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    Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

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    TorontoDave

    Posts : 24
    Join date : 2013-03-18

    Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by TorontoDave on Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:03 pm

    Greetings from another new member of the STA-120 Fraternity

    I just recently completed my build (14 hours - thank you very much) - and I'm now looking for the best way to play lossless FLAC or Apple files on my STA-120.

    For testing I'm currently feeding from the headphone jack of my iPhone (works for testing) - but I'd really like to come up with a better way to feed music digital into my amplifier.

    Some Options I'm considering:
    1) A mac mini with a USB DAC wired into the Amplifier. I could then remote desktop to the mac mini and play lossless Apple Audio files out to the Amplifier at 24 bits/192KBS (the upper limit of the best USB DAC I've seen).

    2) An Apple TV wired via Optical to Optical DAC Convert Box with stereo out. This would be limited to the quality of Airplay 16 bit/48 kbs.

    3) A Sonos or other wireless audio system. This would be limited to 24 bits/192KBS.

    What have you folks used with success? How much quality is enough? Any thoughts on using a digital home theatre receiver (like the Denon 1912 or 1913) as a "pre-amplifier" for digital music?

    I'm not sure I want to go completely analog (LP's with a pre-amp) - but I would like to play my audio with the highest quality possible.

    Dave

    baddog1946

    Posts : 304
    Join date : 2010-02-03
    Location : Costa Rica

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by baddog1946 on Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:55 pm

    I use a PC running Window 7 ultimate with a dedicated hard drive for the music library. A toslink optical connection to a DAC then directly into the amp inputs. Simple and only a few parts.
    The master volume is the amp's volume control and I control play volume etc. on the PC with Mediamonkey PRO which can convert files from almost any format to FLAC and plays FLAC file format without issue.
    Mediamonkey also has an equalizer and you can download for free a lot of input and output plugins for whatever mode you want to play files in. It also plays most videos files for home theater. I use a CD to load the music files on the hard drive.

    bcinnamon

    Posts : 26
    Join date : 2011-05-07

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by bcinnamon on Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:48 pm

    I've been happy with a hand-me-down Macbook running iTunes. Music is stored in Apple lossless format on external USB hard drives. I go from the Mac to a Turtle Beach USB-optical converter via an optical cable to my Schitt DAC and into one of my tube amps. In my office I go via an Airport Express directly into my ST-120 via a mini phone jack/RCA cable. Both systems sound great. Best thing is that I can control volume, speakers and playlists from the Remote app on an iPhone - no preamp needed (although I like the volume limiter with the stepped attenuator).

    captn

    Posts : 14
    Join date : 2010-01-17
    Location : Coastal Virginia

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by captn on Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:28 am

    In my permanent setup, I use an Apple Mac Mini and stream iTunes music through an Airport Express connected to my preamp with an analog stereo mini cable. I sometimes bypass the preamp and connect an iPod directly to the ST70 inputs and control sound with the iPod volume control. Both ways of connecting sound great and I cannot perceive any significant sonic difference between the two.

    I am experimenting with an Ubuntu laptop feeding an outboard DAC using Rhythmbox as the music player. Rhythmbox will play flac and Apple lossless files (and most other audio files) without any conversion. This is particularly convenient since I have music in a variety of formats: flac, Apple lossless, and mp3.

    You can play flac music with iTunes if you install some additional software. I am testing that possibility on an older Mac. If it works, that would simplify my music library by not having to convert flac files to Apple lossless. If you are interested, perform a google search on "how to play flac in iTunes" and you will get several hits with options on how to do it, depending on your version of iTunes.

    peterh

    Posts : 680
    Join date : 2012-12-25
    Location : gothenburg, sweden

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by peterh on Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:53 am

    I have a mac-mini permanently connected as "tape in " and "tape out"
    to my pas3 ( i have a damper on the tape out to reduce signal level and
    reduce loading on pas3).
    This way i may feed audacity with vinyl source ( when i digitize vinyls)
    and also use the mac as source from audacity/itunes/whatever.
    The files is stored on a freenas server.
    In addition i have a CD player as it is more convenient to load CD then
    to use mac + mouse / keyboard.



