Which personal confuser for ultra high end audio, MAC, PC, notebook, tablet or desktop?


Hello all!

Existing circumstances dictate the OS must be either Windows, or MAC, only.

My daily “lots of use” desktop pc is an 32 bit XP OS Dell that was used by the Spanish Inquisition.

I’ve made minor upgrades to RAM and HDD only.

I need a new personal confuser. I’m gonna get one quite soon. I need to know going forward which platform and configuration will serve a digital sourced front end best in 2017.

That is, of course, if there is still any significant disparity between MAC and PC OS with regard to present software, or hardware limitations or other concerns.

My barely used 4 year old windows 7 Dell 64bit box never has run Office 2010 right but does enable PCM file playback via Lynx AES Exp SC and JRiver & Foobar 2K and iTunes infrequently.

I’ve only had exp with Windows machines. However, I own Apple iPad Air II and iPhone 6 S. but I’m a pretty quick study so adapting to a new OS ought not be a big deal.

I do not have a working laptop and one would be a real aid for day to day situations as well as ripping and playing files, streaming audio playing videos, and so forth.

This latest ‘new’ machine will be a daily use computer for office oriented affairs as well. Email. Correspondence. Archiving documents. Data collection. Contacts.

I’m leaning towards a MAC, but not sure which way. IMac or Ibook? Both appear as semi portable and the Imac can sport a 4 or 5K display. The display isn’t a big deal for me bit the RAM and CPU needed to support the far greater resolutions of a 4 – 5K display would be nice IMO. Computer Horse power is always a plus.

The only issue I see with the iMac, is the thing itself. It’s a big display and looks like a problem waiting to happen when wiring it up or into the LAN and audio system.

I have a Synology Disc Station NAS. The plan is to acquire a versatile DAC for DSD and Tidal playback.

Am willing to add whatever else thereafter to achieve the intended goal mentioned above. Apps, additional hardware, etc.

Your experiences and Thoughts would be most welcome.

blindjim
Jim sorry that is the best autocorrect ever! I would be happy to be your personal confuser as I seem to have been confused a good chunk of my life! :-p
Jim:
Since you already have a Synology NAS drive, I would suggest you purchase a Sonore Microrendu , and let it do all the music workflow between your NAS drive, DAC and computer. With it in place, your music files will no longer run through your computer, which can degrade the sound quality. You computer simply uses a program like Roon, JRiver, etc. to direct the Microrendu and tell it what to do with the music files on your NAS. Your sound quality will improve quite a bit, and you can use any computer, laptop or tablet you wish. The computer will no longer be a limiting factor to your sound quality.

Jond > that is the best autocorrect ever

Blindjim > actually, no correction was needed, it was the intended phrase. I prefer it over the A B Normally used ‘personal computer’ innuendo.


Bigshutterbug > purchase a Sonore Micro rendu , and let it do all the music work for you…. SQ will then increase.

Blindjim > Bigshutterbug, wow. Really? Thanks.

Why those two in particular? No others?

I’m just getting into these latest greatest aspects of digital as it has progressed to date. I’m unclear on a couple things, some on software, and now your input on this new approach with different hardware.

These two gizmos you mention, how are they accessed? IOS? Computer? From Disc Station apps? Or…?

I’ll presume they are on the LAN via Ethernet and are then intentionally enabled with permissions to see the data storage within the Synology domains options.

Subsequent to that configuration an app of sorts activated by a controller (iphone, ipad, pc, or dedicated remote control) facilitates the transmission of the content to the rendering device or main audio system DAC. Albeit, if necessary, some rendering may occur in either the software or ‘server’ domain, if necessary such as ‘on the fly’ up or down sampling or format conversions, correct? or would any alterations to the files be done ONLY in the hardware domain by the items you offered as solutions instead?

Will the needed software options be limited in any way? OS? IOW, do these devices use only specific app (s) for file playback operations?, eg., ROON, JRiver? A proprietary mobile app?

I must ask because, in my world, a concern always exists which hands me either some grief or a lot of grief, and that is software which does not play well with peripheral adaptive software.

I must use high functioning accessibility (screen reading) apps to get anything done via PCs. MACs have a proprietary Voice Over facility which allows navigation and operation of its apps and hardware, provided when necessary, the third party apps were written with Voice Over functionality in mind. It is suprising to see how many main stream apps simply ignore the VO component, rendering them useless arbitrary . inconveniences
regardless the OS, it happens all the time.

