I dont understand the purpose of using high end CD player over a media PC server - diyAudio
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Old 10th October 2010, 05:33 AM   #1
zyren is offline zyren  United States
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Default I dont understand the purpose of using high end CD player over a media PC server

I don't understand why high end CD players (~$2000-3000USD+) are used over media PC servers. I understand that in the 80s and 90s, computer technology wasn't that prevalent and good CD players had a purpose. However, with the advancement of digital technology, I don't really see why they are necessary.

A CD player is essentially an electronic device that reads digital information and passes it to a DAC. Therefore, if you can get that exact same digital information form a much more reliable source, why not separate the digital source to something like a media PC server and pass it through to a DAC? I see several advantages to this.

1. The source and DAC are separate. If one wanted to update their DAC, or update their source, they can do so without having to update the other.

2. A media PC can store ALL your music. No hassle with changing CDs, only listening to songs from one CD at a time, etc. One could control their entire library of music from a single remote control or ipod/iphone/android phone, etc.

3. The source is more reliable. It only takes 10 minutes to reliably rip a CD to lossless WAV and FLAC and make sure it was a 100% successful rip (with log information). Programs like EAC ensure that you have a 100% bit by bit rip. Every time i buy a CD, i pop it in my computer, hit a button, and then store my CD in its pristine condition on a shelf for use if i ever need it again. Not only does one not have to worry about a cd skipping or jittering while playing (which is where people pay the big bucks i guess), the CDs stay in pristine condition because they are not being worn.

4. The cost of buying a media PC and DAC is cheaper than a CD player. Building a media PC server with 4tb of (redundant) data only costs like $700-800. Pay $1000 and you can get someone to build it for you. You can make an amazing DAC (this is a DIY forum) easily for less than $1000 (or you can buy your own).

So i ask, fellow DIYers, why is a high end CD player necessarily when one can get a media PC + DAC for less?
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Old 10th October 2010, 07:26 AM   #2
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So i ask, fellow DIYers, why is a high end CD player necessarily when one can get a media PC + DAC for less?
I switched to a self assembled dedicated media computer a year ago, with several TB of memory and a multiprocessor with a decent m audio sound card that I use to transfer LP's to hard drive, and ripped all my cd's to hard drive converting with flac. And lived to not regret the move.
I never owned a mega buck cd player, but the difference between a 700$ pioneer avi that I owned and the hard drive based playback system is to me not audible.

I use media monkey for playback - beside foobar and winamp, play bluray through an ati hd card and just love it - was steep a learning curve tp move from boxes to a menu driven system; the next step is to rip the DVDs and blurays, get a rack mounted multibay hard drive for backup and forget about ever having had thousands of discs instead of four or five.
I download missing records for my collection from the net, just waiting for a not so expensive hd video capture card to store interesting TV programs in HD directly to my drives.
I share the hole shebang with the rest of the computers in my house, and have feeds to specific locations to build in speakers.

I went even further, and feed spdif from my sound card directly to my modded kef 104/2, driven by digital hypex amps with build in converter.

Cable discussions don't enter the picture anymore.

PS - the cost was about 2000$, the motherboard and processor - I intend eventually to install a room correction program (something like juice audio) - was about 1/3, the
m audio 1010lt sound card, the pioneer bluray player/burner, the ATI video card, the enclosure and several wireless units like a monitor and keyboard/mouse to communicate with the unit when playing TV or movies made up the rest.

PS again - get a intelligent UPS unit to protect the computer and whatever external hard dives you are using - we had power outages through thunderstorms, and I had to do a major system restore after the one before I finally got the ups. Thought I had lost everything - but the cat came back.

Last edited by audio-kraut; 10th October 2010 at 07:45 AM.
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Old 10th October 2010, 07:42 AM   #3
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It's not about technical reasons, it's about what a person believes and/or what his ears tell him (if you believe hard enough that nothing can beat a cdp, that that's it for you).

Even some high end gear manufacturers jumped into the media server vagon (and there are some pretty damn expensive music servers out there).

It's just some people will never trust a pc-based solution or did not heard a good enough one (a noisy pc and his onboard soundcard can be a traumatising experience, hard to get over).

I personally have no issue using a thin client (meaning dead silent) pc + external dac as source, with the music stored somewhere else on the network.

The only thing I cannot avoid is having switching mode regulartors inside the thin client pc (the external power brick was replaced with a linear one, which is brick-sized ) but the connection to the dac is electrically isolated (optical or spdif via 1:1 transformer)
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Old 10th October 2010, 07:53 AM   #4
sandyK is offline sandyK  Australia
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I personally have no issue using a thin client (meaning dead silent) pc + external dac as source, with the music stored somewhere else on the network.
Try ripping your CDs directly into a good quality USB pen ,then try playing the .wav files directly from the USB pen with your dead silent PC into the same external DAC, preferably via SPDIF or Firewire if available.

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Old 10th October 2010, 07:56 AM   #5
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it's about what a person believes and/or what his ears tell him
Fortunately my ears tell me that I cannot hear a difference between HD sourced material or a 700$ cd player, especially considering that some very hi end machines use cd rom drives anyway.

I have several fans in my machine (necessary considering the fact of all that processing power) but it does not bother me when listening to music - the thing is over 15 feet away.

