I have my entire 4K cd collection encoded as MP3. There are many different ways to get your digital music to your audio system. I personally use the Sonos wireless music system to stream music to several locations in my home. In my main setup, I have the digital music going through my DAC, though I have also run it straight to my preamp. However, I still keep a small stash of cds when I want to critically listen. Because of the size of my music collection, i am forced to encode in a lossy format (mp3). Others have encoded in lossless formats such as FLAC. Theoretically, if you have your music in lossless format and run it through a high quality DAC you should have CD quality. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
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A good soundcard will have digital out and audio out. Audio Out can connect directly to a line level pre amp. Digital Out will need a DAC then into the pre. Ok that was the short explanation. Like most things that have to do with computers and HiFi there are tons of configurations and options.
A good place to start would be in the PC Audio Forums here and also go to Audio Asylum and spend some time in the Digital-PC Audio Forum there too.
I have been looking into this, over the past year.
I actually purhased an Olive Opus when they were first released. I ended up selling it, as I was disappointed in its playback via analog outputs. However, in all fairness, I was comparing a $3K unit that was a one-box 500gb storage and cd player/burner against my reference $5.5K cdp.
In the little time that I spent with the Opus, my interest really grew with having my music accessable throughout my home via hd storage on a network. This technology rocks!
In talking to a local dealer and expressing interest in Sonos, he did some research and recently became a Sonos dealer. In the short amount of time that he has been getting familiar with the Sonos system, he is reporting very impressive feedback. I should also state that my dealer sells really nice gear and has good ears
I am going to demo the Sonos tomorrow and will report back.
I intend to use an external DAC from the Sonos in my 2-channel listening room (this is how the dealer has been demo-ing, as well.) The other smaller systems in my home will be fed via the Sonos' analog RCA outputs.
...details to follow.
Down the rabbit hole you go...
As Vegasears points out, there has been a tremendous amount written on this both here and on Asylum.
Search on SLIM Devices and Squeezebox - one of the most successful products.
Empirical Audio and Wavelength Audio. The two smartest engineers and equipment designers. They are both active posters, especially on Asylum
Search on my name here because I have written about this a lot.
Hopefully you are computer literate and comfortable. If so, pass go, collect 200 dollars and work on getting the key concepts into your head before you get embroiled in the geek minutiae - especially on the PC side (as opposed to the Mac side) of making this work.
The big idea is this: Imagine you had a perfect (ok near-perfect) source. That jitter and all the rest were no longer an issue. This is the immediate virtually certain benefit you will enjoy using a PC as a transport.
Now build your system accordingly. DAC. Pre. Amp. Speakers. Electrical. Cables. Room tuning etc
Do you remember the increased convenience factor when you first made the transition from LP to CD? It was a magical moment for me. Maybe you are not old enough to have lived in that period of history. I never did miss the ritual of prepping a LP and getting up every twenty minutes. (That is just my opinion).
Well the convenience of songs and playlists instantly accessible is a key feature for myself. It is a huge step up in convenience. My computers play at a quality that is equal to or succeeds my CDP setup. These are the best features of a good computer setup in my opinion.
I have Martin Logans and I love the Sosna Emotions xlr too. I have computers setup for playing lossless music files. Each computer is made in one of 3 different ways hooked up to a storage file server. One of them plays through the main system and it is awesome. The others might be just as good, but I never got that far on setup. I can hook one of the others into my main stereo setup and end up with two different setups playing in the main system, but I never made the time. You have the choice to use your system DAC, outboard DAC, or soundcard DAC.
I have managed to get a modified internal soundcard that is equal to the USB solution many implement. Dont flame me for saying that, but it is possible.
Yes, this is where music is going, but the hardware and software are still maturing. You can set up a purely computer-based system--I have--but it will be a lot easier in a couple years. If you're reasonably happy with the component system you have, don't be in a big rush, unless you want a technical project.
Assuming you already have the computer, start messing around with some of the free commercial programs, like Windows Media Player, Winamp and iTunes, to get an idea of sources, formats and all that. Send the audio through the best quality DAC you have, even if it's the one on the sound card. Once you have the general feel for what's possible and what the general hardware and software components are, then you can upgrade your weak links.
Pretty soon we should see some comprehensive, intuitive and stable software that handles all your audiovisual needs, running on a Mac, PC or a dedicated Linux machine. That will feed digital inputs on the power amp--which may be integrated into the speakers--and to the TV monitor. It's all coming, but at this point it's likely to be some combination of techie, limited, unstable and expensive.
I have about 300 cd's on a G5 Mac, it sends the signal via ethernet (it could be wireless, but I already had the ethernet line) to a stock Squeezebox v.3, to a Behringer DEQ, straight in to a pair of Nuforce amps, to a pair of Vandersteen 3A's. I control the volume with the Squeezebox remote.
Down the road I'll add a DAC between the Behringer and the amps and I'll get the Squeezebox modded by Bolder Cables.
Everything stays in the digital domain until it leaves the Behringer. I have access to 2500 plus songs without leaving my seat. I love the convenience and the sound.
I tried the Olive Musica, but the Squeezebox works & sounds better in my system.
IMHO PC Audio is where digital is headed.
After divesting myself of my $6K CDP, and going to a laptop, external HD, and Wavelength Brick Silver USB DAC, I couldn't be happier. The sonics are marvelous, and the convenience exceeded my expectations (which were quite high to begin with)!
A PC as a transport just has to be heard to be believed. My new MacBook works great. My very old Dell PII 300mhz machine worked equally as well.
I do agree with the Dtronvig. PC Audio is presently in a techie phase. But there is plenty of help and information if one is willing to do a little work. If this old dog can learn new tricks anyone can.
It's ironic that I'm running new (PC Audio) and old (Analog) front ends with different, but spectacular results.
Computer evolves faster than a mutating virus. Hence I have a couple of old Dell laptops sitting around collecting dust. Now they become my servers for a multi-room setup.
I ripped all my CDs into an external HD. I hooked up the HD to my network wireless router and serves as a network drive. Luckily all the laptops have internal wireless and a digital out so that I don't need a USB to SPDIF converter or USB DAC. For my office and bedroom, I connect the SPDIF output from the laptops to my DAC and to my cheap but awesome T-Amp with amazing result. But of course, for my main listening room, I have better gears.
In terms of software, I rip my CDs using Exact Audio Copy (freeware) into lossless WAV files. The frontend player is foobar2000 (also freeware) through kernel streaming, which bypass the internal soundcard completely. IMHO, kernel streaming sound a lot better than the internal soundcard.
This setup is fairly cheap and effective with good sound. I am totally satisfy with it in my bedrooms. All the components are small enough to move from place to place if necessary; even outdoor when it's not raining.
Thanks for all the info.Will I need a preamp for this?No, not with your Wadia 850. However, you will need a digital input, which was apparently optional on the 850. If yours doesn't have it, perhaps Wadia can install one.
You would configure the system as follows:
Hard drive -> Squeezebox (or the like) -> CDP with digital input -> amplifier -> speakers.
We have over 800 CDs on a hard drive, and are about to jump to a drive that will hold over 2000 CDs. The Squeezebox will read the files wirelessly, so the hard drive doesn't even have to be in the same room. In fact, ours is connected to a computer down the hall, making it possible to change the playlist or volume with either the Squeezebox remote or at the computer. You simply download the free software at www.slimdevices.com (click "Downloads"), and you can view your entire music library, change playlists, volume, etc. from the computer, whether it is in the listening room or not. The convenience is unbeatable, and the sound quality outstanding, provided you have a good DAC. The DAC inside the Squeezebox is passable, but nowhere near the sound quality of your Wadia.