I don't know...all I know is that my boulder modified Squeezebox 3 sounds better than any transport I have ever owned...and I am using a military spec linear power supply.
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Who died and made you the king of Audiophiledom? I currently have 2 iPods and I like one of them (shuffle) for its portability while traveling, but I do not like the other (iPod Video) at all. And, iTunes is a PITA when trying to use 2 different iPods with the same instance of iTunes.
Let's face it, there is nothing more simple than sticking a CD in a player and hitting play, especially considering it is typically a first step of using an iPod (unless you plan to pay more by buying from iTunes, or stealing music from P-P sites).
Oh, and you don't quite have all your facts straight. There are other2 channel receivers/integrated amps with DACs built in, namely the Music Halls.
Just because you like iPod/iTunes doesn't mean everyone else does.
My point is that the mainstream hifi industry and the "Hind End" industry has ignored and ridiculed the digital music explosion to its own detriment. And that it doesn't have a clue.
Lossless has been around for the last 5 years. By now shouldn't the players have used their imaginations to see the potential and harness its capabilities instead of relying on uber-expensive one disc players and transports to protect thier existence? Since 2003 when lossless arrived saying digital music is nothing but 'Low Res' has not cut it.
How fun is it flipping through 500 or 1000 discs to find what you are in the mood for? Oh, and who could have imagined people would want tunes in more than one room of their home without buying all new gear (CD/Amp/Speakers) in EVERY room when the source material is in only ONE room?
BTW, I'm not an iTunes/iPod advocate. I use both now but am not wedded to either. I just want music easy to access and high quality. Firms like Sonos, Logitech (Squeezebox/Transporter) and the like will reap the benefits.
I wish the likes of Creek/Arcam and ARC/ML would realize they are not serving up what the people want.
You just nailed the reason I haven't purchased a ipod (and I'm the only one in my family without one). It's easier for me to find what I want to listen to by "flipping through" the cds. Easier to find because I usually don't know what I want to listen to before something strikes me. If I had to spin the wheel through 1,000 titles on the ipod my thumb would wear out or I'd settle on something just to stop looking.
Plus I really enjoy having something tangible in my hand.
I'm not putting down the new technology. Although it hasn't hit me yet, it's just a matter of time.
Wdrazek: Your point is you value convenience, others value quality. There's no doubt that those of us that put the musical experience above all else are a minority, but I think it's fair to say we woke up and smelled the coffee already.
"Remember, information is not knowledge; knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is not truth; truth is not beauty; beauty is not love; love is not music; music is the best."
-- Frank Zappa
Like it or not this is a very legitimate question. Folks, there are 100M+ iPods out there. So imagine the total universe of people who have put their music on hard drives (Rio, Zune etc etc), have become addicted to the ease of use and now would like to be able to use that resource for more then their portables...
Imagine the total number of people who would like to have anything but 200 or 500 or 1000 CDs cluttering up their wall.
This isn't about who sounds better then who. Let's leave the measuring for the vinyl guys. What Wdrazek is talking about is a whole (largely American) industry that is once again about to be runover by the East. All in the name of not offending or losing their installed base - who are all dying off; and ignoring their new customers who have 35+ years ahead of them on the spending curve.
The iPod is successful because it caters to those new buyers. But what is really important about it IMO is that it is introducing everyone who listens to music to a new metaphor for how music can be enjoyed.
improvements in technology do not imply improvements in sound quality.
i maintain i can assemble a stereo system from the late 60's/early seventies that will put any stereosystem of today to shame. of course, there were no digital components then--what a shame !!!
i think gresham's law is the reason why the sound of many so-called high quality stereo systems whose products are manufactured in 2007 are so fatiguing.
the industry is lame for the opposite reason you are complaining about, namely the hardware does not lead to enjoyment the way it did 40 years ago. technical progression=sonic degradation.
Hack: You missed my point. I'm not talking about just convenience.
Lossless audio has been here for the past 5 years and so have a few products to stream it all over the house. The industry has poo-pooed all digital music as though it was nothing but 128k MP3's. Meanwhile, a few innovative companies (Sonos, Logitech) have run with the ball. The old school is ignoring this new technology at their own peril.
Ckrody: You are exactly right. There are 125MM Ipods out there and every one is hooked up to a PC where music is stored. Any $500 mass-market AVR has built-in DAC's and multiple inputs to accomodate digital streams. It may not have the DAC or implementation you and I want but it's there.