Regularly, I’ve gotta install what ever, and run it to really know if it will work. If not, go a different route and buy or try something else. And so on, etc.

Lastly, OK. I’ll reiterate the obvious, to me anyway, issue. Exactly how are these gizmos environments any better than the one in a computer?

The two items I’ve read about so far which seem to address the possibly degrading issues prevalent in a computer, were
Fidelizer Nimitra Computer Audio Server
And
Aurender W20

The latter requires a lottery ticket and a lot of luck, the former seems as though it has its own learning curve, especially if one trys to employ the PC adjusting or streamlining’ software without the total packaged hardware.

Thoughts?


Jim a more serious answer to your question then I am also a bit of a computer neophyte but set up a streaming setup first with a Sonos Connect which I later upgraded to an Auralic Aries Mini. I stream wirelessly from a Synology NAS drive as well as streaming Tidal outputting to an Audio Note Dac via the coax output on the Aries. My setup does require wifi my modem is in my office and system in the living room but I've had no hiccups to speak of streaming wirelessly. I love the Auralic Lightning DS app it's easy to use and setup and pretty feature rich. Just my own experiences I hope they are helpful to you in some way. Cheers!
Mac, Linux, raspberry, never windows! I did the Mac route for years and used pure music and audirvana 2.x with an external dac using USB. Then auditioned many streamers and purchased the Auralic Aries using lightning ds. Much better sounding and interface than the Mac/audirvana. 
I turned the Mac into OS X server with 20TB of disk for music and other things. Instead of using 2 pieces like the Auralic and external dac, I bought a. Ew directstream with bridge ii with Roon. Roon runs on the Mac, got rid of USB, and the bridge 2 interfaces Roon with the internal dac thru the i2s interface which is much better than using usb

it seems we have answered the first question, which confuser doe not matter any longer.

Jond > I stream wirelessly from a Synology NAS drive as well as streaming Tidal outputting to an Audio Note Dac via the coax output on the Aries.

Blindjim > Cool. I’m guessing the upgrade was for performance and or operational ese..

I am using DS Audio IOS app to send bit stream info from the Syn into a pc via Foobar or ?? out thru the lynx AES 16X and into a Bel canto DAC 3.0 AES input to amps etc.

Or via File Browser IOS app the same way or into an Apple TV > Integra 99 controller > amps etc. or merely onto my IOS device and head phones.

I suspect what tech has come along says using the Ethernet device alone, as the ‘middle man’ is the cleaner way to elicit better SQ.

Is the Aries simply a better pathway or more featured, or both?

Is the Aries app merely the mobile device app or one installed onto the Disc station itself?

No drop outs or connectivity issues on WyFy even with the HD file sizes? Must be a healthy buffer in there somewhere.
Nice. Thanks.


Rbstehno > I did the Mac route for years using USB. … auditioned many streamers and purchased the Auralic Aries using lightning ds thru the i2s interface which is much better than using usb

Blindjim > tremendous thanks for the insights.
Its becoming more clear, unless people have simply lost their minds, this ‘new’ approach to bypass USB and as well remove file manipulations from the PC environment has become the latest greatest fashion for adding another level or so of performance to digital playback.

I’ve read input from Wavelengths G Rankin on the issues surrounding USB. Some work arounds there, and feel from what little I know that using Ethernet and eliminating the Devil’s disciplines which abide in a standard pc, could be a cleaner path.

I need a block diagram and some tech data on the why its better all in all, prior to dropping what I see as a fair investment and additional learning curve for going such a route.

When last I peeked in, the new ‘bridges’ converting USB to SPDIF interfaces and their possible reclocking, or not reclocking, aided the resultant audio. At times.

However, two ICs were then in the mix instead of just one, and its not hard to see how one could suspect the changes were merely different perspectives, and not necessarily sonic quality gains as the sole influence of the bridge itself.

My current ‘bridge’ is the Lynx AES 16 xpress sound card and the AES cable.

Likely this is one of those, ‘ya had to be there’ deals. Meaning, get one and see.

Which brings me to this pertinent Q….
Is someone now gonna chime in and say “the Ethernet cable itself matters too?”

Lovely. I’m sure someone will. Crap.

Now I need a new third party device, new software, and oh yeah, a new whiz bang high end Ethernet wire. Super. Just super.

Pardon me, I gotta go Google now.

Hello All, here is what I use, and I am very happy with the setup.

