I have not tested or heard yet, but when my Squeezebox units go their way someday, Android based general media players (with digital out to external DAC) is where I will likely look first.
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I've gotten very good results consistently using SPDIF from various <$1000 network players and pCD players/transports to DAC. Have not used Sonos but have read where others have indicated it is not as good in regards to jitter, etc. compared to Squeezebox Touch, which is what I use currently, for example. I've used digital out also from Denon and Marantz CD and DVD players and older Roku Soundbridge devices to same DACs and gotten similarly good results.
That does not surprise me at all, though I have never tried SPDIF direct from a general purpose computer. Better to keep noisy computer physically and electronically isolated from music making components as much as possible for best results. Network players especially using wireless network connections make this easy to accomplish.
You could go the mac mini route + itunes + audirvana
I use my imac + itunes + audirvana and have 24/192 capability with remote from my droid tablet using a free app called Retune
Retune reads all of the itunes playlists, albums, genres etc... - so it functions the same as itunes
If I changed my dac to something of higher resolution then the associated driver would take care of linking at that resolution
It really is future proof since everything is software controlled
Audirvana streams the actual music file and I have it configured not to upsample, because the Schiit Bifrost dac I have sounds better that way
Hope this helps
Forgot to mention that I use the USB port on the imac
Alternately you can use the optical output, but you need the 3.5mm optical adapter - apple puts the optical output in the headphone socket - I am NOT joking! Took me a couple of months to determine this
With both the optical and USB I found the DH Labs cables performed the best.
Back to the music :-)
thanks williewonka, I have considered the mac mini though to be honest I dont have much experience with macs. The solution you propose is definitely attractive. I just hate the idea of getting tied to itunes. Does Audirvana allow you to play FLAC? Most of library is in FLAC which is one of the main reasons why I dont use itunes.
Tboooe_You can also get a windows computer - probably cheaper
You can download itunes for windows - its free - not sure if the windows version messes with the files like the Mac does, so you might not need something like Audirvana to deliver files that have been upsampled.
Yes - You can play flac tracks via Audirvana (playing one now) without itunes started - you nave to create playlists in Audirvana - not sure how good it is - suggest you checkout the manual on the web site
Damien (support) responds very quickly if you have questions or problems
There are other windows players out there - Aparantly the Windows Media Player works very well
The Audirvana manual tells you how to import flac to iTunes - the caveat is flac files and music files have to be on the computer and not a NAS drive
- it creates a proxy file that links to the music file - I had the proxy on the computer and the music on the NAS - once they were both on the computer all worked very well - rest of my files are on the NAS drive though
I've used several players in the past...
- hate Windows media player - getting stuff into the library is a pain
- not sure if Audirvana has the different views of tracks (see below)
_ I like the fact that itunes has seemless integration of music and radio
- I like the different ways you can look at tracks - tittle, composer, genre
- I like using Retune to control itunes
There are other remote control programs out there that might work with other players - ask Damien if he knows of one for Audirvana
Checkout other windows players - see
windows players review
Hope this helps
I built one of the CAPS server and I added the XONOR essence STX card for SPDIF out. My DAC doesn't take USB and I didn't want an external converter either. My CAPS server also has a 500GB solid state drive so all my music is local and I don't need a separate file server. Boots up in 5 seconds. I store my music in ALAC lossless so I can fit more. Should hold 1500 CDs. I run it headless and just remote into it when I need to do something on it (rarely). Works great and sounds spectacular. Control it with JRemote for JRiver.
If you want to do a lot of work and study to get a high-quality PC or Mac system together, this is worthwhile and will get you great SQ and hi-res.
However, if you just want your Sonos to sound great and don't want to invest a lot of time, do this:
Jaxwired, thanks for the headsup on the Xonor. My problem is that the CAPS I am going to build (v3 Carbon) only has 1 available pcie slot which I was intending to use for a wireless card because unlike you my media is stored on a NAS so that my other Sonos devices and HTPCs can access the music and movie files. I could use a USB based wireless dongle. Hmmm...just need to make sure the SPDIF output is great quality.
I use a MacBook Air and Audirvana Plus via a MF V-Link then Toslink to a Krell HTS 7.1 for D/A decoding. The results, to me ears, playing HD FLAC files are nothing short of amazing. See my previous post on this subject:
I can also use the MacBook Air to stream directly, via iTunes, to an AirPort express for slightly lower quality audio anywhere in the home.