HH Scott, Marantz, Eico and a host of others were swept under the Japanese tide when transistors took over. It will be companies that adapt to the new reality that will prosper and I don't see the old school US mfrs doing it. The UK is doing better, but they also have a ways to go. With our expertise in computer technology and interfaces we should be kicking a$$ here.
GSM18439: I agree that having a digital input on the CD player is a great idea. I'd like it even better on the amplifier because everything runs through it (unless you have powered speakers). Linn and Arcam have nice all in one boxes but don't include a digital input for the DAC. That is sad.
Mrtennis: Whether or not a 40 year old system can outplay today's state of the art is not relevant to my point. Neither is designed for the formats that the industry has already moved towards. That makes for a frustrating scenario for people like me and lost opportunity for companies who built it.
I posit this is not as easy a situation to deal with as has been supposed above. Most American 'high-end' manufacturers are specifically not trying to compete with 'everything-in-the-one-box' products like A-V receivers (which usually have the DAC). There are two issues here: 1) if one competes on price, one risks alienating one's existing customers, many of whom enjoy a psychological effect of owning something 'exclusive', 2) manufacturers who want to compete on quality by offering a much higher price point are effectively cornering themselves into a very small niche market (there is a limited market for all-one-brand stereo+music server systems running tens of thousands of dollars.
While I would love to see ARC, Atmasphere, Berning, CJ, Manley, VAC, VTL, etc (apologies if I left your company out - these just popped into my head) create small integrated amps for less than 2000 dollars a pop which included a 25W amp, a DAC (complete with USB/I2S/SPDIF/BNC/toslink inputs), great attenuation circuit home theater pass-through, and if possible a touch screen remote which allowed me access to my iTunes.
On the other hand, if I already have the integrated amp and PC, I can buy the USB DAC for $300-1000, and can buy the "remote" for the cost of an iPod Touch, and $30 of shareware.
How, pray tell, can the manufacturers above compete with that?
I don't like the idea that trends can be identified, fixed and we can know their outcomes with certainty; to me that is a popular form of arrogance now in style. Gauging people's artistic tastes is also exceedingly difficult and some just don't want MP3, PC-based sources or Ipods at all -the impersonal nature of which gets in the way of enjoyment, not to mention issues of the sound quality like those Hack raised.
Audiophiles should make a truce with pro sound hardware, which I think will be around for a while. The latest pro sound units are darned good, and, incedentally, do not carry absurd prices. The technology is the same as audiophile gear...certainly closer than the consumer products that people have mentioned above.
I use several pieces of pro sound hardware and find them all very satisfactory...something that I cannot say about lots of audiophile equipment I have owned.
Behringer DEQ2496 equalizer (3)
Ashly electronic crossover (2-way four channel)
CarverPro ZR1600 amps (3)
I've owned an Ipod for four years now so I'm not arguing for/against a product I'm unfamiliar with. I copy my CD's to my iPod in WAV format to avoid the audible problems evident with compression, but the iPod still isn't all that great sounding. Like you I'm 46 years old; I also work in semiconductors so the technology thing isn't a foreign concept either.
There are many that will argue digital is finally as good as analogue, no one will argue it's better (for what it's worth a decent analogue rig still stomps any digital source I've ever heard). And when I say digital source material I'm referring to store bought music in uncompressed format, not the "lossless" or "lossy" compression techniques that are used by Apple and others.
My reference point is my analogue front end, followed by several quality CDP's (feel free to browse my virtual systems), iPod doesn't even come close to even my kid's systems for sound quality.
You feel that high-end companion products ought to be offered up by the likes of ARC, BAT, CJ, etc.. The fact is you can't fix problems downstream: Garbage in, garbage out. Why create "music-first" products when the source is compromised from the get-go?
So.... some value ease of use, others will go the extra step because quality matters to them. Audiophiles are passionate about their music and as such, we forego convenience.
To second Eldartfords point - much of the early work was done in the pro/semi-pro audio space. Think of the Apogee DAC, the Waveterminal U24 USB to SPDIF box which vanished and Blue Circle is now emulating and on. These are tools and the people who make the best tools that meet the needs of their customers win...
