Please Help!! looking to get into computer audio.


I am looking into exploring the computer audio format, I am a long time audio enthusiast. My Digital front end currently consists of a Oppo bd103 and a Bryston Bda 1 , I currently have the capability to stream my itunes library from my computer via bluetooth to my oppo player , but the sound quality is not up to my standards. Any suggestions on how to increase the sound quality would be great. Please consider that i am a newbie to this and a little confused with the formats of computer audio. Any solution would be appreciated thanks. I have been looking at the w4s remedy and or Blink or recovery. I am also considering just getting a wadia 171 ipod transport and just using my ipod. confused and not sure which route to take for best sound qaulity.

whinoman
Hi Whino,

It sounds like your issue is really setting up a media server first.

Your not really starting out with the best combination of sources. iTunes is heavily compressed, and BlueTooth was never an audiophile format, but it's gotten better.

Let's try to improve your sound with a low-cost option. Sign up for a Tidal account, which you can play via the Oppo media app on your phone.  Listen to some of the tunes there and compare the experience. This will get you away from compression and BlueTooth at once. Make sure you don't have Neo:6 enabled, as it will do funky things.

For a media server, asynchronous USB is usually a very good place to start. Do you have a PC or media player that you can hook up that way? Macs sound very hard and brittle to my ears, so I won't immediately recommend them.


Best,

Erik
By the way, I own a W4S Remedy, but I'm going to suggest you save your money as you may end up needing a better media server solution.

They are on sale right now though, direct from the W4S web site, so if you don't mind plunking down the money to experiment, go for it.

Best,

Erik
Also, if possible, connect your media players (TV, BD Disk, etc.) directly to your home network via cables. If you live in an apartment Wifi is always going to be an issue due to the number of competing routers.

Best,

Erik
Consider spending $10 and getting BitPerfect from the Apple App Store as a low cost way to start.  Use BitPerfect in "hog mode" to play an iTunes library.  iTunes music files purchased as MP3s might well be less than "audiophile" quality though not all MP3s are created "equal" (i.e., they're not all equally crappy!).  Alternatively, your iTunes library might consist of ripped CDs.  These might be stored as high quality ALAC or even WAV files.  The former (MP4A) while compressed is much better sound quality than MP3.  The latter is uncompressed but you give up meta data in iTunes. Personally, I did a lot of A/B-ing between ALAC and WAV ripped CDs and couldn't hear a difference, though others report they can.  For me, a relatively low cost option has been External Hard Drive w/ALAC files in iTunes>>MacBook w/BitPefect>>USB out>>Musical Fidelity USB/SPDIF converter>>coax>>Schiit Gungnir DAC>>pre-amp.  You can throw silly money at computer audio but there's no guarantee you will hear a commensurate improvement in SQ...which is not to say the sound I have can't be improved.  For me it's just a satisfactory balance between $-spent and sound realized.  Same applies to Tidal vs Spotify.  I didn't find Tidal SQ 2x better than Spotify...though I realize that's "red meat" to some frequenting this forum.  Good luck with your explorations.  
Actually on a Mac with iTunes, if you want uncompressed music files, AIFF is your choice, not WAV. AIFF can retain all metadata, including album covers if you paste them in.

My 2500-album library is a mix of ALAC mainly, with about 10% as AIFF. And I've tested several albums over the past few years, having each as both ALAC and AIFF...and I don't believe there's any difference.

What helps keep the compressed ALAC and uncompressed AIFF sound the same as been powerful enough music servers which can decompress the ALAC files quickly.
And aren't purchased iTunes Store files in the AAC format?

Even though also lossy files like MP3, AAC tend to sound better.
Wow lots of info!! Thank you everyone for passing on your knowledge. I should also tell everyone that, I have a Toshiba pc and my phone is a samsung s6, The oppo media App that you suggested Eric which i currently do not have downloaded on my phone. With that i can sign up for a Tidal account and then stream music from my phone? sorry for my ignorance, but can you please elaborate on that a little more please?.I f i can start with that first until i get a media server set up that would be great!

