What is the function/pupose of music plyr/streamer

Sorry guys another neophyte here with a simple question.
I am going to set up a Computer sourced link into my audio system (sooner or later, once I figure this out).
I "think" I have the basics of the chain down; Computer, Bridge/Converter, DAC, Amp. However I don't understand what advantage a music player/streamer would afford me.(I will be using a MAC and using mostly Apple Lossless files). So this invites 3 questions for me.
1. Why do I or would I need a Music player or Music Streamer? (they are the same, right?)
2. When used, where should it go in the chain?
3. While these devices often list support for many different kinds of audio files, almost none actually say they support Apple lossless, is this because they don't or they just don't want to spell it out?
Thanks for your patience with some of us new/old (double jeopardy) guys.
But any info would be much appreciated.
The music streamer is the DAC. You can take usb out of the mac, through the music streamer and into your computer, then ad a good software program (I use JRiver) of your choice to tie system together. You can also use external hard drives for file storage.
check out my rig...it's real simple but effective.
i just posted with many of the same questions regarding my recently-acquired squeezebox touch and learned the following:
1. my squeezebox does play flac (apple lossless files), which a number of other media players won't; if the device doen't state that it supports a particular format i would not assume that it does;
2. if you're using the media player in the same room as your computer, it is somewhat redundant--i.e. the computer can perform the same functions of managing and playing files, etc. as noted above, the media player may have a better dac than the internal dac of the computer and thus sound better, tho if you're using a separate external dac this advantage is negated. the key advantage of the media player would be the ability to stream files from your computer in one room to another room (or, if you're not using a computer to play files off a iusb drive or sd card assuming that your media player has this ability).
There are two basic types of digital computer music streaming: 1) USB or Firewire driven and 2) network driven

If you are using USB or Firewire, it uses some or all of the audio stack S/W in the computer. Therefore, improvements in sound quality can be achieved by using Amarra, Jriver or Pure Music player software to avoid some of the audio stack nasties. Once these are avoided, the audio quality can be the best available, as supporting hi-res.

If you are using wired or wireless networked via Squeezebox Touch, then the data is the data and the audio stack is not involved. Player software is custom for each device, such as Sonos or Touch (Squeezecenter) or AppleTV (iTunes). Most of these do not support hi-res or are limited to 24/96.

Apple creates kind of a hybrid of networking and core audio, so its not a good thing. Their airplay sends the file WiFi only from core audio and encodes it as apple lossless. Not good. its not just "data".

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
The music player/streamer, like say Squeezebox Touch, is a specialized computer designed specifically for streaming audio.

As such it is a special kind of digital audio source component designed to deliver good audio performance that can also be easly both physically and electronically isolated from the computer data source. That's usually a good insurance policy for a good sounding audio system because a general purpose computer is not generally designed to be used as an audio component in an audio system and may often prove to be a source of unwanted noise and distortion best kept isolated from a well performing audio system.

It gets it's data using a normal network data connection (wired or wireless) to your computer and then connects like other audio sources to your audio system. If you use the built in DAC the connection to the audio system is analog. Or You can use the digital output to an external DAC which then connects to the audio system. The DAC used will largely determine the resulting sound.
Is the Squeezebox Touch 24/96 limit confined to the internal DAC (so that a 24/192 DAC could take the Touch signal at 24/192) or is it a limit on the ability to stream?
My understanding is 24/96 is the devices inherent streaming limit, but I could be wrong.

That's pretty good for the <$300 cost these days.
OK Great answers.
Russe- I guess I didn't realize for some reason the player/streamer had a DAC.
Larry- If I'm reading your system right, you dont have a player/streamer, right?
Loomis- I think FLAC and Apple Lossless are not the same. You confirm my suspicion that the player is for managerial duties.
Steve- Is it just Airplay you have an issue with or the whole idea of storing and playing using apple lossless? And
I appreciate the streaming tutorial.
Mapman- You bring up a function for the player aside from its managerial duties. Does not the chain of Bridge/Converter to DAC to AMP isolate the computer in the same respect?

And yes I was afraid I'd hear the old refrain "if it doesn't say so, don't assume it does". I guess I'm hoping the manufacturers were to hung up on space to spell it out
because I know Apple won't recognize any of the acronyms, you know being apple and all.

Thanks this is helping me a lot.
Oh I should tell you guys my system so you know where I'm coming from.
Are you sitting down; I think you should be sitting.
Kenwood KR7600 Receiver
Sony PS-T3 Turntable
JBL L100 Speakers
Purchased in 75/76
(never gave up buying albums)
Still works like a champ, but I'm actually thinking of buying some new gear, I just don't want to rush into anything.
"Steve- Is it just Airplay you have an issue with or the whole idea of storing and playing using apple lossless?"

Airplay is flawed and ALAC is also flawed IMO.