    Windup

    Posts : 18
    Join date : 2012-10-30
    Location : CT

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by Windup on Tue Mar 19, 2013 12:35 pm

    Hi TorontoDave,
    I am very happy using the player called Cog for Mac. Plays FLAC files directly. I play FLAC files over the network from a central Mac mini which has my Flacs on a USB drive. I do not like iTunes. It has gotten too bloated . Cog is just a player. I connect the Mac running Cog via optical (TOSlink) to a tube DAC preamp the output to my ST-70. I am very happy with the sound quality

    On the Mac running cog, I "renice" the cog application so it has priority over other apps. This is in case a software update/scan or, something similar happens. It won't cause the Cog player to stop, skip or, pause. Many other of the background apps I kill.

    Zimmer64

    Posts : 113
    Join date : 2013-01-29
    Age : 52
    Location : Switzerland

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by Zimmer64 on Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:41 pm

    Hi there,

    I am using a Mac Book, M2Tech Hiface, AQVOX USB power supply and an AQVOX DAC. The DAC is running into my Bottlehead Quickie, which is running into my VTA ST 70. Am using mostly lossless files, that reside on a NAS. The biggest improvement came from the separate USD power supply.

    In my second system I use an Airport express and analogue cable into a NAD receiver. The sound is inferior by far. In my garage system I run an iPod into a Gainclone; on paar with the Airport solution.

    In my experience using lossless codecs and a dedicated DAC is the best solution. I would not bother with the analog output of a computer or any MB3 player.

    But, the good old CD is not bad either. My 47 Treasure CD beats the computer setup easily. And the sound of Vinyl is still emotionally the most involving.

    Just my 2 cent.

    Enjoy!

    Michael

    Tube Nube

    Posts : 643
    Join date : 2008-12-06
    Age : 53
    Location : Calgary, AB

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by Tube Nube on Tue Mar 19, 2013 5:33 pm

    I think my digital system is a version of some of these. Flacs are stored on a dedicated hard drive, streamed over the wifi to a Squeeze Box, and a DAC wasmthen added (Monica3), which is a big improvement over the sqeezebox internal DAC.

    TorontoDave

    Posts : 24
    Join date : 2013-03-18

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by TorontoDave on Wed Mar 20, 2013 3:21 pm

    Thanks guys - I think you've settled it for me.

    My current thinking is to take a TOSLINK Audio output from one of my Linux Servers - feed it into a External DAC (24 Bit/192 sample rate) and feed the analog out of the external DAC to the ST-120.

    This way I can feed lossless Apple and Flac to the ST-70 - and even get a nice remote control from my iPhone/iPad.

    Thanks for the input - I appreciate it - great response to a "first time" poster.

    David

    hawaii.ken

    Posts : 157
    Join date : 2012-01-31

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by hawaii.ken on Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:10 pm

    Anyone auditioned a Colorfly CK4?

    TorontoDave

    Posts : 24
    Join date : 2013-03-18

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by TorontoDave on Wed Mar 20, 2013 4:19 pm

    hawaii.ken wrote:Anyone auditioned a Colorfly CK4?

    Hi Hawaii Ken - I did actually look at this - but wasn't able to find a version to audition locally.

    I did have some concerns with it:

    1) The Operating System is non-standard, which means your reliant on the bundled media player.

    2) Audio Quality as reported in a couple of reviews online (like this one:) has Pops and Hiss on playback.

    3) HD Playback is only supported on WAV files (ie. no lossless FLAC/APE file playback).

    4) Being a no-name Chinese Brand limits your warranty and repair options.

    This may change down the road (especially if the firmware improves) - but for now it would be on my "Watch for improvement" list.

    David

    baddog1946

    Posts : 304
    Join date : 2010-02-03
    Location : Costa Rica

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by baddog1946 on Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:14 pm

    Toronto Dave:
    What player are you using to get high quality (24/96 at least) on your linux servers?
    I am just now setting up a Linux OS PC using the newest "Zorin Ultimate" 64 bit OS which cost me a 10 Euros donation to download and found out that my Asus Xonar Essence sound card works right out of the box albeit without the Xonar control panel which is windows only at the moment. I get super quality playback with my FLAC library.
    Seems like my Mediamonkey pro will be on the shelf for now unless they come out with Linux drivers for it. It is supposed to work with Linux "Wine" but I haven't tried that yet. I am amazed how good digitally stored playback can be if the original source and recording method is good.

