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Which way to wireless wonderland?

Current living room system

Musical Fidelity A1 amp Cambridge Audio 640C CD player Monitor Audio Silver 8i speakers Synology DS209 NAS streamed to the hi-fi via iTunes and Apple Airport Express, controlled using Apple remote via an iPod touch 

After many years of sterling service, my Musical Fidelity A1 finally stopped producing sounds last week, though it can still toast crumpets! As repairs (and most other things) in Norway are prohibitive, this gives me a good excuse to upgrade my living room hi-fi, and I am very interested in making full use of wireless streaming technology (without having to start up my PC every time I want to listen to music).

My question is whether the sound quality of the Sonos Zone Player 120 is good enough for mainstream hi-fi, or whether I would be better off paying the extra for the Arcam Solo Neo. How much of this extra cost goes into sound quality vs the additional CD and tuner section, which is of less interest? Can you recommend any alternatives, from manufacturers such as Naim, or perhaps the Zone Player 90 and a good, simple power amp? Target maximum price is around £1350 (Arcam Solo Neo price).

My music on the NAS is mostly burned from my CD collection at 250 kbps, though I would plan to re-burn CDs in apple lossless format. Sound quality and software upgradeability are of greatest importance. It would also be beneficial to be able to hide the amplifier / unit on top of a cabinet, which means that a good remote control is also of benefit (which can be iPod touch based).

I hope to hear from you and wonder whether this set of options is interesting enough for you to test out (eg Arcam vs Naim vs power amp plus Sonos)...

(Question also sent via e-mail)

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

Well, I'd say stage one, if you're going to re-rip your CDs, is to do so using FLAC rather than Apple Lossless. The Sonos units will play Apple Lossless, but FLAC will enable your stored music to be streamed to a much wider range of clients, rather than locking you into the Apple way of doing things.

After that, I'd suggest a listen to the Naim UnitiQute and the Arcam Solo Neo: I know which one I'd buy for £1350, but it's important for you to listen to both, if possible with speakers similar to the ones you currently have.

 

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

Thanks for an incredibly quick reply Andrew. I will audition first (I have had Arcam kit in the past and have been very pleased), as long as I can find a distrubutor for Naim in Norway.  I'd also be interested if you have any immediate reactions to the power amp plus Sonos route, which of course opens up a bunch of options!


Regards Simon D

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

further to andrew's response, I have a question Geeked


I am about to set up my new sonos and NAS, and  am going to re-rip all 400 cds. Currently they are 320mp3, but was going to make them lossless.


 Other than flac having a wider range of compatable deviced than apple lossless,; is there really much difference in what I'll hear?


Secondly, if ripping to flac can that be done using itunes ( and if so, what are the recommended settings)


Thirdly, if going lossless (preferable using itunes) are there any consequences wrt album art in the sonos setup.


 


thanks


mike

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

Hi moosey as a firm beleiver that music streaming be it  wired or wireless is the "future" and having both an Apple based system (Apple Express and Apple TV) and a Sonos based system I'll give you my take.


"Other than flac having a wider range of compatable deviced than apple lossless,; is there really much difference in what I'll hear?"


Well despite what some might think the clue here in the title.  Lossless is by definition lossless so I'd say no you'll hear no difference at all.  Chose which format suits you based on file format compatibility with the equipment you use.


 "Secondly, if ripping to flac can that be done using itunes ( and if so, what are the recommended settings)" 


No it can't hence my statement about choosing a format based on compatibility with the hardware you plan on using.  I mostly rip to FLAC using dbpoweramp and can highly recommend it.


 "Thirdly, if going lossless (preferable using itunes) are there any consequences wrt album art in the sonos setup." 


In the system I use at home which is Sonos based I actually do use iTunes so rip to ALAC and there are absolutely no issues.  Neither as far as I'm aware should there be any issues with most popular ripping software.


 Good luck


 


 

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

thanks for that Yes

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

SmileHi Moosey and 2oldnslow (which I doubt)


 Interesting to hear your views on this.


 Andrew's comment was important for me, as it turns out that the Arcam and Naim units do not support Apple Lossless.  They will support files on my NAS that have been burned at 256 kbps in iTunes as long as they are not DRM protected (mine are not, as any songs I have purchased form iTunes have been upgraded to DRM-free 256 kbps files).


 The issues for me will come - if I decided to go for the Arcam or Naim network players - when I re-burn my CDs.  It sounds as if I will have to use a ripper / player such as WINAMP to produce FLAC files and live with 2 sets of files and media players - the "hi-fi" version that I will keep on my NAS and the iTunes for iPod / iPad versions that I will maybe put back on the hard disk of a PC again....