It's time you updated that system of yours. Throw all of that stuff away or give it away if you can. I have not had this kind of stuff since college, and I graduated in 1976. There is plenty of great chinese-built used equipment on Audiogon for cheap.

I would think "keep it simple". No preamp, no CD player. Just a computer, preferably a Mac Mini, a good USB DAC and some monoblock amps. Then get some decent speakers like used Maggies, Vandersteens etc..

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve, in what way are ALAC and Airplay 'flawed'? As near as I can tell, you can reconstruct a bit-accurate copy of the original file using ALAC. or FLAC, for that matter.

Correct me if I'm wrong. My airport express has NO decoding codex resident. My computer streams a bitstream which will look similar if ALAC or MP3-160.
The bitstream will be passed along to a DAC thru optical or as analogue thru RCA......SO that means the AE has a DAC? I know clocking is poor and jitter an issue.

I like the Keep It Simple, but would change to a Firewire DAC in preference to USB.
Thanks for responding.
So, I'm going to guess you use FLAC.
Can you recommend a s/w app that allows my mac to play well with FLAC?
Only problem is I promised my girlfriend I would load her Ipod if I could rip her CD's. Does that mean I'll have to rip 2 different times?
I like the simple, I didn't know I could exclude the preamp with any form of pure amp, I'll have to dig into that.
Again thanks for taking the time to share your expertise.
246, according to logitech the squeezebox touch does play apple lossless as well as flac (you are correct that they are different codecs). i've been using my touch for a week or so now and i've become a fan--it's quite addictive once you get past the setup hassles.
"Steve, in what way are ALAC and Airplay 'flawed'?"

1) It is not just using networked data transfer, it uses the audio stack so it is mucking with the data with mixers and volume control etc..
2) compresses the data to ALAC

Firewire is no panacea. USB interfaces done right beat Firewire.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"So, I'm going to guess you use FLAC.
Can you recommend a s/w app that allows my mac to play well with FLAC?"

You would be wrong. ALL lossy compressed formats compromise sound quality IME. I recently did this comparison at RMAF at my exhibit room. Had a great track, Steven Stills "Treetop Flyer" in FLAC and was playing it a lot and then one of my room partners said I should convert it to .wav and try again. I used XLD on my Mac to convert it back to .wav and it was considerably improved. Sounded like listening through a tunnel with the FLAC version. It's the real-time behavior of these CODECs that mucks-up the sound quality.

I put only .wav files on my iPod and my wifes ripped with either dbpoweramp on a PC or XLD on a Mac. Big difference.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve how are you able to get wave to work with the. iPod? Is this outside of iTunes?
.wav files play fine on the iPod as long as they are 44.1. Just put the .wav files in your library into the iPod playlist on your Mac and when it syncs the iPod, the .wav files are on the iPod. You may have to find them as files and not albums however.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"ALL lossy compressed formats compromise sound quality IME"
Don't disagree with your point, but want to clarify that FLAC is not lossy but a lossless compressed format that can be converted to WAV or other lossless uncompressed formats with full digital accuracy.

I should also add that the choice between FLAC and WAV is not quite so straightforward. For a multitude of reasons, many systems will not exhibit the same degree of falloff in SQ with FLAC that you describe. For some, it won't be noticeable at all.

"You may have to find them as files and not albums however."
This is not just a trivial problem! We should mention that WAV has the disadvantage of not encapsulating any metadata in its files, as do FLAC and Apple Lossless, leading to library nightmares for more than just a few.

For this reason I usually rip, transfer, and keep stored archive copies in FLAC (this could also be ALAC?), then batch convert an active album set to WAV for critical playback (for albums and systems where WAV seems to matter).

"Only problem is I promised my girlfriend I would load her Ipod if I could rip her CD's. Does that mean I'll have to rip 2 different times?"
Some ripping software apps let you simultaneously rip to two different formats and folders. Others make batch conversions relatively painless.

I meant Lossless - a typo.

Use AIFF, not FLAC or ALAC if you care about tags and album art.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Hey! Thanks Sandstone (and Steve) for your expertise.
I think what I've gleened from all this is, I can rip to ALAC (which is good for Ipod purposes) and convert to WAV in certain circumstances. That sounds excellent.
Does anybody have a suggestion for MAC S/W to accomplish the conversion?
It appears also that Music Players/Streamers are primarily music managers, I'll have to get back to them when I have some management experience.
Thanks again to all.
p.s. Steve, I'm still working on that system, but the monobloc's confuse me. I think I better stick with an integrated that has a phono amp, simple is good.
XLD is the best ripper and converter - its free:


I would rip to AIFF, not ALAC. This is essentially .wav, but allows for tags and album art on Mac.

Music players dont always manage the music. Much of the time, they just improve the sound of iTunes, such as Pure Music and Amarra. These are the current gold standards.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio