Need Advice On A Network Music Player

I want to get into Hi Rez music downloads and need a player to make that possible. My initial research has identified the following as serious possibilities, but I can find no comparison reviews or anything to clearly differentiate them:

Logitech Squeeze Box Touch - $234.00

Cambridge Audio - Sonata NP30 - $599.00

Marantz - NA7004 - Network Audio Player - $799.99

Bryston - BDP-1 - Digital Media Player - $2195.00

My real concern is identifying what gives the best bang for the buck and still provides high quality sound output. The only purpose that I will be using this for is Hi Rez music downloads from HD Tracks, and some higher res music via USB thumb drives (such as the Complete Beatles Collection). I've read very positive reviews of all of these, but again, nothing comparing them in any way, so its extremely hard to gauge.

The only two concerns are that I have used Squeezebox software previously (when I owned a Transporter) and found it more difficult to use than I wanted to deal with, and hated the connection problems getting to their site. That's a negative to buying equipment from them. Also, over at the Hi Rez forum, they have many threads about how you have to spend about $400.00 modifying the Touch to get optimal sound. As far as the Bryston, as expensive as it is, Stereophile noted that the sound quality from it's USB input was not as good, and that would be a great concern for me.

I have Bryston BDA-1 DAC available for use with whatever I purchase. Any thoughts, recommendations, and expertise would be appreciated. I'm completely new to this game and could use the help. Thanks.
I'm just starting to learn about this area myself, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt. I just bought a Touch because of the very reasonable price and it was a breeze getting it up and running with my home network. Note that its highest sample rate is 24 bit 96 khz, not 192khz, so it won't utilize the full capability of your BDA-1. I don't know of any threads about mods to the Touch (can you refer me to those?).

I have not compared sound quality of all of the outputs on the Touch, but it does have optical and coax digitals outs which would give you other connectivity to your BDA-1 than USB.

So far, the Touch seems a real bargain. For $234 you could try one out and, if you don't care for it, they sell pretty well on Gon. Good luck.
I'm using the NP30 and it seems to work well. You need to down load Twonkey so you can use your Ipad or pod for a wireless remote. The interface isn't as good as itunes takes soom getting use to. Secondly it's cheap enough that if it dosen't work out I won't be to upset.It sounds at least as good as any CD.One year from now it will all be changed up again.Imagine trying to sell your 5K Bryston or 20K Linn set up when a great proccesor sells for $900.
The Touch + ouboard DAC makes some pretty sweet music. Also, the SB Touch is better controlled using the Ipeng app and your Iphone or Ipod Touch. This setup is much more user friendly than what Logitech gives you.

The only mods I have done are turning off the screen and adding the CIA power supply. This setup sounds better than my Tube Research Labs modified Sony universal player.

Having heard Logitech Squeeze Box Touch, Marantz NA7004 and Bryston BDP-1 in one system I can only say - go with the Bryston !

Sound qualty wise, it is completely another league then the other two. More resolution, more micro dynamics, more soundstage depth, more ... everything.

You need to get the iPad to take full advantage of Bryston excellent user interface though - if you don't have one already that is.

BTW - there is a great synergy between BDP-1 and Bryston DAC. To me, it is one of the best, if not THE best sub $5000 complete digital source you can buy. A friend of mine (Bryston DAC owner) ended up buying one after trying it in his system.
To the best of my knowledge, the USB performance issue with the BDP-1 has been cleared up, thanks to a different review that I can't remember the author of...

For some reason or another, having more than one USB device attached to the BDP-1 adds noise to the system. The reviewer measured the BDP-1 with one USB drive attached and two. Having two drives attached didn't make the BDP-1 measure poorly by any means, but having one attached had a measurable and audible increase in performance.

This was talked about in the Bryston circle at Audio Circle. If I can find a link, I'll post it.

I've only heard the Squeezebox Touch and BDP-1. There's no contest IMO. Then again, there really shouldn't be. I'd really like to hear the Cambridge, as my Apple TV 1 will run out of storage space eventually.

