Music Server with no DAC?

Why doesn't Logitech or Sonos create a version of what they have with no DAC? Who wants to buy 2 DACs? Many of us already have DACs. I would love to get into a Sonos, but all I want is digital out. Similarly, I like the idea of the Logitech Transporter, but how about no DAC and drop the price in half or a bit more? Just have AES/EBU, S/PDIF and maybe optical out...

I think there would be a big market for that because who wants to buy 2 of something when they don't need to, and particularly when people are particular about their DACs and don't want the one in the Music Server.
Well, having just bought a Transporter, I can think of a couple of reasons:
1. Simplicity- I for one am trying to simplify- get rid of all those jewel cases and my CDP.
2. Ecoonomics- The extra cost of the DAC chips is probably pretty small compared to the R&D, other hardware, advertising, distribution, mark-ups, etc. I bet you MIGHT cut 10% off the cost; nowhere near 50%.

Just my $0.02. Its a great unit, esp w the Modwright Signature treatment.
Probably because they have determined that is not a money maker for them. They want to sell you bundled solutions that are easier to support together.
Just my $0.02. Its a great unit, esp w the Modwright Signature treatment.

I'll add .02 more cents and you'll have all of .04 cents towards your new Transporter. A big second vote for the Modwright Signature TP as a superb digital front end, either via network (wireless or ethernet) or via various digital inputs using a decent transport. Dan's output stage is excellent and very responsive (in my system) to tube changes. The AKM DAC in the Transporter is very good (at least one Esoteric player uses an AKM DAC), and, as Swampwalker points out, especially so via the Modwright output. I think the MWTP is not likely to be bested by most DAC's in the typical $1-3K pricepoint and you'll likely find your DAC redundant and one extra box you don't need. Disclaimer: Modwright is a client of mine. I'd say the DAC chip is not the big expense, as Swamp points out. Also it's more likely folks are looking for a one-box solution rather than having an extra box. If you love your DAC, and don't mind extra boxes, why not just get and Airport Express and use the optical output (Toslink mini) into a good de-jitter device like the Empirical Pacecar to your DAC of choice? I'm no fan of the AE's stock digital out, but I'd bet the Pacecar would bring it up to snuff.
Because they are not a high end company, they are an IPOD fed industry which most people on the street that buy this stuff don't have a clue what the acronym "DAC" means nor do they want to know. Its a waste of time and money for them to try and sell on that point to 1 out of 1000 people interested.
I also recently purchased a MW Transporter, and I find myself putting on Padora and just letting it play all day. Less and less attention is being paid to the "system".

There are sonic differences between my MW Transporter and my Esoteric universal player with the Esoteric providing the higher resolution and more transparent presentation, but the differences are relatively small, IMO.

Also, I'm occasionally using my MacBook Pro as a wireless transport, and I find AIFF or WAV files have better resolution in my system than do Apple Lossless. Just for those interested in the absolute sound.

The Transporter has largely freed me of listening for the absolute sound, and has opened the door to just enjoying music with lots of freedom and ease.
"I find myself putting on Padora and just letting it play all day"

I find myself in a similar mode these days mostly queuing things up randomly off my music server or tuning in my prefered Internet radio station of the day using the Roku Soundbridges in my system with external mhdt DACs.

I spend less and less time queuing up records and CDs and more time listening when I can.

There is a lot of stuff I have on vinyl still though that will take some time that I seldom have these days to convert over to digital.
That is cool.

I'm sort of heading towards a MediaMonkey - Laptop - ExternalUSBDrive - Beresford DAC TC-2750 way of getting equal or more quality and functionality than the MW Transporter or Sonos for a total price of $500 (250 for DAC, between 30 and 50 for MediaMonkey depending on which one you get,, and between 100 and 300 for external HD)... Assuming you already have a laptop and docking station. What I do is have a docking station with S/PDIF-out next to my Audio system, and via USB a Costco-purchased HD with 1 TB of space for like 200/300... Also, you can drive such a device with an IPhone now as remote.

