Dealer needs input, next wave of gear?

This may strike some as awkward, but some dealers are people too. We are just trying to read the "tea leaves" like regular audiophiles and make decisions on what products and lines to handle. Rather than listen to the industry pitch I would really appreciate your insights.

We are a client driven custom system designer/installer using only the high end products. For a number of years the question of what to do with large CD collections comes up. While we all accept their are no "high - end" multi-disc solutions we are still confronted with the questions as many of the clients engage us after they have already obtained collections of 200, 300, 400, or 1000 CDs. Previously we have cobbled together soltuions involving daisy cahining some Denon 5000/5001 together or similar such gear. While this may have been "best you could do with current technology" solution it feels as though we are on the horizon of another solution.

In the last year or so we took on a project to begin building "audio servers" - meaing a high end pc/server, dead-silent cooling, and massive hard drive/storage array, high end audio processing card; in order to fill the need for managing larger CD collections. I would grade our "success" as modest at best.

Now we are beginning to see "audio hard drive" components address the market with something more than a passing oddity approach. We are currently engaged in field testing one such unit. (inappropriate to name brand here). Of these type of products this one actually seems viable as a high end solution to this dilemma of ours.

Framing my question to you: Does it make sense to offer real audiophiles a single component sized horizontal piece that holds hundreds of CD titles with all the expected editing features and high end digital output stream (to go to your outboard processor) and have a separate high end SACD/DVD-A transport for the cutting edge audio performance, thereby preserving our CD collections effectively while auditioning the new formats being produced?

All opinions welcome! :-) Please be kind to a dealer of limited mind. And a Pledge to honor no soliciting to anyone who is so moved to comment on this idea. Thank you for your time, Paul
I need a format which will work in my car as well as at home. I'm wont move to a new medium until it is available in both locations at once.

My biggest single investment in audio is my CD collection, and I'm not likely to rebuy a significant portion of that.

DSL isn't available here and many other locations, so downloads of software will have to be over normal phone connection, and throughput is an issue.

I remain pissed that the cost of production for the new delivery formats is going down, while the cost of product is rising. Why should I have to pay twice the price of a tape, for a copy protected dvd with built in useability restrictions? The software providers have to change their approach to maximize acceptance of any new medium.

I wont be investing in any narrowly implemented propietary technology.

I've been hearing processor upgradability promises for years, yet I haven't seen much of it. Without a more universal set of interface standards, allowing upgrades within a box by other than the primary manufacturer, I wont believe the promises.

In short, I'm fairly pleased with the sound currently available. It's a mature technology, and we are benefiting from nearly two decades of evolutionary improvement. I'm not prepared to leave it behind without being convinced that it is for a truly universal new standard, supported by software producers, software sellers, and hardware manufacturers.

But that's just my opinion.
I think there really are only two digital formats worth considering for such a component. PCM (a.k.a. "Redbook CD") and DSD (a.k.a. "Scarlet Book" SACD).

I'm still not really sure I would use one, though. Storing thousands of discs really is no trouble with products such as available.

Besides, I like to have the liner notes by my side when I listen to a piece anyway.

Some folks might like such a component, though. You might want to chat with Ron Sutherland. He designed a tube preamplifier / DAC with USB input, thereby giving music download fans a high-end solution to get their tunes from the internet to there audio systems.

I realize that this isn't the same as what you are considering, but I do think you may be trying to appeal to the same market segment as Ron has. I don't know if his product sold well or not. It couldn't hurt to ask.
Living in the Boise, Idaho area which is close to Sun Valley, I can assure you that sales of the Linn CD 12 and the whole house home entertainment system is brisk in that ridiculously wealthy market area. Audiophiles either love or hate Linn but they have done a stellar job of designing exactly the type of system you describe.
I too would agree that there is a real market for this type of product. Not everyone needs all the flexibility possible, but would really value a linn type product at a less stratospheric price point.
How hard is for an audiophile to get up and change a disc or arrange a storage rack to hold your CD collection?

As Lugnut points out, hard drive systems appeal to whole
house built-in crowd who want high quality backround music.

