The verb "streaming" adequately describes the general process of playing digital music (or media) from one or many sources, local or otherwise to single or multiple users (or locations) who can easily acces the content then choose what to play without needing to worry about the physical storage location. Trying to nail down what part of this service actually fits into a particular box called a "streamer" is rather fluid as Andrew E has eluded to. It's best described as a process (which includes getting the music/media into the system to start with).
If I was thinking of streaming my music & reading this thread to gain some insight as how to do it, the last thing I'd buy or use would be a Windows-based laptop or PC! The advocates of using computers, have IMO, shot themselves somewhere more vital than their feet! This thread is about as good an advert for buying/using a "streamer" as any manufacturer or seller could wish for! I would not be that surprised if PCs became obsolete in homes long before streamers but predicting the future of anything is always amusing through the gift of hindsight.
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MAIN: Apple TV2, Mac Mini & iTunes Match, CA Azur 751BD or Panasonic P42V20B into audiolab M-DAC, feeding a Primare A34.2 via XLRs, 2x 5m of Atlas Ascent 2 firing up Totem Arros.
ON THE HOOF: iPhone 5S/Sennheiser MM450.
Wow.. I think I managed to read most of this thread and hopefully I will be able to mark what I write below for future bookmark.
Until recently, I was living in the same world that I would not need a dedicated Streamer / Player and my Mac Mini does a great job! I have put an SSD in it and upgraded the RAM to 4GB on 2011 Mac Mini so everything is as per the needed specs. Music is played through iTunes.
However with Oppo BDP 105 acting as DAC or player / streamer (from NAS), I was able to see the differences. Mac Mini sounded thin and not right compared to Oppo playing directly from NAS (NAS acting as a Network Hard Disk). I had to fiddle settings on Mac Mini (Audio Midi Set Up), then installed Amarra software to ensure that everything is bit perfect and then the differences went away. I am now enjoying the 'fiddle free' 'assured SQ' from Oppo rather than remembering or checking if all the things are in place on Mac Mini to ensure that the output is really BIT PERFECT (?).
Coming back to difference in SQ by playing iTunes as is vs Amarra is a bit of debate for some but it is very apparent on my system. If I do not use iTunes and run music from XBMC (No Amarra) the sound is same as Oppo playing directly
As of today, with a substantial investment into the HiFi set up and if it is especially only digital, I would check out the streamer / player options to see if there is any added convenience or enhanced (observable) SQ.
IMO. SQ may be effected by:
- How successfully the processing / filtering is done.
- To what extent the PC polutes the signal..
- How well the clocking is handled.
- Quality of the power supply.
- How successfully the components are isolated.
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." André Gide
I remember long time back you asked me what is the source and I said Mac Mini which I believed back then would not effect the SQ but I guess now I am a lot more convinced the possibility of a dedicated streamer cum player giving additional SQ especially when the dedicated box is done correctly and the PC/Mac not tweaked optimally.
effected by other unrelated tasks running
I put a value on my time so all the faffing about under Windows should be factored into any cost comparisons.
all your points above relate to engineering quality af accompanying DAC. it all has nothing to do with any PC. all you need is a DAC with galvanicaly isolated USB input supporting asynchronous data transfer. that should cover your points 2,3 and 5. points 1 and 4 don't need comment in this context IMO. when you have the DAC side sorted then all you need is to make sure your PC outputs bit perfect signal. and that is the hardest thing as PCs weren't designed to stream unprocessed musical data. that surely needs some tweaking therefore IMO PC as a transport is a solution for more computer savvy people. streamers are great for people who want ease of use and least amount of fiddling with settings as possible. I think I now found my media centre PC so will not be getting bothered going the streamer route, which I considered as I couldn't find acceptable looking PC before. higher versatility and flexibility of a PC over a streamer makes the whole decision a no brainer for me. CNO tell me, what will you do with your Linn if DSD dowloads become standard in the near future? something that indeed seems to be happening now?
Giro, InTheGroove, Digit, ClassicOne, MG12
No they don't.
- The PC has moving parts (motors / fans etc) which can introduce pollution eg. EMI
- As Busb has said, if the PC is doing other tasks, it may effect things.
- A PC has no form of clock, so the DAC ideally needs to be an asynchronous...which may, or may not work out as well as a single Master Clock..
- IMO. The Power supply makes a difference, even in the transport.
ATM. DSD is no more of an issue for me, than CDs are for someone who listens to Vinyl. I have a fairly good collection of 16 and 24 bit music, and if something that comes along that is a "game-changer", I will then consider it.
All of Linn's streamers can be improved through software updates, and most have a modular design that are often up-gradable eg. Dynamik power supply, and the way the ADS / KDS could get a new board to bring them up to the /1 version.....even giving you the option of getting a Renew version from the old board (which could be kept or sold on).
The only point that I'm trying to make, is that there are a lot of assumptions flying about, and very little actual experimentation......I just want people to try both options before shelling out the dosh.
I did experiment with using a laptop as a source. I wanted it to stream 192x24 bit files bit perfectly to my DAC without aly SQ issues. I could not do it without buying a lot of extra equipment to handle the 192x24 streaming which does not come as standard in cheaper lap-tops. I could not stop the occational disruption to the sound because even if you switch everything off you can - there are still some things that kick in and take-up the processor. For example - if you try searching for the next piece of music whilst something is playing it needs to have most of the PC services enabled.
I realised all I was doing was building a streamer.
I bought a streamer and use the lap-top to surf the net as I listen to my 192x24 bit music perfectly
As has been pointed out, you can get PCs with SSD and no fans.
If the output is bit perfect, it is bit perfect.
Jitter (the negative effect re a clock) can be measured. There are long-standing studies showing the levels of jitter that are detectable by humans, and any properly functioning dac will have lower levels of jitter than this.
If the output is bit perfect, why?
HiFi / A/V / Bedroom
- I am not really talking about what you can get, but things to bear in mind.......this issue is not as simple as "get any laptop and stick a DAC on it".
- I only mentioned the Clock / Jitter as something to take into consideration. DCS feel it's so important that they give the option of a separate clock which makes a positive improvement when added.
- I have heard a power supply make a difference, but I'm not qualified to fully answer your question. The upgraded Dynamik Switch Mode P/S on the Linn DS made a huge difference. I've also heard different Transports sound different.
All I'm trying to do is throw out "food for thought", rather than making any absolutist statements.
Fair enough, and my comments are not personal, simply trying to further the debate. Btw, I know DCS have a separate clock available - expensive isn't it?
Re the Linn DS, what does the power supply supply power to? Is it just the 'source' or also the dac?
I can output a "bitperfect" stream from my Sony Vaio laptop into my DAC plastered in bloody noise being conducted along the connection from the Sony's SMPS. When I run the Sony exclusively off its battery - no noise. People get really hung up on bit perfection. If someone is running a USB DAC into headphones where the volume is controlled within the player - the output stream is no longer bit perfect!
Bit Perfect is a Red Herring!
I asked on PFM why galvanic isolation wan't built into DACs. The 1st reply was from John Westlake suggesting is just introduced RFI inside the DAC chasis. It is possible & some DACs don't suffer but he was implying it was a lot easier to to use an external isolator.
Which includes a dac, so this point was not relevant to your comment about power supplies on a computer, which is just the source / transport.
IMO. Anything that cleans up the mains will help in all areas. Linn's explanation is here: http://www.linn.co.uk/all-products/upgrades/dynamik
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