suggest laptop for music storage

Can you please suggest a small inexpensive laptop? It must be easy to use, and easy to set up. The Mac or pc’s sole function would be for music storage; it must have remote control to control music selection and volume. I plan to go usb dac to amplifier.
I would like download music to it in the best quality format.
There are a few details in your request you are likely unaware of. If you want to store music in uncompressed format (or lossless), which is the best quality, it will take up quite a bit of space (300mb/CD lossless or 600mb/CD uncompressed). I don't think there are any services offering either format as downloads. You would have to rip them from original CD's yourself (very easy in iTunes). All the music download services offer some form of compression which is certainly NOT the "best quality format" you are looking for. As far as storing the music, it's best to store it on an external hard drive with lots of space rather than on the native hard drive to the laptop, at least if you plan on storing a library of any significant size in lossless or uncompressed formats. You will just end up clogging up your laptop if you try storing the music natively. I have a 320GB external drive that holds over 700 CD's currently. I'd recommend you assess how many CD's you plan on storing and how frequently you'll likely buy more, in order to determine the size of hard drive you'd need. As far as the operating system to implement the music, Mac has it all over PC, IMO, and is certainly very easy and instinctive to use. The remote function is a pretty recent innovation for the laptop world. A basic MacBook will include an AppleRemote and set you back $999. A 500gb external hard drive can be had for around $175 or much less if you want to risk some of the really cheap stuff (you need to backup anyway).

based on personal experience, i strongly recommend using a mac over a PC. The reasons have been extensively documented elsewhere. You can find a decent used ibook G3 or G4 for a few hunderd dollars on ebay. you will want to make sure it is running somethign close to the latest mac OS (OS X) to get the most advanced drivers. Of course, the price will depend on how much storage you want -- and how much storage you want depends on whether you will be storing your files in a lossless format (e.g., Apple Lossless). Based on your statement that you want "best quality" you will absolutely want to rip from CDs in lossless format. There are only a few places that I have discovered to download lossless files. Using an external hard drive is a cost effective way of expanding memory, but just make sure you get one that is very quiet and dependable. I have had mixed results with external HDDs, but the Western Digital My Book seems to be a decent product.

My setup includes a 120G Imac ===> Wavelength Cosecant USB DAC ====> Shindo Giscours pre. I could not be happier with how the Cosecant has performed. I have not listened to the Wavelength Brick (one step down the range from the Cosecant), but I am sure that it is a winner, too.

if you go with a mac laptop (not sure if this will work on a PC), make sure to check out Salling Software's "Clicker" application. You can download this application, install it on a a handheld device (like a Palm)and then use the handheld device as an itunes remote. the application works great.

Finally, don't believe the hype re: "high end" USB cables. So far as I can tell, any cable from a reputable manufacturer will do the trick.
Jax2 I found this site I tried it and sounds great on my temporary system. Thank you for the suggestion but a few hundred more than I want to spend. I will either wait until they come down or break down and spend the money.

Welcome to the MusicGiants High Definition Music Store. Browse our extensive catalog of music and purchase your favorite albums in Windows Media Audio lossless format. MusicGiants believes in honoring artists by presenting their music in full resolution the way it is intended to be heard.

High-end audio systems demand quality digital files. Compression eliminates important details and frequencies in your music. Other download services compromise sound quality by compressing audio data to as low as 128 kbps. Our Windows Media Audio format plays as high as 1100 kbps

1. What is a High Definition Music Download?
High definition music downloads are the highest quality downloads available for your home entertainment center. The sound quality of this download is equal to a CD. It is a lossless digital file, unlike the MP3 which is compressed 7 times. The High Definition download is encoded in the Lossless WMA (Windows Media Audio)

Will this work with a Mac
Will this work with a Mac

I'm not familiar with their service. I'm pretty sure WMA can only be used with a Windows Media Player, and is not convertible to other file formats. Check with someone who knows better. I don't know if it is a true lossless file type either.

Unless there's something I'm unaware of, you're not going to be able to use WMA in anything but a Windows environment. Of course, if you buy one of the new dual core Macs that runs Bootcamp, you can get around that problem. However, then the "inexpensive" part of the equation is shot. I think you're better of sticking with a Mac lossless codec or WAV files. Hard drive storage is cheap and getter cheaper, so I'd do something like Marco suggests.

