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Digital Music Storage

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by Planet__, Mar 20, 2004.

  1. Planet__

    Planet__
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    I've put this post here 'cause I don't really no where else to put it!

    Here's what I'm trying to acheive: I want to store my CD collection digitally and access them on demand, either on or off screen. The onus on this is playback quality - near as technically possible to CD quality, while adding in some 'warmth' to tame my Pioneer AX5i AV AMP. Plus it's got to be intuitive and easy of use quickly day in day out. Not asking for much :D!

    Since looking into this in other threads in other sections, I'm kinda spoiled for choice and my head starts to pound! First things first, is the extrernal DAC. This is to take the digital signal from what ever I decide is delivering it, and feed it to the amp analogue, which I believe should give better sound quality. Better than the amps own DAC is debatable and hard to find out without trying it. I've looked briefly into DACs and they can be either expensive or really expensive. Some Musical Fidelity's are available on ebay from time to time, but quite clueless on what I should go for, so some advice there please!

    Next up is the delivery system. Here's briefly what I've found out so far:

    PC (Hush and simillar)
    Roku HD1000
    Roku M1000 & M2000
    Phillips SL300i & SL400i
    Xbox (modded with Media Player)
    Netgear MP101
    Squeezebox
    Linksys Wireless-B Media Adaptor
    More being released in the future..

    All of the above with the exception of the Xbox, need a PC to store the music. The PC can be remote with help of a hard or wireless network connection. The Xbox can take take advantage of this too. The PC has to be in another room due to it's noise and looks. The Hush PC is premium kit, but what it does can be done cheaper and better.

    A lot of the options above are still very new and some unreleased as yet, making it difficult again to decide.

    Last but not least, is copying the CD's in the quality I want. Some research into the options and my head wants to reboot:suicide:. What do you folk use and recommend? Some folk say 160Kbps is sufficient, some go as high as 400Kbps. Then there is Variable Bit Rate and the format to choose, Ogg Vorbis - lossy, FLAC - lossless. It's a minefield for a newbie like me! Take it that I want a lossless method, but what hardware above will play it I'm still finding out..

    Any recommendations, resources and tips will be welcomed with open arms! Cheers.
     
  2. Messiah

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  3. VirusKiller

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    If you are serious about sound quality, I believe that you can actually create a PC jukebox with better sound than a lot of CD players in conjunction with the original CDs!

    The following set-up is what I am currently aiming towards, unless someone convinces me otherwise - I'd be really interested in others' comments here.

    1) Rip CDs to uncompressed WAVs* using EAC. This will produce a digital sound file of better quality than most CD players can pull off the disc, perhaps with the exception of CD-ROM-based Meridians. Why? Multiple re-reads and error-correction. This software is superb. I also make use of the ATWavTag utility in conjunction with EAC to populate the WAV headers - see here for the gory details.

    2) Store WAVs on a big (but getting ever cheaper) PC hard drive or drives.

    3) Use an ethernet/wireless WAV client such as the Roku M1000 as the jukebox controller.

    4) Feed digital output from the Roku to a Meridian 518 digital processor (£250-£350 on ebay). I won't go into massive details as this is a seriously complex and sophisticated piece of kit, but this should reduce digital jitter from the Roku to trace levels. It will also convert the word length from whatever the Roku puts out (16-bit? like CD players) to the word length of whatever DAC you are using (typically 18 to 24-bit). There's a review of this in Stereophile magazine, if you're interested.

    5) Feed digital output of Meridian 518 to the DAC of your choice.

    6) Feed output of DAC into pre-amp section of your conventional HiFi.

    Sounds easy doesn't it! Obviously you can skip the 518 and DAC stage and utilize the analogue outs from the Roku (or whatever). Roku claim a high-quality internal DAC - we shall see.

    Cheers,
    Joel

    * Note you can then compress the WAVs using any external compressor (many use LAME. for instance, for MP3). I would possibly compress to WMA-lossless to save drive space, but there is virtually no hardware support for playback of this format at present, unlike MP3, Vorbis. WAV, etc.
     
  4. Planet__

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    Many thanks Joel! This is certainly the road I'm travelling. I am serious about quality, the thought of clicks, pops, hiss and such going through my Missions is a no-no, especialy at high volumes :). As for obtaining the quality you speak of, I'm sure it's possible. At the moment I'm concerning myself with the ripping first, then seek the hardware that is compatiable with it.

    I've made some inroads and tested a few apps and they all have there own seperate issues.

