Music Servers vs. High-End CD & DAC--Help Please

Hello Audiogon Experts--I cannot begin to thank you enough for all I've learned from you the past 4 years:-)

I have B&W 800's / Denon 5308CI (a) / HT System / Great Cables / Blu Ray / Furman Conditioner / Sony CDP-1 SACD Player / Weiss DAC.

I like CD music in 2 channel, but dislike having to change discs all the time.

Is a higher-end music server like a McIntosh MS300 or equivalent with all my CDs recorded on it, run through my DAC, or even my Denon 5308CI (a) going to give me as good or better sound that using my stand-alone SACD?

Thanks in advance!:-)
Is it more important that the music be available for instant access?
Apple Mac mini? ;)
No--the sound quality is the most important
The sky is the actual limit with HDD based music.

I doubt specifically if the server needs be McIntosh though to acquire a step up in performance.

But then perhaps you’re looking for a ‘turn key’ outfit…. And not a DIY affair.

Variety is it’s Avitar, and quality now, is easily had, when it comes to music by the file instead of songs done track by track from a stand alone player.

There’s tons of info on this topic all over A-gon and at the Computer Audiophile.

Recording quality is always going to be an issue. If it’s poor on the CD, it’s not going to get much better if at all once on the server. Regardless the maker of the server.

Quality however can and is available sufficient enough to surpass many disc players upwards of 5-8K… or become on par with them.

Each segment and interface will matter too. The DAC. The soft player, The interface from server to DAC.

Quality high res files done well, IMHO rival and at times surpass some SACD.

So as said, “Do you like playing one album at a time”….. OR “would you prefer to play whatever… when ever?”

Then all you need following an answer to that question is to find which system you like.
You already have a great DAC, just hook it up to a computer with firewire and try it. You will be amazed is my guess, especially if you have a HT pass through or can go direct to amp. There is a bit of a learning curve, but well worth the effort.
Mac Mini or laptop with high capacity external drive (eg Lacie) in RAID array. Uncompressed file format like AIFF. Software augment to iTunes such as Pure Music.

This is, of course, just one implementation of PC Audio route. Many routes will give good sound, as others have noted, and I expect the price will compare favorably with a a server like the Mac, esp. as you have a good DAC.

Not plug and play, but not too difficult. See the excellent Lots of info here, too.

I own a Cary 303 and a QSonix server. Running the digital signal out of the Cary into either my Canbridge dacMagic or my Benchmark allows direct comparison to my QSonix run thru the same DAC. Someone out there might hear a difference, but I certainly don't. And, believe me, I tried to. The functionality (GUI & associated software) of the QSonix is great and I will never go back to a stand-alone CD player.


BTW, I've written about it in these threads so you can search for QSonix to get my (lengthly) description of this unit. It's pretty expensive, but I'm sure that there are good alternatives with a similar GUI. If I were looking at a lower price point, I'd check out the new H-P touch screen PCs, for starters.
There are many ways to set up a music server system, dependent on budget and room constraints, but once you go there, they're is no going back. In general, sound quality and flexibility are advanced, and it opens a whole new world of 'hi-res' recordings.
If you go for it, I'd be surprised you'd regret doing so.
I second the motions of the folks above regarding going to a server. My experience indicates that you don't take a quality hit - it actually gets better (at least compared to my CD player) as well as much more convenient. I went to a Mac Mini server for the same reasons you brought up - you get tired of changing CD's and you get to hear a lot of music you bought and forgot you had (i-tunes on shuffle - it was the first time I ever "got" the reason why the i-pod is so popular). I started out with a DAC much more modest than yours, but over time I've upgraded both hardware and software (Ayre USB DAC and either Amarra or Pure Music/Vinyl) and now have both the i-pod convenience and the best digital ever heard in my house - you don't have to say "it sounds good for digital" it just sounds good. Direct vinyl playback is still better, but I'm working on that. . . Based on the comments above, I assume your DAC has firewire. If so, a Mac and Pure Music would be a great way to go.
Great information and advice as usual!

Thanks to all--I'm going to give it a try.