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Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

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miggyboys's picture
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Hi everyone

I'm getting an Audiolab M-Dac through which I'll be playing CDs via my Marantz CD6000 OSE; this is straight forward.

However I also want to play Flac/Losseless files so I have the ease of listening to many tracks without getting up an changing the media. I do not want to do this via ethernet (even though this is apparently better because of the lower jitter ethernet produces v USB) as its logistically difficult with cables etc. Also, I'm not interested in Wi-Fi.

So, I'm willing to have my music files on a portable hard drive or Nas and plug this straight into....what?

(a) Into a streamer like the Logitech Squeezebox Touch or Marantz NA7004 - then output to the Audiolab M-Dac?

or

(b) Can I just plug the hard drive directly into the Audiolab M-Dac? After all it has an Asynchronous USB input (and I don't think the Logitech Squeezebox Touch or Marantz NA7004 do).

 

Q1. Which method would sound better?

Q2. Can (b) be done and will I be able to see the name of the track on the Audiolab M-Dac screen?

Thanks everyone, I look forward to your expert opinions.... Smile

 

__________________

HiFi: Logitech Squeezebox Touch, Marantz CD6000OSE, Audiolab M-DAC, NAD C350, Denon TU-260L II, Tannoy Revolution R2, Vortexbox, QED & IXOS interconnects, QED Silver anniversary bi-wire speaker cable.

AV: Sharp LC-46LE831E, Denon AVR-2310, Sony BDP-S363, SkyHD, Mordaunt Short Genie 5.1, various QED & IXOS interconnects, QED Silver anniversary speaker cable.

Thanks

Miggyboys

quadpatch's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

The Audiolab M-DAC will not plug directly to an external hard drive (I assume you mean via USB). The hard drive (HDD) will have no way to select a track for playback and it wont know how to output it for an audio device without a streamer or a computer in between it and the M-DAC. Similarly the M-DAC wont know how to request audio files off the HDD, it will just want to be fed digital audio. Your options are:

1. Computer connected directly to M-DAC (via USB)

2. NAS Drive connected to Streamer (via Ethernet), Streamer connected to M-DAC (via digital cable)

3. External HDD connected to Streamer (via USB), Streamer connected to M-DAC (via digital cable)

I would first suggest option 1 with a little netbook so you can get to use that Async USB input but if that's not for you then option 3 might suit you best. I think both streamers will do option 3 but the Marantz's DAC & headphone amp will be waisted with the M-DAC in the system as well so maybe the cheaper logitech is a more sensible option there.

To add a point about ethernet: If you want a NAS in another room and connected to a streamer next to your hifi without wifi or wires trailing between you could try bridging it using your power sockets. I do this to get movies to my TV, if the speed is enough for HD films it'll do 24/96 lossless stereo no problem.

I'm not quite sure about your comment about ethernet having less jitter than USB. Since the M-DAC doesn't have an ethernet input you will be intoducing jitter via USB, S/PDIF or Coax eventually anyway. Seems like a computer connected directly via USB is your best option if you want to minimise jitter.

__________________

Hifi: Audiolab M-DAC Audiolab 8200P Tannoy DC6T SE 

Headphone: Q701HP100HE500, M80TH900Mad DogD7000DT880M100K550TH600 

DAC: E7U100rPACModi/Magni120DsHP-A8DAC2 HGC, BDP 105EUEHP 02DiDAC 

miggyboys's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

Hi quadpatch

Many thanks for the reply. I think a HDD or Nas with the Logitech with M-Dac looks like the best option (2 or 3). I got mixed up re the ethernet, I meant to say that I've read that there is less jitter for a streamer to receive files via ethernet as opposed to USB because ethernet only calls on the files it requires, whereas USB just whacks all the data down and leaves it piled up at the streamer. Having said that, usage of the Asynchronous USB connection on the DAC (and/or streamer if it has one) may also outweigh this with its master clocking ability.  

Interestingly, people are finding different results - some are saying that their systems sound better using a USB HDD as the source, others preferring ethernet.

I'm not keen on the power sockets bridging though thanks for the suggestion. I've always thought it strange that it's an option when most HiFi / AV manufacturers are always trying their best to isolate the mains from their kit.

I agree also that I may be wasting cash on the Marantz NA7004 if I'm not going to be using its Dac and other bits and pieces.

Thanks again!

 

__________________

HiFi: Logitech Squeezebox Touch, Marantz CD6000OSE, Audiolab M-DAC, NAD C350, Denon TU-260L II, Tannoy Revolution R2, Vortexbox, QED & IXOS interconnects, QED Silver anniversary bi-wire speaker cable.

