What do you currently store your I tunes library on? Is it cloud based or on a hard drive?
What kind of digital inputs does the DAC have? USB only or are there coax and/or Optical inputs?
If your current iTunes is in mp3 or lower resolution, I wouldn't worry to much about any of this, because you won't be able to hear a difference regardless.
To find out how your copy of iTunes is configured for ripping CDs go to 'Preferences' in the iTunes menus, click on the first icon on the left, 'General,' and click on the 'Import settings' button near the bottom right of that window.
If want to check on the files you already have in iTunes do this:
- When iTunes is open go to the 'View' menu at the top of the window.
- Select 'Column browser'
- In the window that opens put a check mark in the 'Kind' and 'Bit rate' boxes
- You'll probably have to open the iTunes window all the way or scroll over to the right to see the two new columns of information you just added.
- Depending on which version of iTunes you have the options will likely be, in alphabetical order:
-- AAC (Advanced Audio Coding), a lossy compression format similar to mp3
-- AIFF - the full CD resolution format on CDs
-- Apple Lossless - a compressed but lossless format that should sound almost identical to the CD
-- MP3 - a compressed format with three bit rate options
--WAV - an uncompressed format common in the PC world but not so much on Macs
Regarding bit rates, higher is better in terms of audio fidelity and files ripped in iTunes will range from something like 1400 kbps for an AIFF file to 128 kbps for an mp3 ripped at the lowest resolution.
It's true that mp3s aren't going to sound as good as lossless files on a system capable of resolving the difference but my experience is that mp3s at 256 or 320 kbps do benefit from a better DAC and the one in the Hegel is probably excellent.
Right now all of my music is on my MacBook Pro that the whole family uses for general use. I'm open to suggestions as far as buying a PC and external HD, and also to buying a Mac Mini. I'm really just looking for some guidance. Every place that I went to demo speakers was awesome, they would pull out an iPad and ask what I wanted to listen to....amazing. Gone are the days of having CD's stacked from floor to ceiling.
At least 85% of my iTunes library is AAC and purchased AAC. Since I threw out all my CD's years ago I have asked family and friends if I can borrow their CD's and re-rip them. Question is what to use to rip them, will iTunes now have duplicates in the library, do I use something other than iTunes, etc.
Thanks for the help. Have a decent investment in the Revel speakers and Hegel integrated and want to get the best sound I can.
The Hegel h300 has digital, analog and USB inputs.
My advice would be to get the MacMini to start. Having a computer dedicated to music playback is better than using a shared computer if you care about sound quality. If you like using iTunes as the library then configure it to import CDs as described previously. Personally I imported using AIFF. Then get Audirvana Plus software as the music playback tool. Hook up the MacMini to the Hegel via USB to play music through your system. There will be a learning curve with configuration but it really is not that hard.
Great advice from Clio09. If you do decide to go with a Mac Mini there are a couple of things to think about.
Since the latest Mac Minis don't have an optical drive built in you'd need to buy an external drive to burn CDs (there are much cheaper ones than the Apple brand Superdrive) or you could use the drive in the Macbook Pro through wireless sharing with the Mini. The previous generation Minis do have internal drives.
You'll need a monitor to get the Mini set up, either using its HDMI output to a monitor or TV that accepts HDMI, or by screen sharing with the MacBook Pro.
Since the Mini has digital optical output and the Hegel has optical input I would suggest you consider using that rather than USB. USB really wasn't intended for high fidelity music transfer and while it can be very good with the right (expensive) implementation the optical connection might be better. The headphone/analog output jack on the Mini is also an optical digital output. You'd need a mini-Toslink to Toslink cable or a mini adapter for a regular Toslink cable.
If you re-rip files from a CD you've ripped before, iTunes will ask you if you want to replace the file that's already in your iTunes library with the new one. so you won't have duplicates unless you want them.
Whether you'd need more disc storage space than is in the Mini would depend, of course, on how big your library is and the format you choose for ripping but if that is ever a problem you can easily add an external drive or replace the internal drive with a larger one.
You do have backups of your music library, right? Ripping is enough of a PITA without having to do it twice or, in your case, perhaps three times.
I wouldn't be too concerned about trying to replicate all those AAC files at higher resolution. Just play and enjoy them. For your favorite music, the stuff you really, really want to hear at its best available resolution, re-rip the CD or go down the rabbit hole of even higher resolution through downloaded DSD files, but that would add even complexities to your considerations.
Good luck, I don't think you'll regret the effort when it's all done, and the gear you've put together would justify that effort.
You may want to check for ways not to use USB, which in general is of lesser quality than other digital transfer mediums. Some Mac Minis have offered Optical outputs in the past but I'm not sure about the current offerings.
I hate to sound like an arrogant snob--actually I am an arrogant snob, but Ihate sounding like one--but since you have done low bit rate transfers, it probably doesn't matter what decisions you make because there won't be much of a difference. In a way, that is comforting.