If you're interested in that business, hook up with a contractor that builds upscale homes and go for it.
I wouldn't want a single component that is both a disc player and a hard drive, but I'm a fan of the idea of storing music on hard drives simply for pure convenience. For example, in my home office I'm setting up an iBook as a music server. I can access plenty of CDs (ripped as full-length AIFFs, not MP3s) in seconds. But I would like to be able to run it through a processor, an Electrocompaniet DAC for example. For high fidelity I'll always play the CD or SACD, but when I want convenience the music server is king. You can ask if there's a market for it, but in my imagination it's a guaranteed part of the future of audio. CDs are just digital data stored on discs; why not store them on hard drives which have the benefits of immediate access to hundreds or thousands of redbook files or DSD files.
I would think that there is a market for type of product - the question is, of course, how large is that market? I don't think that a lot of 'audiophiles' would buy this type of component, although there are certainly a lot of wealthy individuals spending gobs of money on whole-house sound systems and HT.

For me, handling LPs and CDs is part of the ceremony of a listening session and I enjoy the ritual. When I require 'background music' I just fire up my trusty tuner.
I have a friend who's already uploaded all his CD's to his iMac. He says he's got no use for DAC's and is happy with the convenience and sound quality. He never was much of an audiofile per se, but he had at least 1000 CD's. He mostly prefers to rock out so it works great for him.

Considering that the sale of whole CD collections might be a ready source of funding for your idea, you may want to consider taking them in trade. Once harddisk storage catches on, I'll bet all the little plastic disks will disappear. The catchword Paperless will give way to Plasticless. The links to make it happen are already gaining popularity: XM radio; digital cable; the web.

It still amazes me that a memory stick the size of a piece of chewing gum can hold 128megs. That's the capacity of almost 90 floppy discs! Bio-embedding isn't too far off. Imagine vitamin supplements that enhance your receptivity. File sharing will take on a new meaning, hehe. And sooner or later, the Sony ESneurolink InSampler will see the light of day, but only prior to installation :^)
I use an i-book and an external 80 gig hard drive to store
1,000 CD's in slightly compressed form. I use this to store CD's I have ripped to the hard drive.

I connect from the headphone jack to analogue L & R inputs in pre-pro.

I certainly do not use this system for critical listening.

I mostly use this "player" for background music for parties.
I let guests make play-lists and it is quite fun to have everyone participate in the music selection for the evening culling songs from 1,000 CD's.

I would be interested in a higher quality solution that does
everything I can do with my set-up. My set-up is connected
to the internet via airport. I scroll through titles on
a 12" i-book screen. I can rip CD's to the hard drive using several different gradations of compression or I can rip them completely uncompressed.

What is needed is a player with these attributes plus a big
enough hard drive to store about 1,000 CD's uncompressed that can output the music with high quality sonics. It would be even better if the unit could upsample the music.

I don't know how this would all be accomplished. I just know that I have seen several products [Escient, Yamaha]
try to address this and the ones I've seen do not present
an upgrade from what I currently have.

Hope that helps.


I'm not even sure if I understand the questioin, but let me tell you this!
I'm busy and not very organized.
Loose CD's all the time and my 600 plus collection is not even in alphabetical order!

Windows Media Player 9 has changed my life!
Like many of us, I was looking down on people who listen to MP3's.

But a few of you may know, that WM9


Now needless to say the compression you get is only about 2:1, but it will sound as good or better (!) then any CD transport! (You can come to my house bring your rig!).

Here is the deal, not sure if you remember but Microsoft Has purchased PMI (Pacific Microsonics) the creator of HDCD and the Model 1 and two converters (used by all major players in mastering!)

Microsoft was obviously not interested in the hardware, so my company ( has picked up the mfg and support of the model two converters.

Why did MS want PMI?

WM9 and it's lossless codec my frineds is the shit!
(That's all im going to say about the MS PMI connection)

WM9 Pro (96/24 in 5.1 channels!!!) is already hear!!!
Soon there will be online subscribtion service to HD MUSIC!
Streamed over your dsl and will cikc your cds butt!

