Network Attached DAC?

I'm considering adding a PC based server into my system. The server will be big, noisy, and ugly enough to locate it somewhere in the basement, which, in turn, eliminates use of USB connection. I don't want to mess up with repeaters.

So, wired Ethernet is the way to go for me. Squeezebox seems to be the an obvious option. However before I make a decision I'd like to make sure I don't miss other, may be more audiophile-oriented options. If there are USB-enabled DACs, why wouldn't exist network attached DACs?..
One thing you might want to consider (depending on the type of install you actually have to do to run the cable) is the new Opticis USB cable which are fibre, can go 40 meters and sound fabulous. But they are not a true inwall product that can be snaked through conduit etc.

As for what and why... USB is a consumer format that is installed on virtually every PC built. Billions of these are out there and they are used for everything from cameras to printers to audio. In short they are a global standard, and for the most part a manufacturer can build once and sell everywhere.

Ethernet has always been a premium product aimed at the office/enterprise market. Much fewer computers are configured this way - probably proportionately fewer every year. So its simply not a very attractive environment to develop consumer products for. Which is why at least for the moment Squeezebox and Roku have the market to themselves.

The good news is that you will be very happy with the Squeezebox - just think of it as a networked DAC - which is one of the things it is.
Well, I would disagree with all three parts :)

USB never been a consumer format, and Ethernet with all due respect cannot be considered not as premium, nor as office oriented product, especially these days. USB will never replace Ethernet just because they are designed for totally different purposes. I agree that in consumer electronics Ethernet is still rare, which is, I guess, a matter of time.

As for using Squeezebox as a DAC,.. well you have Tri Vista DAC in your system, do you really believe in this option, to use Squeezebox instead ;) ?
"Ethernet has always been a premium product aimed at the office/enterprise market."

I completely disagree. Ethernet is ubiquitous, simple, plug and play, and very inexpensive. It is also wirelessly supported via 802.11 in a way than USB is not. Try to find a PC that comes without either wired ethernet or 802.11, and if you do add a NIC for about $20.

There's a chap over at in the UK who builds audiophile squeezeboxes. Lots of talk over on that sight about modding the SB with low jitter clocks, and better output stages also.

If it were me I'd probably buy a vanilla SB and experiment with an external DAC, like a lavry.

So, getting back to the subject, there are few mass market options of getting the data over Ethernet and passing it via SPDIF: Squeezebox, Roku, XBox, some AV receivers. I know some can be modded, but...

There are few relatively hi end options, usually music servers with own hard drives, such as Olive music server, etc.

I'm looking for something in between: device up to audiophile level of requirements that can do just data => SPDIF conversion, or even better - combined with DAC.

Any ideas?
Well guys - sorry to miss the fun but I've been away.

USB is a consumer format. Intel and the rest of the gang invented it for precisely that function. That's why so many manufacturers adopted it so quickly. This is not a matter of debate, its history. Ethernet, a much older format is simple to use, much more flexible but not all that common in a consumer environment.

To answer your question - A modded SB offers a modded TriVista a good run for the money. In lesser systems the results are probably indistinguishable. When you start comparing the list prices, its 1/4 the cost. It's much better then that.

I have been posting to these boards for several years. I always make the same point. This is all about lifestyle and where you want to listen to your music. If you are going to have a computer in your listening space, USB is a viable option. If you are not, Ethernet and some device with remote control capability is the better option. I use both kinds of solutions and am happy with each - mostly because each lets me listen to music where and how I want to.

There are no doubt new devices on the drawing boards or being introduced. As with any technology purchase, you have to weigh the immediate need for a solution against the certainty that it will be obsolete the second you buy it. It is always the same story - go now or wait for the latest and greatest.

Posts like yours show up pretty much every week. Each poster acts as though they are the only person who has considered whether or not these technologies actually provide a satisfactory solution. Much ink is used speculating about how to improve on a solution, before the poster ever experiences the current state of technology firsthand. Herte is an important clue - no one ever writes back to say how disappointed they are...

The truth is that this stuff is startlingly good - and no doubt it will get better. There is no one saying that Olive sounds any better - just that it's more convenient for someone not comfortable with computers. Some smart guys got together and created an integrated solution - you will see more and more of them.