Just another option... And then its all 16/44.1 CD-ripped or 24/96 from the web...

What I'm really thinking of in asking the original question is that the 'real' DACs seem to be the Berkeley DAC at 5k which is a but much for many, but seems to be astonishing in what it can do, and the Bryston DAC for 2k. Both can intake 24/192 and of course the more common, and still not yet widely popularized 24/96. I'm trying to focus on 24/96 as I gather more music as that seems to be the format of the near future.

So, for example, in the present, Media-Monkey, Bryston DAC, 24/96 downloads, Laptop w/external HD, should completely kill the Transporter at a cost of just 300 or so more depending on details.

The modwright signature treatment surely sounds like it might do something very helpful, I would believe that would bring it to a pretty good level.

Just thinking... This area is still so new, in 2 years I'm sure all of this will be straightforward and be of very high quality.

I believe some of the well reviewed mhdt DACs at under $1000 used do 24/96. I believe my Paradisea and perhaps Constantine also do, but I have not tried it yet. It's on my todo list....
Just thinking... This area is still so new, in 2 years I'm sure all of this will be straightforward and be of very high quality.
Lightminer (System | Threads | Answers)

In two years, the gear presently on the market will seem like the Flintstones' mobile in comparison.
Tvad and others: Any thoughts yet on the "future proof" PS Audio PefectWave DAC? Seems like an alternative to the Transporter worth considering. Certainly an unnerving time to invest in digital sources . . . .

My thought is that there is no such thing as future proof when it comes to digital.

The history of digital electronics is proof.
Nothing digital is "future proof".

It will continue to get better and better over time.
So, for example, in the present, Media-Monkey, Bryston DAC, 24/96 downloads, Laptop w/external HD, should completely kill the Transporter at a cost of just 300 or so more depending on details.

From a cost standpoint, yes, IF you already own the Bryston DAC. If not, that's an extra $2K for the DAC, which is the list for the Transporter which can be bought for several hundred less. Not sure why you are convinced it would "kill the Transporter", but I've never heard the Bryston. The Transporter also allows your music server/laptop part of your home network (wi-fi or ethernet), can stream to other locations on the network, and has internet radio & music services built-in.

The reviews on the Bryston are very impressive but that really does not answer your initial question. I still think that the elimination of the DAC is not a big cost saver and if you want all the functionality of the Transporter, you can always take a digital stream from its outputs.
Swamp - Bryston for 2k and other stuff for 300 compared to 2k total is as I said "300 or so more" - just to be clear on what I mean in the comparison, so its not 2k more, its 2.3k-ish total, that is all I mean.

I agree that I have no proof that it will "kill the transporter" but I'd put a small amount of money on it! I 'think' (I don't know) that the Bryston DAC is not just better, but actually in another class. I'll have to let others chime in on that who have heard both, or perhaps who even have the combo and have A/B'd them. Also, it can take in 24/192 from Reference Recordings, 2L, etc., not sure if transporter can do that. That surely would put it in another class.

So, for example, if I could buy the Transporter without the DAC it has for 700 (that assumes that 1300 of it is for the DAC it has, maybe its 1000 or 800 - I don't know) then I would get the Bryston with it and be happy.

Also - if the DACs were separated (or how about at least on 'boards' or modules that could be removed and updated?) then as time goes on you can update them without replacing the whole system. NAD is doing this with their AV signal processing AV systems, and Meridian, a few others have been doing this for 10+ years.

Now, that would be interesting, a Transporter with 3 DACs that you choose from, the Transporter itself, then either no DAC at lets say 700, then Level1 at 1300, Level2 at 2k, and Level3 at 3.5k? That would be extremely interesting. But as you can see, easier to emulate that by just leaving the DAC external.