    Great thread I see that a lot of us have gone to digital libraries.
    Bad dog

    TorontoDave

    Posts : 24
    Join date : 2013-03-18

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by TorontoDave on Wed Mar 20, 2013 5:23 pm

    baddog1946 wrote:Toronto Dave:
    What player are you using to get high quality (24/96 at least) on your linux servers?
    I am just now setting up a Linux OS PC using the newest "Zorin Ultimate" 64 bit OS which cost me a 10 Euros donation to download and found out that my Asus Xonar Essence sound card works right out of the box albeit without the Xonar control panel which is windows only at the moment. I get super quality playback with my FLAC library.
    Seems like my Mediamonkey pro will be on the shelf for now unless they come out with Linux drivers for it. It is supposed to work with Linux "Wine" but I haven't tried that yet. I am amazed how good digitally stored playback can be if the original source and recording method is good.

    Great thread I see that a lot of us have gone to digital libraries.
    Bad dog

    I'm looking at the "Music Player Daemon" (MPD) which allows various clients to control it (web, ssh, console, etc.) output via ALSA and the onboard Realtek Audio Chip. the interface to the DAC is via optical digital cable the DAC sees it as 24/192 - and outputs analog.

    David

    fxb1982

    Posts : 6
    Join date : 2012-04-03

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by fxb1982 on Sat Mar 23, 2013 1:34 pm

    I'm impressed with a $180, 320GB, 2GB RAM, 1.6 MHz, 32 bit Windows 7 Starter, Gateway Netbook running iTunes USB out to a $99 Schiit Modi DAC I use at my cabin. I set up an ad hoc Wi-Fi network which allows me to control iTunes from my iPhone or iPad anywhere around the house. Pretty convenient!


    baddog1946

    Posts : 304
    Join date : 2010-02-03
    Location : Costa Rica

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by baddog1946 on Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:22 am

    I have one of those Schitt modi DACs as well but I find that my other DAC(DIY Gamma II) with a toslink connectionsounds a bit better than the USB connection on either one.

    denny9167

    Posts : 152
    Join date : 2011-05-09
    Age : 49
    Location : Texas

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by denny9167 on Sun Mar 24, 2013 2:52 pm

    I was using an Airport Express connected to a preamp for a while with
    Acceptable results. I am hoping that Apple will some time in the near future
    Achieve better results with the streaming, I'm not sure if it is a limitation with the hardware, or
    If it's simply a software issue. The technology itself is the most promising in terms of convience, and functionality.

    baddog1946

    Posts : 304
    Join date : 2010-02-03
    Location : Costa Rica

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by baddog1946 on Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:45 pm

    The toslink is not affected by anything magnetic or electronic nearby and can sustain higher transfer rates as well. I do not use the clear toslink cables because they may be affected by external light and are not that durable. I'm not sure about the light issue so I use a better quality covered cable.
    I think the only hardware issues are in the area of jitter and the clock on the card should be a true clock both these isues are not a problem with a good card but its worth checking into before buying hardware.

    TorontoDave

    Posts : 24
    Join date : 2013-03-18

    Re: Playing Digital Music - Best Way?

    Post by TorontoDave on Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:37 am

    Based on the feedback here I went the following setup.

    Linux Computer Running MPD, phpMP2 and Alsa Sound (this allows web control of the music playback)
    TOSLink Audio Cable From Linux Server to an Old Yamaha HTR 5960 AVR
    PreAmp outputs of HTR 5960 AVR to VTA-120


    This Linux Server plays all non-DRM lossless formats (flac/ape/etc) and outputs them as 24/192 over the TOSLink. The HTR 5960 accepts the 24/192 feed from the server uses its own DAC (very good actually) and outputs the audio over its pre-amp jack to VTA-120./

    The end result is I can remotely play lossless audio without quality loss. It actually sounds quite good

    Thanks for the suggestions.

    David

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