- Mac laptop for my work and general computer needs.
- Mac Mini, slightly older model, but nicely specified, for dedicated music use.
- Standard hard drive connected to Mac Mini to hold my music collection 
- iPhone for, well, everything we do with them these days
- PS Audio DAC with Bridge 2
- Roon software, Tidal HIFI subscription 

My setup:

the Mac mini is in my home office, hard wired to my home network via Ethernet cable.  Hard drive attached, Roon installed on the Mac Mini.

The PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC mk II with Bridge 2, sits on the audio shelf in the living room, connected to home network via Ethernet cable. I really like this DAC a lot. Extremely capable machine, despite showing a little age!

Tidal HIFI is integrated into Roon, along with my music collection.  The collection is mostly cd rips in uncompressed AIFF along with a modest collection of high res albums.

control is seamless and simple via my laptop or my iPhone, both running Roon, both on the network connecting wirelessly.   This means I can sit in the living room, and control music with a nice interface that is usually close at hand, the iPhone. If I want a more full featured controller or a larger screen, I grab the laptop.

in my home office I have an external monitor that I use with my laptop, when I am sitting at my desk. This monitor has 2 inputs, and I conned the Mac mini to it as well, pushing the input button when I (rarely) have to control the Mac mini. No need for a dedicated display for the mini.  I set the timer settings on the Mac mini to restart once a day at 4am. It is always running, music always accessible.

------------------

in your system, I suspect you can achieve a similar setup, presuming you are interested in my method. PS Audio has 3 different DACs that use Bridge 2, and all are worth considering.

your NAS can connect to the network, and Roon on your Mac mini will find it, and supply the music to the DAC's Bridge via Ethernet.

--------------

the results are are excellent sound as well as extremely convenient operation!  I cannot stress the latter enough. I am a photographer and very tech savvy individual. Nevertheless, I do not like complicated digital audio setups from a control standpoint. Roon is a game changer, really made things easy and enjoyable from a user interface standpoint.  I think that the Mac mini running music exclusively is a plus as well. I don't believe one needs a supercomputer, but rather a decent machine with no other operations taking up any resources. A Mac mini from a couple generations back with a solid state drive is perfect in my opinion.

I hope this is useful! Feel free to contact me if you'd like more info. Good luck!  -Mark
Jim the Aries was indeed an upgrade in both sound quality and user interface but what really spurred me to change initially was wireless capability. The Sonos I was using was wireless but only on a single band the legacy 3.4 ghz band, which in my urban environment, downtown DC, was quite crowded. The Aries has a dual band modem and can run on the newer much less crowded 5 ghz band. Since making the change overall performance and ease of use improved and the intermittent dropouts I was experiencing with Sonos stopped. Don't worry too much you're a good part of the way there,  for me another big step forward in sound quality was when I introduced my Synology NAS to the system so you have that going for you already.
"Is someone now going to chime in and say the Ethernet cable itself matters too?"

Hi Jim, I recently installed an Aurender as my server/renderer/streamer (replacing my laptop) to my DAC. The Aurender requires Ethernet connection to my router/modem (not wireless like the Aries). The latter was located a long distance from my listening room. I started with a generic 75’ CAT6 cable between the modem/router and the Aurender. The sound was pretty "meh".

Then I relocated my modem/router to my listening room and installed a 1 meter generic CAT7 cable between it and my Aurender. Much better.

A few days later, I installed a 1 meter Synergistic Research Ethernet Active UEF SE cable in place of the generic CAT7 cable. Further improvement still. Sounding like music now.

So far, I found through comparing USB cables (Shunyata Venom vs Curious vs WW Platinum Starlight 7) that the USB cable makes the most difference by a wide margin but my experience is that the Ethernet cable makes a significant difference too.

FWIW.

Dave


Marktomaras > I hope this is useful! Feel free to contact me if you'd like more info. Good luck!

Blindjim > that was a super assist. I could not have asked for more. thanks tons.


Jond > The Aries has a dual band modem and can run on the newer much less crowded 5 ghz band

Blindjim > super. THX! This 5GHz protocol I’ll assume is one which works in defference to the WAP setup in the ISP provided on site modem?

I’ll also presume the settings for the Aries are within the mobile device lightening app.

Dlcockrum > The Aurender requires Ethernet connection to my router/modem (not wireless. …. the USB cable makes the most difference by a wide margin. …. Ethernet cable makes a significant difference too.

Blindjim > and there it is! Lol I did not doubt it for a minute. Mark the calendar if its not already, Ethernet wires now officially matter. lol

It seems now, the decision is which protocol to use, and investigate ROON a lot more.

