Digital Audio for Dummies


As I have stated before, I'm a bit of an audio dinosaur.  I love simple.  I love reliable.  I love a high performance/price ratio.  So no surprise I'm still happily spinning discs.  Give me a nice CD player direct to an integrated and I'm good to go.

But it is 2018.  Reading on this forum about the demise of Oppo was a bit of a wake up call. Also the Lyngdorf 2170 has inspired me.  An elegant all in one box product that is ready to connect with many of the digital options now available.  So I'd like to get educated on what's out there and what you suggest.  Basically I would want to know about ripping all my CD's--exactly how that is done.  Dedicated audio computer?  How big of a hard drive/other considerations?  Wired vs. wireless.  And then what streaming services are out there?  Cost, quality, ease of use?

PLEASE keep things simple and don't assume the reader knows, for example, what Roon is.  I've seen it mentioned, but would want to know exactly what this does, how it functions, etc.

THANKS!
corelli
The Bluesound Vault 2 seems to be what is being recommend by many if you want to rip or download to. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet myself but this is what I’m leaning towards.
I've had good success with the Sony HAP-Z1ES. It combines DSD-capable streamer/DAC in one box, and the iPad/iPhone (or Android) app is great. Rip all of your CDs to the Sony via your computer and home network (Sony instructions explain how to do this). The Sony has a large and expandable hard drive, so you don't need to have another computer junking up your listening room. Spotify is built into the current Sony firmware, and the firmware gets periodic updates. Currently, the Sony does not support Tidal, however.
I have the Bluesound Vault 2 and I really like it. It has a slot load cd drive to copy your cd’s to the internal hard drive.  It takes about 8 minutes to copy each cd.  So it takes a bit of time to copy an entire collection. Since I’m retired I didn’t mind.

Storage capacity is 2TB.  I put in approximately 700 cd’s which consumed a measly 300 MB so that leaves a daunting 1700 MB remaining.  The case is small, approximately 8X8X4 inches so it consumes a very small amount of space.

The Vault stores the album cover artwork, lists by artist, album, and songs.  It does not categorize such as jazz, rock, contemporary, etc.

Control is through a device like an iPad or iPhone and I use both.  The one downside I found is that an Ethernet connection is required near your equipment which is no problem in my newer summer house which has many.  An older home may require some wiring added.

The Vault also has a digital out if you wish to use an external dac.  There is also an optical input which you can use to connect a digital tv audio to play through your stereo system.

Pricing is around $1200.00.  There are plenty of pricier exotic options out there but this one serves my needs just fine.
There are lots of streaming devices that are easy to use and fairly affordable Blue Sound has been mentioned the Auralic Aries and Aries Mini are another. On the subject of ripping, I guess I don't see the need to spend extra on a device that also rips. For me $35.99 spent on dbPoweramp and my laptops disc drive did the trick. Since you presumably only will rip once I don't personally see the point in putting extra money into a ripper. Unless of course you don't have an optical drive on your computer. Just my opinion of course.
I strongly recommend Tidal. It streams uncompressed, and has an enormous catalog. Everytime I hear an album on a Jazz or Classical station or Pop I can find it on Tidal. Even obscure things like the complete speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. are there as a play list.

And let's not forget all the wonderful internet enabled FM radio stations from around the world. KCSM, Jazz FM 91 (toronto), etc.


Just buy a Sony HAP-Z1ES and you are done. Connect it to your integrated amp using XLR cables if possible. It takes care of everything. Sounds very good too. Not too expensive.  I have heard it at shows in megabux systems.

With Bluesound, I would get an external DAC and maybe a reclocker and lots of digital cables of excellent quality. Sony is cheaper and immediate gratification.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

