Hard disc player

arubin

Standard Member
I have my large CD collection ripped to flac and plenty of other music as aac/m4a/mp4 files.
Currently I can play all these files on my cheap Agptek mp3 player connected to earphones. I want to play them through my hifi. Currently the only way I can do this is to copy files to a pendrive and plug it in to my Marrantz CD player.

What I really want is a simple hard disk device which will connect to my amplifier with old fashioned RCA cables and has a good interface for finding and selecting files. Anything that I have found by googling seems to be prohibitively expensive. I suppose I want something along the lines of a Brennan B2 but then I don't need the CD ripping facility and I don't think the B2 has the right connecters. I don't want to stream, I don't want wifi I simply want to play music in the old way but from a hard drive.

Is there any reasonable solution out there?
 
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andy1249

Distinguished Member
What I really want is a simple hard disk device which will connect to my amplifier with old fashioned co-axial cables and has a good interface for finding and selecting files. Anything that I have found by googling seems to be prohibitively expensive.
There is nothing simple about such a device , it needs to have a decent DAC built in and custom display/playback software that covers all the formats/playback modes that would be expected of such a device these days , such as gapless playback etc.

These used to exist from the likes of Brennan , Auralic , Sony et al , but all cost 500 or more due to the nature and complexity of the devices , however they are very thin on the ground now and its streaming that has killed them.

In an age where for a small monthly fee you have access to the entire history of recorded output on your phone or any other device that can connect, devices like this don't stand a chance.
Most of them are discontinued , and streamers , with software for all the major services, such as blusound node are the order of the day.

You may be able to get a good quality DAC with a USB connection that will take an input from a hard drive in a caddy , but display duties are almost certainly going to rely on some kind of phone or tablet app.

Even going DIY with a raspberry pi is going to be relatively expensive and time consuming , once you factor in a decent DAC , case , and consider how you are going to display the content.

Myself, I have 25k plus albums on a microserver , and use streaming to get that music unmolested to the various amps that I have , this would be whats typcially described as the NAS and streamer route , and its not cheap either once you add up all the devices and software.

Note that phones or tablets nearly always come into the picture as a method of control at the very least , so at the end of the day , a decent dac and a smartphone comes out the cheapest , and that is what most people do these days.
 
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arubin

Standard Member
I understand the point that most people are streaming. On the other hand my sub-£40 AGPTEK mp3 player is capable of playing flac, has high storage on a micro SD card and with decent headphones sounds good to my old ears . If I could connect that to my amplifier (not something I have really looked into) I would be close to achieving what I want. Can it be so complex to reproduce a player like that in the form of a hifi separate?
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
Novafidelity and Cocktail audio also do devices that do what you want ut at a cost even second hand.

However, as already pointed out an old laptop/micro pc and a £100 USB dac (Topping E30, SMSL 10th Mk2 etc.) will probably be the best bet.

Something cheap to try would be to buy a 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable for £2-5 from amazon and see if the headphone output produces a reasonable sound on your hifi (this will depend on the quality of the in built headphone circuits in the player). Start with the volume on the player low though if you try it and increase until it sounds a similar volume to other sources. Do you have a model number for the player ?

Something like this, it works OK with my ipad - Amazon product
 

arubin

Standard Member
The player is the AGPTEK 32GB. I think they make only one player. Poor interface. Doesn't seem to recognise all the tags but capable of doing what I want as long as tracks are copied on in the right order ( I use rsync in linux)

Amazon product
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
As soon as you get into hi-fi separates, you are no longer looking at £40K MP3 players, as the target market is expecting higher quality. As quality increases, so does the price, but disproportionally. So for example the Naim Uniti Core Hard Disk Server or Bluesound Vault 2, which do what you request very nicely, are not exactly cheap.

More common than a streamer with a built in disk is "separates" - a streamer without storage and a storage device (NAS) on your home network. This is basically because once the storage is on the network, you can access it everywhere, and you can swap it out to increase capacity as your collection grows. At the same time, the streamer can access other sources such as online services or internet radio. I'm using a Yamaha CD-NT670D in the office as a universal source, with a Raid-5 NAS for the storage - I love it.

You may well be able to connect your AGPTEK mp3 to your amplifier, either via Bluetooth (if your amplifier has it) or the headphones jack (just get a cable).

I must admit I have never had time to rip all of my 7,500 CD collection, I haven't even managed 10%. As a result, I still play the CDs, only ripping things to take with on holiday.
 

jamieu

Well-known Member
I have my large CD collection ripped to flac and plenty of other music as aac/m4a/mp4 files.
Currently I can play all these files on my cheap Agptek mp3 player connected to earphones. I want to play them through my hifi. Currently the only way I can do this is to copy files to a pendrive and plug it in to my Marrantz CD player.

What I really want is a simple hard disk device which will connect to my amplifier with old fashioned co-axial cables and has a good interface for finding and selecting files. Anything that I have found by googling seems to be prohibitively expensive. I suppose I want something along the lines of a Brennan B2 but then I don't need the CD ripping facility and I don't think the B2 has the right connecters. I don't want to stream, I don't want wifi I simply want to play music in the old way but from a hard drive.