Forgot to clarify - when using Audirvana without iTunes integration it plays flac files from anywhere - even NAS drives - it's only when you integrate it with iTunes that it creates the proxy files and needs them both on the computer
I think Damien may be looking at this issue.
In "stand-alone mode" (i.e. without itunes) you can create multiple playlists of your music and recall them - from there you can filter the content of the playlist to refine a search.
The nice thing with itunes is that artist, album and genre categories are created automatically
- you can the create new genre's
- e.g. I listen to a lot of classical - itunes assigns this genre to a cd when loaded or a track when downloaded
- I then change the genre for a track or album
- e.g. I assign a genre of "Classical Woodwind" to woodwind tracks
Another nice thing about itunes is that it allows you to select multiple tracks to assign a genre to - even across albums - but this freedom can lead to icorrect assignment, so be careful.
I am not an Apple/iTunes bigot - quite the opposite - I just moved all my major apps back to a windows platform after a trying an iMac, which failed me miserably, but I will concede that even with it's warts - iTunes has one of the best interfaces out there for flexibility - even the Windows version performs very well and links to my iMac/iTunes and since installing Audirvana the playback is very impressive
Winamp - i tried it early on - is the closest I've seen to iTunes in flexibility, but I don't know about it's audio performance
Audirvana (native mode) would take a lot of effort to get the flexibility of iTunes - but it could be done
Windows Media Player - I gave up on after trying to import cd's - it's just not intuitive to me
Amarra seems to have a solid following and quite a nice interface - but the cost is too high and I think Audirvana has better quality playback - but if you want to taylor the sound it is probably the most flexible in that regard.
I guess now I have discovered the iTunes/iMac warts and overcome them I will stick with it - but if something else comes along I might be persuaded to change .
my requirement was to get the audio file data to my dac without upsampling - Audirvana does that extremely well
I have tried USB and Optical outputs and they sound identical - I think [this is due to the DH Labs cables, which I have found to perform the best - even better than Van den Hul - my next prefference.
hope this helps
Willie, I have a large lossless .wav music server file library. Do you know an easy way to get itunes to pick the .wav files up and auto convert files to compressed format for synching with an Ipod? Can Itunes do the conversion needed on teh fly as part of teh synch? OR even if Itunes alone (or with some freeby third party Apple plugin or add on perhaps) could batch convert the .wav files up front prior, I could live with that.
Bottom line I would like to be able to synch my .wav files up to an ipod in compressed format with as few clicks as possible. How to do that?
Oh crap! - you've hit the dreaded "iTunes WAV wart" right off the bat
WAV does not contain metedata so when you import tracks it puts them into the "Unknown Artist" folder and within that the "Unknown Album" folder - told you it had some warts.
HOWEVER - I just tried converting WAV to mp4 with MAX and it inserted metada into the mp4 file it created file - I then imported into iTunes and it worked! (I only used mp4 to seperate it from my aif files)
I would suggest you try with a single album first - just to test it out
iTunes can convert to mp3, it gets a little silly for some reason (another iTunes wart) - MAX might be a better choice and more direct
I convert CD's on import into iTunes to AIF - iTunes is smart enough to embed metadata at the time of import.
I know WAV was the CD standard, but it is old hat. AIF is also an industry standard and, dare I say it, as good as WAV (my opinion only - no debates please :-).
I know nothing of iPod synching - you are on your own with that one - sorry :-)
Actually, my .wav files do contain some metadata put there when ripped via Windows Media Player. Problem is that it is not truly standardized metadata tags, so its not always as usable as say FLAC, depending on system. ITs worked to date though with both older Roku and newer Squeezebox systems I have used so far. I think the basic CD identification info is there in a pretty standardized place (for .wav at least) so that seems to be enough to enable retagging later when needed, if implemented case by case.
I've also experimented with batch conveting to flac and having open source systems retag and seen that work as well.
Not so sure about Apple and .wav though.
Apple should really get on the ball and enable easy import of .wav from common sources like Windows MEdia Player to Itunes. Not sure why they have not. It would seem to be to their advantage to do so and it is technically feasible, aat least for certain common tools capable of producing .wav files, like Windows media Player.