All this stuff sounds good for pretty much the same reasons - it uses a hard drive instead of a traditional CD transport. That is where the quantum leap occurs. Additional improvements come with lossless ripping and eliminating SPDIF from the chain - everything else is a minimal contributor to quality.

Buy an SB for $250 and hook it to a DAC if you have one you like. Buy a Roku. Just do it.
Mr. Ckorody

I love music, and I like audio. I think it's absolutely normal for Audiogon to ask about alternatives to seemingly obvious solution. I do not think arrogant tone is much helpful here. If you feel very much concerned about "ink", and if my question sounds boring or stupid to you, please feel free to simply ignore it.
Otherwise I would suggest that serious question deserves serious and respectful answer.

Now, back to business.

1. I'd prefer to eliminate SPDIF from the chain, and this is why did I ask about Ethernet enabled DAC. Well, ain't such a thing.

2. Although most of SB similar boxes may sound good, I don't believe they sound equal: they, at least, introduce different amount of jitter during data => SPDIF conversion

3. I cite: "In lesser systems the results are probably indistinguishable". May I ask if you can distinguish sonic signatures of two good CD players?

Dmi -

Of course it is natural to explore solutions - point being that you are hardly the first one - and there is plenty of info. I particulatly suggest Audio Asylums PC forum = much more active then this one...

As far as Ethernet enabled DAC - you have a mixed metaphor there. The communications protocol has nothing to do with whether a device uses SPDIF or not. The issue is how the signal leaves the termination point of the carrier and enters the DAC for processing. (No different from how a a traditional transport uses a SPDIF to get to an external DAC) It could be 802.11, Bluetooth, Toslink or infrared for that matter as long as there is sufficient bandwidth.

The problem seems to be that though I2S is clearly a better format to SPDIF, the great majority of the big name "good CD player and DAC" manufacturers can't be bothered to implement it. Perhaps this is why the sonic signature is so consistent?

If you want to eliminate SPDIF from the chain, (as previous.y noted an important but not the most important step) the only solution that I am aware of is to go USB to I2S. There are three vendors working in this space:

Scott Nixon with the USCTD - a low cost USB>I2S version of his long running tube DAC

Steve Nugent at Emprirical Audio - does major mods adding I2S circuitry etc

Gordon Rankin at Wavelength - with the Brick and then the Cosecant

Finally I highly recommend Vinnie Rossie at Redwine Audio who recently introduced a modded Olive
Well, may be I was unclear. Of course I2S is better, but in our reality it's virtually unavailable, let's take DIY and mods out of the scope.

What makes a difference is whether you have a separate converter connected to DAC through SPDIF only(!), or you managed to squeeze it into the same box, such as USB DAC. In the latter case, even if you use SPDIF internally, you have all the possibilities to embed a word clock link, thus eliminating the major drawback of SPDIF.
Just a short signal path in controlled environment makes jitter levels even lower.

So delivering the data straight to the dac makes life easier regardless of I2S availability.
Oh - so you know I2S is better - so if you are really dedicated to buying the ultimate why are you dismissing gear using it out of hand?

If you want cutting edge you cannot summarily dismiss the modders - unless you want to wait an indefinite period of time for some big name brand to come out with the same things priced accordingly. Remember these are the same guys who are busy selling you jittery SPDIF right now...

I have to say I don't get your point here - you have now started another thread asking for the exact same information - but you don't seem to be willing to accept the information you are being given - it is very simple - there is precious little being done in this space.

PC Audio is a new world based on global standards and readily available hardware that is all plug and play. A top of the line DAC chip is a dollar in quantity. No one is going to build to your standards unless there is a global demand for it, they are a DIYer or a modder.

It's got precious little to do with the size of the box. Either it has SPDIF or it doesn't. Either is uses I2S or it doesn't. And most of all - either it fits your budget and sounds good to you or it doesn't.

So let's leave out the hunt for unobtanium
Who said I want the ultimate? :) I never did. I want the optimal - quality, design, time, and money wise. At this moment mods don't fall into this category for me, sorry. Also, with correct design SPDIF can work pretty well, Benchmark DAC-1 is an example. You might be interested to read this: , pay attention on the posts by jsiau.

In the another thread I'm asking more general quesiton, and trying to get... well... alternative opinions. I respect yours, but I generally disagree with it.

Have you seen Mediabox MB-200? As it designed, its Audiophile edition should better Squeezebox by far. At this moment they're too buggy, but I guess this is just a matter of time.