 The third option - and it would be great to hear peoples views - is to go for a Sonos player 90, coupled to a power amp.  This would allow me to use Apple lossless with iTunes files on my NAS, but I am intrigued to know if this would sound as good as the all-in-one option (assuming I but a power amp of similar quality).


Regards Simon D

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

Given that you have 400 CDs to store, which should occupy about 250-280GB, the best answer may be to store them all at uncompressed CD quality, which will give the greatest compatibility with everything.

And even assuming you have, say, a 1TB NAS, which is just about the minimum these days, you'll still have room for something like 1000-1200 more CDs.

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

Thank you Andrew - good point!

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

One thing to be aware of when ripping to linear Wav files is that they don't carry any metadata with them.  So although iTunes (and therefore your iPod / iPad would take metadata from the iTunes library, I doubt any media streamers would, so it would be difficult to dynamically sort your collection by artist, album etc. when searching or browsing from a streamer like the Naim, Arcam or Sonos.

AIFF is effectively a linear file format which can carry metadata and is supported by iTunes, but while Sonos and the Arcam (I believe) can play AIFF files, the Naim doesn't (unless things have changed recently).

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

What Andrew said.  I've got a WD Sharespace NAS with 4 1TB drives in it which configured as I've got it gives me 2.68TB of disc space. Way more than enough to hold my backed up iTunes library of audio and video (I work in the Middle East so the Apple store provides most of my film/TV content) and plenty more besides.  

I use FLAC because of the already mentioned problems with metadata if you go down the wav file route even though my AV amp supports playback of wav files.  To be honest I can't tell the difference anyway.  

Software like Dbpoweramp gives the facility to convert to pretty much any of the commonly used file formats anyway and even has a batch file converter.  I did think about sitting down and re-ripping to wav as a sort of archive and may well one day.  There is software out there that can add metadata to wav files Soundminer and Basehead spring to mind but as I said for me at least I'm more than happy with FLAC.

Think the important issue is not to put all your eggs in one basket and have multiple copies just in case.  As it is the way my NAS is configured I can lose a drive without any loss of data so I just keep a back up library on a USB drive and touch wood haven't had a problem yet.

 

 

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?
Andrew Everard:

Well, I'd say stage one, if you're going to re-rip your CDs, is to do so using FLAC rather than Apple Lossless. The Sonos units will play Apple Lossless, but FLAC will enable your stored music to be streamed to a much wider range of clients, rather than locking you into the Apple way of doing things.


After that, I'd suggest a listen to the Naim UnitiQute and the Arcam Solo Neo: I know which one I'd buy for £1350, but it's important for you to listen to both, if possible with speakers similar to the ones you currently have.



Which one would that be then?

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?
Simon D:

Thanks for an incredibly quick reply Andrew. I will audition first (I have had Arcam kit in the past and have been very pleased), as long as I can find a distrubutor for Naim in Norway.  I'd also be interested if you have any immediate reactions to the power amp plus Sonos route, which of course opens up a bunch of options!


Regards Simon D



Another option for you. I use a Popcorn Hour A-200 with a 1tb drive. I have it connected to my screen via hdmi and my DAC via coaxial. I also have it networked to my pc. It's great for viewing and choosing music and I get all the album art and metadata - I use FLAC files and dBpoweramp for ripping.

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?
2oldnslow: I did think about sitting down and re-ripping to wav as a sort of archive and may well one day.  There is software out there that can add metadata to wav files Soundminer and Basehead spring to mind but as I said for me at least I'm more than happy with FLAC.

I am pretty new to all of this myself but I believe if your files are in a lossless format already you can convert them back to a bit perfect WAV, I read you can convert ALAC to WAV in iTunes, I assume something like dbPoweramp or MAX will do FLAC to WAV. 

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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?
pwiles1968:2oldnslow: I did think about sitting down and re-ripping to wav as a sort of archive and may well one day.  There is software out there that can add metadata to wav files Soundminer and Basehead spring to mind but as I said for me at least I'm more than happy with FLAC.

I am pretty new to all of this myself but I believe if your files are in a lossless format already you can convert them back to a bit perfect WAV, I read you can convert ALAC to WAV in iTunes, I assume something like dbPoweramp or MAX will do FLAC to WAV. 



You are correct.

Anonymous
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Re: Which way to wireless wonderland?

it will but as far as I'm aware the metadata is lost.  If you just want a WAV file to burn a CD for whatever reason no problem,

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