Cart Before the Horse: Signal Path Help Please

Hello all -

Short version:
What is the best way to get FLAC files from an external HD --> DAC --> integrated -->Speakers?

Long Version:

I have been digitizing my CDs, building on my extensive Pink Floyd Bootleg collection and purchasing some HD Audio. Currently all of this is housed on an external FireWire HD - with me swapping files to my Laptop as I feel like it. I also listen to a lot of Spotify to discover new music (much of which I then purchase on CD, LP w/ Download or HD).

I'm trying to figure how best to tie all of this together in the cleanest AND user friendly way. For instance - I'd love to be able to rip CD's or Download HD to my laptop and then wirelessly transfer to an external HD and then be able to control that via my iphone. Or be able to do spotify direct from a magic box, etc ...

I hope this isn't too wide ranging a question and there is an obvious way that I am missing.

So I'm building my new system in somewhat of a convoluted order. At this point i have:
- Primare i30 Integrated Amp
- Primare CD31 CD Player
- Music Fidelity m1DAC A
- Pair 1 Meter XLR interconnects
- .5m Fairly nice TosLink Cable
- 1st Generation 40 gb appleTV

On the Way:
Orbit Turntable from KickStarter (Just for fun!)

Left over - to probably be upgraded (but that is a whole other thread!)
- 1 Pair B&W 685s
- 1 Pair Kimber In Wall Bi-Wired Speaker Cables (25') Decent at $2.75/ Foot

thank you!
OH- and for what it's worth -
Running off a Macbook Pro with Audirvana Plus. I currently have never hooked up the MBP to the DAC. I'll be starting "the build" in the next weeks.

Thank you all in advance!
Septemous, once you use transfer method that involves data only (no timing) like wireless, Ethernet etc. then anything on computer side of wireless doesn't matter (other than more or less general electrical noise across the room). It won't matter what type of computer or hard drive or interface or playback program (if it is bit transparent). It saves a lot of money and headache that way. The only thing that will matter will be amount of jitter on the DAC side of wirelss. Wireless receiver has to recreate the clock to transfer music to DAC (convert untimed data to timed music). Some do this better than others (with less or more jitter). I use Apple Airport Express that produces average jitter (280ps according to Stereophile measurement) but it is driving jitter suppressing Benchmark DAC1 resulting in very clean sound. It also has limitation of 16/44.1 which is OK with me. You could get something better like Squeezebox, but optimal solution would be to get good reclocker (for jitter suppression) and place it between wireless and the DAC. That way you will be free from anything in your system and be able to choose any DAC you want - NOS, OS, or jitter suppressing upsampling DAC. I'm not sure what reclocker is the best but I know that one is made by Empirical Audio (Steve Nudgent). He is on this forum and knows a lot about this stuff.
So is the Apple Airport Express taking in whatever signal is being sent, or is it downsampling to 16/44.1 via AirPlay ?? And then go out via optical to the DAC.

I also see that you can connect a HD via USB to the Extreme - but you cannot airplay or optical :(

Septemous, I don't know Extreme. AE receives in 16/44.1 in ALAC format (so I've heard) thus I keep my hard drive music in ALAC format. It goes by short glass Toslink to DAC. Toslink is usually worse than coax but it is system dependent. In addition Toslink breaks groundloops.

Reducing jitter (noise in time domain) is the most important thing. It can be done but it is not easy. Better method is IMHO is to either strip music of timing and recreate it again or to use reclocker, or both. Reclocker will also reduce jitter from the other sources like transport. Problem with noise created by jitter is that it is proportional to loudness (no noise without music) and detectable only by lack of clarity, harshness, poor sound-staging etc.
I think the m1DAC has reclocking built in:

"In addition, our smart data-reclocking system ensures there is virtually no audio-damaging jitter imparted to the signal."
Septemous, they claim that oversampling converter upsamples all incoming data to 192kHz. Oversampling and upsampling are two different things. Oversampling is usually done by Phase Lock Loop (PLL) and is integer multiple of incomming frequency while upsampling is done by asynchronous rate converter that can upsample to any, usually eneven number and then output data at particular frequency like 192kHz. Upsampling provides superior jitter suppression and since your DAC "Upsamples to 192kHz" it perhaps is asynchronous rate converter based since 192 is not even multiple of 44.1
You have to try it with different sources. It is also important to keep quiet supplies to DAC because any noise can convert to jitter inside of the DAC. I use Furman Elite 20PFi conditioner for that.
Thank you ..