    EAC - excellent quality and fast, but doesn't code/list/tag (whatever the terminology is!) if you know what I mean. For instance, Windows Media Player will display it in such a way with the cd's it has copied. But the max bitrate for WMP is 192Kbps, a bit short of the quality I'm after.

    Windows Media Player - see above. Easy to use, catalogues just fine, but the bitrate is just too low.

    Media Monkey - i thought it was the app I'm looking for, 'virtual CD' but you have to pay to get it. I aint payin for it for it to turn out crap lol! Didn't give it much time admittedly.

    Winamp 5.02 - just finished ripping a cd as I type, first opinion is it's a bit slow (but it's a bitrate of 1411Kbps/44Khz and x2 read). Quality seems as good as EAC, tags the tracks individually with the artist and track name (when you play it through WMP it just lists the artist & track title, but no album details), but I think that was my fault not doing it properly. Winamp's Media Library is sweet and easy to use, reports back the album info too. As long as the other device I'm playing this back on (Roku, Xbox whatever) will do the same - IIRC it's a .m3U file. Am I right in thinking that a CD album is just another playlist (as in m3u?). This is now my player of choice for playback on the pc.

    Going to try a mixture of EAC and Winamp, and that link was very useful. Wav headers, that may be what I'm fussing about...

    Ever tried to rename a folder after EAC ripping? Windows doesn't let you and says another application is using it. Alt-tab and you'll see EAC is open (even if it wasn't running before) waiting for you to input the info. Let EAC do the renaming, close EAC and THEN you can rename it in windows explorer. Odd, not sure if it's clever..

    For a newbie like me to find out the artist and album title is acutally the filename, should give you an indication of my learning curve!

    Now regarding bitrates and frequencies. I know EAC and Winamp are ripping at 1411Kbps and 44Khz. The DACs in my DVD player and amp are 192Khz/24bit (for DVD-A presumably). Am I right in thinking that normal CD's are 44Khz/16bit? So I'll never be able to rip higher than this? Makes me think that I'll skip the external DAC and go to the amp digital and let it to the conversion. Would and amp up-sample in some way? Or perhaps an external DAC will give better conversion to analogue than the amp. But in saying that, I remember reading on this forum somewhere that an analogue input to such an amp is converted to digital anyway then back to the analogue stage, undoing the good of the external DAC, even if you select 'direct' mode.

    It's difficult to see the 'real' quality after ripping as I'm playing it through the computer to check, which is totally reliant on the computers hardware (soundcard, DAC, headphones etc).

    Anything I've missed lol?

    Cheers.
     
  5. Planet__

    Planet__
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    Further to everything, I can record at 24bit/96khz, just not with my current soundcard :(. There are many out there with varying quality and price. One thing I can't find out is how to record in 24/96. Trawling through the search engines comes up with little. Does anyone know of any resources where I can find this out?

    For instance, recording seems different from ripping. I would prefer to use the DV757 as the source as the lens, transport and dac will be far superior to any internal cd drive. But then I doubt the pc will recognise the cd from the digital signal... Then I presume it would be a case of recording the album, splitting and naming each track seperately. What a chore!

    Please tell me there is an easier way!
     
  6. VirusKiller

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    Hi Planet__,

    Apologies for the delay - I've had to rebuild my home firewall this week and have had no time to pen this at work! My thoughts below:

    Have a look at the link I posted above - you can use a 3rd party utility to populate certain fields of WAV headers.

    I've found that WMP will recognize headers in WMA files (surprise surprise), but not WAV headers. However, other applications will read WAV headers (such as AudioStation from TurtleBeach which comes with their Audiotron MP3, WMA, WAV, etc. player).

    Not true - look for WMA Lossless - much higher (typically 800-1000kbps).

    I'd be surprised from what I've read. Do you know if it does multiple re-reads and error correction?

    This is the crux of the whole thing. I am praying that Roku's software will read WAV tags! All of the software player I know of and have tried are fine with .m3u files (including a Linux player).

    Yes.

    Well, potentially you can upsample to 88kHz and do lots of digital trickery. Beyond me at the moment, but it's what Meridian do (you'll have gathered by now that I'm a fan :D )

    Completely depends on the quality of the DAC. Dedicated DAC likely to be better, but not necessarily!

    I guess this depends on the amp. Interestingly, last time I had a listen, there was very little discernable difference in sound quality when feeding my Sony 7700 DVD player to my Yamaha A2 amp through analogue (Sony DAC) or digital (Yam DAC). My ears...