Upsamled and buffered transport for over 10k are insane.
First off everything is buffered when you play it from a PC. you say ok, but its only 2:1 and I got 1000 cd's. I got 600 disk on a 250gb Drive I got from frys for $200!

On board spdif outputs on motherboards and all the soundblaster cards sample rate convert so they can't be used for any critical listening.
But if you get one from Midiman for $150 or so you will be fine.
So I ran my SPDIF out to my Classe SSp75 and never looked back!

Got a handhald PC that uses windows xp's remote desktop feature, so I sit in the sweetspot with my fujitus pan PC and controle the univers. Any song I ever owned on cd is only a pen click away!!! My friends, this allowed me love music again...( first sacd player..)

Now I can find all my music, I can burn cd's for the car and best off! I can listen to all my mysic over wireless ehternet in every room I got a pc in!
(I have all my old hifi gear in different rooms and a cheep pc a good way to put my old fancy gear like a countroupoint da10 to use!)

I still have a Marantz 8400 for SACD and DVDA a DEnon 2900 for DVDV and my cd's are on the shelf.

So although the WM9 Lossless files I got I beleive sound az awesome as PCM can, I'm said to say....

After just a few weeks of SACD, I can't find any enjoyment in PCM anymore!

All that told, what I want is what I'm going to build.
SO more in this in 12 months...
Let me direct you to who make a product called "a la carte Personal Music Library". New on the market, it has excellent audiophile features like archiving vinyl, uncompressed storage (most rely on MP3) and a 10.4" color touchscreen control (most rely on either TV or Crestron ($$$$))
I'd love to see this sort of design become an audiophile mainstream reality. I'm not the best caretaker of CD's, and I place a very high value on storing them (uncompressed mind you) on a central server. Less chance I'll lose, scratch or misfile one of my 400+ CD's.

Also, I have to believe hard disk drives are ultimately a better transport mechanism. Hard disks have waaay high iops than CD's which ultimately has to be a benefit when spitting out a consistent stream of 1's and 0's. Also, HDD's are easily replaced when they wear out. By contrast when the drive motor in your CD player gets shot, God help you.

Has the problem just been mating them with a good DAC? I don't know. I'm just a layperson, but I'd imagine you'd want a very big solid state dynamic cache that spits out 1's and 0's at a steady pace. Would this be the DAC's job or the transport's job? The other potential limitation is jitter that I believe has never been dealt with in even the best separate DAC/Transport designs. I also think it would be mandatory that you be able to upload your music via 802.11.a or g. I know the Stereophile review of Linn's product remarked that it was a pain to actually get music into the server.

I also think it's worth segmenting your market into the purist, two-channel audiophile crowd. They won't go for this sort of design until it's very well established. Plus a lot of the two channel dorks (I'm one of them) don't seem to have very large music collections and won't get as excited about the value of a central server.

However there's also the networked home crowd. My understanding is this is becoming the much more lucrative market (installing wired houses or extensive home theaters) and those people are much more willing to experiment with such a design than the former group.

Good luck with your trials!

P.S. - I know of a HDD supplier who might be useful for this project. Contact me if you're interested.
I use escient cd management for my general distributed audio. The new fireball is an excellent piece doing both cd control,mp3, and cd ripping. The new unit will apparantly work over the web. While not quite there I think this is the direction to go. Mp3 is great on the go music, but the quality is not good for me for regular listening. I have what I consider a high end system where I listen to individual discs and mp3 really falls down in that setting. I believe central storage is desirable and clearly the technology is there to distribute by virtue of a digital cable to mulitiple systems for good sound reproduction. One issue I have also found is that most systems lack the ability to deliver a digital cable to multiple systems without buying expensive add ons or gerry rigging other pieces. It would be great if the mfgrs. would provide a reasonable solution for this problem.
ReVox has been making what you want for a long time now. It is called the M57 and now uses the new Xiva software that Meridian is also going to use. It is really "connected" technology - the most up-to-date I have ever seen. It will hold 4000 hours of music and you can connect a couple together, then it can gather music titles directly from the internet so you don't have to enter them in. Availablitity in the USA is spotty at best so this may be a good opportunity for you! In Europe, this is the cream of the crop. Good luck! Arthur
There is another inherent problem; the technology changes so rapidly. I would envision an ipod type device with a digital out. That way you could put your songs, uncompressed onto a device like an ipod, carry it around for portable listening, and then connect it to an outboard dac for serious listening.