I have been getting some 192kHz Flac files and I would like to get them to the DAC at 24/192.

Can someone suggest the best way to get the content form an external HD to the DAC?
I just set up a compueter music system and my solution was to use my Macbook Pro and external Passbook HD, connected via USB, to play hi rez files via Fidelia software, output via USB to a Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2 then into my preamp. Great system!
Stevecham -> Yeah I guess that is what I'm trying to avoid -> Having to keep the Hard Drive connected to the Macbook and then having it all wired together.

I take the CPU back and forth to work a lot - so I'd love to have a system that is sort of independent of hooking up the laptop with wires.
You can use NAS drive connected to your wireless router. Your computer will see this drive and can play music files from it wireless to AE or something similar.
If your files are only 44.1 FLAC then the obvious solution is Sonos ZP-90 using Ethernet or WiFi. Easy to use. People love it. The problem is that the internal DAC is junk and the jitter from it is high. The good news is that this output can be fixed simply with a Synchro-Mesh reclocker. Then just feed to a decent DAC such as the Metrum Octave. Some other popular ones are the Mytek and the Teac that can also do DSD.

The thing to realize is that the jitter of the digital source is actually more important than the DAC.

If you use AppleTV, you must change all of your FLAC files to ALAC or AIFF.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Reclocking in the DAC is a myth. None of them do a good job of it. I've tested and modded dozens of DACs. The source device MUST have low jitter.
I've never been wild about having to leave a computer on to listen to music. Still, some guys have been getting good results, so I looked into putting together a computer with a touch screen that would be dedicated to playing music. The costs were not insubstantial.

In the end, I settled on using a Sonos unit for files up to 16/48 (which I use mostly for parties) and a Squeezebox Touch. Both pull files from an NAS. The Sonos is the easiest to setup and use. The Squeezebox was a bit more involved, but nothing too complicated.
I agree with Audioengr, I have a Sonos that I no longer use. Its digital output is so-so at best. Even when connected to a PS Audio PWD mk2 in Native X mode that is supposed to re-clock. The issue I hear with the Sonos is the lack of image focus and separation between images. I believe this is due to the high jitter that Audioengr references. I'm sure that the Synchro Mesh improves upon this quite substantially. In the end, I decided to buy a Bryston BDP-2 for my digital file playback and I'm happy with the improvement over the Sonos.

Also, if you want the best sound quality, rip to WAV. If you already have a considerable number of FLAC files, convert them to WAV using dBPowereamp or equivalent. WAV sounds better than FLAC and HDD storage is cheap so why try to save space and sacrifice SQ?
Touch is probably the best stock source without reclocking, although it improves some with reclocking. The difference with Mac Mini is you can have hi-res, although to achieve similar results as Touch you must buy a good player software and do some tweaks to the OS as well as purchasing a low-jitter USB converter or USB DAC (good luck).

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
The "best" is all a matter of budget!

I would think a NAS over ethernet (like a Vortexbox) into an appliance (like the Touch) would be easiest and good, although Logitech has EOL'd the Touch, grrr.

Stepping up in quality and expense, you could build a dedicated USB-based CAPS server, or a commercial one box device like from Bryston, NAD, Meridian, Linn or Naim. I think Cambridge and NAD have some more budget oriented devices, too.

You can then optimize the USB transport side of things with maybe the new dual-headed Gemini cable from iFi audio, which isolates the data line from the USB power line.

I'd go for a Touch based system or a CAPS, myself.
Sorry, it's the PC-based headless server designs from Computer Audiophile, described here