What Hardware Do I Need to Play Files?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by jtw, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Please excuse my newbieness. I've read lots of threads, but all of the TLAs and FLAs are just making my head spin....

    I'd like to move out of the stone age, and set up a system to play ripped cds. I want to preserve original sound quality, especially dynamic range. So, I want the music to sound as least as good as my humble cd player.

    I currently use a cd player hooked up to an old NAD receiver. Once I have my cds ripped to a hard drive, what hardware and software will I need to sit back on my couch with an iPad or iPhone, and play music of my choice. One house has wi-fi, the other doesn't.

  2. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Well, that's a bit of a Pandora's box question. How much do you want to spend? Are you willing to get your hands a bit dirty or do you value plug and play with both hardware and software? Do you want to have standalone speakers or devices in the kitchen/bedroom/etc. that you can also control with iPhone/iPad? Do you think you'll listen to streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music?

    On one end of the spectrum, you can use iTunes and other Apple hardware for inexpensive plug and play. On the other end you have Roon, or Squeezeboxes, for more flexibility (and probably sound quality), but it takes a bit more hands-on. Sonos or Denon HEOS are nice all-in-ones, but they can be $$$
  3. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident Thread Starter

    My newbishness is so extreme that I'm sure I don't even know what to ask correctly. I would just want to get the same sound quality out of our existing system. No streaming service. No standalone speakers.

    Expense-wise, just enough to get the same sound quality as old Pioneer and Sony cd changers.
  4. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Easy/cheap is an refurbished AppleTV ($59) + DAC of your choice ($40+?) and connect to your NAD. You can use your iPhone/iPad to control the playback of your music after you rip the CDs to iTunes.

    There are definitely other solutions, but this is about as simple and cheap as you can get, with the most community support. Your PC/laptop running iTunes would need to remain on, when you're playing music. Although it doesn't have to be in the same room. The AppleTV has WiFi and Ethernet connection.
  5. beppe

    beppe Forum Resident

    Venice, Italy
    If you don't use Apple, a pc/laptop, a usb dac, a free player like foobar or winamp. That's all. Of course there are better solutions, but this is the cheapest/simple. Of course you have to rip lossless (flac suggested using EAC). No Iphone/Ipad and iTunes for good quality.
    If you have to spend some money choose a good Dac. Your cd player will be easily forgot.
    timind likes this.
  6. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Yeah, but he wants to sit back on the couch and control with his iPad. The real simple solution is AppleTV/Airport Express/similar. And everyone poo-poos iTunes for sound quality, but seriously can anyone hear the difference between an iTunes ripped file vs. EAC? The OP sounds like he's more interested in ease of use, and his sonic expectations are based around a 15+ year old CD changer. Hooking up a laptop or PC to the NAD seems a bit overkill?
    forthlin likes this.
  7. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Burnout from the smoke pit

    Are you using your laptop as the source? Meaning you have ripped a cd to the computer, are playing those files from software on the computer and have the computer hooked up to your NAD from the headphone jacks?

    Or.... You have yet to rip cd's and play those files from a computer?
  8. Synthfreek

    Synthfreek Please label the photos you post

    Austin, TX
    I'm so sick of the people saying that one cannot get good sound quality with iTunes. This is the kind of garbage that drives curious newbs away.
  9. Jack Flannery

    Jack Flannery Forum Resident

    Houston, TX
    I agree. iTunes is definitely not horrible and often sounds a lot better than a circa 1995 CD player.
  10. Madness

    Madness Forum Resident

    Maryland, USA
    It might be because people relate iTunes to compressed/lossy MP3s.

