Got left a wee bit of money earlier this year so decided to ditch my ageing Panasonic Home Thetre system for a normal stereo job as the Panasonic was great with movies but dreadful with music
Interesting journey to say the least. Kicked off with a bog standard Denon 2 box mini system and some MA BR1 speakers. Not bad for the price, decent sound, not to be sniffed at. However caught the digital bug and added an Olive 4HD as it seemed ideal for ease of ripping, storing etc. Look guys its really well made and specced BUT not ultimately user firndly. Yes it has Burr Brown DAC's inside but these are ten a penny these days, yes it has 2TB storage BUT when you back up the back up files are a weird Linux archive which cannot be unzipped manually, so its a kind of Olive only backup. Also the CD drive bust and whilst the dealer was excellent I decided to call it a day with Olive. I was also somewhat taken in by the 24 bit/192khz hype - they do sound good BUT, first of all there are not many of them available, secondly those that are cost a lot more than normal stuff, thirdly the sound quality is a function of the original recording engineers efforts, a good CD can sound as good as a bad Hi Res track.
Gave it some thought and in the end bought a nice Peachtree Decco amp/dac, hooked up a Sonos for the streaming of the audio, fastened on a NAS drive (Buffalo Linkstation), piggy backed a cheap portable USB on the NAS (to back up)and started ripping via DB Poweramp. The whole system was little more than half the cost of the Olive and has as an added extra multi room caability, a quality amp, a much more user friendly interface and a 100% digital path. Connections are wih modest optical cables (sorry but too much snake oil around on cables for my liking - in the end I am moving around data, 1's and zero's).Finally found a second hand pair of Acoustic Energy AE1 Classics in perfect nick on ebay so the sound roars through them now.
For cinema use (I pipe my freeview audio and DVD through the peachtree), I added a Wharfedale SW150 from superfi to enhance the cinema experience - works well.
My main advice here is......
DIY digital is FAR cheaper than any 1 box solution and worth the effort (consider the Meridian Sooloos Control which for £4750 gets you a touch screen LCD panel, a paltry 500gb hard drive, a cd drive and a bit of fancy software - terribly expensive for what it is). Also editing meta tag data on the Olive was a nightmare, much easier on your laptop
Lucky my system is near my router so everything is hard wired. Treat with caution all the stuff about wireless going around. Its okay with 320kbps lossy stuff but forget it for FLAC or WAV
Don't get sucked in by fancy digital Coax and Toslink cables. Remember you are shifting data here, and only data
Get some reasonable ripping software, DBPoweramp (about £30 but then how much is your collection worth!), or EAC (free but not as easy to use). Also to edit your MP3 tags or whatever MP3Tag is great (free)
Get a backup drive, then get another. Storage is so cheap now.My piggy backed 1TB drive was £50, again how much is your music collection worth.
Its been a trial at times but worth it. I firmly believe that some parts of the Hi Fi Industry are treating streaming etc as the new cash cow and bundling some very exotic ideas around at far fetched prices. Don't get caught out by it. I'm just waiting for someone to suggest I should put my kit in a special vibration proof stand!