My next streamer will allow me to directly connect an external drive and use my iPhone as a remote. I'll also have to be able to afford it, which rules out the BDP-1 for me for a while. 1 year old daughters get to be expensive, and take financial priority.
Along the lines of the Bryston, Auraliti PK 90. It is not a network player per se, but an MPD. it owrks very similar to the Squeezebox.
Another mention for the Auraliti which is similar to the Bryston. Check out the discussions over at computer audiophile for some of the differences between The two.
I own the SBT and the Marantz NA 7004. The SBT is a great value at $300. I use it with a PS Audio Digital Link 3 Dac. I use an Ethernet connection so it had no network recognition issues.
The Marantz sounds a lot better playing high Rez files but has major reliability issues that I have detailed in recent posts. Most of the issues involve high Rez playback.
My advice? Don't bother. I get the best results running high Rez from a macbook (decibel software) into a Musical Fidelity V Link and out into the
"My advice? Don't bother. I get the best results running high Rez from a macbook (decibel software) into a Musical Fidelity V Link and out into the Dac."

Well, I don't have a Mac, but is this option viable from a Windows PC?
Thanks to all for the input. I've seen nothing but raves about the Bryston, and am not averse to going that direction. It's just with the high cost of Hi Rez downloads, I'm simply not certain how far I will go with this.

I would love to buy the whole Stones catalog, for example, that HD Tracks is offering, but that's just not going to happen at $30-50.00 each!
"Is this a viable option from a Windows PC?"
It should be. you may have to install an extra driver or something. I use Windows based laptops at my office and several months ago I did play one flac
file directly into my dac (I didn't have the V Link at that time) and it worked well.
Your next post states that you have heard good things about the Bryston, but that the price of High Res downloads gives you cause for pause. I haven't heard the Bryston although people have raved about it. Note that it costs well over $2G, about the price of 7 squeezebox touches or 3 Marantz NA 7004. The Marantz or the SBT would leave you a lot more $ to buy music with. You could easily afford that whole Stones catalog with the money you would save.
Additional thoughts about the sbt and the Marantz. I've been spending quite a bit of time with both of them (in different systems in my house).
The sbt is really a hard to be value. I use it as a transport into my aforementioned PS Audio DAC. The High Res files from HD Tracks really do sound great. I prefer the sound of the Marantz by just the slightest of margins.
The interface of the sbt is a real bonus.
You had posted that you had a problem with a logitech problem in the past and that was turning you off the sbt. I had had a problem with a non functioning earlier version of the squeeze box many years ago and had a terrible experience with Slim Devices (the company that developed the product and was then purchased by Logitech) customer support. I too was reluctant to purchase the sbt but after reading many satisfied users on this forum I took the plunge (what the heck, $300 bucks).
I had a problem with the power supply, and then they sent me the wrong replacement supply. This was annoying, but their customer support was very responsive and ultimately sent me the right unit and offered me a credit towards another logitech product. Now that it works it is a lot of fun. i use it more for internet radio but as mentioned previously it does play high res files very well, both from usb and from my computer.
The Marantz has a nice sound but I can't recommend it because it is very buggy. The usb drive will stop playing flash drives and give a "no connection"
signal. These drives play just fine on the sbt. Marantz keeps claiming it must be a network problem and doesn't respond to the fact that these drives play on the sbt (same network) and I don't understand why a network problem should impact a drive that is directly connected. Marantz did send me another unit today for me to try and this one outputed no sound whatsoever, despite being hooked up to exactly the same connections as it's predecessor. When I reinstalled the first unit, at least I get audio, until it stops playing the flash drives.
btw, I have heard similar stories about the Cambridge Audio player, in terms of bugginess.
Again, I get fantastic results by playing the same files direct from my laptop
to a V Link (reduces jitter) and then to my dac. I really don't need any of these devices, because one can also get Internet Radio from a pc as well. The sbt makes it fun to surf for stations, and also will be useful when you want to start adding NAS drives.
In summary, if I were you, I would swallow your reservations about past problems that you may have had with Logitech, get the sbt, and spend the savings on more music. In a few years, these players will be more reliable, and players with quality similar to the Bryston will probably be more realistically priced. Upgrade at that time if you like.