    The software is important, but not as important as the output hardware. Controlling playback isn't the same thing as using an iPhone/iPad as the playback device, so I'm not sure if I'm understanding how the OP wishes to play the lossless CD quality files.
  11. Damien DiAngelo

    Damien DiAngelo Forum Resident

    Michigan, USA
    There is another cheap option.
    Google Chromecast audio for $30ish bucks. You hook it up to your stereo system.
    Plex is a free app that you can control the Chromecast with from your iPad/Pod/Phone from your couch.
    It will play all of the major formats, from lossless FLACs, to MP3s.
    Ric-Tic, brimuchmuze and Tim S like this.
  12. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Burnout from the smoke pit

    Did somebody say that? And I don't know why that would drive anyone away. I'm deep into Itunes after ten years of ripping CD's and buying their downloads but if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't choose that path. I don't see it as anything to get worked up about.
    Strat-Mangler likes this.
  13. Carraway

    Carraway Well-Known Member

    NE Ohio
    This may get me ostracized, but for a fairly simple, low cost solution I bought a Bluetooth receiver for around $40 (not a full receiver, just something that accepts Bluetooth signals), plugged the analog out into my early 80s preamp and joined the 21st century. I'm not sure it quite has CD quality, but it works fairly well, especially while doing some work or other things while playing music stored on or streamed from my phone. (I bought the Outlaw Audio BT-100, but there are others. I understand you could do something similar for about the same price via WiFi with Chromcast Audio, but I haven't tried it.)
    mds and Dennis0675 like this.
  14. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

    Put iTunes on your laptop, and plug in a cable to the headphone out, to your stereo. (same way you have your CD player plugged in). You will wish you came out of the stone age, ages ago. :edthumbs: Once you master that, you can go wirelessly like mentioned above. :targettiphat:
  15. Dennis0675

    Dennis0675 Burnout from the smoke pit

    If you want to match the SQ of the CD player he mentioned you have to get out of the DAC on the computer. It doesn't have to be crazy expensive but a USB from the computer to a DAC and then RCA's to the receiver will do the trick. If running Itunes, you can control it from an app on your phone.
  16. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

    I've done blind tests with people and they couldn't tell I wasn't playing a CD. I don't use a DAC.
  17. Cherrycherry

    Cherrycherry Forum Resident

    The newb is dead. You killed'em.
    Now , they'll never get their CD rips playing on their stereo.
  18. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Yes, I'm lost. I'll try to digest.

    So, do most people use a hard wired device to select the music they want to hear?

    What are some other things that do what iTunes does, but better (to some)?

    After all of the threads I've read on this forum, the idea that anyone can't hear the difference between an external DAC vs the DAC in a pc kinda surprises me.
  19. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo No music, no Life

    If you played them side by side you would hear the difference. It's like checking out 2 TVs at Best Buy. One will look better, but if you only checked out the one you have at home, you would still be pleased with it.

    Plus some people on this site are old and deaf..... :D
  20. Do you have a PC or a Mac?
    The answer to that question will dictate what software options, and in some cases hardware options, are most suitable for you.
  21. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    East Coast, USA
    This is probably the most challenging part of the solution. You really need a wireless network to allow you to sit on your couch and control from your iDevice. Could you put a wireless router in the second location? You don't necessarily need internet service.
  22. Halloween Jack

    Halloween Jack Well-Known Member

    Easiest: laptop's analog out to line in (amplifier). Using the playback software of your choice and an universal remote app with your smartphone for control.

    Investment, nice digital player: Denon HEOS Link (with analog out). $350. You can connect pen drives and portable hard drives with FLAC files loaded in them or use networking.

    Little investment: Chromecast Audio. $35. Only network playback but good.
  23. Halloween Jack

    Halloween Jack Well-Known Member

    I use an integrated network player in my receiver. I prefer hard wired (ethernet cable to a router) but you can use wi-fi. You need a router for the smartphone control (you don't need internet).

    The built-in DAC in a PC is good but ordinary. There are better inexpensive DACs out there. It won't sound bad, mind you, it's still a good entry for introducing digital audio to an analog stereo system.

    I don't know about iTunes, I use Foobar2000 in Windows. I heard there are better music programs for Apple...
  24. jtw

    jtw Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I see. Let's skip the need for wireless in the vacation home that doesn't have wi-fi. I'll hard wire/cable there. How does that change things?

    I only want to use lossless files that I will be creating from cds. How does iTunes affect the sound quality? What would be my other options?
  25. skimminstones

    skimminstones Forum Resident

    Bexley, UK
    2nd hand squeezebox, install logitech media server on laptop. Plug squeezebox Into amp and enjoy
    sublemon likes this.

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