I think you will be pleased, I know that I am. The Brick replaces a fully modded TriVista and does an admirable job of it and then some. It bests all of my modded Squeezeboxes. And of course it works directly with iTunes which is sweet.
A couple of "tips" - first, do use the Opticis USB cable for total isolation from the Mac. And secondly I did find that the unit is responsive to tube rolling - not a lot, and Gordon does send it out with a good one, but it still seemed to make a difference - I have a NOS Brimar in there now that fattened things up just a bit. Cables of course make a big difference - for grins you might try it straight into your Krell and run the volume from the desktop. Pretty transparent. I found that the case is extremelt rigid so decoupling is not a biggie though I have it up on Ceraballs just because.
BTW I use Apple Lossless, anything less would be a waste.
As for the Cosecant - I wish I could and I am sure I will but for now I am a happy guy.
Hey thanks for the response!! Much appreciated and makes me feel much better about potentially buying one.
Question for you. Since I am new to tubes, not sure what Tube Rolling means. Is that swapping out for a different tube? And the Opticis Cable can be found where?
As far a digitial compression goes, thats an area I am well-versed. Apple Lossless is good, just remember there is still a compression algorithm in there I believe. If you really wanted to purify (although I doubt you will hear it) you could go WAV 16-bit 44.1 into the Brick. Depends alot on storage capacity you have though.
As far as the Cosecant, I don't want to hear it, because I know I will want it if I do a side-by-side. After purchasing my 5.5 no room in the budget at the moment, so Brick will have to do. Whoa is me right? : )
OK - in order.
Yes, tube rolling means swapping out one tube for another - great phrase, not sure where it came from. Anyhow the premise is that one can vary the sound of a unit by changing the tubes - FWIW Gordon says that because of the way the tube is used in the circuit, the Brick is not a particularly good candidate - certainly not compared to a preamp or power amp.
Opticis cables are sold at
The Lossless versus not Lossless has been debated about a million times so far. The consensus is that Lossless means Lossless. That said if you like to use 2x the hard drive space use WAV or AIFF. There are some issues with "tagging" those formats. Tagging refers to adding, managing and accessing metadata such as name, title, album art etc
So the moral of the story is that unless you have bat ears and an over the top system do iTunes with Apple Lossless and be very happy. If you've got the money do the Cosecant and pay someone else to manage your metadata LOL
Thanks alot once again, good info on the tubes...I found those Opticis USB cables, they have two versions though. One with a a copper conductor in them for the power supply? Is it safe to assume the reason for buying this USB is for the additional power isolation from the source? Or the optics? Not a cheap USB cable thats for sure, but what the heck I came this far.
I went and looked at Macs last night, and oh boy they look fun. I figure I would rather deal with a Mac for this project than a PC. Maybe it is just an excuse to get another toy...
You will be very happy with a Mac - and guess what the new ones "play" Windows too - what's not too like? LOL
As for the Opticis - main reason is to provide the highest degree of isolation possible - if you are going to be snooty about it, you will want to use a better power supply then the one they used to sell - write them, the proprietor Fast Eddie spent some time posting here and on Asylum. Gordon can fill you in as well. The secondary reason is if you want to put the Brick more then 15 feet from the computer (USB requires all kinds of fancy footwork after that)
The way I see it, you spend your money once and eliminate another variable - really does sound very, very good
Thanks again...So you are saying the powersupply for the Opticis cable is just so-so? I will have to contact them directly if thats the case before I spend my money with them.
Heres a question for you...If you set up a computer (of any sort) as your server, and you decide to use an external USB or Firewire drive instead of the internal drive, does it add or take away any performance from the USB to the BRICK? I am most likely going to use an existing Western Digitial (320GB) located in the bottom of my rack, and since I am splitting hairs over everything else, this got me to thinking.
Also, how are you displaying your music? I want to stream out of the Mac to my TV, problem is, it is a CRT (Tube) with Component inputs at best. No DVI or VGA. Wondering how this is going to look. Wanted to be able to sit at the couch and just tool around from a wireless keyboard.
