I'm not well informed about these matters myself but I've been learning a great deal at another section/forum here at Audiogon, the PC Audio forum. If you haven't done so yet check it out.
Option 2 is your answer. I tried the other options and the Modwright Transporter was the end for me. Don't waste your time with option 3. Once you use the Transporter you will never go back to CD players.
Mtdking, how is Option 2 better than the Squeezebox with a good DAC? I've been wondering about this question. I think another thread here on audiogon concluded it would be the same, but with possible additional sources to add to other DAC inputs.
Peter, I am working on similar solution; consult Dan M. of Blackbird Audio - Guild member. He has several setups in his home / gallery with Squeezebox, Transporter and more. Currently I am using simply iTunes w/ AirTunes via AirPort Base Station with very good results. I just got another base station to try multiple locations, but don't know limitations yet of iTunes feed. My DAC for main system is PS Audio DACIII - a most excellent DAC with incredible audio and nice features. I've experimented with usb input via laptop PC, not MAC; quality was no where near my Mac setup; I don't know if it was PC vss MAC or if it was USB, nevertheless, I preferred using the optical input over the USB input. I've even experimented with FireWire using a FirePod from PreSonus feeding analog balanced outputs to my amps balanced inputs. Very pleasing results, but of course it was not wireless and I had to reorganized my recording studio to do that. It was a fun experiment.
I recommend the Squeezebox (classic model, otherwise called the Squeezebox 3) and a nice DAC--I use a Benchmark. Don't both with an "anti-jitter filter," but do find an upgraded or modded power supply (check out Bolder Mods for that). Much less expensive way to go than the Transporter, certainly than the modded Transporter. If you love the Squeezebox, you can buy a Transporter later. If you plan to use a DAC do NOT waste money on a Transporter. If you do not want to add the extra $$ and interconnects/power cords for a DAC, get a used Transporter right off the bat. But certainly don't go to the trouble and expense of buying the modded Transporter till you know if your home network is reliable enough to allow you to stream music wirelessly to your systems. I have 3 SB3's, all three used with DACs, in three different systems and am gradually parting with all my expensive CD players. Because I already owned the DACs, I bought SB3's instead of a Transporter (and at the time I bought the SB3 the Transporter wasn't even out yet so I didn't have the choice). Visit the forums at forums.slimdevices.com and see what other users in your situation have to say.
Read the stereophile review of the transporter. They compare the transporter and the SB3 with DAC.
Thanks Mtdking, I must have missed it. I'm still unsure, as I don't think the Musical Fidelity, which WP used in the review comparison, is as terrific a DAC as some do. I had an MF DAC, didn't like it at all. I guess the only way to really know is to compare the Transporter with the SB3 through one's own DAC.
I used my Wadia 581i se digital inputs to test it out. The DAC inside of that is world class. I also tried an Theta Gen 5a with the same results.
Was the DAC in the Wadia 581ise as good as the transporter? Was it better? Would you be able to elaborate on the differences? I am contemplating the 581 as a solution for both CD and PC audio. The transporter would not do the CD so that I why I am asking....
Your listening preferences and the type of DAC you are attracted to are the real deciding factor here. It would be wise to try a few things if you can; you can do a 30 day trial with the Transporter and your local dealer should offer at least a week-end courtesy with other products. Listen to a few options and make comments here about what you did or did not like and ask for feedback. We all have our preferences and tastes, it helps to know a little more about yours.
I did a side by side comparison with a stock Transporter against my Sonos network and PC Audio running FLAC files. I ran the Sonos through the Transporter to get a feel for it's DAC ('Miracle DAC') and then all three through my PS Audio DAC 3 for side by side comparison. The PS Audio DAC was much 'livelier' muscular at the bottom end but also had more 'digititis' at the high end. A good part of that may have been jitter, but I'm just reporting what I heard. The Transporter had the least 'offensive' sound here, but seemed to lack depth and dynamic when leaving the comfort of it's own DAC.
I ended up returning the Transporter since I didn't have a spare computer to put on the network (required for running SqueezeServer). I also have since moded both the Sonos box and the PS Audio DAC through Cullen Circuits. The mod really opened up the DAC's dynamics and staging and the Sonos is a lot cleaner and less 'glaring' now, but it's still a very 'aggressive' sound compared to the Transporter. The PC sound through the moded DAC is fairly comparable in range to the Sonos though not as good with staging and nowhere near as convenient.
All things considered, I will likely transition to the Transporter when I can pick up a computer or a software compliant NAS (very expensive). The stock Transporter provided the more analog and 'easy on the ears' sound I am looking for - and the possibility of the ModWright version could take it that much higher.
Hope that helps you understand some of the components you are looking at a little better. Listen to a few things and make some comments. It will help to if you mention the types of music you listen to, what you like about it, and what other components you will be using with your (eventual) chosen solution.
The 581 is ok but the 581SE is awesome. One of the very best players money can buy. I did not compare the DAC's to each other. I have since sold my 581ise and my Ayre C-5xe for the Modwright version of the transporter.
Keep your Apple iBook G3, buy a 2TB external FireWire/USB drive with RAID. This will be cheaper than a standalone NAS solution, more reliable, more flexible and more powerful and will leverage what you already have. If you want to turn the external drive into a network drive later, you can -- just turn on the Mac's disk sharing on the network and you're done.
It's neither convenient or economical to buy multiple laptops, so I'd stick with one as your music server and either the Duet or the Airport Express. Buy a Monarchy DIP Classic reclocker for each end point to reduce the jitter from either the AE or Duet. Also buy external DACs for everyone and you're set.
Now you just have to choose, Duet or AE?
Fortunately, both systems play well together. You can configure the SlimServer software to point to your iTunes library, and you can use iTunes to play music to an Airport Express. I'd wait until July 11 to see what Apple is releasing for the iPod Touch/iPhone 2.0. Rumour has it there's a new
remote iTunes control software that will rival the Duet Controller.
After thinking about the Airport Express option more, I'd avoid it. iTunes won't be able to provide multiple streams to different AE targets.
So I like the Duet with Duet controller.
If you have a large house and you're worried about coverage, get an Airport Extreme base station and a couple of Airport Express units configured as WDS repeaters and you'll have good 802.11 coverage everywhere.
Wilsynet, do you know for sure if iTunes will be unable to stream to multiple AE's? I'm curious, because since my latest software update, I now have the ability to choose "multiple speakers" on the lower right corner of iTunes. So far I only have "Computer" and "Airport Express Address" and I can listen to both at the same time. But it would appear that I might be able to add another AE. Just won't know unless I actually have another one within range. Maybe I will consult Apple?!
Does the duet handle high resolution stuff, such as 24/96 or 24/88.2? I hope we will be moving into high rez soon enough, and don't want to miss out on that...
I don't know for sure that it won't handle multiple AEs, in fact, it probably does. What it is unlikely to do, however, is stream different music from the same iTunes process to different AEs.