Will this work with a Mac

In theory, it should, as there is a Windows Media Player for Mac. I have found that WMP for Mac does not play every codec that WMP for Windows does -- but you would think that it would play WMA.

The other thing that would concern me about this service is that the WMA files are rights managed. So, unlike files you rip from a CD, you won't be able to play these files on a device that doesn't support WMA. There may be additional restrictions on the ability to copy the files to a second HDD.
I see eye-to-eye with Jeffreybowman2K's comments, but would add that if you buy a used iBook (good idea as they are plentiful and inexpensive), I'm not sure if they are compatible with the AppleRemote (you listed a remote as a requisite). In that case if you use a music server, like Olive or Squeezebox, you can use one of their remotes. I'd guess your budget won't include that though. I'd also second a vote for Wavelength's gear. I had their Brick USB DAC and it is a very nice DAC indeed.

Originally, there were compelling reasons to go with MAC, but with Vista and the new music servers and USB converters with "driverless" firmware, there is no difference. In fact, there is an advantage to PC because of better upsamplers. If you use the Adobe upsampler, they are equal though.

STeve N.
Empirical Audio

I agree with Jeffreybowman2k that an iBook G3 or, preferably, a G4 would be a good place to start but there would be less risk in buying one from one of the online sites that specializes in used and refurbished Apple laptops, like or than from ebay.
I defer to Steve N., who obviously is an authority on these matters.

Steve: the OP indicated that he would be using a USB DAC. Given that, how much do the audio drivers and upsamplers really matter as b/w Windows Vista and Max OSX? If using an external USB DAC mitigates any difference in drivers and upsamplers, then I suppose it gets back to which format -- PC or Mac -- is a more stable, user friendly environment as a music server. Although I have used foobar, EAC, and others on a PC, I like itunes used on a mac as the best available option in terms of reliability and ease of use.
fughedabout laptop dude check out this link bellow
Jax2, I believe that iTunes is supposed to be offering lossless downloads for selected labels. Also, check out, which has become my favorite site for downloading music. You can download in FLAC and it sounds great.

Jax2, I believe that iTunes is supposed to be offering lossless downloads for selected labels. Also, check out, which has become my favorite site for downloading music. You can download in FLAC and it sounds great.

Thank you, Michael. I wasn't aware of the magnatude site - looks great (but for very limited selection), and the price is right if they really do offer WAV as they say. I couldn't find anything on the iTunes site about downloading AL files. Could you point me to a link. That's good news if the higher resolution files are indeed being offered. I wonder if they'd necessarily be of identical quality to a file you'd otherwise rip from a CD?

Based on the criteria you listed a MAC seems like the best candidate for you. I can say from experience they sound better than ANY pre-vista based machines, and it is heavenly not having to configure the ASIO driver. MACs also assert better control over the hardware because their drivers are written very well. Ultimately they sound better in my experiences, and I heard the Vista machines need a patch for the USB as well.

GO MAC, and you will never look back.

Best of luck!
Marco, there is iTunes Plus, which is a high-resolution download (but maybe not quite lossless) that's free of DRM -- but I think costs a little extra. That's the great thing about Magnatune: I can set my own price for the download, even in a lossless format!

Jeffreybowman2k - this depends entirely on the USB interface. They are not all equal. Some require jumping through alot of hoops to stop pops and ticks and the ASIO plug-ins that bypass kmixer are not that good. Some dont support 24/96.

If you are stuck on iTunes, and want to do USB, then you must use a MAC. PC mucks up the sound with kmixer and iTunes.

Steve N.
Like Jeffreybowman2k & Jax2, I also own a Wavelength DAC, which is non up/over sampling. Just don't lose sight of the fact that over/upsampling is not always synonymous with "better" like most people are led to believe. In fact in alot of implementations it is often quite the sonic opposite, and Gordon's DACs validate this as fact.

My Cosecant is the best and most musical digital I have ever heard and it doesn't over sample a thing. No harshness, no hollowness, not analytical. You will find alot of people that have heard these DACs or own them agree. The buck can stop with non oversampling as well, so just keep this in mind.
The oversampling thing is complicated for sure. There are good ones and bad ones. Generalizations cannot be made IMO.

