Explain Digital Basics to an Analog person

I don't understand the pieces of a Digital system. However, I would like to build one. What components do I need?

Record hi-resolution digital from LPs.
Play CDs (Redbook, SACDs)
Play hi-resolution digital files from a computer through my stereo.
You need the following:
1. CD/DVD/Blue Ray player that plays the types of CDs that you want to play. you can use it as a CD players or as a transport only. A CD player reads the digital information off the discs and also converts that digital information to analog to be sent to your pre-amp, integrated amp or receiver. You can also use the CD players solely as a transport. A transport only reads the digital information from the disc and provides that digital output in several connections that you can send to a stand alone digital to analog converter (DAC). Most CD player's internal DACs are not very good and most audiophiles or serious listeners get a stand alone DAC.
2. You need some sort of device that can take the analog output from your turn table and convert it to digital format for you to record. There are many extremely cheap (read bad) devices out there that do this. Stay away from those. You will need a analog to digital converter (ADC) that also accepts analog input and converts it to digital. There are some pretty good ones out there. There are also music servers and DACS out there that also accept analog input and converts it to digital for your use.
3. To play music from your computer, you need a music server system or DAC that takes the digital output from your computer. There is the Mac mini system that works well. Most current DACS have USB inputs that allow your to take the computer's digital output directly.

Since you basically have to get an external DAC with USB input (make sure it also has optical, RCA, USB, analog etc.) inputs also, this will enable you to use the computer as a music server and also accept analog input from your turn table.

Since you probably already have a decent CD player with digital output, I would use it as a CD transport and the only thing you really need is a decent DAC as mentioned above and the music server system that allows you to use your computer as the server. Basically a mac mini setup works well.

Minorl, Thank you for the explanation. I don't have any digital equipment. I have a very good, albeit budgeted, analog system. I would want a DAC and CD transport (I don't care about video) of equal level.

I have read about the Korg MR2000S. Would this be a suitable option or do you recommend other devices?

For perspective, my system consists of the following: Lenco rebuild with Mirko platter and bearing, VPI JMW 12.5 arm, Denon DL-S1, Jasmine phono (moded), Jungson JA88D integrated, and Orca designed DIY Focal speakers. I would guess it is a moderately priced system. I really strive for value on the dollar.
The Lynx Hilo is the finest Studio device for recording and playback regarding quality and price at the moment.

Build a caps music server (windows 8). Get instructions at computer audiophile.com

This is the "best buy" option for your task at the moment.
If you want world-class results, rivaling your vinyl, then jitter is the primary thing to tackle, both in ripping and playback.

1) Record hi-resolution digital from LPs - you need a GOOD A/D converter - the Ayre QA9 is the only choice IMO

2) Play CDs (Redbook, SACDs) - A CD transport, coax digital cable and a good DAC. The CD transport should be based on a high-speed CDROM reader with clocking from memory for lowest jitter. There is one from PSAudio and one from Parasound and others.

3) Play hi-resolution digital files from a computer through my stereo - the best result with ANY DAC is to use an outboard USB converter with high quality power supply to achieve the lowest jitter and then feed a good DAC with a high-quality digital coax cable. Most DACs with built-in USB interfaces will likely disappoint you.

Good DACs are not cheap. If you want the best performance on a budget, start with a NOS (non-oversampling DAC) like the Metrum Octave, Metrum Hex or Chinese DACs like the Chamelion. These will not match your vinyl probably, but will not be harsh sounding either. Good non-NOS DACs that will do hi-res start at $4-5K IME.

To get stellar results, the the best server currently is a Mac Mini with Amarra playback software on it. If you are not used to Mac, it has gotten very close to the PC for usability, so fairly easy to pick-up. I recommend the Oct 2009 mini combined with a 5 amp Hynes power supply. The hard disk should be replaced with a solid-state-disk for around $150 and the memory upgraded to 8 gigs. The whole server with Amarra will run about $800.

Other recommendations:


Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I'm not a digital person either, but if you want something to accomplish most of your goals on a budget, which is what it seems, why not just buy an OPPO for about $1100, which will allow you to play every disc format, and play your computer stuff through its digital inputs. Then you need a USB phono stage to allow you to record LPs to your computer. That's the cheap way. Frankly though, unless you go the route Steve recommends, I don't think your results will equal your very nice turntable. Good computer digital costs good money. Personally, I would just play your records and buy a very nice CD player. Computer audio just seems like a lot of work, IMO.
Make your life easy
1) buy an Oppo 105 as your SACD player, DAC and DLNA renderer
2) use the PC build of your choice as a media player with JRiver Media Center software as DLNA controller feeding the Oppo.
3) plan on large sucking sound in your wallet every paycheck as HDTracks tantalizes you with continuing hirez releases and in the near future DSD downloads take off.
4) kick your heels up in your easy chair knowing that the next step up will cost you 3x as much.
Record hi-resolution digital from LPs.
Play CDs (Redbook, SACDs)
Play hi-resolution digital files from a computer through my stereo

Buy the new Tascam DA-3000. Record your vinyl in DSD (DSF) format, then transfer the files to a computer. Find a good DAC that can accept DSD from the computer, and you are done. :-)

Best wishes,
Alex Peychev
Alex - what software would you use on the DSD files to take out the pops and clinks and to add the tags? Windows OS please. Thanks.
After some research, I am unable to come up with any software that does pop and click removal on DSD files. If I missed something, please let me know. That is a show stopper for me in converting to DSD. Did I miss software that is out there?
That is a show stopper for me in converting to DSD. Did I miss software that is out there?

The only solution will be converting DSD to PCM (352.8kHz), take out the pops and clicks and convert back to DSD. But, IMO, any processing will alter the sound quality, so it is much better to clean your LPs and just record them to DSD. With little pops and clicks it will be exactly the same as you were listening to the vinyl. :-)

Alex Peychev
Alex - do you know any Windows software that does pop and click removal at 352.8 KHz? Anybody know if Audacity handles 352.8 KHz?

Pyramix has an interesting solution, if I understand it correctly. They only convert the section of the DSD file that you want to edit to PCM and then converts only the edited part back to DSD. The rest is never touched. But I think that is professional solution and I am not sure it does pops and clicks. But it is an interesting approach.