It will be interesting - lets take the Berkeley Alpha DAC - its 5k right now. In 3 years what will it be? 1k? 1.5k? That seems to be the 'value for dollar' state of the art DAC today, competing with Esoteric and EMMLabs at double, triple and I possibly quadruple the price. The Berkeley Alpha DAC surely blows away - and I mean really blows away the Transporter, particularly at 24/192. So, if you get Transporter and Berkeley Alpha DAC together today, you are throwing away at least a thousand dollars (whatever amount is directed towards the DAC section in transporter). I don't have a thousand to throw away, but for the convenience of what the Transporter offers, I might have 5.5k or 6k for the combo! But its tough knowing you are throwing away 1k or whatever amount.
The Berkeley Alpha DAC surely blows away - and I mean really blows away the Transporter, particularly at 24/192.

Is this speculation on your part, or have you actually heard the two in the same system and compared? Have you seen the interior of a Berkley DAC? I don't think you'll ever see it coming down to $1.5K with the amount of work it must take to build one (that IS speculation on my part). There's always going to be one step better...the carrot on the stick attached to your head just out of reach. When does one start enjoying what they have? I'm in a similar place as Grant describes. The MWTP simply does not have any glaring flaws or even minor flaws that calls attention to itself. I don't doubt it might be bested by other things out there in critical listening comparisons, but I wouldn't speculate or waste time or energy thinking about it when there's so much music to be enjoyed, and absolutely nothing about what's coming out of my system leaves me wanting to dissatisfied with it. I have gone through a few DAC's and players before this, and also have made some direct comparisons to some comparably priced digital front-ends in a very revealing system, and I have to say I'm very happy with what this does for me. You asked for direct comparisons so this is what I've compared the MWTP to in several blind tests with various types of music: Empirical Modified Northstar DAC with Empircal Pacecar via i2s, Electrocompaniet EMC-UP, MHDT Havana with and without Pacecar. My friend and I ran blind listening sessions on each of these in his very revealing system and listening room. In every case we both chose the MWTP over the other front ends. The closest, believe it or not, was the MHDT Havana using the Pacecar. That combination was the most difficult to judge for me, and I'd say my blind call on that might have been swayed as the differences simply were not as pronounced as with the others. Sorry, I've done no comparisons with anything else that you've asked about. Again, I'd point to using a dejitter device like the Pacecar on one of the servers that provide a digital stream to your favorite DAC. I also can't really relate to speculation in terms of investment on returns. Everyone has a different threshold as to what they're willing to pay for the enjoyment of something, and I wouldn't presume to know someone else's. Everything changes, and these days at a rapid pace. The world is always in flux. Life is fragile and short and completely unpredictable when you get right down to it. Again, the same question comes to mind...when does one start enjoying what they have?
"The closest, believe it or not, was the MHDT Havana using the Pacecar."

The mhdt Constantine is SS and would be an interesting one to compare if the mhdt tube DAC was the closest otherwise.

I have both Constantine and Paradisea. Each cost under $500 second hand.

Constantine sounds more like a good SS DAC. Paradisea with stock tube sounds like a tube device, particularly in the mids. OTher tubes can change the sound. The NOS Tung Sol equivalent makes it sound more SS like the COnstantine.
Overall I agree with what you are getting at - and you'll love this - to prove your point I have bought a Beresford for my AV DAC needs which at $250 (a far cry from 5k) is probably at the 90% or even 95% level of anything available in 2000... While not matching CD output from my MF A5 it is quite quite stunning in what it can do for $250.

Hey - just for fun (I mean it, just for fun!) lets agree to respond to this thread in 5 years and see how much it costs to get to the quality of the Berkeley Alpha DAC. There might be some whole other approach, using nano-something by then that might even be much less than 1.5k...

