Is there a Rosetta Stone for digital speak?

Trying to transition from CD transport and DAC to computer HD based system without making horrific mistteps. Running into a hail storm of tech speak and different formats which keeps me on the fence indefinitely waiting for the whole thing to reach some sort of stability.

Willing to invest a respectable amount for longer term viability of the components, but which direction?

Purchased and then returned without using the Mojo system as I started counting up how many separate pieces to make it all work. Ridiculous!!! And I'm not just picking on Mojo. Make fun of Bose as we all do, but a simple two box solution would be welcomed.

Does some manufacturer have this figured out? Thanks for understanding the rant.
For one just starting out on the "computer HD based system" adventure, the Computer Audiophile website is an excellent resource, particularly some of the "CA Academy" articles.

If you want to keep your eventual setup as simple as possible, I also recommend looking into two new "hi-res" products soon to come on the market from Sony, the HAP-S1/B at $1000 and the HAP-Z1ES at $2000.

Here's a link:
Digital is just like analog in that respect. The more separates you use, the better the result and of course the higher the price.

If you are after the holy grail, the first hurdle is to achieve a really low jitter digital source. One way to get there that is fairly simple is the server driving an Off-Ramp 5 with Turboclock and Dynamo power supply.

Once you have this, then pick the DAC that you like the best. Picking DACs is a lot like picking amplifiers. Some people like dynamics and detail and others like smoothness and liquid midrange. It must mate with your system well.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Skip Steve N's recommendation for the Antipode and buy a Baetis Revolution II Music Server and an excellent digital BNC to RCA digital cable (Teresonic's for $400 is superb) to connect to your DAC of preference. You will find that music sounds better through the BNC connection on the Baetis than the USB. Personally, there is so little new music recorded in DSD and digital stuff transferred to DSD isn't sounding much better than the 24/192 hi rez downloads (even some of those are average) and my SACDs burned to hard drive with an old PlayStation 3 sound better converted back to PCM by the JRiver software and played though the BNC connection it makes me wonder why I upgraded to a EMM Labs DAC 2x to listen to DSD or any music through the USB connection. The Baetis Music server is the first to address improving the digital signal out of the computer taking the signal off the mother board hard wired to the BNC connection. The flexibility and build quality are superb. Check the Absolute Sound February review; even the reviewer's conclusions favor the BNC. Many good DACs, don't know your budget but I love the Berkeley Alpha 2 and also the Resonessance Mirus was very impressive sonically as long as the smaller chasis size doesn't bother you
As mentioned above, is a great website for this.

I can realate to being overwhelmed by tech speak. I suggest starting simple, getting your feet wet, and then investing more. All this is evolving very fast, by the way, so not sure spending a lot in the latest DAC or server will be great 3 years down the road.

Are you familiar with the Apple environment or Windows? If Apple, I would say get a Mac Mini with iTunes and Audionirvana+ and that would be your server as starting point. If Windows, any PC or laptop will do to get started, and JRiver is a good option. I did the latter and I am now building a hotrod server.

Do you like your DAC? If so, keep it and get a good USB to S/PDIF converter, like an Audiophilleo. It has asynch USB (a good thing), and connects between your computer (be it Mini or Win based) and DAC. It's a connect it and forget it kind of thing, and works great. I also did this.

Ripping CDs is not trivial. I suggest following the Computeraudiophile guide to ripping CDs. ITunes is convenient, but not very good for this.

Generally speaking, storing music in an external hard drive with its own power supply (not usb powered) is a good idea, as well as avoiding using the USB connections for both streaming ( to the DAC or USB converter) and to access the music. So you want an external hard drive with a firewire, thunderbolt, or some other connection.

Will you be using an iPad or something as a "remote"?

Computer based has many moving parts, but can be executed rather simple. You will have plenty time to get a lot more complicated if you want, but leave that for later. At least this is the approach I have followed and worked great for me!

Good luck!
Lewinskih01: Why Audiirvana+ vs. using Fidelia (or Fidelia Advanced)? Just curious. Not the first time I've heard this recommendation for Audirvana but none for Fidelia (that I can remember)...

Based on some prodding to learn more about this digital audio stuff, I started some googling and found this article:

Has a nice writeup on osx audio players. I'm playing with the 15 day trial of Fidelia right now. My cpu is smoking hot up converting all my iTunes songs to a better format so I can see if my old ears can tell a difference. Is Audiirvana a better choice?

I don't have the budget for a high end DAC or music server, so I'm just going to use a (large) good USB flash drive with my Oppo 95 for now and let the Sabre's do their magic.

Good stuff here from you guys!

The suggestion for Audionirvana+ is simply my repeating of what I've seen Mac people recommend. But I haven't tried it, so no more value than that.

The Oppo USB should be fine for your indended use. I believe the user interfase is not the most user-friendly, but if it floats your boat, then great!
Hi admranger. You wrote: "my cpu is smoking hot up converting all my iTunes songs to a better format so I can see if my old ears can tell a difference." Just a heads-up that if your "iTunes songs" were originally imported as mp3 files, you will not gain any sonic benefits from upconverting. Good luck.

Most of my music was imported from my CDs into apple lossless files. I understand that it would be hard to get too much upside to converting 256k files... That's a lot of missing info.
Thank you for all of the excellent suggestions.
Hi, Admranger:
No intention to be patronizing--just wanted to be sure you were not going to waste time upsampling low rez music.
Jonathan1257: I didn't take it as patronizing. However, I am wondering why I need anything but iTunes to do playback, etc. since I have no files higher than CD's that I imported. The Fidelia tech people I was in contact with when their software kept crashing say that up sampling has no benefit at all! Again, why do I need Fidelia or Audirvana unless I buy hi-res files?

I'm not interested in re-buying my CD library as hi-res files, so I guess I'll stick with what I have. If I want to play songs via the Sabre's in my Oppo 95, I have a 32gb thumb drive I can download them to.
While iTunes sounds fine, many find sound quality improvements using players like Audirvana, Fidelia, JRMC, and Amarra. My personal favorite is Amarra Symphony w/iRC. Each program has a free trial you can take advantage. If you hear no difference over iTunes you, haven't wasted a dime.
ADM - I agree with WTF. iTunes is a rather poor playback software. The upgrade programs like Amarra make a significant difference and they have features like Cache mode that play from memory rather than disk that improve performance even more. I also use Amarra on a 2009 Mac Mini and have gotten a number of best of shows using it.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio