How To Start Off In DIgital?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by haz2000, May 11, 2022 at 8:43 PM.

  1. haz2000

    haz2000 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    nowhere
    I've only ever played vinyl LPs. I have some CDs that I bought to play in the car which I haven't played in 20 years. I do like buying new music from Bandcamp that is digital-only. There's so much great new music! But when I play it on my laptop/desktop and it sounds pretty blah.

    What would be a good way to get this stuff to play from a USB key on my stereo? I download everything in FLAC and I'm not super interested in a wireless solution. I'm looking at a Technics SL-g700 but it seems like a lot to spend on a format that is completely new to me.

    Thanks for the help!
     
  2. Apesbrain

    Apesbrain Forum Resident

    Location:
    East Coast, USA
  3. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    A BlueSound NODE may be another option. Relatively inexpensive and high quality. Will play files directly off an attached USB drive and of course opens up high quality streaming options too.

    Can work right out of the box via it's analogue/RCA outs or configured for even higher quality playback down the line via it's digital outs to a DAC of your choice. Network set-up can be wired - thereby avoiding wireless connection which you've made clear you'd like to avoid - and I've generally found BlueSound's help pages make set-up fairly hassle free.

    There will be a learning curve, but it is neither steep nor unduly hard.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2022 at 9:12 PM
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  4. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    Digital does get confusing because there are so many different ways of doing good digital playback systems. So many different ways that overlap with each other and are also not so conveniently interoperable with each other. It's a mess.

    Do you have a good local audio store that knows digital? A good audio store will suit your needs and how you want it to work. A good audio store will also be able to set things up at your home if you're not so knowledgeable about local network setup and how to configure your router and whether you should do local or network storage and things like that.
     
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  5. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    I ripped all my cds (1500) to an external hard drive, I also download albums from bandcamp and load them on the hard drive. The hard drive is connected to a Bluesound Node which feeds my dac. With the Node I can stream music before purchase. Simple, efficient, and fairly inexpensive.
     
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  6. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Location:
    Central PA
  7. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    Digital starts counting at zero. So you've skipped a step.
     
  8. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Location:
    Central PA
    I assumed we were already there by this point.
     
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  9. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    Interestingly I have both one of these and a BlueSound both of which get routed to an outboard DAC in my system. I'm not sure of the OP's system configuration (if he has a DAC to plug these into) but if both were considered purely from a SQ point of view via their respective analogue outs the BlueSound is the better sounding device of the two. IMO of course.

    Via a higher quality DAC however via their digital outs the above comment wouldn't apply. The Yamaha CD-S303 is a competent transport.
     
    mds likes this.
  10. Cherrycherry

    Cherrycherry Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maptown
    Always a bit difficult to advise without knowing your stereo setup Mr Empty Equipment Profile.
    But, if you don't have a CD player at the moment and have a small number of CD's, that SLG700 is way to expensive to start out. Sounds like you would like simple way to play digital within your existing stereo situation.
    Listen to @Apesbrain
    I endorse this post. The CD-S303 would work well for laying your CD's from the car again, and playing your BC downloads.
    What is total cost for Hard drive, Bluesound and a DAC and cables? $900?
    2.
     
  11. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    An issue with just plugging in a USB thumb drive into a modern streamer is that modern streamers are designed around using streaming sources (like Tidal) and network attached storage rather than local attached USB storage. Technically they do support USB attached storage, but in operation and design they are not optimized for that and don't recommend that for regular use.

    Here's a support page from Bluesound about how they treat USB storage and how they specifically don't recommend that you rely on USB thumb drive or USB hard drive storage:
    Bluesound: How USB Storage Differs From A Local Library

    Most other streaming devices are similar in how they would really rather not use USB storage and would really rather you use a NAS (network attached storage) or a supported streaming service like Tidal.

    If you want to play and manage local files and use a streaming device you are going to get pressured into using a NAS for file storage. Trying to use a USB thumb drive or USB hard drive is you pushing against the tide and you will lose that argument.

    If you want to use a USB thumb drive or USB hard drive for local file storage and playback then use a Windows computer or Mac computer attached to your audio system and use software like Roon to manage playback and manage your library. The Windows computer and Mac computer based setups will handle USB thumb drives and USB hard drives better than most streamer DAC devices.
     
  12. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    Interesting...

    The very first line of the Bluesound document you linked reads: "BluOS Players are equipped with a USB connection port. This USB port, located on the rear panel, is designed for plug-and-play listening of music stored on USB memory sticks." It goes on to discuss their preferences and the limitations of doing so, but nonetheless - that's a direct quote. At no point does the document say it can't be done.

    My experience was the literal definition of plug and play.

    I used a 2TB USB drive plugged directly into my Bluesound NODE for several months without a single issue at all. Once connected and despite there being several folders on the drive containing various bits of data (photos, text docs, etc) that would've been unplayable by the NODE it found the (several thousand) FLAC, ALAC and or MP3 files ripped from CD + some 24/192 downloads and quietly and hassle free, catalogued them and offered them up including all attached metadata and album art for replay via their proprietary app on my phone and tablets. Zero input required on my part. Couldn't have been any easier if I tried.

    The connection proved completely stable and got me through daily listening session sometimes lasting several hours at a time. At no point was I "pressured" to do anything?

    Personally I think there's a needless level of technophobia about integrating a streaming option into a digital front end, it's in manufacturers interest to make the process as simple as possible (I.E recognizing that their products aren't used exclusively by I.T experts) and the names that succeed and kinda end up floating to the top are invariably the best at keeping things simple for the end user - BlueSound or Sonos for instance.

    But I also notice that the OP hasn't responded despite several responses since they started the thread. Perhaps we'll wait and see how they respond before talking too far amongst ourselves?
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2022 at 1:59 AM
  13. manxman

    manxman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Isle of Man
    If you want to play digital files (as opposed to CDs), you'll need technology to do four things:

    • Store your files
    • Extract the digital data from your files (a transport)
    • Convert the digital data into music (a DAC)
    • Control playback (an app)

    Some solutions can perform all these functions: many music servers combine both transport and DAC functions, as well as having built-in hard drives, and come with their own proprietary app that you can download. Alternatively, you can separate out the functions, with a dedicated transport and a dedicated DAC, meaning you can upgrade either unit whenever you wish (and contrary to assumptions you may see made elsewhere, both the transport and DAC make a significant difference to sound quality). If you go down this route, you may also need separate storage, though some transports can have a hard drive fitted internally. External storage can either take the form of a hard drive physically connected to the transport via a USB port or a NAS: a standalone hard drive connected to your router.

    Most manufacturers recommend that you connect their transport to your router via an Ethernet cable, though some (notably Auralic) favour wifi. The router has to be involved both for streaming (which is another useful function digital players offer) and control via the app. This may be a consideration depending on where your router is located.

    You may also encounter a few other terms whilst exploring file-based playback (though you won't need any of these until you have gone a long, long way down the digital rabbit-hole):

    • A wordclock is a device that connects to both the transport and DAC to sync their timing and sharpen up their sound quality
    • A rubidium clock is a device that connects to a wordclock and improves its timing
    • Roon is a third-party control app that offers quite a lot of functionality, but (unlike other playback apps) has to be paid for and is quite expensive

    If there's anything else you'd like to know, please feel free to ask – there are no stupid questions; just stupid answers, as they say.
     
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  14. haz2000

    haz2000 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    nowhere
    Hi Everyone!

    Thanks for all of the replies. I have a few turntables: A Clearaudio Emotion, a 1200GR, and a 1200G. I have an Atoll phono stage and an Atoll power amp. I'm using an old preamp from Harman Kardon while I save up for one from Atoll. I have older B&W speakers which I bought new 15 years ago but they still sound good. I will upgrade those after my preamp. I have a 25-year-old JVC CD player that I haven't turned on since my last year of high school. It's a 5 disc changer. I barely used it before going back to my old 1200 Mk2 that I had way back when.

    The Yamaha looks interesting. How is the build quality? Does it have a good DAC? I'm not sure what to expect for the price.

    The Bluesound is something that interests me greatly but I'm surprised about the USB article from their website. I wonder if I'm going against the grain by wanting a wired solution.

    Wireless worries me because I don't know if the resolution is affected by not having a wired connection. Will this sound like a radio? Is there static? Does the service ever lose the signal?

    I have 3 turntables and more than 3000 LPs. The idea of music that sounds good traveling through the air is tough to fathom!
     
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  15. timind

    timind phorum rezident

    I've had a hard drive connected directly to my Bleusound node for more than a year without any glitches. My hard drive was formatted as Bluesound recommends and was then loaded with nothing but the the music files. Most of music on my drive are songs ripped as AIFF files through itunes/Mac mini, with a small number of hi-rez files from Bandcamp.

    The only drawback is the artwork for about 25% of the albums doesn't show up when using the app. Another issue is the time it takes for the Node to index the music when the drive is inserted. I've never timed it, but I'd guess ten minutes. Not a problem for me, as I leave the Node on all the time, and only disconnect the drive to add music.
     
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  16. SKBubba

    SKBubba Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tennessee
    Maybe consider a Sonos Port. It will integrate with your existing stereo and provide streaming from local files or major streaming services. For multi-room you can use Sonos speakers or a Sonos Amp + passive speakers of your choice.
     
  17. WDeranged

    WDeranged Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    You could look into the yamaha wxad-10 if you want a cheaper way to dip your toe into the water. It's easy to use and sounds good. Only disadvantage is you need to control it with your phone.
     
  18. haz2000

    haz2000 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    nowhere
    I will see what stores are available in my area for digital. In looking at the online stock of many local shops, they all seem to carry the Node and not much else.
     