FWIW - several years ago I proposed the idea of running a USB port into a very high profile US mfgrs CD player to leverage the owners investment in the internal DAC... to say nothing of the cables, isolation and other tweaks... still waiting. Meanwhile I no longer have a CDP
T_Bone: You raise good points about the economics. I do think that there is a move towards integration for a lot of consumers. Witness the rise of the integrated amplifier in the past few years. Everybody, including ARC, Krell, CJ, Rowland, VTL and so on now have one or more. A few mfrs are even offering 2 channel receivers again (Krell did a few years back, Music Hall is in, Outlaw is in). Putting an appropriate DAC on a $1000-2500 integrated would add a few hundred to several hundred dollars at retail.
Next, consider the 125MM Ipods out there. I'll bet more audiophiles have one than a turntable. Those Ipods are connected to computers that can stream the files all over the house. Not in one room, but many. There is revenue to be had there. How many audiophiles have only one system and how many more would like a 'decent' background system in other rooms?
Ghanson: You're right that some just prefer a different medium whether it is perceived sound quality, familiarity or whatever. But with all due respect, I think the 125MM Ipods is probably a lot higher a number than the number of turntables in current use. Even among 'audiophiles.'
Hack: You and I are of about the same vintage. I was born just before the end of the 50's. We are not far apart in our thinking, though.
I don't delve into the analog vs. digital fray because I switched to digital back in the late 80's. Maybe that reveals my bias for ease of use, but in any case....
It is sad that the industry hasn't given us a format (with its marketing muscle behind it) that tops what was available almost 30 years ago when the 16 bit 44.1k standard was adopted. We should have digital resolution light years ahead of that standardized by now. I remember 360k one sided 5 1/4 floppies and the like in college. The CD resolution standard was developed several years before that.
With SACD and DVD-A flopping (like HDCD before them) we are left with analog and the CD standard. Everything else is pretty small potatoes.
The industry has accepted CD as a legitimate. Rega was probably the last to succumb in the late 90's. ARC, CJ, ML, Krell and others did before.
So, lossless or WAV files if you want to be a purist represent a benchmark that has been accepted in the high end (save maybe Goldmund and a few other mfrs).
Several, including J Atkinson of Stereophile and R Harley of TAS have said that a computer driven lossless file properly reproduced is equal if not superior to a CD in sound quality. Even at the highest level of the high end. My opinions of these editors and their biases I'll reserve for now.
A few renegades in the '70's (ARC, CJ, ML, Krell, Linn to name a few) were singing their own tune when the rest of the industry went to transistors and direct drive tables with high power/ great specs/ lousy sound. A few, like JGH of Stereophile and HP of TAS called a spade a spade. The market realized these mfrs had something special and rewarded them.
Today the market has seen a move from vinyl to CD to digital formats as noted above. The opportunity to stream this source material across the home exists. Not just one room but many can have source material equal or better than the quality from a CD playback system.
So, why won't the heavies who began the High End revolution in tyhe 1970's wake up and realize that they have a bona fide opportunity here?
Please, help make this happen. Incorporate wifi and DAC's to enable a whole house music of high quality? Think of the opportunity - multiple amps instead of one, multiple speaker pairs instead of one... the opportunities go on.
I hope this clarifies it somewhat. If not, message me and I'll try to provide greater focus since I'm the OP. Anyone else, please jump in....
Over 125MM Ipods have been sold in the last 6 years. Stop and think about that for a minute.. How many turntables, high end CD player or transports in that time? Every Ipod is hooked up to a computer. They have the potential to stream this music all over the house. And, lossless digital codecs have been available for FOR 5 YEARS NOW!!!
BUT the industry as a whole still treats all digitally stored media with disdain like it is nothing more than crappy 128k MP3 files.
The potential for streaming high quality playback exists throughout the home, but the industry has ignored it.
Mass market products from $500 AVR's on up have built-in DAC's and some even have built-in wifi.
But all the mainstream hifi industry does to capitalize on this is to sell $1-200 proprietary Ipod docks and keep its head in the sand.
They could build DAC's into integrated amps but only Naim and Bryston do it (Bryston as an option). They could build them into preamps but who does? They could build them into receivers but Music Hall and Outlaw are the only ones in the game.
The industry is not in great shape and it's easy to see why. They have lost sight of the customer.
Obviously you are much smarter than any of the folks in the industry (except maybe those who work at Naim and Bryston). Why don't you develop and market the product that every audiophile wants, but currently can't get because noboby is manufacturing it?