The Toshiba pc is only about six months old and looks like it has a usb connection. Also ghost house. If i do not have a macbook or iphone will this $10 bitperfect app work with the pc that i have? or is that a phone app? And will it work on my samsung if thats the case or do i need an Iphone. once again sorry for my lack of knowledge on all of this. And Thanks so much !!

Hi Whinoman! 

Go to the Tidal website (click on this blue text).  Sign up for an account.  I think it's easier to sign up via PC and a browser.

Once you have that, the Oppo "Media Control" app will let you select Tidal as a source.  You'll have to use your new Tidal credentials (name/password) and you can then stream any of Tidal's music directly from your Oppo BD player. 

With Tidal I find it easier to create music lists and favorite artists/albums, etc. via the browser, and then use the Oppo Medeia Control app to select from them and play.

Best,

Erik
Whino - unfortunately, just checked (see link here) and it looks like BitPerfect is for MAC OS only.

http://bitperfectsound.com/?page_id=2

BUT you could try something like Audirvana or JRiver.  These have versions for PC and get lots of positive comments.   Supposed to be better than BitPerfect sound-wise.  

Don't apologize.  No one was born with this knowledge and, if they were, it's genetics to thank, not some personal accomplishment.  So feel free to ask.  Check out the Computer Audiophile website too.  Best way to learn is by trying and doing...though it can certainly be frustrating at times.  

Hi Whinoman,

Now in a post USB 1 world, OSX and Linux can support most formats without extra drivers. Windows tends to be the exception. I'd look for a Bryston specific forum to ask questions about how to stream music from your PC to you DAC.  You should only need a USB cable and the right driver.

The two really popular apps are JRiver and Media Monkey.  I don't know why but music players are among the second worst designed apps in the world.  The only code I know of that's worse is auto-correct software, but I digress.  I hate JRiver, and tolerate MediaMonkey. JRiver may have had some advanced features like DSD playing or transcoding, not really sure right now. MediaMonkey has a free version.  I found with my USB DAC (quite old now) that getting it set up right was a bit of a PITA.

Again, go to the Bryston site and see if you can find a support or forum to help you stream to your DAC.  You are NOT the first person to need help with that. :)

By the way, I just read a review of the BDA 1. It has an ASRC built in, so it should do the same work as a W4S Remedy. It may be called "upsampling" or something like that.  Try it. I have found that the better the original source, the less benefit this has. More reason to save your cash for other things. :)

Best,

Erik
You guys are great Thanks!!
Oh and i figured out the Tidal oppo control set up. Pretty cool and sounds much better than streaming my pc. I will take the rest of everything that was posted and start my exploring into this new to me format!! Thank you everyone!!

I'm glad you could find the help you needed.

You had a lot of obstacles at first, having the Oppo 103 BD player was a very fortunate thing.

Try the upsampling on the BDA1 and let us know what you think.

There's lot of music to buy as well, so getting your PC set up to play via USB to your BDA 1 should prove a great experience.

Good luck!

Erik
Can anyone recommend a media server that will sound great work well and not break the bank to much?

Get a New Old Stock (NOS) Squeezebox Transporter. Selling on Audiogon for around $550.

Honestly there is no other media server I would buy right now, except a Squeezebox Touch. The current one's I might buy lack Android phone support.

The transporter however has broad open source support. It IS old though, but a good one.

Best,

Erik
@whinoman The Sonore microRendu is a remarkable sounding network media player and streamer which has exceeded the performance of many other higher priced solutions. The catch is that it has one ethernet input (so you store your music on a Network Attached Storage aka NAS drive) and it has one USB output(so your dac must accept USB). The built-in Regen technology and the carefully designed USB implemention is so much better than most USB implementations that any biases against USB have to be set aside until you hear it. 
Read the two big reviews by Chris Connaker & Michael Lavorgna. It really is in another league vs. most typical computer audio setups. You can see it attached to the back of my DAC on my system page here. Cheers,
Spencer

You do not need a NAS drive for the microRendu.