The purists among us felt that the stock power supply was a bit noisier then it might be - you might never even hear it... Take a look at The Socket which is a battery power supply. No point in being too picky since there is nothing else like Opticis out there. If you don't want to bother just get the premium Belden gold USB cable.
The choice between an external and an internal drive will make no difference. You need to understand that there is a new paradigm here - this is truly digital. Computers push data in and out all day long - its what they do 24/7/365 around the world. The amount of data involved and the speed of data transfer required to make perfect audio is absolutely trivial. Consider that on my rig I can in digitze a CD (rip) at the same time as I am playing back two different songs - one via USB and one via Ethernet... and surf the web...
If you stress your computer by asking it to do a lot of other things at the same time - particularly data intensive things like process large photoshop files, you may get it to hiccup now and again. You will hear it, it will be momentary and music will resume automatically. You will then have the choice of turning off the music or stopping/reducing your other activities.
There are very few things that will impact the quality of computer served audio. First and foremost is how the data is ripped and compressed. Apple Lossless with error correction "on" and all choices under Preferences/Playback "off" is all you need to do. Second is of course how you get the audio data off the disk and back into music. The Brick is as good as they come, perhaps a bit better with Opticis particularly if you live in a RF/EMI noisy environment or have ground loops. End case.
As far as display, I run iTunes on my computer display. Take a look at the new Apple TV product - it may solve your problem.
Honestly, you have been incredibly helpful, and I really appreciate it. I can't say I won't have more questions, but for now I am one satisfied customer. : ) !
Thanks again, and I will write again soon once I get the Brick to share some of my impressions. I just ripped a bunch of music in to the PC as my auditioning music. Will let you know.
First off, you are going to like this and it is going to work a whole lot better then you ever expected. Be Happy!
Be sure to read everything on Gordon's site - a few times if need be - so it all makes sense and feels comfortable. Honestly, if you are at all comfortable with computers, this is truly simple but knowledge is power and at the very least will heighten your appreciation.
From a hardware perspective, the paradigm I have offered in previous posts is imagine you know have a perfect source for your system. So that part of the battle. and that set of excuses is over. Everything downstream of the Brick is all about analog audio as you know it. Cables, isolation, power, speaker placement and most certainly room tuning will all come into play and are required to optimize the potential of the new source. Take your time, its the fun part for most. Just know that whatever you hear Day One can only get better.
From a software perspective, there are a few things you can do to make life simpler - and IMHO ultimately better. First, I would buy a dedicated hard drive just for my music library (assuming you are going to have more then a few hundred CDs). Under iTunes Preferences/Advanced/General you will set that hard drive to be the iTunes Music folder location. (Dead easy just hit change and select the HD when it is connected) I named mine Bird.
EVERYTHING GOES IN THERE!!!!
Check (turn on) Keep iTunes Music Folder organized and Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library.
The net result of all this is that everything you ever rip will always be exactly where it is supposed to be. Also, back-up, for which you must get another hard drive for is vastly simplified. Back up one drive and you know you have backed up all your music. BTW iTunes will also put all the album cover art on that drive too.
BTW I am sure like everyone else you are lazy about back-up. So don't go an buy that drive till you rip your first couple of hundred disks. If you are like most people you will decide that back-up however onerous is preferable to doing that again. Backing up once a month or even once a quarter, or after you add another 100 titles (assuming you are starting with a brand new high quality drive) is plenty.
Check out a Mac application called ChronoSync which will handle the mechanics for you admirably and ensure a better backup then you can get by just dragging files from one drive to another.
BTW a real back-up, ohhhh that I practice what I preach, is one that is located in a physically different location - you are as much concerned about fire and water damage, theft etc as you are about drive failure.
Once you've set this dedicated drive up, you never have to think about it again. And of course you can access all this with an iPod too. Also, if you ever decide to add a Squeezebox once again you can point it at this single library. And if you want to go over to your buddies or wherever, just grab the one drive and you are on your way.
