performance as compared to a pricey Transparent Ref Digital coax in this particular instance. Proximity of the computer server to the audio gear is also very important as the CPU and nasty switching ATX power supply generate significant amounts of RFI.

I can happily say that my little experiment has been a great success. The SQ is getting very close to that of playing discs directly on the MPS-5. I am still slowly tweaking the bios settings as well as the windows configuration trying to remove the last bit of extraneous windows processes without causing the system to freeze. I also believe my next significant step will be the replacement of the switching power supply to a robust linear power supply that I am having Gilbert Yeung of Blue Circle design and build for me. I'm sure once that has been done, the sound quality will be the same if not better than playing discs on the MPS-5.

If you are an audiophile that loves to tweak, then you will really enjoy the self satisfaction of building one of these machines. If you do decide to assemble one of these servers, then I would recommend configuring your system for dual boot so that you can switch between a full service Windows OS and the heavily streamlined cMP2 OS that can do very little but play beautiful music.

System Specs:
Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300
Gigabyte GA-EG45M-UD2H m-ATX motherboard
Kingston DDR-2 PC2-8500 2GB Single Channel
Antec 550W Earthwatts
WD 2TB Green 3.5" HD
RME HDSP 9623 Audio Card
Samsung 22x DVD
Themaltake ISGC-400 CPU cooler
Zalman HD160XT Plus HTPC

Windows XP
cics cMP & cPlay
Kijanki, if the component resonates on soft feet, you have the component and its wires moving in the very magnetic field that their circuit produces with some delay. This is why isolation can so improve a component. Nothing stupid about this.
If electronics resonates on soft feet it can have (if any) unpredictable results. Not only that soft feet can provide nice isolation from vibration (as Vibrapods do) but there is no way of telling how it might affect the sound (if at all).

As I said before - keep footers under you SS gear wet to have more liquid sound or hang electronics in the air to have airy sound. What the heck - move it upstairs to have better highs or to basement for better lows. Logical - isn't it?