Instead you can just use any computer on your home network running one of the microRendu compatible servers, such as LMS (Logitech Media Server) or MinimServer - both of which are free. The music files themselves must then be fed into that computer; an external hard drive works well for storing the music.

And you need some kind of control point app on your mobile device. For example, I use the Lumin app on my iPhone or iPad to control the music playing through MinimServer.
But yes, the microRendu is a great little digital music gizmo.
Yes, you can run the microRendu without a NAS in some setups, but most don't. Part of the beauty of it is that it's like a Swiss Army knife, so you can use it with NAS running Mimimserver(free) and control your music on tablet with free apps like Lumin(which I also use & love) or Linn Kazoo. If you prefer you can run HQ Player on your computer platform of choice do digital EQ,etc and use the mR as a network audio adapter. If you've been a Squeezebox guy, you can run LMS(free) on the NAS or a computer and use the Squeezelite(free) app for control. 

One of the benefits is getting a full PC or Mac computer and its associated noise out of the listening room and galvanically isolated from the dac. While some would argue "the mR is a computer", that's true but it is a low power single purpose computer that doesn't have a bunch of extra processes running and its board is designed specifically to minimize noise getting passed to the dac.  Everybody who's heard it here had an eargasm. Cheers,
Spencer
I use a Squeezebox Touch with a Vortexbox Appliance from Small Green Computer. The Vortexbox is ~$425, and is a turn-key system that uses FLAC and is designed to work with Squeezebox. The sound is pretty good, and there is no USB connection in the signal chain. IMHO, coax digital is a simpler connection and getting good sound from USB requires a lot of effort that coax digital eliminates. I also bought dbPoweramp to rip CDs from my laptop, and it has a great file format converter, so you can convert your iTunes files to FLAC for the Vortexbox. If this interests you and you have any questions, let me know.  Also, Squeezebox Touch units on ebay are being sold for closer to $300 right now.
I think that my next steps are to use a Linux PC with SqueezeLite and the Logitech Media Server 7.9. Why? It now streams DSD via USB 2.0. :) 

And I already have the PC there for media and games. If this works out I'll move my SB Touch to the bedroom. 
You may wish to consider the Vortexbox software (which is free) on your own PC.  It runs Linux, and is DSD compatible. 
You have a PC with a USB output and you have a fine DAC with a USB input. You can start with iTunes and just connect the PC to the DAC. I think the USB on your DAC will only accept 44 or 48 KHz audio, but it will give you a good idea of how it can sound. If you want to do higher resolutions you can get a usb to S/PDIF adaptor to connect the PC to the Byrston at higher sample rates.

Once you have this working you can try a different player like foobar (free) or J RIver ($50, but has a 30 day free trial).

I would suggest taking small steps before investing  in more hardware.
If you use Google Chrome as your browser on your PC,   you can stream CD quality (16 bit, 44.1KHz sample rate) Tidal audio through the USB to your Byrston. Chrome is the only browser that supports CD quality Tidal.
For a stand alone music server, you might take a look at the Sony HAP-Z1ES and HAP-S1. They take the PC out of the picture, except for loading the files to the music server. You get a simpler user interface that a player like JRiver, but the management is also much easier. Unfortunately, you cannot stream things like Tidal through it.
Hi @dtc - hope the OP will not mind me butting in on his thread - but will you please elaborate a little on your comment "Chrome is the only browser that supports CD quality Tidal."

If I use a MacBook and Safari to stream Tidal’s HiFi quality content (subscription-based) will that be CD quality? How can I tell?  

Thanks in advance.

The USB input on the Bryston BDA-1 is the weak link, it is not asynchronous. I use a USB/SPDIF converter into one of the many digital inputs. 
No, the Byrston's input is not asynch, but the Oppo 105 (not 103 :( ) is. You could go USB to Oppo 105 to SPDIF
The W4S micro Link ( uLink ) however is asynch, and USB 2.0 audio compliant. You can put that between a PC and the Bryston to get much better USB output. 

I think Byrston eventually released a middle piece too, the Player.  Overpriced IMHO .

