You still need a computer in the chain that will run the software you plan to use as a music player and access the drive w/ your music. PC or Mac will do. If it's PC download Media Monkey or J River. They will either see your music library or you can point them to it. There are some configurations within those programs you will need to set up in order to export music correctly. You will also need to connect the computer to the Dac which can be done in many ways. The easiest is a USB to Spdif (digital RCA) converter. I use an Empirical Audio Off Ramp for about $799. I have also used a M2Tech HiFace which can be had for about $125. The Empirical sounds much better. You can either use the computer screen to choose and play music, or you can use an Iphone of laptop running VNC to access and manipulate the computer.
Lastly if that all sounds too complicated call Neal at Sound Science 720-308-4000. He does hourly consulting.
Mac mini seems to be the server of choice for ease of set up and use- load it w/RAM and an SSD. Get a good USB or Firewire DAC and never look back. Skip NAS for now, and use an external drive. You can run it headless off of an iPad/Touch/Phone or via screen sharing. It is really simple and slick this way...
Mac mini running pure music connected to a good external dac thru asynchronous USB or toslink will be as good as any standalone cd player, depending on the quality of dac you use.
If you want to go nas, get an apple extreme router and hook up a 2 TB drive to it and you can share the drive from any Mac or pc. Or what I do is have 2-2TB drives connected to my Mac mini so I backup my music every hour using time machine which is built into snow leopard. This takes 2 minutes to setup and automatic after that.
I also use MAX to rip cd's to the mini to get the highest bit rate.
I also use a glass to toslink cable and a very good quality USB cable which make a difference.
Sit back with your iPad/iPhone and control everything. Plus you can share and route this all thru your house.
I really like the squeezebox Duet or the new version I think is the Touch. It is really easy to set-up, operate and enjoy. It benefits from going into a DAC vs. using its internal DAC. It is inexpensive and allows for streaming wirelessly or wired full resolution. The remote is great and it overall is easy to work with.
Best of all, you don't need to be a computer wizard.
I think the Mac Mini is also great, though I cannot comment on the required computing skills. I like the Squeezebox because it is so easy. Even my 10 year old daughter loves it. Selection of music is much like an Ipod.
Since you already have the Dac my solution above is still your best bet. Also using an Empirical Off Ramp connected via Spdif to your Dac will outperform any USB Dac I have heard and I have heard many.
One of the Squeezebox devices, like the Touch, using SqueezeServer software (free) will allow you to use your FLAC files and ignore iTunes altogether. I agree on MacMini as a processor. You can use the Touch wireless or via ethernet cable (better). As has already been mentioned, it is a very easy interface to get up and running with. You will NOT need a USB/SPDIF convertor, or a even a USB DAC running this way. You'd connect your computer to the Touch via wireless or ethernet, and the Touch would be connected to your DAC via an RCA SPDIF digital cable. I use this route and the results are excellent. If you are really picky and want to tweak it out you can get an aftermarket external power supply for the Touch, like the one made by CIA, and or add a dejitter interface between Touch and DAC if your DAC has poor jitter specs (actually, I'm told the jitter coming from the Touch is pretty low). I can tell you that even bone stock it sounds damn good to me.
Rbstehno has described the approach I use as well! I use toslink directly into my DAC. Sold my CD player 2 years ago. I still have a CD player in my car, but don't use that either! My 160 GB iPod has pretty fair share of my music on it! :-)
Thanks Guys, it's going to take a little while for me to digest your suggestions, however it seems the Mac Mini is unanimous. At this time I don't want to say any more for I will certainly show my computer ignorance. Also appreciate you not bashing me for not knowing how this works, I'm a civil engineer and thank goodness for the IT department.
One thing I forgot to mention is that my DAC has coaixal, optical and balanced digital audio inputs so is one type input better than the other?
Time for me to start really studying your responses, thanks again.
I agree with part of the above posts. If you go w/ a Mac mini as the server it has a toslink out you can use. That will be a simple approach, and I'm 99% sure your Dac accepts toslink. However toslink is not the best sounding connection method.
If you like your DAC, the Empirical Audio suggestion is along the lines you should be looking. There are other competitive USB/Firewire>spdif converters. I recommend BNC(over RCA) coax as the best connection method, optical the worst IME.
For what you've described, I say skip the computer (too broad a device for such a specific application).
You need ReadyNAS + Squeezebox.
That's the thing, there are many different approaches you can take. Each with pros and cons. That is part of the challenge and yet part of the fun. You get to experiment.
It is not as overwhelming as it may seem!
It is really fun to sit on couch with your ENTIRE collection in your hands. You will rediscover your music, that is the fun part!
Fishcricket: you might like to check out this website. It is a great resource to get you started: www.computeraudiophile.com/faq
Again, thanks for all the food for thought. I knew it would happen, the engineer part of me took over, 1 am this morning and i'm still doing research. Seems reguardless of which way i go(squeezebox,Emperical Audio) the most important thing is to get the digital signal to my DAC with the lease amount of jitter possible. It appears their are software upgrades available for the SB Touch as well as hardware and both the SB and EA would work best by being hardwired rather than streamed. Also, cable type plays an important role.