Your observations on both units are greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for the perspective.
My Marantz replacement unit now works (there was a button on the remote for digital out). It doesn't have the problems playing high Rez files that the original unit had. I am going to live with it for a few more weeks and then perhaps report on final thoughts comparing it vs SBT.
They both are a lot of fun, sound great and it is nice to play high res files without having to turn on the computer.

I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts after spending the time with both units. Also, you mention it being nice to play high rez files without having to turn on the pc. Aren't the files stored on the pc's hard drives?
Could be a thumdrive or usb stick with the files on it.
Thanks to all for the input. I've seen nothing but raves about the Bryston, and am not averse to going that direction. It's just with the high cost of Hi Rez downloads, I'm simply not certain how far I will go with this.

Given this statement, I certainly would not invest at the Bryston level until you're sure. The Touch is a great, inexpensive, way to get your feet wet here and, even if you get the Bryston (or other device) later, you can always use the Touch in another room of your home, etc.
"Given this statement, I certainly would not invest at the Bryston level until you're sure. The Touch is a great, inexpensive, way to get your feet wet here and, even if you get the Bryston (or other device) later, you can always use the Touch in another room of your home, etc."

Good advice, I suspect, except that the Logitech/Squeezebox software does not play well with Windows PC's. Thats one of the key reasons I dumped my Transporter. And why both of my friends that own them have them working with Linux boxes.
>Good advice, I suspect, except that the Logitech/Squeezebox software does not play well with Windows PC's<

How so?

Works fine for me.

Nightfall, as I noted earlier, I think that some of the networking issues with squeezebox that existed a few years ago (which I also encountered) have been cleaned up since Logitech acquired Slim Devices. You shouldn't use your past experience as your only guide on this product, and I say this as one who had the exact reservations that you have.
All of these devices (include Bryston) will play high rez files from a usb drive so there is no need to turn on your computer. They also play files from your computer as well.
I haven't had time to really play with the Marantz, but the little that I've been able to use it since my last post has been very rewarding.
Just listened to the Marantz for another hour. I also own the Marantz 8003 SACD/CD player, which has been replaced now by the 8004 (see another thread under this folder). The 8003 , 8004, and the NA 7004 all use the same cirrhus logic Dac chips. The sound of the NA 7004 playing standard res files is similar to the 8003 playing redbook CDs. The NA 7004 does sound different than the 8003 playing SACDs. They both sound great but I give a slight preference to the SACD. Is this due to the DSD encoding for SACD? Can't say.
Marantz dealers are easy to find. If they can't demo the NA7004, then see if you can get a demo of the 8003 or 8004, which are very close to the NA 7004.
Do you have a DAC? If not, then the NA 7004 may be a more logical purchase than the sbt
"Do you have a DAC? If not, then the NA 7004 may be a more logical purchase than the sbt"

I do own an excellent DAC, the Bryston BDA-1. My original thoughts, if I went with the Marantz NA7004, was to bypass its internal DAC and use the digital out to route its signal to the BDA-1.
Well you have a fine DAC. Probably another reason you were interested in the Bryston transport.
I listened a bit to the Squeezebox today using the Marantz NA 7004 as the DAC. Perhaps not to surprisingly, the combo sounds a lot like the NA 7004 on it's own. I therefore would conclude that the Squeezebox is relatively neutral conduit that doesn't add any colorations. The only difference that might be there is a slight roll of on the very top end--extremely subtle.
You won't go wrong with either the Touch or the Marantz. If you buy the latter make sure that your unit plays high res files from a USB drive before you bring it home.
I own a Bryston BDA-1 and currently use an unmodded Sonos player. My Rotel 1560 receiver is the weakest link. Speakers are B&W 804 diamonds. I also recently had the very good fortune of demoing Bryston BDP-1 alongside my Sonos, connected to the BDA-1 via AES/EBU.

The Bryston BDA-1 made an incredible difference in the quality of the music through the Sonos. There was just clearly no comparison, and I could never recommend the BDA-1 enough.