If the USB gremlins can be eliminated entirely, and as well a solid clock or reclocking comes as standard or as bonus, then aiding or adding in the clocking aspect should be the proper selection for a bridge or server, or renderer thingy..

Although, USB and DSD presently appear to be married especially for DSD2 (128) or DSD4 (256) in a few of the newer DACs I’ve read about. I should think this is not a mandated interface situation for all DACs, just some, hopefully.

Without further review, the Aurender W20 would be my first choice, apart from its entry fee. A lesser ver could however be a very real option.

I love the notion of an upgradeability aspect, and a device which clocks the data stream, and supports all the usable audio formats.

This might just coe down to which app works best for me… and not necessarily which server or bridge. I suppose I’ll begin there and download some apps.

Jim,

I trust that my earnest attempt to respond helpfully to your post was not rewarded with sarcasm.

Dave
Dlcockrum > attempt to respond helpfully

Blindjim > Certainly not. I purposefully interjected the ubiquitous lol twice to avoid any negative connotation or untoward inference being transmitted on a personal basis.. Sorry, Dave I missed.

If indeed I take issue with someone, or some aspect on a topic, I’ll usually have no problems being quite transparent about it and not hide behind a veil of humor. I’m blunt to a fault far more than I should be so I pay attention so injuries are minimized.

Invariably on these pages someone will interject the occasion or even prerequisite need for buying pricier wires to resolve or aid some portion of the audio riddle.

The ‘sarcastic’ application was aimed squarely at the idea data lines now need to be upgraded as their performance levels have suddenly been elevated and do make a difference to the audio presentation.

Generally speaking, I can’t help but be amused by the aspect a wire everyone uses and has been using for years, decades in fact, suddenly has become a link worth considering for its attributes to sound quality and we should now cough up some less sensible money to overcome this now dreary ongoing standard.

As much hilarity and decided frustration as I gain on a personal note on the topic of wires or cables, (if preferred) making a difference, I’ve found out there is truth within this high end audio inside joke.

I’m very guilty of shelling out 4 digit money for wires. Repeatedly. Once I saw wires actually made a difference by personal trial and errors. I’ve written more than a little on these pages by reviews of past cables and makers what I felt their fingerprints on the audio production amounted to.

Wire makers as I call them, play the shell game with basic elements of electricity to evolve their inter-connects, spkr wires, etc. merely juggling capacitance often has the most obvious influence. Termination, seems the second most noticeable up or down tick, dialectric and metallurgic materials too alter noticeably the sonic demonstration.

IMHO - Making mention of the particular upscale CAT cabling used is indeed a plus.


Jim,

Thanks for the very nice and thorough response.

There is so much snarkiness and ridicule on this forum by the eternally cognitively cynical toward those that are willing to actually try "fringe" products, simply trust their ears, and honestly report their experiences in an effort to share successes (and failures) that I have become overly-sensitive.

I try to only post opinions based on my actual experience in my system and my room & avoid condemning or promoting products that I have no experience with, excepting a few where I address certain posters that exceed reasonable limits of tolerance regarding misinformation, dishonesty, or just plain stupidity.

Your humor, style, and approach are refreshing. Keep rockin!

Dave
Nice to see this respectful resolution in the forums!  Virtual hugs all around.

Now, back to audio obsessions...
Jim to answer your question about the 5ghz network the Lightning DS setup process takes you through that and is available for both IOS and Android systems, I used an ipad mini essentially as a remote control.
Blindjim, it's good to see you back here lately.  Your posts are always witty and enjoyable.

Regarding the possibility of ethernet cables making an audibly significant  difference, see the following threads:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/high-end-ethernet-cables-real-deal-or-snake-oil

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/most-important-unloved-cable

An excerpt from one of my posts in the first of those threads:
...any cable that is conducting high speed digital signals, such as an ethernet cable, and that is located in physical proximity to the audio system (e.g., in the same room), can radiate or couple RFI into the audio system. And in addition, noise conducted into the destination component via the cable could to some degree (depending on the specific design) conceivably couple around the ethernet interface circuitry and into other circuitry within that component that is more directly involved in processing the audio. Including circuitry that may be sensitive to noise-induced jitter.