  19. haz2000

    haz2000 Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    nowhere
    What is most often used as a transport? A Node? Would a digital transport also be a CD transport?
     
  20. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    Bluesound also makes a device called Vault that includes 2TB of internal storage and a drive that can rip CDs to the internal drive. The internal storage in the Vault avoids the USB issues that Bluesound mentioned in that support article I posted. The Vault 2i may be a better option for you than the Node 2i. Just because it has internal storage and also a way to rip CDs.

    Bluesound Vault 2i: https://www.bluesound.com/products/vault/

    A dealer that carries the Bluesound gear will be able to explain it and show you how it works. And you can play with it in the shop to see if you like the way it works.

    The Bluesound Node and Vault also have a coaxial SPDIF output that can connect to an external DAC. That gives you the option of using it with a better external DAC.
     
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  21. wolfram

    wolfram Slave to the rhythm

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    Isn't Sonos limited to a resolution of 16/44.1? I wouldn't advise limiting oneself to CD resolution, in case you want to buy hi-res files later on.
     
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  22. SKBubba

    SKBubba Forum Resident

    Location:
    Tennessee
    I think they no do up to 24/48 from Amazon, maybe others? But yes, if that's a requirement then something else.
     
  23. wolfram

    wolfram Slave to the rhythm

    Location:
    Berlin, Germany
    My brother uses Sonos, and he told me that he couldn't play hi-res files from his NAS with it. But maybe that has changed now. I will have to ask him.
     
  24. manxman

    manxman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Isle of Man
    A streaming transport (also known as a network bridge) is a different device from a CD transport. You could buy a CD player that can also play files – the Cambridge CXUHD, for instance, can play Blu-ray, DVD, SACD and CD discs as well as stereo and multichannel files via its USB ports, but it won't offer quite the same flexibility or ease of use as a dedicated streamer.

    The Bluesound Vault sounds an excellent place to start as it's an all-in-one solution. Alternatively, an Auralic Aries Mini, purchased secondhand, could work, as it has an inbuilt DAC and can contain an internal hard drive. The Cambridge CXN is a well-regarded budget streamer, with no onboard storage but with a good quality DAC.

    For a slightly higher-end solution, the Auralic Aries Femto (also now discontinued) is a streaming transport offering excellent sound quality; it sells secondhand for around £700 to £800 and if you spend the same again on an appropriate DAC you will have a fine-sounding digital solution. However, you would also need to invest in some storage – either a hard drive to connect to the Aries Femto or a NAS.

    As for sound differences between wifi and Ethernet cable, I couldn't hear any on my speakers.
     
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  25. Toneh

    Toneh Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Zealand
    It's an entry level CD player so set your expectations accordingly. As I mentioned in post #9, I have one and it makes a good transport to a better quality outboard DAC. Build quality is maybe a little better than one might expect for the money - brushed metal fascia, decent feeling buttons, it doesn't feel like a toy - but as I said... set expectations accordingly.

    Don't mean to make it seem like I'm picking on your posts - not the case at all - but I'm still not clear on what issues you're referring to? Both @timind and I have given first hand accounts of using a NODE with directly attached USB storage without any issue? Perhaps it sounds like splitting hairs - again, not the intention - but I assume BlueSound wants the user to have the least clunky, most user friendly experience so they may well point you towards a NAS or file sharing from your PC or Mac to avoid the downsides @timind describes... 1) you have to detach and then re-attach your USB device if you want to add new files (whereas using NAS these would simply be added to your library next time you opened the app?) and 2) the initial process of indexing your music library which has to be redone every time you reattach the drive can take a bit of time, although this will vary depending on how many files there are to index. Other than that - you're good to go?

    Don't really know what else to add other than to say what's already been said upthread? The NODE can be used with a directly attached USB drive without issue (with the caveat that there is a time and hassle penalty doing things this way should you need to detach/reattach the drive as described above) and the device supports hard wired connection. You will want - at the very least - to have the device maintain an internet connection for firmware updates and of course if you wish to make use of streaming services which I don't see any downside to. Even if your preference is to purchase and play stored file downloads being able to sample CD quality (and higher) music prior to making a purchase... well... I don't see how that's a bad thing?
    I'm not an IT expert so from a layman's POV... if I play a 24/192 file across my home network and the sampling rate display on the front of my DAC confirms an incoming 24/192 stream then I guess the resolution isn't being affected right? Put it this way... my Mac serving files over wifi to my NODE, in turn connected to my DAC would run absolute rings (in terms of SQ) around the analogue outs of my CDP. I think you may be pleasantly surprised as you get into it. It seems you may just have to overcome the mental trepidation you seem to have about it :)

    And no there won't be any static and it won't sound like a radio :)
    In terms of "losing service" if you currently have a stable home network that doesn't suffer drop-outs when you're using whatever devices you currently have connected I see no undue reason for concern?
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2022 at 5:16 PM
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