The Bryston BDP-1 made a startling difference over the Sonos. Music had an unsuspected 3-dimentional feel to it. The same music (my bit-accurate CD rips via dbpoweramp) sounded... live? There was a distinct location to each instrument... not a "general" location. I did try a few recordings and was underwhelmed though. I don't think this is ANY fault of the BDP-1. Rather, I think it's the source material. It did NOT make them sound bad. Rather, it just didn't improve them as much. With respect to sound quality, I can't recommend the BDP-1 enough for active/critical listening.

Again, that was all comparing Redbook CD music, not HD. I can only assume the HD music is at LEAST as good, if not more so.

HD isn't inherently better than Redbook. Recording and engineering techniques have a lot to do with it IMO. Does every HD album sound better than say, Pink Floyd's Dark Side or Wish You Were Here? Redbook versions of those sound a lot better than some HD albums (not Dark Side and WYWH) I've heard.

Then again, I haven't heard too many HD albums, so as always, your milage may vary. Just one guy's limited observations.
I have the bryston bdp as well as dac using bd power amp for all
Library duties and ripping to get the best out of it you need good power cords, as well as USB and digital cables I am using Wireworld platinums
With superb results. Also the Hifi tuning Supreme fuses are a nice touch for added resolution.I will be selling my Bryston dac next week if Anyone
May be interested,like new with 4.5 years left inthe warranty.
Why I amI selling ? I purchased the Ayon Skylla-2 which I feel even betters the Weiss 202 dac. The bryston is superb at this price though
I would add Linn sneaky DS. May be more musical compared to the ones already listed. Sneaky DS is also an integrated amp, a great starter system, which you can later move to a second system.

I can assure you your latest $900 entry level DAC will never sound like/better than a Klimax DS, which is already a few years old. There isn't a DAC introduced since the introduction of Klimax DS that has surpassed it. Klimax DS is updated all the time via firmware upgrades (not counting the 1 board upgrade since introduction) - the latest firmware does sound better than the very early ones.

Have you ever heard a $20K CDP from 10-15 years ago? You should, it will certainly blow your latest/greatest/"bestest" DAC you can find on the market today that sells for $900.
Touch + outboard DAC = hard to beat for internet radio and CD quality digital.

I am skeptical about the merit of downloadable high res audio files still these days. Larger high res files does not automatically equate to better sound. HD tracks does not provide any info about how their offerings are mastered last I checked, so how does one know what to expect? You might be buying all the extra expense and headaches of larger high res files for little or no benefit. ITs a crap shoot when the seller does not provide any details other than end file resolution. ANyone can take a standard mp3 file and upsample it to the highest resolution possible. Will that sound better? A little different maybe but you cannot add detail and resolution that is not there to start.

But for hires, if that's what you want, there may be differences in teh devices capabilities. TOuch specs for this are available. Not the highest but respectable as I recall. Check this for all and compare to determine value.
A stupid question perhaps, and sorry if I'm hijacking...

Can you connect a USB hard drive directly to the Squeezebox Touch, or does it solely work by streaming? If you can connect directly without any computer running, this changes the advice I previously had.

I believe you can connect a drive with music library direct to TOuch, via USB I would expect. I have read from others that have done this though that there may be quirks compared to network access, which is probably the most common approach.

I like using a network to access computer files. IT helps isolate the TOuch and audio system from the computers and computer devices. It's an insurance policy against noise that might result from connecting a computer device directly to your audio system. I run my Touch this way using a wireless network connection which is optimal in this sense and I can say that playback via the Touchs and external DACs ( I have one of each in two different systems) is always dead quiet.
Thanks Mapman. After posting the question, I read about a few quirks with connecting an external hard drive to the touch. I think it's mainly non-powered hard drives (portables?).

To eliminate the possibility of noise from the hard drive, an optical cable may be best. A good glass optical cable can sound quite good, as I've found with my Apple TV Gen 1.

I completely understand why you'd rather stream wirelessly. I stat away as I've had issues with signals and just don't like the computer running 24/7. I predominantly use my iPhone to surf the web/check email, and get more than enough of computers at work. I'd rather have a self contained setup. Just like everything else, it's all tradeoffs.

Thanks again for the info. My ATV will eventually run out of space. Trying to get background info as to which direction to go in the next year or so. Too bad I can't get everything and anything on impeccably pressed 180 gram vinyl!