I even cannot tell the difference between a directly played LP or one transferred to the hard drive using 44100/16 bit wav transfer. All the snap crackle pop as it should be.
But then I am only using a TD 125 with a denon 160/dl 103 and a modded studio phono preamp, balanced inputs, using transformers for impedance conversion.

The machine has to be accessible to play and rip cd's and video, so hiding is not an option - and why should one?

Last edited by audio-kraut; 10th October 2010 at 08:13 AM.
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Old 10th October 2010, 08:42 AM   #6
GTHICM is online now GTHICM  United States
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Default Advantage of Music Server Over CD Player

I too asked the same question some time ago. I think that ripping cds to a hard drive as the source for playback has technical advantages as well as practical advantages over a cd player. The rip can be bit perfect which is not in all cases true using a cd player, as it uses error correction to fill in the lost bits from the read. In my case, I use dbpoweramp to rip to wav. I convert to flac and store on a NAS wired to a Squeezebox 3, then through a Pacecar 2 and i2s out to an Aya II dac. I have the original wav files on a desktop with RAID and also the flac files in the NAS. So, there is plenty of backup for the data.

The quality of the source data should exceed that of the output of the drive in any cd player, the Pacecar reclocking should minimize jitter and using i2s to interface to the dac should be as good as if not better than using spdif to interface to the dac. For me, I am not interested in plunking down any real money for a high end cd player, as it aeems to me there is nothing to be gained. I am curious to hear whether others have similar experience and thoughts.
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Old 10th October 2010, 03:46 PM   #7
zyren is offline zyren  United States
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Originally Posted by danb1974 View Post
It's not about technical reasons, it's about what a person believes and/or what his ears tell him (if you believe hard enough that nothing can beat a cdp, that that's it for you).
Yes, i realize its what peoples ears tell them. However, a PC is just a DIGITAL storage and passthrough device. Its all digital until it hits the DAC. Therefore, the sound quality difference is really the difference between the DAC setup and beyond. You dont even need a sound card in the computer if you're jsut passing through bits via USB. An error in a bit transfer (which rarely happens anyways) is far less detrimental than a CD skipping or any of the other problems CD players face when reading CDs.

Why do people pay an arm and a leg to try and avoid all these issues with playing back CDs in real time when the digital data can be stored in a much more convenient manner?
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Old 10th October 2010, 03:57 PM   #8
Pano is offline Pano  United States
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Tradition? Ritual? Inertia?

Those are things I can see with LP, but CD? Yuck. I have several CD players, I don't use them.

At audio shows over the past 3 years there has been a heavy move toward PC playback. Some rooms don't even have a CDP. I always took one so that visitors could pop in a CD they brought, most do. Maybe that will soon go away, and folks will bring thumb drives to the shows. I do when I visit other audio friends.
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Old 10th October 2010, 08:36 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by panomaniac View Post
Tradition? Ritual? Inertia?
Paranoia, pano. Certainly some mental disorder, because I'm certain that what's operating here is not some normal thought process.

I can put a copy of the Windows install disk in a newly built PC and install a perfect copy of WinXP and do it time after time, but people can't trust the same piece of hardware to reliably retrieve a piece of music. This is a piece of software that will fail if it's not bit perfect. They have to have software that does multiple reads and cross-checks for bit-perfect accuracy and even then somebody's not going to be happy, they're gonna tell me I've got a 'closed mind' because I'm not prepared to accept that it might make a difference.

It's not just digital readers, it's DACs (jitter is the main bugbear there, although there are many others), USB (noisy PC PSUs, jitter), SPDIF (jitter again), amplifiers, capacitors, wires, in fact the less likely an item is to truly cause problems the greater the likelihood that somebody is going to find a problem with it.

I'm surprised it isn't a recognised medical condition. Audio-neurosis. The symptoms are: the patient must have money to burn, more money than sense (a good candidate for analysis), they must be prepared to take aboard a modicum of scientific jargon, but not sufficient to debunk the position they have taken up, they must be prepared to argue endlessly regardless of reason or good taste, they must have an inflated opinion of their own capabilities and talents and they must be capable of imagining that the most talented engineers and scientists are willing or unwitting participants in some global conspiracy to defraud, despite the fact that following expert advice is less expensive than taking aboard the bunk they defend so adamantly. They should preferably dislike music, much less actually play themselves. This makes it easier to ignore the music and listen to the system.


A while ago a company I worked for at the time took all us engineers out for the evening to an entertainment venue which was apparently a big success in the US and had just opened over here. Mutt & Jeff's it was called, or something equally banal. The main feature was that it had vastly inflated prices. Ordinary product, very high prices, like 5 times garage prices (which is about 5 times supermarket prices) for a Coke. That was the attraction, very high prices for everyday things you could buy elsewhere for a fraction of what they were charging. Exclusivity is what they called it.

I have been known to remark to my wife when some particularly insane suggestion appears on TV, it's a miracle that even a few of us manage to stay sane given the craziness we're exposed to daily.

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Old 10th October 2010, 11:47 PM   #10
jstang is offline jstang  United States
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A tweaked CD-Pro drive can hang with a Music Servers... any day...
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