However, there are a lot of NOS products out there that attack the harshness problem by rolling-off or compressing the highs in order to make CD's sound better. The result is improved imaging and smoothness at the expense of lost highs. This is not the optimum solution either IMO.

The optimum solution IMO, is to get to extremely low levels of jitter. I hear this everyday through a Squeezebox or Sonos driving a Pace-Car reclocker to a SS DAC-1. This is only 16/44.1, but there is no harshness, no hollowness and not analytical.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve- thanks for your comments.

Some people who have purchased very expensive NOS USB DACs,which can only process 16/44.1 signals, like to make generalizations about PC upsampling. They can't enjoy hi rez 24/96 recordings either.
Kana813- there you go running your squeezebox again..Is this what happens when you modify one of them?

"like to make generalizations about PC upsampling"

These aren't generalizations, these are facts. And quite honestly I would be more comfortable and enjoy even more just about any other over sampling design that was implemented from the ground-up, rather than a modification to someone else's commercial design, or adding a corrective device to it.
Like Jeffreybowman2k & Jax2, I also own a Wavelength DAC, which is non up/over sampling.

In my case, the operative word is "owned" a Wavelength DAC (Brick). I sold mine a while back when I put my second system into storage. I enjoyed it very much - it had what I'd describe as a relaxed presentation which was very easy to listen to at length. It exhibited no digital harshness at all. It threw a huge soundstage, but I'd say where it lacked was in rendering the detail and resolution in that imaging as compared to my SS DAC (also older technology Muse Model Two Plus). It gave the images a softer edge, for lack of a better description, and occurred to me a bit slower in pacing for some reason. It also did not have as solid a low-end as my SS DAC. Regardless of comparisons I found it a very enjoyable DAC. When pressed I gave it up mostly because of the limitation of having only the USB input, since I do also use a transport, but overall I do think I preferred the presentation of the NOS SS DAC which I still use, in spite of the dated technology. I also use a Modwright Sony 9000ES with all his SS mods (no tube output) and very much like that presentation as well. In contrast, to create some reference, I absolutely hated the Benchmark DAC, which I tried in several systems. I found it harsh, particularly in the highs, and with entirely too much emphasis on what occured to me as hyper-detailed rendering (as if the players were etched into an icy space). I really don't get why folks like that DAC so much. I found it fatiguing after only an hour of listening, and that was in three very different systems I listened to it in. I have not heard the Wavelength Cosecant which Jeffrey and JC own. Based on The Brick, I have no doubt it's an excellent DAC. I have listened at length to my good friend's Electrocompaniet EMC-1 24/192 and consistently find that a superb front end - it does upsample. This is all one person's opinions, but I certainly would echo that I'd make no generalizations based upon upsampling.

Marco-thanks for the write up, good points you make here. I too owned a Brick first, then moved up the line to the Cosecant, and eventually plan to go to the Crimson. The difference between Brick and Cosecant was profound, and I agree with your observations of Brick. Except I would add it rolled the bass a little as well, which is why I moved from it. Cosecant does not do this, and does everything Brick does, but with more authority and depth, while still retaining that pretty sound synonymous with Gordon's equipment. I actually have trouble comprehending how Crimson can be as good as people say it is quite honestly. Not that I am doubting it is, just fascinating to me that it gets better.

Anyway, my point is basically that all too often people automatically assume that up sampling is just simply better than an equivalent 16 bit design, and this is NOT always the case. In my listening tests I compared Cosecant with a Meridian G08 (upsampling) and the Cosecant sounded overall more like music to me and quite a few others in the room. However, in the case of the DACs we are discussing here maybe this is not the case, they could be the best sounding up samplers in the world for all I know. But hopefully listening is the ultimate decision-maker, not just technical stats by themselves. Sounds like you have listened to alot yourself, which is ultimately how I ended up with the stuff I have today-exhaustive listening, and side by side comparisons. And I can say with certainty, that I don't consider not having the ability to listen to 24 bit a shortcoming by any means. Hopefully others do not either.
Jax2-one other comment I forgot to mention about "lacked was in rendering the detail and resolution in that imaging as compared to my SS DAC".