Enjoy the music!
Ck! Been listening to the Brick all weekend, so far NOT impressed at all. Sounds thin to me, exaggerates the high tones and voices and leave the bottom end sort of blank. The sound-stage is very shallow, leaving the instruments deep in a jazz performance very faitn sounding.
I am a little confused as to what to do now since I can't afford the Cosecant, which might be the better match for my system. But I am hesitant to pay double the money for a product that is only about 25% better.
I understand the whole burn-in concept completely, but you can usually get a good idea for the overall sound signature right out of the box. Not to mention this unit had about 20 or 30 hours on it before I got it. So far the Brick has yet to impress me on ANY of my reference recordings, and quite honestly it hisses at high volumes, and at low volumes all I hear it Tweeter. Tssss, Tssss, Tsss as the most significant signal. I have never experienced this with any piece of equipment on my system, and I have auditioned quite a few pieces. In fact, two weeks ago I auditioned a used X-DAC v3 from MF and it sound much better than this Brick for 1/3 of the price.
The pre-amp (VTL) I have is single-handedly the best piece in my system, and very warm and balanced sounding. But from what I can hear with the Brick it does not feed my preamp to it's potential.
I have to make a decision and I don't know what it will be yet, but right now I am not impressed enough to invest this amount of money in this amount of sound ability. Other than the functionality of the Brick I am feeling it is a little over-priced.
Hi - suggest you call Gordon in the morning and share your findings - see what he suggests. There is no doubt in my mind that your satisfaction is paramount to him. Meanwhile it sounds as though a few aspirin are in order. Sorry to hear this,
i have owned a BRICK for two month , it was a very soft sounding box
with a lack of details in the upper and muddy bass .; some call it "analog" sounding.. you also need a very high gain preamp , not a passive because the brick only get less than 1volt output.
i have replace it with a moded "airport" express to a PASSLAB D1 dac
and will never look back.. ( not the same price also...)
WOW! I was completely wrong...I was running this on a Dell PC while I auditioned and until I got my MAC, which came today. I had been in contact with Gordon all the while, and he was very patient and helpful throughout. He seemed to feel pretty strongly that it was the PC (Foobar/ASIO) combination that was causing the sound deficiency for me. I had my doubts, until today.....I got the MAC and WOW! what a difference it has made. Everything is quieter, soundstage is deeper, picking up instruments in the very back of a performance with much greater detail, and getting a nice edge on my horns ands violins. Not fatiguing anymore at all. Much sweeter, albeit a little on the bright side for now.
I am believer now, and I very happy I got the MAC and got rid of the crappy Dell PC.
Problem I have now is, I don't know which toy to play with first, the MAC or my hi-fi. I am very satisfied with the sound up to now and I am glad I didn't overspend on the Cosecant, although I am sure it sounds sensational.
In regards to the pre amp, I am pretty sure mine fits the bill of being worthy of the task. It's a VTL 5.5, brand new, and we both have a sort of love affair with one another. I might even give a kidney for it if it asked. : )
So all is well over here, and thanks for the responses and help, you have been great !
Hello from another Brick/Macbook Owner. I just got my Brick about two months ago.
Glad to hear you like the Mac - Brick combination. I never tried anything but the Mac on the Brick.
Let the Brick settle in a little more - The highs should settle in even further. Also, you can try changing tubes which does change the sound a bit. Gordon put some EI 12AU7 Goldpin in mine and they are very detailed but might exaggerate highs a little until they break in. By the way, tube break in as well as coupling transformer break-in does take much longer than usual electronics.I still feel the Brick is changing a little over time.
Finally I did notice some difference. The output is on the low side (which I very much like). Running the Brick into the higher gain setting (23dB) of my tube amp give much tighter bass and more dynamics than the lower gain setting (13dB).
Enjoy and let us know your impressions after a while.
All's well that ends well - forget my recommendation for a few aspirin, yeah, dump the PC and live a little =) Shoot, I could have told you that. As an added benefit you will find that iTunes works a whole lot better too!