Is there any reasonable solution out there?

As UGG suggest above start with your current MP3 player hooked up to your HiFi with a 3.5mm to RCA cable, that will be the cheapest option.

If you don't like the interface on your current player, but need a device with a built in screen as you don't want to use WiFi or a phone/tablet to control playback, you could switch to be better 'MP3 player'.

As other have said in a world of mobile phones and streamers, standalone portable 'MP3 players' tend to be cheap with poorly designed interfaces (like your Agptek) or niche/expensive devices (from Sony or A&K). If you current collection fits on an MP3 player then I guess a 'halfway house' would be a used / refurbished Apple iPod? Connected up with a 3.5mm to RCA cable as above.

Another option might be to just get a used mobile phone (no need for a SIM card/contract) or low-cost tablet (an Amazon Fire can be had for as little as £30) and use that as your music player. Again connected directly via the 3.5mm port or wirelessly.

If you want to connect a larger capacity USB hard drive directly to a streamer then there are devices like the Bluesound Node that let you do exactly that and at the DIY end of the scale there are a bunch of Rasberry Pi options, but they all require WiFi (or Ethernet) and a mobile phone or tablet for control. If you want a streamer with a full sized LCD touch screen and ability to attach a USB hard drive (or that come both a a large internal one) things quickly start to get expensive.

Might be worth having a look over in the music streamer section here if you haven't already.
 
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rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Media streamers with a server to store music and host service. It can be a Nas, raspberry pi, or PC. And music players could be a phone, tablet, or android media player, or audio only streamer.

Use squeezeboxes, works well, affordable. Doesn't play hd audio but for red book audio it's plenty good enough
 

oscroft

Member
I have exactly the same requirements - a collection of FLAC and mp3 files that I want to play over my main hifi system.

My solution was to get a 2nd hand Mac Mini (less than £100, and I control it remotely via my main desktop Mac). If I used Windows, I'd get an equivalent mini PC. And then I use a standalone DAC, as I don't have an amp with one built in.

Alternatively, if I didn't have the Mac Mini, I can connect my main computer via optical to the DAC.

A big advantage of this approach is that you can choose your music player software to suit your needs, and you're not stuck with a single interface chosen by a manufacturer.
 

arubin

Standard Member
With these solutions using some sort of mini PC or raspberyy pi how does that work? The PC is connected to a DAC and the DAC to the amplifier? How is the PC connected to the DAC/amplifier?
 

andy1249

Distinguished Member
With these solutions using some sort of mini PC or raspberyy pi how does that work? The PC is connected to a DAC and the DAC to the amplifier? How is the PC connected to the DAC/amplifier?

Probably one of the best Raspberry Pi dac kits out there , note that you need to buy a raspbeery pi 4 to go with this. They are about 40-50 quid so the whole thing should be just under 200.
Its a 9038 ESS sabre dac , they dont come any better.


Some DIY needed but your hand is pretty much held all the way with this kit , and it has everything you asked for , your hard drive can be plugged into one of the USB ports and there are RCA outputs for connection to your stereo , full instructions are on the site.
 

kit1cat

Active Member
Another vote for the Raspdac mini LCD kit. I have been using the older led version for a number of years, a great bit of kit combined with the moode audio player.
 

Timmy C

Distinguished Member
With these solutions using some sort of mini PC or raspberyy pi how does that work? The PC is connected to a DAC and the DAC to the amplifier? How is the PC connected to the DAC/amplifier?

In the case of the Rasp Pi, it runs the media server and has the hard drive with you music connected to it. You have a number options though.

1. Build the Pi as both a player and media server with a built in DAC and feed an analogue signal to your amp.

2. As above but without a DAC in the Pi build and use an offboard DAC or the DAC in your amp if it has one

3. Just use the Pi to run the media server and buy a second hand player such as a Squeezebox that has it's own DAC. If you take this route, the Squeezebox will talk to the Pi over your network so no need for the Pi to be anywhere near your hifi set up.
Depending on which route you take. Control would either be direct through player via either touch screen or remote or alternatively, via any phone/tablet/pc on the network.

In the case of my own set up. Pi and hard drive are hidden away on top of a cupboard, wired to my router. Squeezeboxes connected to amps in every room all connected over wifi and all with control via every phone/tablet/pc in the house. Been using this type of set up for many many years now and see no reason to change. Cheap and does a great job.
 

jamieu

Well-known Member
With these solutions using some sort of mini PC or raspberyy pi how does that work? The PC is connected to a DAC and the DAC to the amplifier? How is the PC connected to the DAC/amplifier?

Yes, exactly that, you'd simply connect your PC or the Raspberry Pi to an external USB DAC (something like a Topping E30 for example) with a USB A to B cable (aka a USB printer cable).

If you’re interested in going the Raspberry route, you can either go the above route and just plug a standard RPi4 Model B into an external USB DAC — this has the advantage that you can use the standard RPi case (included in most bundles) or a nicer 3rd party one. It also means you can use the USB DAC with a PC or another device if you later give up on the Raspberry Pi.