Best,

Erik
mensch - The BDA-1 usb is not as much of an issue as you might since the unit upsamples everything using it own timing chip.  I suggested trying usb as a start and then also considering a usb to S/PDIF converter. My point was to try that first, rather than follow the multiple suggesting to complete change the system. Small steps when getting starting is often a good course of action.
eric - The OP has a 103, not a 105, so usb to it is not an option.
ghosthouse - I am not a Apple guy, but I believe Chrome is the only browser supported for CD quality, according to their website.

" Currently lossless streaming with our Web player is supported in Chrome only "

https://support.tidal.com/hc/en-us/articles/202162111-System-Requirements-for-HiFi-using-the-Web-Player-

I do not know the status of the stand-alone applications on either Windows and IOS.

I use Bubble UPnP on an Android tablet sent to a DLNA renderer on my Windows PC.
Thanks, dtc.  I was on the Tidal site and saw that line you quote.  That's what has me scratching my head.  Does Web player mean an app for mobile devices (which app doesn't fully reside on the device) - in contrast to whatever necessary Tidal software gets downloaded to the hard drive of a PC or Mac when you subscribe to their HiFi service?  Thanks again.
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I am not a Tidal expert by any means, nor an Apple expert, but here is what I know.

I think Web app means browser based apps. If you access Tidal through a Web browser, you have to use Chrome for CD quality.

The desktop app for Windows does HIFI, I believe.When I go into Settings - Streaming it lets me choose the quality of the output. On the desktop app, HIFI is an option. HIFI means CD quality. When I use Firefox to access the Web application, it says I cannot choose HIFI and only gives me Normal and Hi, which are not CD quality.

The problem with the Tidal app for me is that the app then uses the WIndows audio system, which is not bit perfect. I am not sure how that works on Apple. Give it a try and see if it gives you the HIFI option in Settings - Streaming.

The issue with using the tablet or phone apps is getting the output to your stereo setup without using the DAC in the phone or tablet. The Android Tidal app does not let me send the HIFI signal to another system. So,  I use UPnP on an Android device since it can pass Tidal CD quality files to a DLNA renderer for playback, in my case the JRiver renderer on my PC.

Unfortunately, I do not know how to use an Apple tablet or phone to send that signal to an Apple system. However, the latest Tidal app for tablets and phones says it supports Chromecast. So, if you buy a Chromecast Audio device, you should be able to stream a HIFI signal to it and use the Chromecast Audio optical out to send the signal to a DAC, if you DAC has an optical input. Otherwise, I do not know how to send the HIFI digital signal to from the phone to an Apple desktop or laptop.

Again, I am no expert, but that is what I understand.
@dtc - I think you gave me what I needed. What I was not understanding was pretty basic..."web player" vs the alternative : "desktop app".  Since I’m using a MacBook, I’m fairly certain TIDAL for Mac will give me the HiFi option in their desktop install. I’m not real worried about portability/web-based access. Thanks for your time.

(btw - I agreed with your response to mensch about "small steps when getting started".)
sbank: "One of the benefits is getting a full PC or Mac computer and its associated noise out of the listening room and galvanically isolated from the dac."

Yes, with microRendu, the computer as server or the NAS, whichever you choose, does not need to be in the same room as the music system -- it just needs to be on the same network, which can be anywhere else in your home.

So isolation has nothing to do with choosing computer or NAS as server.
dtc

Upsampling is no panacea. Its much better to get an outboard asynch USB converter than to rely on upsampling. 

PCs are not real time systems.  synchronous usb is very high in jitter which can be made a little better by Asynch. Sample Rate Conversion, and heavy buffering.  The reviews for the BDA1 and how much better it sounds with the Bryston Player make me worry this is the case.

Asynch Usb however can resolve these issues.

Yes Im aware of the difference between a 103 and 105.  I was just offering options.

Best

Erik
@sun-warrior "So isolation has nothing to do with choosing computer or NAS as server."  

