Looking at your system, I think unless you go to an MBL or similar DAC you will be disappointed in the sound quality from any digital file. As far as the mechanism I have not really ever heard it discussed at length, it is the format that is usually the point of discussion, with WAV, FLAC and AppleLossless being the prevelent formats. I have used Applelossless after ripping to the harddrive off of my HP computer. My sound, from AppleTV into a DAC, is better than any disc player I have had, but I have not had the same players you have had. I wouldn't give up the disc player until you hear the results.
Thanks for input.
Agree and I think that the DAC would be Reimyo DAP 999 or similar, will listen to decide.
I have honed the format issue to WAV or AIF.
As you gathered it is the "reader" that has my attention at this time.
You don't really need a quality drive - you need quality software. The standard is Exact Audio Copy - EAC. It's a free download, though you are encouraged to send the developer a postcard. It's easy to install and there are a number of primers out there to help you get the best out of it. It will re-read sections to get an error-free copy.
Now if you want to convert these WAVs to something like Apple Lossless or FLAC you will need conversion software. For Apple Lossless, iTunes.
This part is fairly straight-forward. Getting it back is where the good is significantly better than the moderate. The magic will be in the DAC and the output stage.
I would highly recommend that you go with the most simple setup possible to get great results. In my opinion, that would by a Mac Mini or iBook using Apple Lossless via iTunes and the best USB DAC from either Larry Moore at Ultra-Fi or Gordon Rankin at Wavelength Audio.
For a wealth of information about USB DACs and computer audio, check out Gordon's USBDACS.com pages.
the CD reader does not impact quality (so long as it works) because it is reading data files not pits - that's the big reason that a hard drive transport sounds so much better then a CD player - none of the electro-optical-mechanical problems, and nothing happening in real time.
I have ripped some 2,000 CDs to Apple Lossless using the CD/DVD reader built in to my Mac tower. There does not appear to be any reason to buy a separate transport - though of course you can. I would recommend buying a SATA one to ensure that it is no slower then your built in.
BTW rip speed varies by CD and is software controlled - there is no option to set the rip speed as there is when you are setting up to burn a CD (eg 4x-8x-16x etc)
As to your choice of format - while AIFF (a 1988 Apple format) and WAV (a competing MSFT format) look good on paper, they offer no increase in quality and have some significant disadvantages.
You can spend about 5 minutes on Wikipedia and learn all about the various formats. And you can spend hours here and on the Asylum reading threads as person after person comes to understand that Apple Lossless or FLAC will return a bit perfect WAV or AIFF copy everytime.
The issue here is that neither WAV nor AIFF were designed with a file structure to support the kinds of database applications we use to manage our libraries. This is the realm of metadata and specifically "tags" - all the info about the recording which you can use to sort and select, as well as the album cover art. Because of the file design, this data gets lost in WAV and AIFF defeating a key benefit of this approach; instant access.
Personally I agree with Reubent - KISS is the way to go - nothing beats Apple Lossless in iTunes on a Mac. Lots of PC people have bought Macs specifically to run their music libraries and are thrilled that they did so. There are some alternative ripping softwares for the Mac but nothing that seems to offer enough benefits to have gained any traction. MAX is probably the leader but IMHO why bother. iTunes is one of Apple's crown jewels. It integrates all of the functions that you need, and is supported by a team of developers.
One of the real mantras of a hard drive based system is rip once, use many. iTunes also supports iPods, iPhones, Airport and Apple TV. For the last several years I have made the point in posts that going digital goes beyond audiophilia - it is a lifestyle choice.
If you are a died in the wool PC guy, you are into the realm of EAC, FLAC, Secret Rabbit etc. Point being that you have to roll your own and act as your own integrator. While I am sure this is more straightforward then it was even 12-24 months ago; its not easy and is not recommended for computer newbs or the faint at heart.
Beyond the problems of disc reading, the second achilles heel is SPDIF which is prone to a host of implementation problems. Whether you choose a Mac or a PC based solution, to achieve the maximum benefit for a hard drive transport you should use USB to get the data out of the computer to the DAC.
In addition to the excellent DACs recommended by ReubenT of which I have owned several; you should consider something like the Keces 151 which is a 10th or 20th of the price. There are a number of very innovative, very high quality DACs coming out of Taiwan and their performance is astounding.
I'd say a good ripping solution + a decent DAC out would be the best way to go. A properly set-up EAC on Windows is probably the best option (which you can also use in a virtual machine in OS X like VMWare or Parallels). However, XLD (X Lossless Decoder) is a very good option natively on OS X, though not quite as solid as EAC.
From there, encoding to Apple Lossless and managing the tunes in iTunes is probably the best bet for you.