The OP mentions playing CDs in his first post.
You sound like me. I bought SONY HAP-Z1 ES more than two years ago. It feels like just another piece of gear in the old-school way, but works for what you need it for. Sound is great, plays whatever you throw in it, I believe. Simple to operate, but there is a glitch or two initially. Once the music is on it, you operate it as some sort of a CD player with many many songs on one CD. Every now and then, I check out other brands with similar products and none of them seems that simple in the long run. No NAS, no fancy protocols. Just a music storage and Internet radio (don't dismiss it just yet) in a box that would not look as overly futuristic in your 1970s-1980s system. And to repeat, it does sound great. 21st century great. Hits way way above the price.
I forgot to add, in case you do decide on SONY HAP-Z1 ES, feel free to ask for details about ripping, etc. It would not make sense to go into it now, but offer stands.
I would keep away from the Vault specifically because of the Node 2 the Vault is built around. The Node at one time was the “cats meow” but it has not kept up with the competition.  There are superior products on the market for the same price. Check out What HiFi reviews. Just my opinion
The Sony is $800.00 more than the Bluesound plus you then need to buy a PC to copy your cd collection.  It is certainly not as simple to setup as the Bluesound and is considerably more expensive.  That may not matter to some, but was important to me.  I would rather play music than play with computers.
I dont want to go off topic from the op but I have a similar question.
I have a dac.  I have ripped all of my cds in FLAC form to a laptop.  I want to stream those music files from my laptop to my DAC via my wifi.  I bought a chromecast but cannot get the right apps to do this.  Any help would be appreciated.
I have no experience with Bluesound. However, SONY can rip CDs directly to the machine. Just connect a CD drive ($25 at Best Buy) to it. It is $2000 so that may be the limiting point that OP may need to decide for himself. Otherwise, as non-computer-savy person as I am, I can say that the computer part, if you do not rip directly to the SONY but transfer it from the computer, is as simple as it gets as is the operation after the music has been transferred. Sound is great, too.
I could have written your thread opening  message down to the last period.  I’m firmly planted in the two channel analog past too and much interested in converting my CDs and maybe my LPs to digital.  I’m at the stage where it’s difficult to know which questions to ask.  

Just to get started,  I am so confused about what to choose for ripping and then  how to merge streaming  into my several stereo systems. And what if I want to do LPs too?

I have had recommendations for the Naim Uniti Core for ripping and storing digital music.  I’ve heard that Roon might be better.  Or maybe it’s just different.  I’ve just today heard about the gear recommended in this thread, Bluesound and Sony.  How to choose??

  Virtually all my music is classical or opera and I’ve read with increasing despair that it can be very hard to get the right tags on classical music, so that’s one issue.

  Which one preserves the audio quality best?

Which software is best for managing playback?
I listened to both the Sony and the bluesound and I bought the Auralic Aries which blew those 2 away in sound and especially the DS Lightning iPad software to control it. I bought the Auralic Aries mini for the living room which I think is superior to the Sony or bluesound, the Aries mini uses the DS lightning software. Also, you can hook up an external usb drive to the auralic. The drawback to all of these units is that it doesn’t support MQA. I sold the Aries and went with the ps audio directstream with bridge which is excellent as a dac and streamer. I use Roon as the GUI iPad interface and you can’t get better than that. Roon allows you to integrate Tidal songs/albums with your ripped music collection so when you shuffle an artist you don’t know if you are playing ripped music or music from Tidal, integrates it perfectly. I do use a dedicated Mac mini with external disks for my ripped cds and the Roon server part. Btw: Tidal has the best quality music from redbook to MQA
Echolane,

From my own experience, classical tags are painful. I just finished re-tagging all my classical music. What is out there, on the Internet and automatic tagging services, is beyond inconsistent. If you are picky about it, you are in for frustration. If you just want an album and will play it from the beginning and never look at the screen, you will be happy. In short, good luck with that. Not to mention that some of the programs will put some albums together as one because they have same name (Mahler 4th symphony, for example). That is another topic, I guess.

As far as transferring LPs to digital format goes, I recently bought Korg DS DAC 10 R (or some combination of these letters, I do not have it here right now) and ripped some DSD files from LPs. I cannot claim that I have the world's best system to play it on, but it sounds good enough that I did not regret. There may be better programs to do it, but I used Korg's own and it takes some learning if you are not a computer-wired soul.

There are many options on the market and I am sure each has some advantages. For a two-channel (well, those DSDs from LPs are actually mono) person who does not want to have the computer in his system permanently and prefers semi-traditional approach with a dedicated player, SONY is quite fine. Check other ones recommended in the thread and see and hear what suits you.
In case it means anything to anyone, it seems that Bluesound does not play DSD files. Auralic Aries does and seems to be way more advanced. Still, it also seem to require NAS somewhere else in the home and is not a dedicated music player. Please let me/us know if this is incorrect as I just looked it up on their websites and might have not picked every detail right.

@corelli

Looking at your system in your posted pictures, you know a thing or two about HiFi than the average dummy.

You have a good system that you now want to add a streamer to. You don't mention whether you are IT savvy or not, so its hard to know how far into the system set up you want to go. You don't indicate a budget either.