I see your point, but for the benefit of others, let's clarify that if your attach either 1) a computer and any attached hard drives or 2) a NAS to a router(usually in a different room on a different electrical circuit!) thus isolating the device from the DAC you've still got to get the signal to the DAC by ethernet, wifi or a power line adapter solution.
For my money, that's where the microRendu does a superior job vs. anything me and many others have heard.

For those who prefer to keep the PC or Mac located in the listening room, receive the music from on that computer and connect directly to the dac, they are in some ways fighting an uphill struggle regardless of which cable type or USB/SPDIF adapter they use.  Cheers,
Spencer
eric - I fully understand async USB and jitter. However, if the DAC resamples using its own clock, then async vs. sync timing should not be an issue. The DAC controls the final timing, and it is independent of the usb timing. If some people think that DAC sounds better with S/PDIF than USB that is fine. But the issue is probably not jitter in the USB signal, since the DAC reclocks the signal anyway.

My point was simply that the OP should try the USB from his laptop to his DAC before investing in lots of other options.
Um, no you dont, but im not intersted in the argument. 


erik - This is probably not the place for this discussion, but here goes anyway. You have  to understand that the DAC completely reclocks the signal using its own internal clock. The DAC receives the data from its usb input, puts the data into an internal buffer and then pulls the information from its internal buffer and, using its internal clock, reclocks the signal. That was done by Brystron to avoid jitter problems on the USB.

Please explain how the sync timing on the USB effects the internal reclocking of the signal. The only way it can is if the sync usb cannot fill the buffer fast enough, which is very unlikely.

The reclocking process is not done by all DACs. Many just use the timing that comes through the USB, in which case async is certainly preferable to sync USB. But, since the Bryston DAC uses its internal clock to reclock the signal, the jitter on the usb does not make its way into the final data.

You might want to read the Stereophile review, in which they clearly state that the BDA-1 reclocks the signal internally, in order to control jitter.

http://www.stereophile.com/digitalprocessors/bryston_bda-1_da_converter/

From the review

" One of Bryston's primary goals for the BDA-1 was to reduce clock jitter, ie, mistimings of the digital datastream presented to the DAC. Unlike the company's BCD-1 CD player, a one-box transport and DAC, the standalone BDA-1 must reclock all signals fed to its data inputs"


As an aside, I used to make my living doing realtime programming on realtime operating systems. The issue of timing incoming signals coming into a computer is well known to me.
To make some terms more clear, and take them out of vendor-speak we are talking about the differences between Asynchronous USB (A-USB) and Asynchronous Sample Rate Conversion (ASRC).  Usually vendors will call ASRC something like upsampling and re-clocking or something like that.  The Wyred4Sound Remedy Recklocker is an example, but many DAC's have this feature built in. 

Both help to reduce jitter but the similarities in how they work and how well they may work in any given circumstance are not the same. Jitter from an A-USB source is often as low as the DAC that is pulling the data, and is bit-perfect.  That is, the DAC receives exactly the bits in the source file, and the output signal is evidence of the very best the DAC can do. There's very little to do to make a no-compromise solution with this interface. 

As you are expecting, ASRC will also improve bad sources, reducing measured jitter somewhat but at a certain point, based on it's implementation, it has to give up. This can be improved upon by bigger input buffers, but it usually does not yield the same level of improvement, especially with things like internet radio, iTunes, Chromecast, etc.  The worse the input signal (i.e. more jittery) the worse the output signal. By contrast, A-USB can tolerate a lot of lag in the input before ANY of it becomes measurable.  Further, ASRC is not bit-perfect.  The entire output signal is a mathematical reconstruction of the input. For fun reading on this look up some of the writing around the closed-form digital filters used by Schiit. Of course, they are all pro-Schiit, but they offer a great education in how ASRC is accomplished, and what kind of compromises are made.  In general, ASRC prefers time precision to bit-perfection. It will sacrifice the data to meet it's time goal, as much as it can. 

Of course, the devil is in the details, and anyone can make a crappy version of any technology.  You can also chain one after the other, yielding very good results at times.

A better option, in my mind, is the latter Bryston DAC's with built in USB 2.0 A-USB support AND upsampling.  Given the option for just 1, I'd take A-USB any day of the week. 