AV: Sharp LC-46LE831E, Denon AVR-2310, Sony BDP-S363, SkyHD, Mordaunt Short Genie 5.1, various QED & IXOS interconnects, QED Silver anniversary speaker cable.

Thanks

Miggyboys

quadpatch's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

You're welcome miggyboys. Just thought it might be worth adding a note about jitter with the streamer:

If you connect either a HDD (USB) or a NAS (ethernet) there will be no difference with jitter there as in both cases the files are being transfered rather than streamed. Only if the streamer can connect to a computer via USB will the jitter issue be at that point.

The Marantz seems to be built for only connecting to a PC via it's USB (on the back anyway) whereas the Logitech seems to built for only connecting to a HDD via it's USB. Both will take ethernet of course. Neither machine can output audio to another DAC via USB audio so all these methods will not use the asynchronous USB connection on the M-DAC thus forcing you in to the higher jitter rates with the other digital connections (S/PDIF or coax).

Also I forgot to mention before... If you want the ethernet/streamer (option 3): I don't think you can connect a NAS directly to a streamer with a crossover cable (can anyone confirm this?). I think you will need a router in between to manage the connections (with patch cables going to each device). A router will only set you back an extra £20 or so (£2 for the cable) but it is another box, cable and power supply to deal with.

__________________

Hifi: Audiolab M-DAC Audiolab 8200P Tannoy DC6T SE 

Headphone: Q701HP100HE500, M80TH900Mad DogD7000DT880M100K550TH600 

DAC: E7U100rPACModi/Magni120DsHP-A8DAC2 HGC, BDP 105EUEHP 02DiDAC 

miggyboys's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

Hi quadpatch

Shame about not being able to use the Asynchronous USB connection on the M-Dac in this setup. Just in case anyone else is reading this, I've read that there is a warranty breaking firmware change you can do to the Logitech Squeezebox Touch that allows the USB to output audio; google it, there are quite a few people talking about it.

I'm okay with using coaxial to output the audio from streamer to dac.

And yes, you're right, a Nas has to be connected to a router which is a possibility in the future but not right now because of my furniture layout etc.

I'll post back on here how much the sound has improved once all set up which will be in about a month as there is a backlog of orders for the M-Dac...!!

 

__________________

HiFi: Logitech Squeezebox Touch, Marantz CD6000OSE, Audiolab M-DAC, NAD C350, Denon TU-260L II, Tannoy Revolution R2, Vortexbox, QED & IXOS interconnects, QED Silver anniversary bi-wire speaker cable.

AV: Sharp LC-46LE831E, Denon AVR-2310, Sony BDP-S363, SkyHD, Mordaunt Short Genie 5.1, various QED & IXOS interconnects, QED Silver anniversary speaker cable.

Thanks

Miggyboys

heliumplus's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac -

Hello All,

This discussion is interesting because I am also looking to buy Audio labs - M-DAC. However the issue I have is that my streamer is WD TV Live which does not have a digital coaxial output (It has an optical port however).

I understand that the optical port has lot of limitations as compared to the digital coaxial port. Hence I am looking to buy a streamer with a digital coaxial port and that can handle a lot of file formats.

Any suggestions from your side would be helpful and I would appreciate the same !

quadpatch's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac -

If you're going to get the M-DAC then I recommend getting that first. Test it with what you have, compare that to a PC via USB and see if you notice the difference. If not then you don't need a coax setup. I'm enjoying the M-DAC, although not with all of my headphones. 

__________________

Hifi: Audiolab M-DAC Audiolab 8200P Tannoy DC6T SE 

Headphone: Q701HP100HE500, M80TH900Mad DogD7000DT880M100K550TH600 

DAC: E7U100rPACModi/Magni120DsHP-A8DAC2 HGC, BDP 105EUEHP 02DiDAC 

jacobmorrison's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

If you're not wedded to the audiolab how about considering the Musical Fidelity M1Clic. It should provide similar sound quality but will access audio on USB hard drives pluged directly into the back as well as networked drives over wifi. A one box solution instead of two?

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Downstairs: Pioneer Kuro 4280 / Oppo 93 / Yamaha RX-V771 / Monitor Audio BR5,BR2,BRLCR / Sky+HD / AppleTV

Upstairs: Leema Pulse / Sonos Connect / Musical Fidelity V-DAC II / Project  2 Xperience Acryl - Goldring 1042 - Project SpeedBox II / Musical Fidelity HPA100 - AKG Q701

dragon76's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

Logitech Touch can certainly output data via its USB port, it just not a factory set function, but available from a firmware update (lots of info on this on Internet, if you want I can search myself as I do not remember how this is called). Moreover, Logitech is not well made to be connected to an external HDD via its USB port - many people report poor connectivity that way. This was one of the reasons I decided not to go for Touch in my setup as currently I am not into streaming and would like to keep everything local.