As for tubes, I swapped out for a Brimar which mellowed everything right out - I hesitated to recommend it since Gordon has said that because of the circuit design it shouldn't have much effect (placebo or what)...
So new Mac, new Brick, new VTL - whatever is the Easter Bunny going to leave?
CK, good news huh?! I am siked it all worked out, albeit expensive. I don't care though, I have been trying to get this sound for many years since I have been in hi-fi, and for the most part I have it now. With the convenience of a computer as a controller to-boot!
So next I am going to look into a different tube just to experiment a bit. Although Gordon said the exact same thing to me about changing the tube, it won't make much of a difference due the circuitry. The Telefunkens sound interesting, but there is alot of good stuff out there I am sure.
He also said the Opticis cable didn't make very much difference in his experience either and to just go for a Kimber USB with ferrite if looking for better quality. I am still questioning the isolation factor from the MAC/Brick connection with an optical cable. Its undeniable no?
I also want to try to decouple my Pre on some BDR cones. Right now I have it on some Sorbogel, which I learned after I bought, have a tendency to muddy up the sound.
So some minor tweaks, then I will just be at the set-it and forget-it stage for a while.
Thanks Easter Bunny!
jc51373 happy that you are happy now with your BRICK , i have made myself
a tube rolling with no real changes , the better result i had with it was to replace the stock wallwart power supply with a EXTERNAL "laptop" battery pack (you need a 16V model max) ..
with this power supply the sound was equal , if not better than with the excellent altmaan ATTRACTION dac.
thx Jaunitox...Intersting, I will take it under advisement.
I think the next thing I will look into a swapping out a tube or two to see what happens, just for the fun of it I guess. Although, this thing is sounding better and better and better. I am very happy, very satisfied.
Tonight I tried a different decoupling product, the Cardas blocks instead of my Audioquest Q-Feet under my Pre-Amp, and I did not like it at all. Thinned it out too much, felt like I was closer to listening to the PC again. That was under my Preamp, so maybe under another component, but for now I will stick with the q-feet. Everyone told me Sorbo muddied up the sound, but not in my case. In my case it deepens the sound stage, and add just a smidge of darkness, which I like. Not too much darkness, but just a dollop, which can be nice. Kills any fatigue.
Tonight I A/B'd Apple Lossless against Wav and AIFF files. Frontrow makes these really easy. : ) I honestly have to say Apple Lossless might be the best to my ear, and it takes up alot less space as well.
So all is well that ends well...Now on to my next exploration, which is listening to some DynAudio speakers. Considering, (emphasis on Considering) trading my b&w Nautilus for a two-way Focus DynAudio speaker. I remember listening to them a few years back and I just loved them, but gotta give em another shot. The b&w's have been very good to me.
Boy do I love a happy camper!
IMHO the Opticis does provide complete isolation from the Mac, and a USB cable does not - I proved this to my satisfaction pre-Brick and owning the Opticis never considered using anything else. I do have a Sprocket battery pack on it.
All that said, Gordon is a very smart guy and one of the few who will not say you don't need something to make his product seem complete.
FWIW he did tell me that he prefers the RCA Cleartops to the Telefunkens in the Brick - that will save you a buck or two if you are undecided about where to start.
Lossless has some significant advantages from a file management point of view since it provides a robust tagging environment which WAV and AIFF do not. Also a lot more reasonable to load on an iPod should you wish to etc. All but the most golden-eared EAC/FLAC/Foobaristas seem to be happy with the choice - but then they are dealing with PCs...
Steve at Empirical Audio did a comparison of some of the formats you might want to take a look at. Apple Lossless is like 2nd or 3rd.
Ck, so my question to you on the Opticis is, do you feel it makes a difference in sound? Albe it small, or placebo, what are your thoughts on it?
I got two new CD's, Cassandra Wilson (blue light till Dawn) and Sarah Vaughn (Jazz Profile) and they sound amazing. Two great reference CD's for sound thats for sure. This thing is getting quieter and quieter, and better sounding.
