i don,t know what you are trying to accomplish so hard to say. why not get mog or spotify which can deliver 320kbps instead of the lower quality of pandora? then you could then get better sound quality. if i was going to stream low quality i guess a budget reciever and some bookshelf speakers would work for background music. don,t take that wrong please but my opinion is better gear won,t perform all that well with pandora as the primary source. good luck john
Hello. Many of our customers use the Wadia 171, Cambridge Audio DacMagic, to an integrated amp like the Cambridge 650A to Dynaudio X12's. This makes for a good system without breaking the bank.
I use Pandora daily on my system. It's no match for a CD or SACD, but it sounds good enough to impress anyone that listens. I have to prove to them that it doesn't sound good by pulling out something better. I've been way more impressed that I would have ever anticipated. It's far better sound than my iPod on the dock using similar music files. Pandora is 128 MP3 and it takes Apple Lossless on my iPod to sound equal or better.
You can build quite a nice system and still enjoy an improved Pandora sound, it'll just never sound as good as other sources can.
My daughter listens to Pandora as a primary source and I put together a system for her that works really well.
The amp is an Onkyo A-5L integrated that has a built-in Burr-Brown PCM1796 DAC with coax and optical inputs. Toslink out from her MacBook Pro or Airport Express goes into the optical input on the amp.
The Onkyo drives a pair of Cambridge Audio S30 speakers. It's a great sounding, compact system that cost around $500 buying the amp refurbished from accessories4less.
As Mceljo said, Pandora streaming is 128K, unless you subscribe to the premium service for $36 a year, then you get 192K (and no ads or restrictions on how often you can skip.) It does sound good.
I run my Squeezbox Classic though a Cambridge 840c CDP accessing the internal DAC via coax cable. The 840's DAC is far superior to the Squeezbox'. This way I get the advantage of a great DAC for both CDs and Pandora listening all in one unit. Sounds great!
"what kind of system would you put together to play it, without having one that far exceeded the quality of the source?"
Depends on if your a music lover or equipment fanatic (right brain/left brain orientated if you prefer). Either is fine but will result in a different answer.
For the music lover (me), I sometimes run Pandora thru a 40K amp/pre combo into Magnepan 3.6's. That's a "little" out of whack in the cost ratio but it works for me. I do use a a dedicated dock that takes the digital stream straight out of the iPad or iPod Touch into my own DAC then to the preamp. Sounds great but because it's "radio" the sound will be vary depending on the song they are streaming (GIGO). Sometimes that is very good but even the worst is ok and I'm still using the "free" version, soon to upgrade to Pandora One.
You said "primary source" so my suggestion would be: As good a system as you can afford and include a dock and DAC.
BTW, I thought it was a very good question.
Sfar - What I was intending to say (correctly or incorrectly) is that my receiver indicates that the Pandora files are 128 MP3 files. Am I understanding that if I pay the $34 per year I will get higher quality 192 MP3 files or will the same quality files just stream faster? Am I completely confused as to what my receiver is telling me?
Mceljo - What your receiver is telling you is correct. If you're listening to the free Pandora service it is sending files at 128 kilobits per second and if you upgrade to the premium service you receive higher-quality 192 kbps files. That's unrelated to the speed of the streaming.
Whether you can hear the difference or whether your system can resolve the difference is a different question but with my modest setup I can hear and appreciate the higher bitrate.
I may be upgrading soon, thanks.
Thank you for the comments and compliment.
What triggered the question was a combination of tiring of listening to Pandora on iPad speakers (if that's what's in one) and visiting a B&O store that was showing their one piece dock with speakers.
As far as equipment, I have a Harmon Kardon 930A, an Adcom preamp/amp combination (500/555 I think), a pair of Advent smaller models that have been refoamed and a couple of CDPs in storage (Denon 5 disc and a higher quality single transport whose brand slips my mind) in storage. Problem is that the receiver and amp/preamp are something like 30 and 20 years old respectively and have been moved an average of every two years, so I imagine they are in need of some tlc.
As far as limitations, budget is one and my lady's prohibition on "cords everywhere" in our minimalist-styled Miami Beach condo is another.
I submitted the question before I started reading the PC audio section here, and have since learned a little about DACs, AppleTVs, bitrates of different sources. It seems that digital sources can be treated as yet another of the myriad inputs to any high quality system, which is bad news, as I was hoping to "match" a system to the input and avoid the black hole that is audiophilism.
So let's refine the question and ask if any of the equipment I have might be the basis for a system with exclusively digital and CD inputs. Or do I start combing the for sale section here for specific used gear, and if so, what?
As a follow up, Pandora One doesn't not work on in-home components. I'm fairly certain that this means that my Integra receiver wouldn't benefit from an upgraded subscription. I'm glad I found this information on their website before paying the $36, it appears to only be a benefit where the program is downloaded.
Mceljo - can you explain what you mean by in-home components?
I run Pandora One on an iMac and use Airfoil to send it to three separate systems, the iMac locally, a small system in my basement and my living room system, the latter two through an Airport Express attached to each.
I understand the term "in-home components" to mean components that have Pandora build-in from the factory as opposed to computers where you have to download the application. Examples would be my Integra AVR or Samsung Blu-ray player. These just required me to enter a password to get started.
As far as I know the ways you can access Pandora are through a browser, a desktop application running on a PC or Mac or a mobile app on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. I think Spotify and Mog work similarly but Mog does work directly through some LG Blu-Ray players and other streaming devices according to their site.
I just upgraded to Pandora One and can't believe such a small bitrate difference sounding so amazing. Yes, of course CD, SACD and hi-res is even better - but, I've almost unlimited music for the price of barely one album!
A little bright depending on the track but mostly v good.
Pretty much a no brainer.
Pandora can play on Itunes... with PandaTunes media server. ItÂs free software application that runs on Mac and PC computers. IÂve tried it and it works great. WhatÂs not clear is whether PandaTunes will work with high quality music playback software like Pure Music, Amara, etc. (All my music comes from Sonos modified by W4S.) If youÂre a Pandora user, you might want to check out PandaTunes. If you have any success or problems using PandaTunes with high quality music playback software, it would be great to hear from you.
Here is a description, mostly from the website. With PandaTunes you can take advantage of iTunes features like WiFi remote control with the iPad, iPhone and iPods, multi-zone audio streaming and more. You can now control Pandora and your private music collection from the same application. Enjoy the same high quality streaming audio that you get direct from Pandora so thereÂs no loss in sound quality (192 bit rate with Pandora One). View and control Pandora stations and songs as iTunes playlists and tracks, high-resolution album art. Change Pandora stations, skip songs, adjust volume levels and view album art Â all from the comfort of your chair. No more switching back and forth between specialized applications and your own music collection Â one app controls it all!
It would be great to have something like this for MOG or Spotify, which provide better quality sound and less Âset and forgetÂ than Pandora. BTW, a PandaTunes representative said they are working on something similar to work with other music streaming sources. When these services become integrated into Itunes (wakeup Apple!), MacMini users can ditch the awkward VNC software for a better user experience.