 

My suggestion as well would be to go with laptop/PC+M-DAC, tweak laptop a bit, install Foobar or JRiver, use Ipod/Ipad as remote and you will have a great sounding system. I use M-DAC more or less in the same way and cannot be more happy with the quality.

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Dedicated Win7 Music PC -> Audiolab M-DAC -> Plinius 9200 -> ATC SCM 40; Furutech GT2 USB Cable, Oyaide Interconnects and mains cords; Kimber Kable 8tc speaker cables

Gergaskman's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

Like some other forum contibutors I bought my M-DAC specifically for my PC. I've got a decent quality co-axial cable out of an M-Audio AP 192 soundcard and I've tried to set up ASIO through Foobar 2000 as recommended by audiolab.

I've got 24 bit OK but I've never exceeded 44 kHz (even with 'Studio Quality' FLAC files).

Does that matter? And if it does where is the constriction and how can I free it up? 

quadpatch's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

Gergaskman wrote:

Like some other forum contibutors I bought my M-DAC specifically for my PC. I've got a decent quality co-axial cable out of an M-Audio AP 192 soundcard and I've tried to set up ASIO through Foobar 2000 as recommended by audiolab.

I too bought my M-DAC purely for the PC, although I have bigger plans for it later. If I were you I would Ignore the soundcard and use USB, the soundcard is not helping you with anything. USB is the prefered connection for the M-DAC because it supports Asyncronous transfer, which has lower jitter than any other digital connection. I would also recommend WASAPI over ASIO, as long as you have Win Vista or 7.

Gergaskman wrote:

I've got 24 bit OK but I've never exceeded 44 kHz (even with 'Studio Quality' FLAC files).

Does that matter? And if it does where is the constriction and how can I free it up? 

When you say 'Studio Quality' what exactly is that? 24bit / 96khz?

The weird thing I noticed with the M-DAC is that it only accepts 24bit (doesn't support 16bit), with most things Windows automatically upsamples stuff to 24bit without you noticing. If you're playing youtube ot Spotify (or whatever) then the M-DAC display flickers between 16 and 24bit. It sounds fine, just looks horrible. However if you are playing CD quality files with ASIO or WASAPI (bit-perfect audio streams) through something like Foobar or JRiver the software will error unless you force the software to up-scale everything to 24bit (the rPAC does this as well). Weirdly enough if you then play CD quality files the M-DAC display reads 16bit / 44.1khz.

__________________

Hifi: Audiolab M-DAC Audiolab 8200P Tannoy DC6T SE 

Headphone: Q701HP100HE500, M80TH900Mad DogD7000DT880M100K550TH600 

DAC: E7U100rPACModi/Magni120DsHP-A8DAC2 HGC, BDP 105EUEHP 02DiDAC 

shooter's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

You could use a Vortexbox, output via USB into your M-Dac and use either the Mpod or Mpad remote to control the Vortexbox library.

 

The caveat is that you would need a iPod Touch or iPad for remote duties.

Gergaskman's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

Thank you for response. I'm not using the soundcard for any reason than it offered the co-ax option output from PC which I understood from the M-DAC paperwork offered the greatest potential but I'll defer to your experience / knowledge and try the USB / wasapi option. Thanks. Smile

quadpatch's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

I guess the coax will offer you 24/192, do you have any music in that format? The USB of the M-DAC is limited to 24/96. I should try this too as I think my soundcard will output coax also.

__________________

Hifi: Audiolab M-DAC Audiolab 8200P Tannoy DC6T SE 

Headphone: Q701HP100HE500, M80TH900Mad DogD7000DT880M100K550TH600 

DAC: E7U100rPACModi/Magni120DsHP-A8DAC2 HGC, BDP 105EUEHP 02DiDAC 

dragon76's picture
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RE: Audiolab M-Dac - USB hard drive as source or streamer?

I have used ESI Juli@ via coax into M-DAC and then tried connecting directly by USB. USB in M-DAC for me sounds much better than any other inputs, so I got rid of my ESI. Yes, USB is limited to 24/96, but then I di not have much of material higher than that, and a good player like JRiver will automatically downsample if you want to.

__________________

Dedicated Win7 Music PC -> Audiolab M-DAC -> Plinius 9200 -> ATC SCM 40; Furutech GT2 USB Cable, Oyaide Interconnects and mains cords; Kimber Kable 8tc speaker cables