Best,

Erik
Check out the free, open source, Banshee music server.  Looks a lot like JRiver and it's available for Linux, Windows and Mac.  Works fine with flac format, which is what I use.

Did I mention that it's free?

http://banshee.fm/
Erik - Care to comment on the specifics of the reclocking that is going on in the Bryston BDA-1, the DAC in question. I think you are mixing reclocking with upsampling. The BDA-1 reclocks then upsamples. Two different operations.

The jitter can never be better than the clock in the DAC. You somehow think that the timing is better when applied in async USB mode than when implemented internally in the DAC by reclocking. That is just not true.

Please, address the specifics of the reclocking that is going on with the BDA-1. Are you really saying that if the BDA-1 used aysnc USB then the jitter would be lower than using its internal clock to reclock the data?

And, reclocking is bit perfect. It simply takes the data (2 16 bit data points for each sample) and sends that sample on with the timing of the internal clock.

Your discussion of Schiit filters is an entirely different topic than reclocking.

" The worse the input signal (i.e. more jittery) the worse the output signal " Clearly you do not understand the idea of reclocking of signal as is going on in the BDA-1.

Honestly, I think you are throwing around a lot of terms without really understanding the process that the BDA-1 is using, especially the concept of reclocking.




I kind of hate JRiver, and only moderately despise MediaMonkey.  Something about UI designers who are into music.....they are very odd fellows indeed I think. :) 

So, no JRiver clones for me. I'll have to stick with Logitech Media Server and various tagging/retagging tools I could find.

Best,

Erik

Without knowing the actual implementation, they could use a large-ish buffer and then upsample, but these issues have the same limitations as ASRC. The re-clocker has to constantly try to guess the long term stability of the original source clock AND the buffer has to be big enough to handle the difference between the source clock and the DAC clock.

This is why ASRC is actually pretty easy to implement.  You just say F* it to the original clock completely and really only need a very small buffer. 

My guess, is that they are just doing ASRC, like everyone else these days. 

Again, the best solution among the now 3 different types of implementations is Asynch-USB. 

Try this thought experiment.  Let's say your source is feeding out samples every 1/44,110 of a second instead of 1/44,100 of a second. The only one of the three methods that is immune to this problem entirely is Asynch-USB. The source clock has nothing to do with the frequency of data fed to the DAC (within reason, if the PC is running Windows and it's in the middle of an update, chances are it's all going to hell). 

Parasound's CD player, and some digital players have implemented memory-only players. They read the entire file into memory at once, completely doing away with issues of source jitter. There's no evidence it's better than Asynch-USB though. 

PS Audio has a useful article on this too somewhere, of course it's all pro-PS Audio's dac or something. :) 

Best,

Erik 
Erik - You obviously have a pretty low opinion of Bryston engineering. They understand these timing issue very well. You seem to think they just kind of hacked this together. Guess what - I think they understand buffering issues. A sync usb is only very slightly off in timing.  I do not know for sure, but I bet they are not using a 10 byte buffer.

You act like the usb input on the BDA-1 is total crap, with just awful jitter. Well, I think Byrson engineering is better than that. They understand buffer and timing issue.

You throw around ASRC like it is some sort of technology. Well, it is not a specific implementation and how Byrston implemented its reclocking should not be jumbled with all other ASRC techniques.

Somehow you want to make this into some big discussion about all timing issues in PC audio. The issue I brought up is that the reclocking in the BDA-1 makes it much more immune to jitter than a typical sync usb interface. You seem to not believe that. You seem to think that the reclocking the BDA-1 implements is just as bad as sync usb. Well, I simple do not believe that, Bryston does not think so, and Stereophile does not believe that.

Give it a rest. I agree that async usb is better than sync usb. But, reclocking is implemented for a reason, whether it is in the BDA-1, the W4S unit you referenced, the Empirical Audio reclockers, etc. And, sure, I would rather have an async usb DAC rather than an async one. But the BDA-1 is a fine DAC, with pretty low jitter because of its reclocking.
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and their customer service is incredible.