Gordon actually mentioned he was using cleartops, so maybe I will give one of those little puppies a shot at some point. Maybe Opticis first then Tubes...But first I need to know how you rigged the battery supply.
Here is what I have found using a 65 foot Opticis powered by a Socket battery with a 12 inch USB cable from the folks who sell the Opticis VS a 6 foot Kimber USB Cable:
I'm using a Wavelelngth Audio Crimson DAC with a new MacBook Pro.
The Opticis has a bigger soundstage and sounds more open. The sonic picture seems more real and dyanamic.
Thx Steve....I envy your Crimson, must just be amazing.
Anway I am sold on the Opticis, but I need to know how people are powering them with batteries, and how long the battery lasts?
The SOCKET MOBILE POWER PACK battery will last a very long time. The Opticis draws very little current. I have had my battery 9 months. I have also seen cheaper lithium batteries 5v on the web.
I have used the Opticis with the Cosecant as well. Is it worth the trouble and expense?
I would ask folks who have a Brick at the AA PC Forum what they think. You may find that the optical USB cable is a waste of money. I purchased it before I had the Mac laptop and used a PC around 60 feet away from my stereo. I still use the PC and control it with a pocket PC.
When dealing with computer stuff, there are many options.
And yes, The Crimson is very special. Gordon is brilliant!
Thanks for the information on the Socket battery pack...Ok, so let me get some clarification from you here...Specifically since you have so much experience with Wavelength products, and are now a Crimson owner. I am going to assume it is safe to say you have a good ear. So in your opinion do you think the Opticis is a good investment based on how your Mac sounds for you?
I just want to set this thing up correctly and give it the best shot at sounding great. Logically it all sounds like it makes perfect sense in trying attempt to isolate, but who knows if it shows up in the sound. If I can quiet things down as much as possible I am game for spending the extra money.
Let me know what you think.
The Opticis has been good for me. I have never heard the Brick. I honestly don't know if it will make a significant difference with the Brick.
Good to know, I am going to order one up...If nothing else I get piece of mind of knowing I set it all up properly.
Good to know, I am going to order one up...If nothing else I get piece of mind of knowing I set it all up properly.
Splaskin, how about a little insight into your Cosecant experience? What
Good to know, I am going to order one up...If nothing else I get piece of mind of knowing I set it all up properly.
Splaskin, how about a little insight into your Cosecant experience? What made you trade up to the Crimson, other than the fact it is freakin awesome.
Here you go:
thanks Steve, very good write up...Crimson sound like it is simply awesome!
Fun read, especially on Apple Lossless.
IMHO Opticis is well worth it simply because it provides absolute isolation between computer and DAC - otherwise you have a metal cable connecting the two.
As for the Sprocket, I just leave the darn thing plugged in to the wall wart all the time - end case charging problems... or should I say, memory problems LOL
Good point CK, I am wondering how often this socket battery needs a charge.
It is designed to be left on the charger when not in use. I suspect the Socket is hardly being drained by the Opticis as the warning light has never come on.
So are you saying you haven't had to charge it? How often do you charge it? Is the ongoing maintenance something to consider?
No. I;m saying that it is always recharged with its recharging unit when not being used. I'm also saying that I have never depleated the unit with hours of use.
Ok, thanks Steve. That makes sense. I think it is a worth while investment in an effort to completely isolate.
I will move one step at a time; this week the cable come so I will see if that make a difference for me, then go from there.
This thing is just sounding better and better, and better. Listening to a little Mingus right now and it sounds better than all the Levinson stuff I auditioned.
love it, absolutely love this little Brick
One thing I have learned though...In burning some of the other various types of music I have aside from Jazz. IE titles with more Bass....The Brick is in fact a little on the weak side in the Bass department. Other than than that the detail is great, but out of balance in that respect.
Steve, I am curious to know what you used as a Preamp with your Cosecant??