Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
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Have you tried reading up on all you can at http://www.computeraudiophile.com/?
The author of the site, Chris, has extensively covered what you're looking into.
He's even made his own music server, the C.A.P.S. 2.0 from the best parts that are readily available. And, if you're not into building it, it can be bought from here http://shop.smallgreencomputer.com/Computer-Audiophile-Pocket-Server_c5.htm.
Good luck and keep us posted on your results.
All the best,
I have indeed, and read Chris' pertinent reviews. I did more reading last night and decided on the Sonore Rendu music player; I read an article by Michael Lavorgna and do believe based on his tests, and the tests of others he quotes, that uncompressed FLAC has meaningful sound improvement.
That rules out the one box players because they rip with compressed FLAC. It will be a little more work ripping, but with storage outside the box will be more future proof. Thanks for your lone response, Nonoise!
As a sidenote, I learned from Michael that the next step in CA might be a 1 or 2 TB SXRD card directly into a DAC...one less cable!
"Should compressed FLAC be a deal breaker? How much extra time and effort is it to rip with a PC using dBPoweramp with uncompressed FLAC?"
It would be for me. I play only .wav files. Uncompressed FLAC is probably as good, but I have not tested this.
Ripping with XLD on a Mac is quite fast, equivalent to any of these servers IME. It is best to get a Plextor or equivalent USB drive for ripping. The C2 correction and the drive make a significant difference. This has been extensively studied by RIPNOS. I use a Teac that is no longer available.
Here is the source that I use, and it has taken more than one best of show at RMAF:
2009 Mac mini with SSD and Amarra version 4318/19. I would stay away from the newer AC-powered Mac Mini. If you purchase Amarra, you can load this older version. Killer sonics.
The other HUGE advantage is something that you are not even thinking about, and that is EQ. Amarra EQ is the best on the planet and will elevate your system to a new level. Just like buying new better speakers. I use it at all shows. I'm not talking about room correction, although some of this is useful. I'm talking about speaker correction. You must understand that the loudspeaker crossover is the weakest link in most audio systems. It is not even close to perfect even in $100K+ speakers. This EQ esentially makes it perfect.
Here are more details on the Mini and EQ hardware and process:
Another thing to consider is the USB interface on your DAC. It is not uncommon for these to be a compromise compared to the S/PDIF input. It does not need to be this way. Using a low-jitter USB converter and a good 1.5m cable to drive a USB DAC can often be sigificantly better than the built-in USB interface or even a CD transport, assuming the right USB converter and cable.