Goodness! Why do you have your panties in such a wad over this subject? If you don't like the products that are available, don't buy them. If you have a better idea and you "KNOW" you are right and the masses are huddled in their basements just waiting for a savior to come along and give them what they want, by all means, start an audio company and rake in your fortune. I'm absolutely sure you could simply scribble a design on a napkin, send it to one of the huge electronics manufacturing companies in China and have a product on the street in a couple of months. As you obviously know, its a sure bet, so you would obviously make a fortune.
If making a fortune is not your desire, just think of it as a public service.....
Lastly, I own a product that is right up your alley. I have a one box unit that has a class-D amp, pre-amp (actually a resistive volume control and input/output switch) and a nice NOS DAC all built into one tiny box. Oh, and it runs on a SLA battery to boot. It's called the Red Wine Reali-T. Unfortunately, not enough people bought it and the manufacturer stopped producing it. Red Wine Audio does however still build some very fine amps, but they dropped the integrated DAC for some reason......
Reubent: I'm not an audio designer or manufacturer. But I can read the writing on the wall. 125MM Ipods and computers hooked up to every one of them. Year after year of declining sales of CD's and double digit growth of music downloads. Can you wrap your head around that? It really isn't that hard. The recording industry feels the ramifications. But the audio industry continues to ignore it.
There are a few innovators like RWA but mostly it's about new sheet metal, a design tweak here and there and a new model number. Not to say innovations like class D amps don't come around occasionally.
Michael Fremer gushes over a new phono stage in Stereophile when Ipods outsell turntables by probably 1000:1. BTW, when did the press ever review your beloved Reali-T? Does that tell you anything?
These boards are for freedom of expression. If I offend you try climbing up another tree.
Check out the review by Scott Faller in the 12/07 issue of Enjoy The Music
http://www.enjoythemusic dot com/magazine/equipment/1207/consonance_cyber10.htm
A SET amp with a USB DAC built in
Better yet, Scott found it quite decent
Not everyone's cup of tea perhaps but it certainly suggests that some people are looking at the market with fresh eyes
I'm with you Wdrazek - I read the music sales statistics in USA Today this week. I don't get it either - it seems plain as day that things like CD transports are dead, and should be deader than dead. It amazes me that any CD player is produced today without a digital input, much less a USB port and a thumb-drive input. Whether a computer / thumb-drive is the absolute last word in audiophiledom or not isn't the point, even though my guess is that they match any transport mechanism ever produced.
I do feel like we'll get there, slowly but surely. I'm sure there are commercial issues that are cumbersome. But for anybody who has boxes and cables strewn all over the place, the notion of not being able to consolidate / minimize space and reduce cables in this day and age just seems unacceptable, especially when accompanied by the constant woe-is-me din of declining sales.
I'm in complete aggreement with wdrazek. Innovation has been, and will continue to be, from the high tech community. The high end sector seems to see itself apart from the digitization driving music, choosing to sell to the installed base. As a result, their profit margins must continue to rise at every tier, as they sell to less and less customers. Hence we see the $50,000 amplifiers that cost a tenth or less than that to produce. Meanwhile, Apple produce a computer and sells it at a 40% profit margin. The computer industry has given us wifi at low cost, iTunes is free and is incredible, Soundengine make some great speakers at insanely reasonable price; the high end sector cannot, or maybe choose not to compete.
Meanwhile, the high tech industry focusses its attention on this mass of music lovers and products like the squeezebox, Ipod, music servers and the like raise their heads over the decomposing carcass of an industry that chooses not to evolve.
Brimac, you are spot on.
This industry just does not get it. They need those enormous margins because their market is stagnant to dying. If they tapped into the enormous potential market of Ipod users they could make a killing. And offer innovative products at far reduced prices. Instead, they lament over the world subsisting on 128k MP3 files and the decline of western civilization.
Even the recording industry, dinosaurs that they are, are now selling downloads free of DRM. They are finding ways of adapting. To see new lines of amplifiers, CD players and integrated units like the Arcam Solo and Linn Classik without digital inputs is indicative of an industry that is out of touch with consumer needs.
A digital input in the 21st century should be like a phono input was in the late 20th century - a given on any preamp or integrated amp. Every AVR I've owned for the past 10 years has had one (or more) of them.
I use my Audio Aero Capitole as my primary DAC. It receives Toslink(digital) from my Satellite box, COAX(digital) from my DVD player, AES EBU(digital) from my Transporter which accesses my music library on my computer when I am not using the Transporter's streaming audio via the internet.