What you do ask is Hardwire or WiFi. The answer is wire (ethernet) as much as possible. If you want to eventually add WiFi active (powered) speakers (such as KEF, Sonos, Bluesound) you can do this via ROON software (as long as the wireless transport is compatible. Most streamers are WiFi or Bluetooth transport compatible (but I would advise not to go Bluetooth for bandwidth reasons. Bluesound, Sony, Naim (careful here because the atom etc are all in one units). Also be aware of the format the CDs are being converted to.

I am not going to recommend one brand over another or recommend a configuration (streamer, ripper, NAS (storage) etc. You have not given much information to really hone in on accurate advice.

I hope you can expand on your requirements so those with the experience can really advise you down the right path.

Cheers

AMG

For the ripping part Windows has a program called Windows Media Player built in that can rip audio cd's to mp3 (or wav). If you want something better and still easy to use you could check out dbPoweramp. It costs money but seems to be very easy and effective.

After having ripped your cd's you will have a lot of file on hard drives and then you'll have to decide how to play those. An easy solution is to get a dac with usb input and connect it directly to your computer. If your computer is in another room you may need to buy a separate one just for audio but that is not as expensive as good hifi equipment. You can also get some streaming solution but that is a bit more work. The cheapest ones are based on Raspberry Pi and comes prebuilt but you still has to be technical to connect everything.

Some sites, like Hans Beekhuyzen's has more info about what you can use to play music from computers.
http://thehbproject.com/en/
Appreciate all the feedback.  Obviously there's a lot to learn. 

amg56, over time I hope I can give more specifics but I'm in a learning phase and it's a bit difficult right now to give more specifics.  I'm sure in time I will.

One immediate question is sound quality.  It seems that a $29 optical drive isn't going to read CD's as accurately as what I have now.  I would hate to go through all the work of ripping all these CD's and then have digital data with less integrity than what I have now.  At least owners of megabuck transports might question this. An extension of this question might be this--Do some feel that their sound is BETTER after they went through this transition. (I suppose it's possible if less jitter, better DAC, etc.  But if just feeding a digital signal  say to the Lyngdorf, it seems the best you would do is equal, but not better).
One more vote for Bluesound Vault. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, I want to add that their support is first rate. The techs will help you with any transfer or set-up issues you may encounter. I believe you can call them before you buy.

Scott
 I want to stream those music files from my laptop to my DAC via my wifi.  I bought a chromecast but cannot get the right apps to do this.  Any help would be appreciated

How does a Chromecast drive a DAC?  HDMI?

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I am so confused about what to choose for ripping and then  how to merge streaming  into my several stereo systems. And what if I want to do LPs too?

If you don't have a server that automatically rips, then for PC, get dbpoweramp for ripping.  If Mac, get XLD.  Both freeware.

I have had recommendations for the Naim Uniti Core for ripping and storing digital music.  I’ve heard that Roon might be better.  Or maybe it’s just different.  I’ve just today heard about the gear recommended in this thread, Bluesound and Sony.  How to choose??

There are several servers out there that can rip CD's and stream music from services like Tidal.  They get their stream via wired Ethernet or WIFI. Once you get one of these, you are stuck with the audio quality that delivers.  Not much you can do if you don't like it. 

Roon can run on handheld devices, PC or Mac.  It is usually selected to enable streaming of Tidal.  If you are not planning to pay monthly for streaming services and only play your local files, there are many other options.

For most people that want great sound quality and networked audio, the choose the Ethernet to USB converters from Sonore, called "renderers".  These devices can drive USB to the DAC of your choice.  They require wired Ethernet from your router or switch to the renderer, no WIFI.  With these renderers, you can use many different playback softwares including:

1) Linn Kazoo/Minimserver/BubbleUPnP

2) Lumin/Minimserver/BubbleUPnP

3) Jriver

4) Audirvana Plus

5) Roon

6) Linn Kinsky/Minimserver

There are two different types of renderers supported by these playback controllers:   UPnP/DLNA and Roon RAAT.  You have to decide which you want.

Some playback software and renderer hardware supports only DLNA, others support Roon RAAT.  The Sonore devices support both. Also, some of these control softwares do not support streaming.

Virtually all my music is classical or opera and I’ve read with increasing despair that it can be very hard to get the right tags on classical music, so that’s one issue.

If you rip to FLAC while connected to the network, you will get all of the tags available.  The rippers also compare checksum to other peoples rips automatically.


Which one preserves the audio quality best?