Another option with a RPi is to use a 'DAC Hat' (HiFiBerry, RaspDAC, JustBoom etc.) which is attached directly to the RPi. This has the advantage of being a neater one box solution, but the range of (nice looking) cases may be more limited (depending on your HAT as each case must be designed to fit the RPi and a particular manufactures DAC hat and it's socket placement).

(btw. you mention COAX in your original post, I assume that is a typo and you meant to say RCA ie. standard analog stereo RCA inputs. But if you really do want a digital COAX output then your'd use a Dig iHAT with an S/PDIF output, instead of a DAC Hat with regular analog RCA outputs).

All the common RPi audio players like Volumio, LMS/PiCorePlayer, Moodes will work with the above DAC Hats or an external USB DAC. But unless you attach a screen you'll probably need to use an accompanying mobile phone or tablet app / browser based interface to control it remotely.

If you go the Mini PC route + USB DAC you'll need to decide what audio player / library manager software you're going to run on the PC and how you are doing to control it. At the high end you have software like Roon but I expect that is more than you want to pay, at the more affordable/free end you have MusicBee, Foobar2000, Audirvana, Plex, JRiver, amongst others. Again, as with the RPi route above unless you leave your PC attached to a monitor you're likely to want / need to use a mobile phone or tablet to control it.

You can try out LMS (Logitech Media Server) — which is what PiCorePlayer is under the hood — on a desktop PC before you buy any hardware. But be sure to enable the Material Skin (under plugins) once setup or otherwise the interface will look really dated.

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The RPi route does depend on your level of patience with 'tinkering' (I say that in a nice way). If you're more of a plug & play person then a dedicated streamer like a used BlueSound Node might make your life easier and dare I say it, offer a nicer looking interface (not that LMS or Volumio is bad, it's just not quite as polished as say BlueOS or Roon).
 
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reggiegasket

Standard Member
I'm pretty much just repeating what is said above, but I researched all this recently for the same goal, and it was either a laptop+Dac, or a streamer like the Bluesound Node, with a HDD plugged in.
 

rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
A laptop would work but probably not most polished setup to use, I guess if you're kind that plays a album from start to finish it'll work, just drag album playlist in foobar and play. If you already have laptop and on a budget. A bit clunky. Could you get phone to control the laptop media player?


Android player will work, however they don't play 44khz as 44khz they resample to 48khz.

Sonos is good but with the database limitation I wouldn't buy one.

Squeezebox touch available for about £60 so bargain. Then install lms on laptop or nas

Lms is a host service in Windows so someone else can be using that laptop and it has no effect on your squeezebox. They can even play music. As long as they aren't maxing out CPU/HDD .
 

jamieu

Well-known Member
Sonos is good but with the database limitation I wouldn't buy one.

Sonos (Port/Connect) also doesn't allow you to directly connect a USB hard drive to it, it can only index a local library via a network share. That seems to be a limitation with a lot of the cheaper streamer units, the Yamaha WXAD-10 has the same issue.

Which is a shame as (if you can live with the 65k 'local files' track limit) an older / used Sonos Connect (~£55) with the older S1 app makes for a cheap (and well designed) entry point into the world of streaming.

You'd still need a phone/tablet to control it though, but I think that probably applies to all the other options other than a laptop or a streamer with a built in touch screen / controls.

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If you can fit your music library on a tablet or phone, then getting a used device solely for that purpose seems like a sensible option, either wired directly (using a stereo 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable) to your amplifier or wirelessly via a used Chomecast Audio (Android tablet/phones) or a £6 Airport Express (Apple/iOS tablet/phones) connected to your amplifier. Given that almost all other options (above simple MP3 players) will require a phone/tablet for control it's likely to be a device you can continue to use whatever route you take.

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The only other option I can think of that is both low cost, allows direct connection of a USB hard drive and has a built in touch screen is PiCorePlayer (LMS) in a touch screen case. But that's more of a weekend DIY project and will depend on how technical you are / how much tinkering you're up for. Also navigating a large library (solely) on a touch screen won't be much fun, you'll likely still need a web browser for organising your library and playlists.

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I guess you could just get a cheap / used laptop and a USB DAC (or even just use the laptops 3.5mm output; depending on the the age of the laptop it may be better than you expect — a DAC output stage is pretty much a reference circuit built around a single chip nowadays) and go that way. Then run your music player / library manger of choice (see above post) on the laptop. But that would require you to get up from the sofa to play music!
 
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rccarguy2

Distinguished Member
Some AV units have audio playback my tonewinner has USB and smart card ability. Dunno if it's any good though
 

oscroft

Member
With these solutions using some sort of mini PC or raspberyy pi how does that work? The PC is connected to a DAC and the DAC to the amplifier? How is the PC connected to the DAC/amplifier?
Possibly covering what has already been said. But I connect my Mac Mini to my DAC via USB, then tell the Mini to send its sound out to USB.

My desktop computer has an optical digital connection (TOSLINK) which my DAC also has, so I can connect that way too.
 

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