I also use the Capitole for what it was built for: CD Player with transport.
Rolling Stone has been predicting all year long the death of the CD in favor of inferior MP3 digital downloads. Even recording techniques have been taking a turn for the worst (ie. dynamic compression). Check out The Death of High Fidelity in Rolling Stone's 2007 Yearbook issue.
I think the point here is that in order for the audiophile industry to embrace new hardware (Ipod docks, built-in DAC's, etc.), a high quality downloadable source must be embraced by consumers. If CD's go the way of 8-tracks and cassettes, where will lossless digital sources such as WAV, AIFF, etc., come from?
Rolling Stone is right. Music downloads were up 55% last year, CD sales down 15%. It's still a relatively small part of the market but the tide is undeniable.
Most audiophile's digitized collections are from their own ripped CD's. While lossless downloads are not common yet higher quality downloads are becoming the norm. Linn has lossless downloads, Reference Recordings is working on it. DG's classical collection is available online at 320k. Even Amazon and increasingly iTunes offer 256k downloads. Not great, but a major step up from 128k.
Lossless downloads will become commonplace before long. There is plenty of bandwidth to support it. The recording industry knows some of us will pay for it. And they want the revenue.
It's a shame the mainstream audio industry's head remains in the sand.
I sell & install these soul-less whole house systems every day and have a somewhat different experience and perspective about it.
There is little doubt or argument that the state of the High End has been waning since the Mid-Eighties. My favorite example was the C.E.S. show in Vegas in the early 90's where the few turntable manufacturers choosing to show where relegated to the rooms surrounding the Adult Video convention in the far corners of one convention hotel.I could not tell which came first The Adult Video Convention or the lingering death of High End.
Anyway there is also a parrallel trend in the custom install side which no one has mentioned and it helps shed some light I think on the industry "Lameness" suggested here.
The simple idea is MONEY. Not real complicated to grasp.
There is NO RETAIL left to speak of unless it is driven by huge sales and recurring revenue.The Manufacturers simply follow the lemmings,lined up to buy all forms of "Pod" and "Pod Gear".
In a strange way the custom business has also divided into Mid-Fi or worse for the masses and High End Custom for the few.
Most of these systems you lament feature not only crappy highly compressed sources but themn distribute it through crappy speaker switchers driven by crappy but stable amplifiers and miles of crappy wire to.........crappy speakers.
Is this wrong? no.
Is this bad? Maybe it is just crappy and most people could not grasp it being any other way.
Just like the High End where we strive to sit no one wants it if they don't know it is there.
I have not installed a system like this in over 15 years I think. I strive to reach for the tiny market willing to beleive there is better quality out there and willing to pay for it.
There are several systems I install that allow for significantly improved quality and much better Audio and Video.
I never run more than one speaker per amplifier and thus do not go through switchers or volume controls.All my systems use independent Pre-mps,Amps per Zone/Room.
I design installs, not slam them in.
There is no high-end gear to nice to install in whole house systems and nothing inherent in distributed A/V that dictates bad quality
I try to do at least 1 room in the house that really surprises the customer and blows them away and just like in the olden days once they get a taste they often want to move up.
I try to get them to my house for starters and give them the idea.
Last year I did a system with all JM Labs Speakers(Many Custom) and Pass Labs Electronics.
To ignore digital streamed sources would be suicide for me and my kind.
To provide a simple distrbuted interface for them along with Automation,Security and communications is only smart and is where the money is right now in the industry.
There is a real scism between the cookie cutter merchants and those of us who do "Custom"
We both make money though as there is volume on the one side and margin on the other. We both sell a service.
Both co-exist as there are a lot of buyers out there and enough variety to keep everyone going,unless they try to stick with High-End retail alone.
The specialty dealer who used to be our friend is me!
The new high-end is the high-end custom installer and there is more going on here than there ever was back then. I have been in for 30 years and the industry is not any more lame than before,they are exactly as before,trying to follow the money.
That is what I see and what we tallk about while reminiscing about the Good Old Days in the industry.
Wdrazek, I feel that high-end jumping into the digital field 25 years ago was a mistake. It immediately took sound quality back to transistor radio days. Now, there may have been some improvements made to existing things(like bass units), but overall it was a mistake. Looking back at what should have been done, I feel that they should have been working to get higher standards in the format(i.e., digital). Since we are after music here, maybe that is direction that high-end manufacturers should go.