    Let your ears decide...

    Probably, but I have no idea either! Glad to see someone else is thinking along the same lines as me.

    Cheers,
    Joel
     
  7. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Hey Dude from my limited opinions on how this scenario would owrk for me to feed to an external DAC, I sort of came up with the following part list as a minimum to pipe a HDD based music collection to an external DAC (something I have considered) :

    Firewire card on your PC
    External HDD units with firewire (and tracks played back down firewire to original PC)
    A decent soundcard for music (Terratec/MAudio) for piping to an amplifier

    or a SC with a digital output to pipe to a DAC.

    Apologies if you have considered this before.
     
  8. Planet__

    Planet__
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    Thanks Joel, your not alone!

    CJROSS, your application is a little different from mine as I'm definetly going wireless.

    It seems that I have two chapters to this saga! First off the recording and then the playback.

    Recording
    Having been looking at soundcards for a bit I reckon that I'll go for a Creative Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro to do the recording. My thinking is that it'll be good for games when I'm not recording :). It seems to have the better support etc.
    When I get the card I'll test the quality it brings, i.e. if recording 24bit/96khz is worth it and if recording from an external dvd player will be better than internally from a cd/dvd rom. I know which one will be quicker!

    Playback
    This is kinda decided. The storage will be a pc with wireless connection which the Roku HD1000 or SoundBridge will pick up. Initially I'm going to feed the amp a coaxial signal from the Roku to hear it and if it needs anything then I'll look for an external dac.

    The dilema here is the Roku HD1000 or Soundbridge? It would be seriously cool to select music using the plasma, but then sometimes you don't want to have to turn on the display just to play music. Both would be overkill :devil: Could get both just to see which one sounds better then send the other one back lol! (or put it in another room!).
     
  9. VirusKiller

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    Hi Planet___

    For what it's worth, I'm going to order a SoundBridge 1000 tonight (to get the $25 discount) together with the CF wireless card that Roku can provide (very competitive at $50). If it works out, then Roku may receive even more business from me. I may consider the HD1000 for my AV room, but not yet.

    The nice thing about all of this is that you can do it incrementally.

    Cheers,
    Joel
     
  10. cwick

    cwick
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    I ordered my HD1000 last week after a kind sole who has one confirmed that it will playback recordings from my Nebula card. It should be here in a few days I reckon, I'll let you know how I get on with it.

    Joel - fyi, Roku gave me some grief w.r.t credit card verification etc. First an email saying the goods had shipped, then an email saying they needed a fax of the card, some photo ID, some bills etc. I told 'em I wasn't comfortable faxing them that info, then found they'd taken the money anyway, mailed 'em about it, and they finally said it had shipped already (on the day they'd emailed me it had shipped). Lord knows what they're on, but just in case they do it for all overseas orders .....

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  11. kingstevo

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    Hi all,

    I've just ordered a SoundBridge from Roku too - and I had the credit card grief. I had to fax a copy of the card and photo ID etc...

    Anyway, I bought the Roku to go in the bedroom as I have also just bought a PC to act as a server which I can connect it up to the TV and HiFi in the living room.

    Can anyone recommend a good application to play music from the PC through the HiFi, using the TV as a display?
    Ideally it would have icons and text viewable from a distance and have the ability to be controlled by an IR remote.

    The server is currently WinXP but I'm prepared to change if the right app comes along. Any ideas?

    Thanks, Steve
     
  12. cwick

    cwick
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    myHTPC and XLobby spring to mind. XLobby is prettier, IMHO, although I found myHTPC easier to setup.

    MediaEngine looks pretty good too but it doesn't like my PC for some reason so I've not been able to get it working.

    Both will need a (little) work to control with a remote, but not a lot. I use the remote that came with my Nebula card. I think you can get the ATI RemoteWonder (I think that's what it's called), or IRMan/Girder/ any old remote as alternatives.

    You're probably better off asking in the HTPC forum though, plenty of folks in there are already doing just what you're after.

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  13. VirusKiller

    VirusKiller
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    Well, I've just ordered a SoundBridge 1000 and wireless card, with <kissofdeath>no credit card (or other)grief yet</kissofdeath>. Strange.

    Just have to see whether I get stung by customs...
     
  14. gilb-1

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    Has anybody received their Soundbridge yet? I'm thinking about getting one and it'd be good to hear your opinions and wether you got customs charges

    cheers

    Paul
     
  15. VirusKiller

    VirusKiller
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    I've just received a letter from Roku. Yep - credit card grief. I wouldn't be surprised if their software only recognizes cards from US banks :rolleyes:

    Oh well.
     