This is a great point and one I have thought about alot. Too often I have realized when I went for the inner detail you mentioned was lacking in the Brick I got a level of resolution that was just too digital (like you described) and harsh or hollow, not at all musically paced. After all the things I listened too (and I heard some damn good stuff SS and tubed) I just decided it was really a matter of what you are willing to give up, and that finding the perfect balance was damn near impossible. A game of compromises if you will....Cosecant is about the closest to that balance I have ever heard, and for that reason alone makes it a relative bargain in the hifi world.

But another excellent point here that should be considered ultimately through listening.
Kana813 - Only very old D/A chips only support 16/44.1. Most everything sold in the last 10 years at least does 24/96.

Steve N.
Jc51373 - Do you really believe that these so called "commercial" designs are perfect/flawless and contain no trade-offs? In other words, the designers are really good at doing design?

If the designers were that good, I think they would be making the megabux working for Microsoft, Intel or Apple etc.(That's what I did for 25 years), not working for small audio companies. If the devices had no trade-offs, they would be a LOT more expensive too.

Steve N.
Jax2 - you pose an excellent example of design experience. Gordon, of Wavelength had a long career in big-company electronics before doing his own audio business, as I did. The Benchmark folks are from the pro-audio arena. This kind of experience does not happen in small companies unless you are lucky enough to have an experienced mentor willing to spend a lot of time with you.

They still have not figured out what sounds good in most studios IMO. Still using 20 cents per foot wiring and they believe that measurements are the end-all...

The DAC-1 basic schematic is solid. It's the implementation (PC-board layout) and parts choices that could be improved IMO. To manufacture this and sell it for less than $1K, some tradeoffs had to be made. BTW, the newer DAC-1 USB is much better.

Also, I have modded a few EMC-1's as well. It has a LOT of design problems. It also uses a very old D/A chip and upsampler. If you thing this sounds good, this speaks volumes. A really good DAC will bury the EMC-1 or the ECD-1.

Steve N.
Also, I have modded a few EMC-1's as well. It has a LOT of design problems. It also uses a very old D/A chip and upsampler. If you thing this sounds good, this speaks volumes. A really good DAC will bury the EMC-1 or the ECD-1.

Steve - Thanks for the feedback. I've not had the opportunity to compare my friend's EMC-1 to "a really good DAC" in the same system, as the front-end has remained a constant for him throughout several changes of other components. I guess he likes it too. It's always sounded wonderful in his system, without harshness or long-term fatigue - very engaging overall. It is bested by the Teres table in that same system, but that seemed unsurprising to me. I've never done any comparisons to other digital front-ends in his room, but admit, I've consistently been impressed by the EMC-1 through several 'mutations' of the same system and room, for whatever volumes that speaks. I think he's pretty happy with it too, but then he was VERY impressed having heard your PaceCar demonstration in LV recently, so perhaps a 'really good DAC' may be in his future. I don't doubt your assessment of it and certainly defer to your experience.

I agree with your observations of Brick. Except I would add it rolled the bass a little as well, which is why I moved from it.

I agree, and you'll have to forgive my lack of audiophile vocabulary, but I think we're talking about the same thing when I mentioned the low-end:

It also did not have as solid a low-end as my SS DAC.

Steve- Jc51373's DAC uses a TDA1543 chip. It only has a USB 1.1 input.

Jc51373- Since you're an expert on upsampling, how many computer based upsamplers have you tried?

Steve- to answer your question..No I do not think that at all, it's quite the opposite actually. My point was merely to state modified equipment is not for me. Not to say you don't do an excellent job of it, just doesn't appeal to me to have something that is second-rate, modified to be better. But thats me...I would much rather your spoiler DAC, which is yours from the ground-up, and probably quite nice.
Actually correction on the Spoiler DAC, I don't believe Steve makes it from the ground up. Maybe I am wrong but this one looks alot like it.