I would just use the USB output of your present Computer and learn how to manage files in higher bit rates. When you have more confidence and experience and a larger library of higher res files, then start investigating replay options and technology.
I agree that my library is low quality. But I want to change that and it does not need to be an overnight thing. I don't mind building up my library into high quality/high resolution files. If I need to use my Oppo BDP83 player for a while and buy a few CD's that's OK.
It's really looking ahead, what is the best way to have high quality recordings on a PC/Mac Mini and have the thousands of songs and playlists right at my fingertips via an iPad, etc.
Don't get too caught up into chasing higher resolution files, making you ignore any of the great music you've already accumulated.
I love sitting in front of my Simaudio amp and DAC with Nola Boxer speakers playing CD resolution or higher files but the musical experience is just as satisfying when I'm walking around my neighborhood at 7 a.m. listening to 192k mp3 files from an iPod shuffle with decent earbuds while talking to all the neighborhood cats who are always sitting in their front yards at that time of the day.
It's the music, it's the music. Enjoy what you have.
And if I buy a few high resolution albums from DSD what format will they download in? Will iTunes be OK or should I use something like Jriver or Amarra?
Thanks again for all the help.
I highly suggest not relying on iTunes as the playback engine, especially if you will eventually be downloading DSD. Audirvana Plus will interface to the iTunes library nicely. If you want to divorce yourself from iTunes then go with JRiver which is what I did. I stored my music on an Oyen Mini drive and used FireWire to connect it to the Mini. Then I pointed JRiver to that drive and imported my music. These days I am using a network and wired Ethernet solution that relives me of JRiver and the Mini, but that's another story.
I'm beginning to make sense of things now. Since there are a few absolute things on my listening list, I will purchase them on CD. I'll research on how to put these various recording formats (SACD, DTS, 5.1 mixes, etc) into my harddrive, whatever that may be in the future.
For now I am going to connect my computer via USB and use iTunes for playback. I will also connect my Oppo BDP83 via optical to the Hegel and listen to the CD's I just purchased. That will give me a bit of instant gratification and a few days to listen to the system and figure out what to do.
I'm really thinking of going the Mac Mini and external HD route and connecting via toslink optical to the Hegel. Then I will use Jriver and distance myself from iTunes.
Another questions. I keep reading about the ability to EQ and adjust levels...that is exactly what I do not want. I'd like to listen to the recording as intended, not with some wild personal house mix added. Will all my music be required to be EQ'd and thus changing the sound?
Some of the software packages like JRiver come with EQ and other DSP capabilities but you do not have to use these features. I did not use them but I occasionally used the up sampling features.
Your plan sounds excellent. Does your DAC hanle DSD? If not you can still get great sound without the DSD
I actually use I tunes with a Mac Air which has a thunderbolt output. I have a FireWire DAC, and use a thunderbolt to FW adapter. Redbook CD
Sounds great and downloads (24/192) as well. My Oppo 105 is used for my SACDs, DVD-A and Blu Ray and the grand total of my 2 DSD downloads. I tunes works for me but I don't use it for High res downloads, which I keep on a separe USB drive and use Decibel for playback . It all works, sounds great, and I still play vinyl and CDs.
Congratulations on the new system! I had a very similar setup a few months back (Hegel H300, 2012 Mac Mini). The best results I experienced with that setup was running USB to the Mac Mini and a Firewire drive. Amarra was/ still is my preferred playback software. Audirvana is nice as well. There are a ton of tweaks available depending how crazy you want to get (i.e. booting from SD card, better USB, etc.). The USB DAC's downside is that it only does 24/96. It still sounded great with whatever was thrown at it. Taking the time to rip the CDs will yield a worthwhile improvement in my experience. In terms of DSD you will have to have the playback software convert to PCM at the DAC's sample rate. Feel free to PM me for specifics if you would like. Good luck!
I decided to try and make this simple for myself so I bought a Gen II Salk StreamPlayer, will connect via USB and will use my Oppo bdp83 for the few DVD and SACD's I own. I'll download mPod and mPad apps to control the Salk unit.
You got some good input above.
Regarding computer audio in general I recommend you get acquainted with computeraudiophile.com. Lot's of good info there. Look into their "university" or whatever it's called, papers that a good how-to guides. For ripping, their Guide to Ripping CDs is excellent. It's based on dBpoweramp software. I follow it to a t and recommend it a lot. The first time you do it you will spend time setting it up according to the Guide. From there onwards it will all by automatically dine by the software. Great solution.
BTW, there was a recent thread on this PC Audio forum by another guy who was also new to computer audio, used Apple, and had a Hegel amp...you might want to check it out. I believe it was called Help a real newbie, or something like that. He later had some follow-up threads too.