  16. cwick

    cwick
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    Still waiting for mine.

    They've taken the dosh despite giving me grief, so it had better turn up !

    Does that mean you've given up Joel ?
     
  17. VirusKiller

    VirusKiller
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    Not yet. I'll probably give them a call tonight. Not keen on faxing CC/passport details to them though...
     
  18. cwick

    cwick
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    Mine just arrived, stung for £60 customs charge on it :(

    Pretty pleased with it so far though ... already playing back recordings from a Nebula freeview card, and I noticed that there's an early VLC client port available which will provide MP3/OGG/MP4 support - just what I need to use my iTunes music library.

    Looking forward to getting it home and seeing what it can really do (currently connected to a pc monitor on my desk, and it's struggling to stream over the office LAN ).

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  19. Triggaaar

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    Hello all

    This all hurts my head too much. But its exactly what I'm after too, so I guess I'd better learn.

    I posted on this subject some time back. One house move later, I'm still not quite ready (linking house with Cat5 week after next).

    I had decided I'd like all CDs stored uncompressed on a PC, and to stream them via Cat5 to several slim devices, audiotrons or other (like the Roku mentioned here). From there, I was planning on a digital output to a DAC, then stereo amp.

    Is it not that simple to obtain a high quality result?
    If I've understood, Planet is saying more effort is needed duing recording, and between the client (say Roku) and the DAC. The second part is easier for me to understand, but -

    Recording the CDs to the Hard Drive:
    I assumed that jitter and interference from power sources etc was only a concern during playback (not when 'simply' copying data from CD to hard drive). Why would you need a good quality soundcard in your PC, when it is only streaming the data?

    Thanks
     
  20. gilb-1

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    Hi cwick,

    What do you think of the soundbridge now you've had a chance to play with it? Is it worth the money?

    Cheers

    paul
     
  21. cwick

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    Hi Paul,

    I actually bought the Roku HD1000. Compared to the Soundbridges it's a bargian - does much of what they do, plus video too. Still playing with the video side, but the muisc bit works well - nice, simple, clear interface. Not enough format support at the moment, although Roku have stated that the HD1000 will support everything that the Soundbridge does shortly.

    Gets a :smashin: from me :)

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  22. gilb-1

    gilb-1
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    Sounds good! The HD1000 does seem like a bargain now they've dropped the price but I really like the look of the soundbridge and the fact that the tv doesnt have to be on to view your playlist. Can you do this with the HD1000 or is it on-screen menus only?
     
  23. cwick

    cwick
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    On-screen only, unless you count using telnet to control it from the console as not using your TV ;)

    That said, I'm not sure the Soundbridge does much more. You can control it form a web interface if you're using a SlimServer, but the screen itself doesn't look big enough to let you navigate playlists or files & folders. I'd guess that it can do next/prev in a playlist, but that's probably about it. Note that's idle speculation though - it's not clear from the Roku website what it can actually do in this respect.

    Cheers, Carl.
     
  24. gilb-1

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    Hmmm, That was the main thing for me - didnt want to have to keep switching my tv on to play music. Maybe best if I go for the cheaper netgear one, it doesnt look as nice but has a 3 line display.

    Cheers for the info tho!
     
  25. togad

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    Gilb - you may want to check out the Audiotron. Might be perfect for your needs. I've had one for over a year now, and am very happy with it (although I have to admit I'm tempted to try the Roku HD1000.
     
  26. togad

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    This might be of interest to folks -

    I've just noticed that the Roku HD1000 is available from Expansys in the UK for £192.95 inc VAT (it says "ordered on request") - not a bad price at all, and perhaps less hassle than ordering from the US and getting stung with a customs charge.
     
  27. cwick

    cwick
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    That's a major bargain - cheaper than a personal import. Wish I'd known about that a couple of weeks ago :(

    No soundbridges on there though. Shame.
     
  28. cwick

    cwick
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    Good review of the Squeezebox here , of which I think the Soundbridge is pretty much a clone. Interesting to read about how playlists are browsed using just a two line display. Sounds pretty neat.
     
  29. gilb-1

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    Cheers togad - I'll have a look at the Audiotron
     
  30. togad

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    Let me know what you think - because I'm seriously tempted by that Roku and may well no longer have need for mine soon ;)
     

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