Kana813- you are right, that is the DAC chip Gordon uses. Couple of facts regarding the points you raised. First off, out of about a billion of those chips that were produced Gordon got the N2, top 5% of them. Second, and I trust his ear based on the sound of his equipment, he has tried many many upsampling chips and none of the produce the sound he strives for, but he still tries them all the time. The TDA1543 is tried and true and sounds good and there are alot of reputable DACS out there that use them.

In regards to the 1.1 USB I need you to explain why in the heck that is important? 2.0 is only faster and the last time I checked passing music through 1.1 doesn't come even close to challenging it. And all 2.0 connections we have are backwards compatible, so moot point here. Unless you are the exception and you stream large data files along with your music over your USB connection.

And I never claimed to be an upsampling expert, but I do know more than you do. And to answer your question, I haven't listen to any Computer based upsampling devices. But I struggle with why a computer based is any different than a transport that upsamples?

Just remember, the more you increase the bandwidth beyond 16bit the more the errors increase, and the more equipment you need to deal with that. In the case of what Steve makes, and your DAC they are ultimately similar, both lense-like equipment that you add on to something-which seems silly and hodgepodge to me. I just have trouble understanding why go to all that trouble of adding equipment on to some second rate Squeezebox, or going to all the trouble of modifying someone elses equipment. But it serves to reason you agree with his philosophy. I say, if your smart to modify it, your smart enough to create your own, and most likely that will sound better than a modded piece.

Per your man Gordon:
"USB is limited to 16 bit data and 32K, 44.1K and 48K data rates. Higher data and sample rates would require Firewire or USB 2.0, which there is no specification for either at this time. Custom products are capable of this, but really if the data is 44/16 who cares."

Some people have original 24/96 recordings stored on their PC and use external DACs for playback.

Nothing Steve makes is similar to the DAC I use. The DL and Steve's PaceCar are not DACs. You obviously don't understand how they work.

People with DIY skills modified equipment like the Squeezebox and Sonus or pay someone to do it for them, because they can put together an excellent sounding PC music system for a lot less than buying a $3500. USB DAC.

BTW- many audio equipment makers got their start modifying
Conceptually, alot of what Steve makes is exactly like what you are doing. But keep telling yourself its different, and while your at it maybe throw a slice of bologna in the signal path too. Might sound better for you.

Listen I am not going to debate every techincal detail with you here. If Gordon says 24/96 needs 2.0, so be it, although I tend to disagree with him on that point. Can you actually believe that I disagree with him? But if your happy with what you have all the power to you. I personally would LOVE an opportunity to do a side by side with you DAC for DAC, but thats silly. If nothing else but to prove to you that $3500 for Cosecant is a relative bargain, and would make a $500 10 year old Genesis Lense sound completely inferior.

What you are failing to understand is that my purpose is not to compare products with you. There is no comparison here, Cosecant is in a completely different class than any source you own. What is important to impart to those reading this thread is oversampling is NOT always better, ironically it is often the opposite. You need to understand that Red Book was ratified as the standard for a reason. And if you increase the bandwidth over and above this standard the errors increase as well, and it is how these implementations deal with this fact that is a point to mention. Filters etc in the signal path. In the case of some equipment, Pops, clicks etc. Not for me, not for alot of people with true audiophile-grade equipment. Not to mentioned alot of the equipment being discussed here is solid-state based equipment, which of course is another discussion. But good luck with solid state and audio. Any SS I have owned or auditioned has NOTHING on tubes-case closed. But enjoy your transistors by all means, I spent 10 years with them and would never consider anything for audio that didn't have tubes in it.

So by all means keep looking for lightening in a bottle with modded equipment, flashing your CDs with magic lights, and seeking out upsampled recordings as the end all. Like I said if thats what blows your hair back go for it..For me, modified, second-rate commercial equipment is like putting lipstick on a pig.
Kana813 - My DAC's and USB converters are also only rated for USB 1.1, but they support 24.96. They aren't supposed to, but they do. Some chips, like the TI PCM270X family do not do 24/96. The 1543 should do 24/96.

Steve N.
Jc51373 - The Spoiler is actually not from the ground-up, its based on a Lite DAC-60 from China. The first one I modded was so great that I decided to do an all-out mod on it and change all of the hardware, including the front panel and I add a back panel etc. and make it my own product. The idea is that it cannot be improved with further mods. I believe I've thought of everything, except maybe cryo treatment....