And btw, I absolutely love my $250 TC-7520 Beresford and I have started to enjoy it several weeks ago when I got it! :) (The beginning of certain shows like House or Medium - the music is amazing when put through the Beresford comapared to AV without an external DAC.)
Lightminer- I think your thinking is colored by the price of a stand-alone DAC. The MW already has a case, power supply, inputs and outputs, product distribution/marketing, streaming software and hardware, and R&D built into the cost. If you eliminate the DAC your costs probably don't decline by more than $100 and I bet is quite a bit less than that (I will admit that this is rank speculation, so if anyone knows what the bulk cost of the DAC chips and assembly might reasonably be, please chime in). So the question is, if you can provide a very good quality one box solution of $2K (list), will people spend $1.9K in order to have the option of adding a DAC, with extra cabling and maybe a de-jitter device.

Please don't get me wrong, I do like the idea of a modular product w different options. Of course the "differences" between many of the DACs you are talking about could and probably does, have lots to do with better implementation of power supplies, analog stages, etc, as well as to a "better" digital to analog conversion per se.
Yeah, I agree. We'd have to know what % it is... And that is indeed the crux of the argument!

If it is incrementally (assuming one already wants the rest of the device, which is an assumption we are making) not a high % to add it to what exists as the rest of the machine, then all is good in the world just as it is right now :). If it is a high or medium % of the total price, then I suggest the things I suggest above, such as same product with no DAC and/or upgradeable DAC boards, etc. etc.
Oh - and agreed to your last sentence, which makes the issue more complex as well... It, by degree, minimizes the importance of the actual DAC chip and whatever other ICs are there right around it to support the process.
Similarly, I like the idea of the Logitech Transporter, but how about no DAC and drop the price in half or a bit more? Just have AES/EBU, S/PDIF and maybe optical out...

Lightminer, you can always buy the Squeezebox 3 (aka Classic) for $300 and pretty much have the same funtionality of the Transporter at significantly less expense. If you intend to use the digital out into a DAC, the Transporter is overkill, IMHO.
I think Cruz123 is probably right.
Not having heard an SB and having a Modwright TP, its hard for me to judge, but I'm also thinking that Cruz123 is correct. With an external DAC, that is probably the sweet spot in the price/performance/functionality spectrum.
This is something along the lines of what I'm saying - so there is a market for this... They are basically prepping the Sonos for high quality outboard DAC...

"Our Sonos reclocker upgrade is now available. This upgrade completely replaces the mediocre Cirrus Logic CODAC and the associated high-jitter clocks used in the Sonos ZP80. The mod was designed to integrate the Sonos system into a high-end audio system thru an outboard digital-to-analog converter."

I'll read more about the 'classic' and compare that to Media Monkey!

Thanks for all the thoughts...
J. River is the most functional with equal or better quality to Foobar or MM.

Can stream lossless to upnp or over wan to another instance.

Multiple zone playback, database driven, expressions, custom meta-data.

I look at reviews of Sonos and the price combined with lack of flexabiliry and customization is just laughable.

A good music server has to have, IMO, usability equal to its fidelity.

That said, netbooks getting cheap, one could choose anumber of great USB dacs if serving to another room/location.

Or buy a touch screen and build your sonos type setup as j. River just added ability to use their library server to control other zones (from one master instance on laptop etc ).

If using Windows, it's really the most functional front end while maintainig high fidelty.


Sorry for my spelling, stuck on my iPhone for now.

The gist is, you can push 24/96 24/192 over your LAN with the right hardware.

These new netbooks keep coming to mind and something like the Proton DAC would give your a VERY nice hi-fi streaming solution with a highly customizable GUI. I could setup a system at your house and stream from Florida, lossless flac, ape, etc. at high resolution while playing my own files on my system.

If I had a summer home, Id have no need to copy 5tb of audio to another external drive, I'd simple access via wan and enjoy.

This is an extreme example but really showcases how powerful and cost effective this can be.

Happy 4th!

Yes - looking at the JRiver funcitonality I would consider the client/server functionality a must. Posted on MM about it, perhaps MM can do it via mapped drive letter? Not sure. But agree the J River functionality looks great, and you could add opera/consert hall DVDs type stuff there whereas MediaMonkey is music only for now. I'll have to look at this very closely as J River does look great. Just spent 3 weeks on Media Monkey set up. Oh well, I'll keep researching.