"WAV does not contain metedata so when you import tracks it puts them into the "Unknown Artist" folder and within that the "Unknown Album" folder - told you it had some warts."
Are/can the imported files be converted to mp3? My kids have Ipod/Iphone devices that I would like to be able to use my .wav music library with when we are away on vacation, at the pool, etc.
Itunes does not like WAV - it's renamed my collection a couple of time - that's why I went to AIF - finally
Sounds like you have a better handle on it than I initially did :-)
It surprised me that MAX was able to set album and artist metadata when I just converted to mp4 - not sure why Apple has an issue, but then - they like to do things their way and not tell anyone why, or how to get around it - my biggest gripe with them actually.
if you can get the WAV to AIF or some other format Apple knows then importing is a doodle - you just import a folder using iTunes - File|Add to Library menu item
Well, that is the thing with Apple. You have to live in their world. Many people are happy doing that (and perhaps paying a premium in some cases to live in a world managed for them) but I have never been a Apple kind of guy. I do like my daughters Ipod touch though when I use it, especially with some good quality matching earphones or buds (not made by Apple).
Will check out MAX. Thanks.
Mapman - take a look at iTunes help - there is a "Create new Version" which then asks which version type you want to create and lists the iPod - so that might take care of synching and conversion to MP3
ALSO - Apple puts files in a default library folder
I have changed the settings to point to my NAS folder
You can change this in settings, but if you close iTunes, the next time you start it, it resets the library folder back to the default folder (at least on the iMac platform - another bloody wart)
When you rename the folder is updates the library and then prompt you to copy the files - DO NOT SAY YES!
Once you get used to the warts it's pretty nice to use, but discovering all the warts is a PITA.
08-08-13: WilliewonkaInteresting stuff Williewonka. I found wired is MUCH superior to wireless so will check out Audirvana. Currently rolling different ethernet cables. :-)
I have changed the settings to point to my NAS folderOn Windows, I found it TRUE if the folder is on an external drive and external drive is not connected to the computer.
knghifi - GET OUTTA HERE!!! Rolling ethernet cables - really? :-)
I switched to wired way back - when the tech support at apple told me the solution to frequent breaks in wireless streaming was to convert EVERYTHING to MP3 - I'm not kidding - if I hadn't been so mad I would have LMAO :-)
I did find both optical and usb cables made a difference - problem with streaming - ya never know what got through, unlike copying files, where the computer ensures the file is error free
Thanks for the windows info - good to know
What about the one box rip/store/playback solutions like those from Musica Pristina, Music Vault, Baetis, W4S, etc? They are all pre-configured and optimized for SQ (and do hi-res) but take different approaches in hardware/software to get there. This is what I will eventually do to replace my Sonos for critical listening (leaning towards the Musica Pristina myself).
Jeffkad - I took a look at a couple of those and it was difficult to assess just how good the interface was - even those with remote capability
The computer based ones were easier to assess and cheaper to implement - plus you can change interfaces pretty easily and as sample rates get better you can grow with them.
However - with computers you do have to do a fair bit of investigation and setup and there can be some setbacks along the way.
Having worked in computers for 39 years my choice was easy, but it's not for everyone
Boxed solutions are close to plug and play once connected to the network, so for some a boxed solution is preferable
There is clearly a market for both products and they both have similar performance capabilities - it's really a matter of which one suites the person using it
jeffkad, thank you for the recommendation. I don't necessarily want a one box solution for convenience which could limit my flexibility. I actually don't mind having to rip my CDs on a separate pc. I've been doing it for 10 years so its like a routine I like. Besides, I don't want to over complicate my system with a one box solution that may be difficult/impossible to upgrade. With this is in mind I have decided to build a CAPS v3 Zuma. This will give me enough horsepower to also play around room correction software as well.
knghifi - GET OUTTA HERE!!! Rolling ethernet cables - really? :-)Every cable in my system makes a DIFFERENCE, why NOT ethernet? Hopefully they will arrive next week ...
I saw Michael Fremer's Newport Show interview where he mentioned AQ ethernet cable demo. Hard wired much superior to wireless. AQ entry level ethernet cable much superior to generic brand. Couldn't hear a difference between AQ entry and best ethernet cable.