Steve N.
Kana813 - what DAC do you use? What is so special about it?

Steve N.
"Any SS I have owned or auditioned has NOTHING on tubes-case closed. But enjoy your transistors by all means, I spent 10 years with them and would never consider anything for audio that didn't have tubes in it."

Then don't buy any new CDs, they're recorded and mixed on SS equipment.

Steve- I use TacT 2150s.

Hemihorn- get a Vista Laptop and contact Steve for the rest of your PC playback set up.

In a perfect world, I hear tube and ss gear playing music together in perfect harmony side by side...or would that be above and below each other. Anyway who is to say what is the best? I have the cosecant and I love it(didn't start with the brick), but I'm sure there are ss dacs and cd players that can best it, Jules Coleman felt the Sim audio Andromeda and Reimyo were slightly better and thats all good (he also thinks very highly of the Devore Silverbacks). What ultimately matters is the music and that you enjoy it.

Hemihorn, I'd go with an apple ibook.
Kana813 - heard the TACT gear at CES. Do you drive the 2150 with a computer or a transport?

Seems like it should have a clock output to drive a transport as a slave in order to reduce jitter.

Steve N.
Kana813-really? All music is recorded on SS huh? Tell me more please...This is becoming comical at this point and I am convinced you live on another planet. In fact, I think I might actually be dumber from having read all you have wrote here in this thread. Thanks alot.

This is a rhetorical question of course..But what would your(probably driveling) answer to guitar amps that are tubed-usually a preference of most musicians who are often recorded using them. What about microphones that are tubed used in recorded music. Lastly, just because a mixer may transistor based means nothing in regard to the characteristics of reproduced music through tubes. Although if a recording is mixed poorly, which is quite common these days, it will most certainly sound like sh*t through any system capable of revealing those differences.

To end this silly conflict and to spare everyone else your more of your nonsense in this forum, you might want to consider thinking before your speak But also let me leave you with some great advice I have decided to consider...Never argue with an idiot, they will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. In this case you win..Good luck & Mahalo.

Why all the insults?

Does that make you feel important?

08-09-07: Audioengr
Kana813 - heard the TACT gear at CES. Do you drive the 2150 with a computer or a transport?

I'm confused. Aren't the TacT 2150's amplifiers?

Book'em Danno!

Jax2 - TACT 2150 is a "digital amp", which means it performs the functions of DAC, preamp and amplifier all in one, without ever changing the signal to analog. Some Panasonic receivers (SA-XR50, SA-XR70) do this too and they sound very good. If the jitter is addressed, these can sound very good indeed. They really need to have a word-clock output to drive the transport though.

Steve N.
I love Magnatune. I download from their site frequently.

As a computer hardware geek by trade, there are a few considerations when it comes to storing & playing computer data, aside from laptop vs. desktop.

A laptop is a content consumption device, just like an iPad or other similar machine. It is lacking two features that IMO are critical to any computer used for creating or storing your valuable data.

The first is ECC memory. Without ECC memory, memory errors will inevitably end up causing data corruption. This is more pertinent to data creation than to data storage. If you're using this machine to rip the CD's and create the lossless audio files, then you may want ECC memory. ECC memory will detect and correct memory errors automatically, no action required on your part.

The second is RAID-1 mirrored hard drives. Data is stored in 512 byte sectors (4096 byte on the newest models). These sectors inevitably go bad after time. Fortunately, the drive firmware is intelligent enough to relocate unreadable sectors into dedicated reserve space. That keeps the drive running and healthy, but data stored in any unreadable sectors is lost. That results in data corruption for you. A RAID-1 mirror on the other hand, assuming a decent hardware raid controller, (or even better, the software RAID available in Linux) is clever enough to rebuild the data from a bad sector relocation, using the good copy on the other drive. This happens seamlessly and transparently, no action required on your part.

My home audio server has both these things of course. The only downside is that these two features are not typically offered on consumer grade hardware. You need commercial workstation or server hardware. Why the computer manufacturers think that only businesses deserve reliable hardware that is highly resistant to data corruption, but your average consumer does not, is another discussion...