.wav files are the most accurate, but some tags will be lost.  You still get album art, artist, date, sample-rate, format, composer etc.  All other formats compromise SQ IME.

Which software is best for managing playback?

Every one is different and a personal choice.  Most people like Roon.  Lumin, Audirvana Plus and Jriver are good too.

The question you should be asking is:

What playback/control software delivers the best sound quality?

They are not all the same by any stretch.  Big differences here.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

One immediate question is sound quality. It seems that a $29 optical drive isn't going to read CD's as accurately as what I have now.

Not true.  A CDROM drive in a Mac Mini reads perfectly every time. Using XLD, it is checked on the network against many other rips.  XLD makes sure that the data is correct and the OFFSET is correct.  This is an area where I believe some custom rippers in these all-in-one devices fail.  Offset can and usually does affect sound quality.

I would hate to go through all the work of ripping all these CD's and then have digital data with less integrity than what I have now. At least owners of megabuck transports might question this.

Nothing to worry about if you use a recent CDROM drive and XLD or dbpoweramp.

An extension of this question might be this--Do some feel that their sound is BETTER after they went through this transition. (I suppose it's possible if less jitter, better DAC, etc. But if just feeding a digital signal say to the Lyngdorf, it seems the best you would do is equal, but not better).

There is no doubt in my mind that my hardware playing .wav files beats ANY transport on the market.

The Lyngdorf may be an issue here.  If it has a reclocker on its digital inputs, then you are stuck with the sound of that.  Reducing jitter of the source will improve SQ, but maybe not a lot compared to a DAC with no reclocker on the input.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I’ll tell you what I use:

An Interchange UPnP/DLNA renderer driving my DAC using my Reference BNC S/PDIF cable.

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=156409.0

You can use this with any DAC that has coax input.

I play music with Linn Kinsky controller and Minimserver/BubbleUPnP for server. All 3 freeware.

You can connect this with wired Ethernet or use my WIFI adapter. Same exact SQ either way.

Best SQ I have experienced in 22 years of designing and modding computer audio interfaces. ~16psec of jitter at the end of the coax cable across 75 ohms termination. The playback software is critical.  Change it and you lose the magic.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

" There is no doubt in my mind that my hardware playing .wav files beats ANY transport on the market. "

So Steve, help me out here.  How can we both start with the same data on a Redbook CD and it ends up sounding better an a system like yours as opposed to a conventional CD player?  I'm not challenging you here, it just doesn't make sense to me. Where is the "improvement" occurring? To my way of thinking the best I could hope for in this process is to not loose any data that I have on my original CD.
How can we both start with the same data on a Redbook CD and it ends up sounding better an a system like yours as opposed to a conventional CD player? I'm not challenging you here, it just doesn't make sense to me. Where is the "improvement" occurring?

Primarily lower jitter, as well as the capability to play hi-res tracks.  I recently played many re-mastered Beatles albums, all 24/44.1 rather than 16/44.1.  They sound amazing.

If you want your transport to have lower jitter, then the Synchro-Mesh can deliver that. ~20psec at the end of the 4 foot cable.  Never run less than a 4 foot digital cable because you will get more jitter.  Even coax cables add jitter:

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154425.0

To my way of thinking the best I could hope for in this process is to not loose any data that I have on my original CD.

CD players and transports are far from perfect, but losing data is not a concern unless it is from the early 80's.  Jitter is the biggest issue with most digital audio.  See the jitter from this transport and how the Synchro-Mesh reduces it:

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=154408.0

Not a minor improvement.

The real appeal of computer audio is not only lower jitter (depending on the hardware), but streaming services and playing hi-res files.  I have many 24/96 and 24/192 files in .wav format downloaded from HDtracks.  Rolling Stones Let it Bleed in 24.176.4 is amazing.

With the right DAC and Ethernet interface, the sound quality will not only beat the best CD players, it will beat some of the best vinyl systems. I have customers that have sold their vinyl systems and vinyl and converted to digital audio. You can read the feedback on my website.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Thanks for the further clarification Steve.  Sure, that would bake sense as far as jitter in concerned.  And obviously streamed hi-res files can be superior.  But in that case we're comparing apples (Redbook) to oranges (Hi-res).  I was focused on apples to apples in my earlier comments.
@corelli a lot of folks have said the same thing about ripped files sounding better. One theory the lack of the physical act of spinning the disc and attendant error correction. Take that away and certainly seems possible to have better sound. In my system it certainly sounds at least as good if not better.