The computer based ones were easier to assess and cheaper to implement - plus you can change interfaces pretty easily and as sample rates get better you can grow with them.Luckily I understand computers so NO black box for me. I want the flexibility and don't want to deal with someone elses bugs and limitations.
In order for a DAC/computer to play/process, data must be loaded into memory whether via transport or computer. The only difference is computers offers options in ripping and serving the data. Too many options are overwhelming for computer challenged unlike a transport just load the disc and hit play.
I switched to computer audio 6+ yrs ago. I use Itune ripping cds to Apple Lossless and high rez to flac. Use Logitech Media Server or PS Audio Music Manager to serve the music to the DAC. IPhone to control the devices. There are zillions other ways now but this works for me so no reason to change unless to improve quality of sound. Will probably look into Apple mini server and running vm (virtual machine) next.
Over the years I've made improvements by going hardwired from wireless, new computer configurd runnig only necessary services to save cpu cycles, copied all my music to computer internet hard drive ... now rolling ethernet cables.
I believe computer audio has arrived years ago and it's only to get more confusing with more options/improvements ... not going to get easier.
I suggest to get started, pick/install A ripping and serving software. Start simple, get it working and once gain knowledge, then experiment.
With wireless, sounds like something is missing, not as continuous, coherent, and vivid. In theory if the buffer is big enough, it shouldn't be a problem, but ...
IE: Watching a video in a browser, flash player buffers data to avoid interruption when play begins. When buffer runs out whether slow server, bad connection ... , play stops and re-buffers before start again.
Take it one step further, if buffers whole track or cd before play, essentially changed loading data into memory from a synchronize to asynchronize operation which is much simpler to implement. No need for over priced transports, external clocks ... Abstract out the interface and only requirement is loading data before play.
Got my AQ ethernet cable and it's a major improvement over HD cable. Similar going from wireless to wired +1.
Michael Fremer interview .
I can confirm knghifi's findings re: wireless and wired...
First - the wired does not suffer from breaks in the stream - my wireless was bad for that - too many other routers in the neighbourhood according to apple support.
Second, the wired is much smoother in the highs like violins and sibilance
Don't forget - if the dac is missing a sample - it will try to insert the next best interpolated value based on valid adjacent samples. Only when too many adjacent samples are missing will a break in the audio signal occur. Somewhere between an audible break and a perfect stream you have a dac creating an audio signal that contains distortion.
High frequencies are more difficult to rebuild because there are fewer samples at high frequencies - e.g. on a 44Khz sample source, if you miss 2 samples you cannot rebuild a 20kHz audio signal perfectly.
I noticed a significant improvement in the violins on every orchestral piece I have.
Not only does it sound smoother, but the placement of instruments in the sound stages became much more precise and spacious
Your cables contribute to streaming issues also - I have tried a few optical and USB cables and found that DH Labs provide the best quality to date - so I can see why rolling quality network cables may also prove beneficial - although, if they also suffered from poor tranmission then it might take me several attempts to send this note, so I'm not sold on this right now, but when I have time to investigate it might bring some more enlightenment :-)
Had a chance to think about LAN cables and where a quality cable might make a difference....
Basically, anything connected to a router/computer is subject to sending data that is checked for data errors - if an error is detected the data is re-sent until it is correct - that's the way computers ensure that a vital bit is not dropped, which might cause a spreadsheet to display incorrect numbers.
The only place that data is not verified is in the link between the streaming device and the DAC - that's where I found good cables definately make a difference.
HOWEVER - there would be a case for good quality LAN cables if you are experiencing breaks in your music, which might be an indication that the error rate in your network is severe enough that the re-transmission of data causes a time lag that is long enough to interfere with the reconstruction of the audio signal.
If your streaming device does not have sufficient buffering capability then bad cables will certainly highlight the problem with more frequent breaks in the audio signal.
Vicadamone - thanks for the link - I think this is worth investigating, if only to see if it makes my NAS drive will respond quicker.
Kgnhifi - do you happen to know the rating of both new and old cables?
Are the old ones cat5 or cat6
Alternately what is the tested bandwidth of both old and new cables
Knowing this will help me determine the kind of improvement I might be able to attain.
Also - what software/hardware are you using to stream to the dac
Vicdamone, Thanks for the tip.