None of this necessarily means, however, that an ethernet cable costing hundreds or thousands of dollars would be any more beneficial than an upgrade to a very modestly priced cable. You may wish to consider experimenting with inexpensive shielded ethernet cables, as member Bryoncunningham described doing in this thread, with significant sonic benefit resulting. (I consider him to be a particularly astute and perceptive listener, btw, and one who is very thorough in his approaches to evaluating tweaks and optimizing his system. Unfortunately, though, he hasn’t been posting here in recent times). See the posts in that thread dated on and around 2-16-12. Inexpensive ethernet cables are commonly unshielded, but good quality shielded cables are also readily available at low prices.
And from the second of those threads:
As an electrical engineer having extensive experience designing high speed digital, analog, A/D converter, and D/A converter circuits (not for audio), I don’t find the reported differences to be either surprising or mysterious. And I consider them to be well within the bounds of established science and engineering.

Most likely what is happening is that differences in the characteristics of the cables, such as bandwidth, shielding, and even how the pairs of conductors that carry the differential signals are twisted, are affecting the amplitude and spectral characteristics of electrical noise and/or RFI that finds its way via unintended pathways to unintended circuit points "downstream" of the ethernet interface in the receiving device. "Unintended circuit points" may include the D/A circuit itself, resulting in jitter, and/or analog circuit points further downstream in the component or system, where audible frequencies may be affected by noise that is at RF frequencies via effects such as intermodulation or AM demodulation.

"Unintended pathways" may include, among other possibilities, grounds within the receiving device, parasitic capacitances, coupling that may occur into AC power wiring, and the air.

What can be expected regarding such effects, however, is that they will be highly system dependent, and will not have a great deal of predictability.
As you'll see in the second thread, in addition to the member I referred to above a number of other widely respected and highly experienced members confirmed that very inexpensive upgrades of their ethernet cables provided significant sonic benefit.

Best regards,
-- Al
 

Right on again Al.

Dave

Dlcockrum > There is so much snarkiness and ridicule on this forum by the eternally cognitively cynical

Blindjim > U R welcome.
It took a while for me to overlook ‘drive by posting’, and or barbs thrown on the web that contain no real consideration of others.

Thread posts, blogs, emails, texts, etc., seldom intimate everything intentioned unless it is plainly negative. I will ask for clarity or I will simply refuse to acknowledge them as they are not deserving of a thoughtful reply. Usually.

We only have the capacity for how we will receive what others and for that matter, life hands us. Nothing more. React, respond, or ignore it. Nothing here is life or death.

Dlcockrum > posters that exceed reasonable limits of tolerance regarding misinformation, dishonesty, or stupidity

Blindjim > well…. Ignorance and dishonesty can be fixed. But you just can’t fix stupid. So, why try?


marktomaras
> ….back to audio obsessions...

Blindjim > … and the voice of reason beckons us.


Jond > the Lightning DS setup process takes you through that and is available for both IOS and Android

Blindjim > Check. Kind of figured that one out too. Cool. THX!!


Almarg > good to see you back here lately. Your posts are always witty and enjoyable.

Blindjim > Thanks! tell all your friends.;-((

Yeah. Been pretty ill. About out of the woods now hopefully. Life as well delivered some quite deleterious and definitely unexpected adverse things which demanded my immediate and undivided attention on several fronts.

Al on the flip side, if the approach here is for learning and we remain little fish in a big pond, mostly, all will be well and all of our systems will benefit from this effort and from the experiences of others as they may pertain to something of use to ourselves, and our various audio concerns.

I feel I’m on the right wavelength with your inferences. Thanks for the thread links. They’re a big help. I’ll read ‘em asap.

One last note on shielding per se, having been a former gear head racer kind of guy, there are split hoses in varying colors, for the more fashion minded, which can slip onto and over different wires like OEM power cords for CATV boxes, CAT cables, USB, etc. in autoland, their application is for the electrical system where heat could damage wires insulation or where one wishes to add them like on spark plug wires.

The wire slip covers are cheap. easy to trim. Easy enough to apply. And if one wants, another ‘coat’ of sorts can usually be affixed to the wire being inserted into one of these ‘conduit’s.

I’ve been affixing these plastic fantastics onto all the aforementioned as often as possible. Even onto ICs which obviously have no shielding in place.

Although I’ve not spent time or employed any scientific theorem I’m not picking up any local TV or radio stations. Nothing whines in my listening room but me being desirous of all the things made up of too much ‘unobtainium’ or ‘‘can’taffordium’, I’d love to own. Or think I would love to own.

Or the stuff I did own and did not like.

Gee. I feel all warm and fuzzy now. A lil’ AC DC ought to fix that!




certainly there is the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC if one only needs PCM support.

is there a DAC that supports all of the current popular audio formats without conversion that could be an option here that excells in SQ too?