And obviously streamed hi-res files can be superior.

Not sure where you can get these. I only download hi-res files and own them. Download is not streaming.  Download is just a method to get the files on your hard drive rather than ripping a CD.

Streaming services are 44.1 FLAC files at best, and more often not even FLAC quality. You do not own these tracks.  They are not hi-res. This is why I do not pay for streaming services, I only play local files that I own, usually .wav files.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio


Got it.  Now that I think about it I see where it would be very unlikely hi-res would be streamed.  Thanks for the correction.  A necessary part of learning!
On more vote for the bluesound vault 2. I just gave one to my 75 years young father. Works a treat, operated via tablet or computer. It’s bringing him great joy. He struggles with lots of tech incl vcr’s, pc’s ect.
The vault had great internals and is stable. Rca out or various digital. Will be good for another 15 years plus. All the best.
There are many choices in digital audio. Each choice has it’s pros and cons. I like the simpler options...but even with those options there are drawbacks. If one decides upon a Bluesound Vault or similar device the advantage is that the one box will rip, store and tag your files...easy. After which you pick your music and play! One big disadvantage is that the storage and tagging is proprietory and exists within that one box! If it goes down or technology advances you are stuck with it. When one rips, downloads, stores onto a separate HDD or NAS this acts as your own personal library that could potentially be used with any updated technology. This is the case with the Bluesound Node 2 as it finds your own digital library and if the files are labeled, tagged in a way they can be read, you are fine. But this way requires one to sometimes be more computer savy. CD playback is fine, but hi-rez files are becoming mainstream soon and CDs will considered low resolution audio. I am not knocking CDs, I have many and luv them. I think any device that offers a dedicated research and development into the future of both hi-res audio and streaming is the way to go. Soon this will become standard as the streaming file sizes get bigger. That is one main reason I like Bluesound and NAD since the company seems to be heading in that direction. Not sure about Sony, they have been known to abandon technology (think SACD).
So are wav files currently "the best" way to go as far as SQ is concerned?

What are you guys paying to download hi-res music?
So are wav files currently "the best" way to go as far as SQ is concerned?
Yes. However, just because its a wav file doesn't mean the origin of the file isn't lossy, and doesn't mean its as high of a bit depth and sample rate as it could be. That said, assuming lossless and high-res, then yes.
I have a question regarding flac.  Steve states he can hear the difference between compressed flac and wav on his setup.  dBpoweramp gives you the option of flac conversion of your wav files uncompressed.  It appears that the uncompressed flac file size is the same as the wav file size. Has anyone explored this?
nutella .....It appears that the uncompressed flac file size is the same as the wav file size. Has anyone explored this?

Yes. In my view this is pointless *unless* you need to make use of the additional file attributes that flac can accommodate. Otherwise, no need to convert. Just use wav.

It appears that the uncompressed flac file size is the same as the wav file size. Has anyone explored this?

Yes, I found that uncompressed FLAC still compromised the SQ.  Likewise with AIFF.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I would put myself in the same position as corelli trying to go into streaming but the computer language is confusing. Hopefully it is OK to ask a question. I do not have a large cd music file. (250 cd') I have all the music on a thumb drive. (lossless) I was wondering if I buy a Lumin streamer (D2) or similar, can I just plug the thumb drive in the usb rather than getting a NAS? Also, how important is MQA looking down the road?
Not an expert but here's my thoughts on the best way to capture audio from a CD.

1st - when you put a CD into a computer, in the default setting the computer "knows" it's an audio CD and will choose to ignore any errors in the data stream it encounters.  It does this because there's less strain on the computers processing and the assumption is you're playing music not processing payroll checks so errors in the data can be tolerated.

You can change that default by going into the properties settings for the device.  This is true for both Macs and PCs.

When you make that change, the computer will treat the disc as though it holds data.  When it reads (rereads if necessary) the disc it performs additional steps to ensure all of the bits are read and stored correctly.  I've used this feature when ripping discs that had skips ... and if the disc is not too badly damaged, the CD player was able to recover the data and hence the digital copy had no problems playing.

Bottom line if you set your CD reader to treat the disc as data and not music you will end up with a perfect bit for bit copy.

Beyond that you need to determine the quality of the stored copy.  I choose FLAC because disc storage is cheap and FLAC is also a perfect copy.  If the size worries you, 320K recordings are quite good.  It's not too much of an issue what format/quality you choose as any decent receiver or pre/pro will have the appropriate codecs/software/hardware to decode the format.

