Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

I’m a hard core vinyl guy looking for guidance/advice to enter the digital world. (TNT, Lyra Skala, ARC PH5) My sole piece of digital gear is an Ayre C5xeMP (replaced my ARC CD2 that finally gave up the ghost).  

I acknowledge there is music I can’t hear/purchase unless its digital. (Have a sizable library of  CDs)  I also like the idea of streaming digital radio and having access of my CD’s from a server.  Finally, I get that digital puts out pretty good sound these days.

So what do I purchase? Looking at features, I really want something along the lines of some version of the  Naim Audio Unti Server. It rips, stores and broadcasts (server function in my lexicon), single box solution, and right price bracket. Only problem is it doesn’t have analog outputs so I can run directly from it to my preamp (ARC LS25).

What are your suggestions…help this old dog learn a few new tricks.


  I have given a bit of thought to this and I think the way to go is a streamer with built in DAC and hard drive.  Most streamers just have a USB output. USB is not a great interface for music. And some streamers have problems with some DACs  The Aurender won't work with my ARC DAC 8. So having everything in one unit is the easiest way to go. And having a hard drive means you can use a wireless network connection.

 I would suggest using a computer to rip your CDs. Use a program that verifies the rip like Exact Audio Copy. You want to rip your CDs properly without errors. You also want to make a backup of your music files. I use a NAS for all my music as well as my computer. You don't want to have to do everything all over again if there is a problem.

 I have all my CDs ripped to my hard drive but I still use my ARC CD7 most of the time for digital. It is just easier to drop a CD in the player. The CD7 also sounds better than my computer with ARC DAC 8. When I get a streamer this may change.

 Don't expect digital to sound as good as vinyl. My vinyl rig, ClearAudio Innovation with Benz Wood cart and Ref Phono 2se. Sounds much better than my ARC CD7. 

@cmcdaniel5 - According to most of the posts I've read here on A-goN, the current "Value King" in an all-in-one streamer/ripper/storage box is the Bluesound Vault-2. It had a slot-loaded CD drive for ripping your CD's to it's built-in 2Tb hard drive. It is also a streamer that will stream your ripped CD's, stream from services like Tidal or Spotify, stream from Internet Radio such as Radio Paradise (my favorite!) and it has analog outputs (as well as digital outputs) so you can connect it directly to your pre-amp. It also plays (software enabled) MQA from Tidal.

The only potential downside to the Vault-2 that I'm aware of is that I believe it requires a hard-wired internet connection via an ethernet cable.

BTW, I don't own, or use, the Bluesound Vault-2. The above is all from memory, or past research, of the Vault-2. I'm sure some owners will drop in with their input shortly.....

Forget Naim.  Get a Sony HAP-z1ex.  It has everything you need, easy to use and sounds good.  Analog outputs.  This is the best way to get your feet wet if you are not technical.

I have seen these used at trade shows on megabux systems.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I'm sure the Sony is a good piece, but it lacks the all important CD ripping function which the Naim has.  Big time error to leave this out of servers IMO.
Consider also,ripping all your CD’s using a Notebook or PC or MAC or Bluesound vault and connect a Aurender Music player/server to your system (also includes Conductor app, #1 for ease of use and best control over music files) for a real upgrade and something that would sound as good or better than your vinyl rig!


Matt M
The Bluesounds are nice players but they will not give you the sound quality of your Ayre. If you’re like me, you won’t want to rip all your cds. I just stick one in my cd player if I want to hear it.

In my view it looks like streaming may be where digital is heading. Once you get access to all that music for a very reasonable price, at present, I don’t know if it will stay that way, it’s pretty addictive. You can check out albums that you never would have bought and find out that some of them are really good. If not, you’re not stuck with a cd or file that you paid $10 to $25 for. If you like to collect music there are streamers with hard drives for downloads you purchase.

You probably want a streamer with analog and digital outs so that when DAC technology improves enough, and it will, or if you want to use your Ayre’s DAC you can keep the streamer and use the better DAC.

Aurenders seem to be popular streamers with hard drives, I use a Lumin which sounds pretty good but doesn’t have a hard drive. Nad has an M50.2, which is the big brother to the Bluesound products (Bluesound is NAD's budget line). There are many more. I’m sure others will have recommendations.

You want your digital music player to be fully MQA ready, whatever you get. MQA also seems to be where digital is heading. It’s for reducing the file size of high-res files so that they can be streamed and for correcting errors caused by digital recording and your DAC. Some around here are convinced it’s a scam but many pros say it does its job.
Did we help you out at all cmcdaniel?  If you're still not sure where to start, let us know and we'll give it another try.

+++ For keeping it as simple as possible.

I went with "separates" for my first stab at putting together a ripping/NAS/streaming system, and that meant updating and troubleshooting the individual parts when something stopped working. A nightmare, that wiped out the concept for me that digital is much more convenient than analog. All that stuff got boxed up, and now I'm looking for the simplest and best of solutions (maybe), hoping that what I pick will provide good long term sound and carefree operation. I too am an Old Timer and that's what I crave these days. Maybe, If I can't find a solution that allows me to step off this technological merry-go-round, then my old CD player missing any kind of operating system, is just fine.
Truthfully, I was thinking of going the server path until i bought an
Oppo BD105 and now I stream Tidal through balanced interconnects into my amp. I can pop a cd if I want to or stream music. And it sounds gorgeous and was Sterteophile Class A rated.