Ipods, in less than two years, have gone from 5 gig to 30 gig capacity. And this is something that I dont see slowing down in the foreseaable future. Nobody wants to drop a whole lot of money on a piece of high fidelity equipment that will be significantly bettered in less than two years. Of course, people will argue that is happening now with CD players and DACs....

I would love to see a modded ipod to use just like this. When they come out with 60 and 120 gig hard drives on them, it will become pretty practical to put a fair number of songs on them uncompressed, and then it is portable too.

MP3 is useless!!!
Give me a break!
How can anything with MP3 be audiophile???

AAC (the one used by Itunes) is far superiour, but lets face it nothing beats lossless.
It all sucks!
You can't talk about any device that uses MP3 or any other compressed formats and be taken serioulsly about audio!!!
Give me a break!
To help out Izsakmixer, I want to point out that the ReVox M57 I talked about doesn't have to compress the data. You can choose which you want. Uncompressed, it is designed to hold about 400 CDs. Compressed MP3 triples that amount. So, it doesn't have to be compressed. Arthur
I looked it up also.
Nice box.
However I think many of your missed the point.
Windows Media 9 has a lossless codec that somehow turns existing PCM stuff into a 2:1 compressed format that sounds better then the originial.
And it all has to do with MS's purchase of PMI's IP.
The i-book will store CD's uncompressed on an external
hard drive. It is connected to the internet via Airport,
so when I rip CD's, I can get song titles instantly. It
does seem to me that a machine could be built that would
connect to the Plasma or TV Screen, negating the need for
a monitor and I would echo those who have said that a
digital out instead of having to use the headphone jack,
split to L & R analogue pre-pro inputs, would be ideal.

I have a pretty high end music system and I can most
certainly tell the difference between compressed music
and uncompressed. When I started this project, 80 gigs
was the max so I stored them slightly compressed. Now
that you can get 360 gigs....if I were starting again --
which I will do when I feel I have a lasting solution --
I would store it all uncompressed. High volume, uncompressed storage would be a necessity for any company
seeking to get me to trade in my i-book system for their
product. Make it so it would interact with a surround
pre-pro like an Anthem AVM20, Proceed AVP2, Lexicon MC12b,
Krell, Levinson 40, etc. etc. Through a digital out.

Or, if anyone works for Apple -- THEY should equip their
i-books and desk-tops with a digital out!

Finally, the idea of an i-pod that could be plugged into
your home stereo, your car stereo, and be used with head-
phones, would be a natural. All of your music goes
everywhere. You listen at home, you plug into a slot
in your trunk or glove box, which connects it to a screen in your dashboard, you get to the beach, you pull it out
of the slot, plug in a headphone and you continue to
enjoy your music collection. Etc. etc. etc.

Good grief, if all this crappola is 'the next wave of gear', I'm sure glad I'll be continuing to enjoy vinyl, in addition to snapping up some of those discarded CD's.

I think it's guys like me who appreciate it even more than guys like you, every time guys like you change formats in the name of 'convenience'... :-)
This question has been asked before and I have wondered myself what the next wave might be. It shall be all compressed onto a HD. I think some audio Mags have already stated this and it just is not worth it to me. I think it is not what I want or will ever use. I am buying up CD's before they are no longer in print as I think that is an eventuality.

Soon you will beable to get all the music ever to have been recorded on a few drives.This I had read awhile ago and I believe that the time is near.

In highend at the moment I think Passive Pre-Amp's are becoming alot more common. Increasingly I am hearing about them on the BB's and that is a good thing.