This is not to be confused with the quality of the DAC which most definitely can make a difference in the sound.

Although I'm sure some will disagree, I find using the method above with a good fileserver (in my case Synology) is an excellent way to capture and store high quality music at minimal cost since virtually any CD reader will be able to capture the CD bit stream perfectly.

This does not apply to how the Oppo handles video.  Their upscaler is top notch.  My post only applies to audio.
Thanks myoungva.  You clearly answered one of the questions I had on capturing bit perfect data via an inexpensive CD drive.  Excellent concise info.
I just ripped my collection this past fall to a Musicvault by Sound Science- it was painless (though time consuming)- the machine did all the work and Neal was always available to help- and it automatically backed itself - in fact I have added several cds since the original ripping months- all were done quickly and backup -

corelli, while there are many good replies and suggestions to your post, I will recommend one thing, find a dealer(if you do not already have one near by)that you feel you can trust and has some options for you on the digital end of things.

Go and discuss what you want out of your system, how it will be used, and have some demonstrations of the equipment, interface etc. Make sure it is simple and useable by you and that the sound quality too will meet your expectations.

There are so many ways to skin the cat, but in the end, it has to fit you and your budget, not to mention work the way you want it to, and a good dealer should be able to provide the assistance you need! FWIW

Been there, was that guy a year or so ago...lol

Bluesound vault 2 gets my vote, bought one over a year ago and have never looked back or felt the desire to upgrade, bonus is that you need to know absolutely NOTHING about computers to use it!

As soon as I connected it to my internet cable it found my network and connected right away so I can view and access all of the ripped music on it from my pc or laptop as well. Majority of cds went and ripped with all cover art etc, a few very old obscure ones I had to use the pc to fix the metadata with an aftermarket program but even that was easy peasy.

One of the best aspects of the Vault is you can stream countless internet radio stations and paid streaming like Tidal, Spotify, Deezer etc.

I output by digital coax to my Lyngdorf 2170 as it gives me better sq than the single ended analog outputs. I also output by toslink to another system in another room so can play Tidal or my ripped cd collection on another system entirely. I use my android phone to control everything including Tidal, Bluos regularly updates both the droid software and the Vault gets regular updates over the network.

One very satisfied customer, I paid exactly $1000 for mine as an open box item. Buy a quality digital cable to use for the output and reap even bigger benefits
The more I use my Bluesound Vault 2, the more I’m impressed with its capabilities and features. I recently made a complete backup file to an external usb hard drive for peace of mind and it was super easy. The Bluesound is one of the best values in audio.
Totally agree with Uberwaltz.
rhljazz

Thank you, forgot to mention the ease of backup, all you need do is plug in a local 2tb usb hard drive ($60 off ebay) and just select backup in the settings. First backup will take a while ( depending on how many cds you have ripped) but even while it is backing up you can still play music through your system.
Versatile is not the right word here!
Are there higher quality units out there, sure there is, but at a higher price and some are much more complex to set up and use.
All boils down to how far you want to go and if like me you need to keep it all house hold friendly ( ie, my wife needs to be able to just push a couple buttons to hear music!) then the vault is hard to beat imho
Obviously YMMV.
Good luck and whatever you do, have fun!
@uberwaltz @rhljazz - I'm very curious about the Bluesound Vault 2. I'm leaning in that direction. Question: Once you rip your CDs and have a backup, is the file structure a common standard and are the files portable to another platform if you change/upgrade to a different digital music server in the future?
@reubent
You can chose the encoder setting in the Vault settings for file type
Choices are

FLAC, MP3,WAV, MP3+FLAC, MP3+WAV

I have ripped all my cds to WAV.

Only thing I have tried so far is that I accessed the vault through my pc to copy some WAV files over to my phone so I can listen to stuff on the plane.
Not sure if that helps?
@uberwaltz - Thanks. Looks like the files are standard, portable and independent of the Bluesound operating environment. This is goodness as I only want to rip my CDs once. As long I keep a solid backup, or two, should be good to go for years to come.

I agree with @rhljazz, @uberwaltz, and others on the Bluesound Vault 2. A very nice piece of audio gear that takes the computer out of the equation. Another note- One of the best things to know about Bluesound is the committment they have placed into customer service. Those guys had helped me alot. Not just once, many times with integration of my Node 2. But the Vault 2 does all the work once you place the CD into the device... even better.