But between then two, I'm really really thinking now that this is the way to go, no Sonos or Squeezbox or anything. Just NAS on local LAN with JRiver or Media Monkey out via SPDIF on docking station to already-owned DAC. Totally kills the other solutions from what I can tell.
Logitech is reportedly going to release the "Squeezebox Touch" in mid-late Aug. It is rumored to be 24/96 capable, thus the perfect solution for those of us who already have a capable outboard DAC, and not interested in a standard or modded Transporter. I'm eagerly awaiting it!
I also noticed that NuForce is doing exactly what I'm referring to in exactly the terms I'm referring to it in.

"NuForce designs its source devices to conform to industry-wide standards, protocols and formats. Our aim is to achieve perfect compatibility with all available companion devices. Further, we have chosen not to include DACs with our audiophile-quality source devices in order for the end-user to assemble a system consisting of components of his or her choice."

They get it!

And they don't include the HDs - perfect! No paying 3X for commodity stuff just to have it wrapped in a different color plastic and a name stamped on it!

Now that I'm learning more about how all of this works *all* of these companies, including NuForce (whose stuff in general I highly respect), Linn who also makes high end versions of these things, all of them have to show what they have to offer over a simple computer and Media Monkey or J River, a bit of NAS, and an IPhone-style app...

One area where they win is ease of implementation for the non-technical but for those who can set up their own home network, I'm now thinking none of these devices make sense. Assuming you already need the home network for other stuff, that is.
The only price I could find on the Nuforce MSR is $2250. Seems to me that a computer could likely be configured to provide similar functionality for a lot less money.
Subscribed. Interesting discussion here...
"...Seems to me that a computer could likely be configured to provide similar functionality for a lot less money"

Yes, of course you can provide similar functionality with a computer, no question about it. The big question is how will you deal with very noisy environment - if your goal not functionality but musicality.

The "mortal" problem of NuForce music server, on my opinion, is that it cannot output signal with sampling rate greater then 96kHz. Since, even today there are recordings available in 176 kHz (Reference recording) and 192 kHz (Chesky) its already obsolete

All The Best

I emailed one place and they said they didn't want to do that particular thing because because their device was based around ultimately what was a 24/96 DAC chip, and anything else gets uprezzed to 24/96 in a pre-processing step - apparently a lot of them work like this - so they would have to change out their main DAC pieces and re-engineer the whole things and uprez to 24/196 or whatever so just to say it takes a whole re-engineer to change out the master chips and go to the next level. And the company I had emailed said when there is more material available they will do it but as it is they are waiting for more material to be available.

And on that note NuForce has a history of relatively frequent upgrades compared to other companies, so perhaps they will do it sometime relatively soon.
"And on that note NuForce has a history of relatively frequent upgrades compared to other companies, so perhaps they will do it sometime relatively soon "

I have corresponded extensively with NuForce on this topic (i.e. output of 176 and 192 kHz signals) and they told me that they will develop their stand-alone DAC and something else but in their plans they will not change their music server. Its too bad because otherwise I would consider it...

Why not use the Logitech Duet and output that into a high end DAC. That way you get the convenience of accessing all you music via the remote.
I'm settling on J River (program you add to your computer) with IPhone as remote. Although I do like Media Monkey as well. Basically free, and has same functionality as all of these $300 - $2000 devices.

After lots of poking at things and thinking about it, if you have a computer in a closet near the living room, or out in the open (and we do), I don't see what any of these programs offer over J River or Media Monkey. Total cost: $50 or so... Of course, you need NAS or DAS commodity storage, but that is soo cheap these days, 500 GB is $150 or less, and many of the 'devices' don't come with storage either (and I don't think they should as that limits expandability - or if they do, they should be expandable).

I actually just use my laptop, my laptop docking station has spdif out and my dac re-clocks, so it all works quite well. The NAS is attached to the docking station, so its all very simple and basically free. So I'm off the music server completely now...