Williewonka, old are Cat5. New according to AQ website, Cat7, 300 MHz??. There's enough bandwidth in Cat5 100 MHz so don't think bandwidth is why AQ is superior. I'm only running AQ from router to DAC.
My setup is very very simple. Music store internal hard drive. Running PS Audio or Logitech Media Server (can never get JRiver to sound good on my machines) on my computer. Use Lyric app on iphone for control.
I have a modest level system but high enough resolution where I can easily detect direction of a fuse. Every parameter improved, detail, resolution ... but most obvious is 3D, better separation between images in soundstage where I'm hearing new things in familiar recordings, some hi-rez no longer sound light weight ... just PRAT.
I had whole family over last night and they couldn't believe all I changed was a stupid Ethernet cable.
I don't know your system but only way to know is to HEAR it in your system.
For an audiophile, removing anything from Home Depot is always a good thing. LOL!!!
Knghifi - not everything - I've found Home Depot MDF is good for shelves :-)
It would be nice to now how the various streaming devices actually stream data, then the impact of good network cables would be easier to assess.
For instance, when I was using the Apple TV to stream it seemed anything I tried improved the sonic quality - even upgrading the power cord to a Furutech on the Apple TV made a real sonic improvement.
Since switching to the iMac and Audirvana Plus, which loads the entire track into memory, I found that having the same Furutech power cable on the iMac did not make any difference to sonic quality once I removed it.
I received an email from Damien of Audirvana and he says, for streaming content directly from the web e.g. radio, it loads several seconds of a track before it starts playing and by the time that 5 seconds has finished playing the rest of the track has been buffered in computer memory - and by the time that track has finished playing the next track is buffered and ready to play - and so on.
He also believes cat5e will suffice for most music when using Audirvana.
So I am thinking that since Audirvana buffers so much data, upgrading network cables might not be as beneficial in my setup as it is in your own.
But since the upgrade to cat7 is relatively inexpensive and the fact I will have to do it at some point in time - I'll give it a whirl - what the heck:-)
Will keep you posted.
Knghifi - not everything - I've found Home Depot MDF is good for shelves :-)Good point :-)
It would be nice to now how the various streaming devices actually stream data, then the impact of good network cables would be easier to assess.Like audio cables, just trust your ears and don't think too hard. Well, that's what I do when dealing in this stupid hobby.
Since switching to the iMac and Audirvana Plus, which loads the entire track into memory, I found that having the same Furutech power cable on the iMac did not make any difference to sonic quality once I removed it.I'm not surprise. The operation has changed to asychronize. With whole track in memory, DAC just process data in memory and doesn't care if the data was loaded from the cloud, computer, transport with Home Depot PC ...
I received an email from Damien of Audirvana and he says, for streaming content directly from the web e.g. radio, it loads several seconds of a track before it starts playing and by the time that 5 seconds has finished playing the rest of the track has been buffered in computer memory - and by the time that track has finished playing the next track is buffered and ready to play - and so on.This is similar to what Adobe flash player does. It wants to buffer enough data so when plays begin to avoid interruptions.
Next time you talk to damien, ask if he tried loading whole disc in memory before play and compare sound quality. Only down side is lag time before play begins. He can make it an option to load track or whole disc before play.
So I am thinking that since Audirvana buffers so much data, upgrading network cables might not be as beneficial in my setup as it is in your own.You'll probably correct so buy the less expensive AQ Forest. Everything is system dependent. In my system, this is one of the best ROI tweaks. I have to check out Audirvana next so thanks for the tip.
Knghifi - Audirvana pre-fetches the next track whilst the current track is playing, based on what is selected as the next track.
Which track is next depends on the order the listener has selected - e.g. by album, genre, artist,composer, or whatever is in the stream from an internet radio station. I can go through my entire collection automatically if desired :-)
In my system playback sequence is controlled by iTunes. Audirvana simply deals with playback and simultaneous retrieval of the next track - simple, elegant and very effective and no dropouts due to networking issues.
There is a very small lag (1-2 seconds) on the very first track in a newly selected sequence - e.g. selecting a new album , playlist, genre, etc, while the very first track is loaded into memory, but after that everything plays with only the user defined inter-track delay.
So there is really no need to load an entire album, which on some systems might prove to be detrimental.
Still going to get the cat7 though - if it only makes my network more efficient I'll be happy - getting better sound - that would be the icing on the cake!