Any other options to play mp3 files other than PC?

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I'm looking to change my system and sell my Orelle CDP and Amp and buy the Trends Audio TA-10 amp. I want to start using my mp3 collection instead of cds. I would like to also get a decent DAC. Maybe a USB one.

What are my options?

I know I can either connect my laptop to a USB DAC or something like the Squeeze Box. But to be honest I would like not to have to always have my laptop switched on. Is there any way around this. Can you have an external hard drive connected to either instead?

The other option is obviously just connect my mp3 player via the audio jack. But obviously I'm then using the DAC in my new Creative Zen. I'm not sure how much of a compromise this is.

Any other options? If I could link it up digitally I could also consider the KingRex T20U as it has a DAC in it.
 
and you would be using the not so great headphone amplifier built into the player too... not ideal at all.
if you want to use a portable mp3 player, the only one i know of with a digital out (optical) is the iriver h1xx series.
i am sure that there are many standalone mp3 players that are capable of outputting a digital signal.
 
There's an awful lot of options. Most DVD players will play MP3s, and almost all have S/PDIF output (even some of the portables, if you don't want to be tied to a TV for browsing files). Some have USB inputs, and there's some which can be fitted with an internal hard drive (check the forums at nerd-out.com).

Some routers are running Linux, have USB ports, and can be turned into music players.

Obsolete tablet PCs, or kiosk computers. Industrial "biscuit" PC motherboards, some have PCI slots - you don't need much more than a Pentium I at 100 MHz for MP3 playback. I'm thinking of sticking one of those inside an old NAD CD player case...

And, there's some MP3 players that have S/PDIF I/O; watch out for the old Creative Zen that looks kind of like a CD player (it records from S/PDIF too, and the hard drive can be upgraded).

And, there's a few network players that could be used to play music over the network. The Omnifi DMS1, for example; about $40 on eBay. There's a user community for these gadgets with modified software. I don't think the DMS1 has S/PDIF out, but if the innards are similar to the DMP1 (car version), it should be possible to add one using a DIT4096 or similar digital audio transmitter.
 
Since this is a DIY forum I'll show you my homebrew MP3 player. It is a Buffalo NAS device hacked with Gentoo Linux and mp3 software. I control it through my cell phone across the internet and it has a 300 GB hard disk in it. Here is a wiki article describing the software:

http://buffalo.nas-central.org/index.php/John's_Suggested_MP3_Player

and here is a photo of an early version connected to my 832 amp. It will soon have a usb dac in place of the usb sound card. I have this same setup at my office connected to my 6AU6/6AQ5 amp.
 

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Speaking of mini ITX, I built one of them too. Has dual 2.5" HD, 2x16 LCD display, DVI for 1080i display on my TV, Satellite card, and custom IR pickup so I can control it with an IR remote control. Overall size is about 8"x9"x3.7".
 

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Thanks for your suggestions. I potentially like the idea of the dvd player. And the hard drive options. The Novita hard drive doesn't seem to support AAC. That's a bit strange. Or am I missing something?

I suppose the other thing is that I coudl get a PS3 then I can put my music on the hard drive. It has an optical output. Or I could use the USB port to connect to a USB DAC.

What's the DAC like in the PS3? Any good for music?
 
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