After that, it's about getting the audio out. Many speak very highly of the Apogee Duet Firewire DAC, but I have no personal experience with it myself. Clearly there are several folks here more experienced with that end of things, so... listen to them? :)
I agree with Ckorody's eloquent statement above. I have been using a
MAC/iTunes/ALAC for over three years and it is seamless.
I have a really dumb question. I use iTunes for my music streaming to a squeezebox (not for critical listening) but how do I know if I am listing to it in a Apple Lossless format?
MS Windows? Browse to where your iTunes files are stored. Open an album folder - look at the tracks. Do they end in .m4a?
If you are not showing file name extensions, you can engage that through Explorer - Tools - Folder Options - uncheck "Hide Extensions for known file types" and look again.
Aliter, right-click on a file and select Properties. Does it say MPEG-4 Audio File as the file type?
Sorry, I don't know the Apple methods.
I think there is the temptation to think that software is all that is important and that any computer's hard drive will survive. In my experience, this is far from the truth. I own four Macs yet I use one as a remote desktop to control my Exemplar Music server with a Windows XP operating system. I use ExactCopy despite its dumb control system. Similarly I use Foobar to play back the music on the hard disc drive. I have copied cds on Macs in Applelossless and FLAC and used the same dacs as with the server for playback. The music server is far superior with greater resolution and detail.
I would love to have something the equivalent to ExactCopy with an Apple operating system, but not a Mac. I don't want it doing anything other than play music. Frankly, I would much prefer to listen to music on an fm station than anything off my computer. You can imagine what I think of MP-3 or putting vinyl on cds.
I have to take issue with one of Ckrody's comments above. AIFF handles metadata tags quite nicely. WAV does not.
And while lossless formats, such as Apple Lossless, return bit-perfect files, there is a growing number of people who believe the conversion back to uncompressed data streams can cause some sonic degradation, depending on how your computer audio system is set up, the speed of your processor, and so forth. I haven't been able to confirm this myself, but I decided to rip my CDs in AIFF just to be safe. In any case, converting from Lossless to AIFF is something you can do very easily from within iTunes.
I remain unconvinced that EAC offers any meaningful benefits over iTunes for ripping. Some people think it does, but it's hard to see how. Error correction in iTunes works sufficiently well that it's really the least of your worries when it comes to the sound quality of a computer audio system. How you get it out of the computer and how that process eventually talks to the DAC is where the action is.
you must mean converting from AIFF to Lossless...
There's actually menu item in iTunes to convert a song to AIFF. Under the Advanced menu, it gives you choices to "Create iPod or iPhone version", "Create Apple TV version" and "Create AIFF version". But I haven't looked into these functions so perhaps they are not what they seem.
I don't wish to muddy the waters, but I have multiple instances where two errorless WAVs of the same cd sound quite different. In one instance it is a cd with and without AVM spray painted label. The others use a Millennium CD disc used on the cd during ripping.
This makes no sense to me but it is worth it to me. I have reripped nearly all discs on my hard drives.
I misspoke earlier. The Apple files were both lossless and AIFF not FLAC.
Tbg, I'm not clear about what you are saying. You re-ripped nearly all of your discs -- why? And what did you do differently the second time?
Well thanks for the comments, very useful.
What about this configuration :
HD storage 2To (a freind of mine will copy 500Mo of apple lossless music (>80 days...)+ my own CD collection say 400ish.
USB Dac to say wavelength (maybe with silver?)
To replace a Reimyo CDP-777
And take it form there
Tim - home run.
Talk to Gordon about the silver/no silver and your tastes
Just be sure to have a second hard drive to back up the first. Given how inexpensive hard drives are, I would recommend Terabyte drives. Buy the enterprise rated drives not the consumer models. Check newegg dot
My two cents about the drives--Seagate makes a double platter 750 gig drive for less than $100. In general, they are much more reliable than the terabyte drives.
Drubin, yes all discs were redone using the Millennium mat. The sound was more dynamic and the sound stage more encompassing with the disc used while ripping, strange as that seems.
I suppose the mat won't work with a Mac, which does not have a slide-out tray.
Drubin, I had not thought about that, but yes I don't think it would work.
I own a PC based system for 2-3 years now.I use Audio Note DAC2 Signature with great results.
I do believe that quality of the drive matters.As i understood,data files (made of zeros and ones) are written onto CD surface using the pits,right?I don't see how else this could be.Maybe i am wrong,then please explain how.
Tbg's experience could be explained with what i am saying.Still the drive has to use laser,and there are number of factors there (reflection of the laser,stability etc.) which all,IMHO,can influence the result.
I am thinking about iusing some CD mat (maybe SID) and try an A/B test with riping with it and without.If i do it,i will report.