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Old 23rd November 2011, 01:52 AM   #1
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Default Intrigued but confused

I have in the past year had the pleasure of hearing a couple of music servers which sounded positively stunning. The improvement in the presentation of the performance when compared to the original shiny drink coaster it was copied from was profound. That is the intriguing part.

The confusing part is that when I asked how I could achieve similar results I was left treading water in a turbulent sea of incomprehensible software jargon and feeling that I would need a degree in computer science just to get disappointing results.

I feel that I don't quite have the information necessary to know which questions to ask to learn about this subject as it seems there is as yet no sticky 101 post of basic information for neophytes like myself.

So here is a stab at a few basic questions whose answers will hopefully begin to clear the fog for me.

1. What hardware do I need?
2. What playback software do I need?
3. What transfer software do I need? or, Is this a function I would find as part of the playback software?
4. It must be possible for someone with no technical background, "my wife", to make it play music. If this criteria can not be met then the project is doomed to failure before it begins.
5. The server output will be fed to my DIY 2 channel SET playback system.

Hopefully this will get the ball rolling. I could use a good project for the rainy winter season.

Scott
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Old 23rd November 2011, 03:50 AM   #2
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The Apple MacMini is a great place to start. Proprietary direct output applications along with the correct configuration of iTunes will allow for bit perfect playback via a USB port of the mini to an external asynchronious USB DAC. Other than that, there's nothing to it where the mini is concerned. For an affordable DAC, look towards the Musical Fidelity V-DACMK2 and for controllablitiy without the need for a display or keyboard, the iPad, iTouch or iPhone running the REMOTE app are about the nicest user interfaces available. For additional storage, and external USB HDD will work fine. Look for one with it's own power supply and NOT the mini's BUS power.

There are equally excellent Windows PC options as well but a bit more OS/software configuration might be required for direct playback and the Mini does it all so well for not a lot of $$$ and saves quite a bit of space.

As per the wife and controllabiltiy......If she can use a cell phone, she can control the music...complete with Album art, titles, track lists, FF/REW, Playlists, Net Radio, Pandora, LastFM, and so on and so on and so on and so on............
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Old 23rd November 2011, 04:11 AM   #3
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I aspire to a MacMini.

I have an old G5 iMac (iMac free, RAM, drive & a set of caps cost a bit). 1 TB USB drive. Edirol FA66 FireWire ADC/DAC. iTunes with PureVinyl.

dave
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Old 23rd November 2011, 09:00 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by planet10 View Post
I aspire to a MacMini.

I have an old G5 iMac (iMac free, RAM, drive & a set of caps cost a bit). 1 TB USB drive. Edirol FA66 FireWire ADC/DAC. iTunes with PureVinyl.

dave
Dave, mate, you gotta do it!! as you know i also was running a g5 until recently, but having just moved over to a 2011 mac mini with a 24" LED LCD (getting a second one as well), upgraded it to 8gb ram, installed a 120gb OWC 6GB/s SSD to replace the 500gb internal HD and moved that plus another 1TB external. i couldnt be happier!!. i also use puremusic/itunes for playback and crossover, with my ipad for remote, so basically the exact setup described above; except i'm running a multichannel usb-i2s convertor 4 x 32/384 into a pair of ackodac AKD12P sabre dacs, each with a different IV stage tuned for bass heft and control (D1 IV stage with vcap CuTF output caps) and currently working on the SEN/CEN jfet IV stage for the tweeters. its a superbly functional, attractive and zippy solution

the D1 equipped dac is set to feed an aleph JX (with semisouth lower outputs) and a semisouth circlotron on the highs. these will probably end up mixed so that each 'monoblock' has one channel of each amp in it to feed the woofers and tweeters respectively of each left/right channel.

i have 4 channels of 'the wire' chip/lateral fet hybrid lined up for testing and probably running some subs perhaps with a less hardcore pair of dacs, or move the circ to a set of mids in a 3 way and use the wire for tweeters and subs, still weighing up my options, but getting the 2 ways finished properly is first up.

the dacs are done bar final casework, the discrete amps are mostly too (again final casework needed) just waiting on some IXYS FREDs for the AJX. 'the wire' amps are a little way off and are secondary; embarked on to compare high grade discrete CLASS A to one of the highest measured performance designs i've seen available

for now i've been driving my headphone amps and studio monitors with the dacs so knew it was worth pursuing to the N'th

no way is the above output solution needed for great output and the OP obviously is already set up with speakers and an amp, so just choose a nice dac and youre good to go

Last edited by qusp; 23rd November 2011 at 09:08 AM.
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Old 23rd November 2011, 09:49 AM   #5
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Dave, mate, you gotta do it!! as you know i also was running a g5 until recently
It only takes money. My whole front-end cost me less than a bare-bones mini.

My desktop is a dual 2.5 GHz/8GB G5 with 2 24s. Laptop is a 17" MacBook (old one).

Someone just gave me a G5 tower, gonna soup it up as much as feasibe and see how it works out as music server.

dave
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Old 23rd November 2011, 12:06 PM   #6
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the thing that was the last thing to push me over the edge was that the g5 cannot run 10.6 or after and there were significant changes to the audio midi setup in 10.6 ie. the usb audio codec 2.0 which enables native multichannel hires audio and external clocking, so several avenues i was looking at for my system were dead ends unless i upgraded

I rent, so room treatments are not an option, so room correction and digital XO are a boon

also its pretty easy to write off as a business expense if you work in audio and all things considered the mini is fantastic value. its not the sort of thing i can just buy on a whim like many on this board, its not dedicated, i'm typing on it right now and i do all my work on it to the time saved will pay for it, but the whole system is only now starting to come together after nearly 2 years of buying and building things piece by piece.

Last edited by qusp; 23rd November 2011 at 12:17 PM.
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Old 23rd November 2011, 11:52 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by planet10 View Post
Someone just gave me a G5 tower, gonna soup it up as much as feasibe and see how it works out as music server.

dave
NICE!
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Old 24th November 2011, 12:31 AM   #8
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Well when I posted this I had no idea that the response would be so one sided favoring Apple hardware. I had imagined that both camps would be equally represented. Both of the servers I mentioned in my previous post were PC based. I had hoped to re-purpose one of the many microsloth windoze machines I have lying around. These are readily available raw material just waiting for a project to dust them off. I would prefer not to purchase another computer and have to learn it's intricacies as well as the playback software if I can avoid it. I have been tinkering with Intel based hardware since before their was such a thing as windoze and have never owned or used any of the Apple offerings or their phones. Perhaps someone from the same side of the trailer park as me will chime in with some guidance.

Scott
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Old 24th November 2011, 12:39 AM   #9
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I imagine that I will now find that the consensus is that my caveat of being PC based is incompatible with being user friendly.
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Old 24th November 2011, 02:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
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the thing that was the last thing to push me over the edge was that the g5 cannot run 10.6 or after and there were significant changes to the audio midi setup in 10.6 ie. the usb audio codec 2.0 which enables native multichannel hires audio and external clocking,
My DAC is FireWire... as long as the data can come off the USB drive fast enuff older USB is fine.

Eventually an Intel will fall off the bottom. I actually have a 17" Intel iMac supposed to work other than scrambled video.

dave
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