So right now I'm leaning toward a NAS, after looking around at the external hardrives i have laying around stuffed with music plus all the CD's i'm guesstimating I have about 1.5TB of music at flac compression, so need at least 2TB plus another 2TB for backup.
Also think I will use an I Pad. The SB or EA decision remains a tough one. I just realized my DAC upsamples all data streams to 24bit before sampling at 768khz.
Hope I'm on the right track, I truly enjoy the way my system sounds and certainly don't want to take a step back. By the way what I have are McIntosh MC300 amp, M46 pre-amp(that i will be takening out of the system), MR85 tuner(I will also be selling the tuner), MDA1000 DAC, MCD205 cd player and all plugged in to a Powervar 12. Speakers are Tannoy D700's and also a McIntosh SL-1 subwoofer that is used at times. When the little lady won't put up with anymore I use a pair of Sennheiser HDR 180 headphones.
Good for you.
Yes jitter is a real problem and most just hope their Dac deals with it. I'll let you in on a little secret. Virtually none of them do much to correct it. The Empirical Off Ramp converts USB and virtually eliminates jitter. I have tried it on a number of Dacs with a number of very very experienced audiophiles and we all agree it is an amazing device.
I use an Anti Cable Spdif cable which was about $150. It is on par with the Stereolab but less $. That's an easy way to go and it sounds really really good. They're not on the website so you'll have to contact them directly to get one.
At any rate good luck w/ the rest of your journey.
Thanks, I'm trying to understand. I also appreciate all the links that have been offered, guess I like to do a lot of research.
I ran across some info on a new USB converter, a music fidelity v link. Seemed intersting to me because it is simple. The hype says it is very good for what that is worth.
Anyway the more I research the more I understand and one thing seems certain, the future is digital.
I am running the 2010 Mac mini with 120 OWC SSD, 8 gb ram, 2.6GHz and 2 lacie 1T (7200) firewire 1394b with apple lossless and the original Mac mini 1394b rehoused for back-up. Everything into the W4S DAC-2 and the initial sound is very good. I am looking forward to the improvements over the next 200 hours of burnin.
I don't regret boxing my MF Nuvista 3D for the convenience or he sound.
As to cables, and this is what I have read and researched (but there are definately two+ families of thought). I actually prefer the toslink approach as it keeps the transfer of data as a light form. The RCA/SPDIF is an electronic signal and (from what I have read) more suceptable to environmental factors.
With toslink, I am of the opinion that one does not need to spend a large amount of money on these cables, that the connectors are actually more important than the cable itself (secure, prevent light leakage, etc). Obviously, since conveying the signal as light, the key is to not allow for a kink in the cabling.
Over the years, I have had many more problems with RCA/SPDIF cables failing (two times) than toslink cables (I have never had one fail).
I have also found no difference as to the cost of the cable and its performance (I have a pretty revealing system and can certainly tell a notable difference with difference ICs and SCs).
Im also thinking to go computer based front end.
I have great DAC with async USB, so it is begging for digital.
After reading many forums here and on Computer Audiophile, I decided to get MAC mini and install SSD drive from OWC and run it headless with Ipad.
Can anyone out there who done that, please share their experience in details on how to make Ipad talk to mac mini. I have the wired router to three PC in my house that using hi speed Comcast internet. Do I have to go wireless first so Ipad can talk to MAC mini? Can I install wireless router in addition to wired. How to download the software to MAC Mini for the first time before connecting Ipad, can I use TV as a display? The step by step walk thru instructions and connectivity, ripping and playback software recommendations will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
i plan to add the ipad when ipad2 is available. I am currently using a full tricked MacPro for running the mac mini as a shared screen.
I have an acer screen, magic mouse, and wireless keyboard on the mac mini. You have to access it directly to get everything going. The you can set it up to do what you want but you have to set-up the permissions on the mac initially.
I can not complain about anything. I have pure music/pure vinyl working in hybrid memory/HOG. when I pick an album it is instantaneous begun. The sound is excellent through mac USB 2.0 to w4s. I am burning in the DAC-2.
next week I will get the impact Twin adc on-line for my favorite LPs.
I highly recommend the Logitech Squeezebox Touch. Nothing beats having access to your music libary instantly, in my case 350GB of music and counting. I'm able to stream flac files to the touch via my iphone anywhere in my house. This little device is pretty amazing, especially at its price. Its limitation is that it can only stream up to 24/96khz signal. Another option, is the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC with the network bridge. This DAC is superior to the squeezebox, for the right reason $$$$, and it's capable of decoding 32/192khz signal. It basically takes your audio files and directly feeds to the DAC immediately. Though I don't own one yet, I got chance to auditioned it at 2011 CES in Vegas and well, let's just say that I'm looking to buy one now.