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Question Is Digital Hi Fi Worth the Effort?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by bill77056, Aug 24, 2015.

  1. bill77056

    bill77056
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    Is Digital Hi Fi Worth the Effort?

    First, I would like to congratulate everyone here on your knowledge, love and enthusiasm for Hi Fi and for your willingness to support the guys getting started. Reminds me of the 1960s when we would gather and compare our Heathkit and Allied amps through Klipschorn and AR speakers.

    Question: In your opinion, has the mainstream hi fi community today digitized their CD collections to NAS boxes? Are there generally accepted best practices/standards/protocols for the various functions from digitizing to streaming/Internet Radio to DAC to system control?

    From the 2-days time that I've been considering how to approach the project of moving to digital, it seems to me that everything today is bespoke. Not much is standard; there is much incompatible hard and soft ware.

    Bill – Houston, Texas
     
  2. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    Of course many people have completely digitized their CD Collections and Stream the music rather than playing it by conventional means.

    But how you convert it to streamable content matters. MP3 for serious listening is OUT. Most are using FLAC, which is capable of data rates far in excess of CD quality.

    Though it doesn't really do any good to burn in excess of the original content. So, if you burn CD in FLAC at standard CD Bit and Sample rates (16b/44.1k), that is about as good as you can get.

    Many of the High Resolution Download sites us FLAC as the default file format. Although they seem to be moving toward AIFF

    If you are an Apple Fanboy, then you can burn your content using Apple Lossless file format. (ALAC)

    The default Windows uncompressed format would be WAV.

    Assuming you don't have an Apple system or Software, like FLAC is the most common file type.

    Check the list of Streamable file formats supported by your streaming device.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  3. stephenbarnes

    stephenbarnes
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    It's pretty simple and open system at least how I do it.

    EAC ripper to artist\album directory structure, to flac codec
    Foobar to playback when I'm a computer
    Squeezebox for playing in the cinema/hifi
    Files stored on a NAS, with Slimserver installed.

    If you store as flac, you just need a NAS with UPNP service enabled, scan your files and any device will access them (phone, avr) to get UPNP support
     
  4. grahamlthompson

    grahamlthompson
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    The audio on a CD is digital already. It can be converted to pcm .wav files which should be identical to the content already on the CD.
     
  5. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    True .WAV are as close to the original CD content as it is possible to get, but they are not compressed, which simply means the files are a bit bigger.

    Compressed (FLAC) files are smaller, but they have to be Un-Compressed on Playback which requires time and computing power.

    So, it depends on which you have more of - Storage Space or Computing Power.

    Stereo Reviewers claim there is a small difference between the sound of WAV and FLAC, but a very small difference, virtually insignificant. But, they do claim they can hear it. So, again, if you have tons of storage, WAV is about as good as it gets. If you are trying to conserve storage space, then FLAC is probably the best.

    Steve/bluewizard
     
  6. stephenbarnes

    stephenbarnes
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    "Compressed (FLAC) files are smaller, but they have to be Un-Compressed on Playback which requires time and computing power"

    Which is milliseconds and hardly any CPU power at all, mobile devices can decompress flac on the fly, and it's usually buffered anyway. There is no benefit using PCM, it's somewhere 50% larger, doesn't contact metadata, has no built in file error verification, no replaygain.
     
  7. J J Carter

    J J Carter
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    Compared to?

    Unless you listen to mostly classical music, the lossless streaming services like Tidal cater for most people increasingly well and you don't need to go to the effort of ripping CDs and then backing-up the hard-disks with multi-GB of data stored on them. Lossy streaming like Spotify is fine for kitchen/bedroom units like the Sonos PLAY range

    No. Most peeps have a rag-bag of MP3 they've picked-up over the years and just connect their smartphone to the hi-fi with a bluetooth adaptor/Apple Airplay. Properly ripped CDs/hi-rez downloads using FLAC, fully tagged and streamed via a decent DAC is a minority interest.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  8. andy1249

    andy1249
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    The marketing people really have done a number on the population here, not only is online service streaming a massive dive in source quality, a quality everyone used to get regardless of their equipment, but they have also convinced people to commit to a regular bill to listen to whatever the masses have determined is popular enough to be on their servers.

    Sheep services.

    Setting up your own nas or microserver is the way to go.
    Rip to flac using EAC.
    Then you have your own collection at best quality on your own personal cloud with no bills to worry about.
    (Also...if youve been reading the news lately...no extremely dodgy privacy issues to worry about...your contacts, pictures and data remain your property and not signed over to some corporate entity to do with what they will)

    When you think about it, all music listening is a minority interest of 1.
    No one should settle for the lowest common denominator in terms of available content or quality.
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
  9. Steven

    Steven
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    Even within digital music you will find people trust the digital to analog conversion over wireless fidelity. For example i recently had the pleasure of a couple weeks home testing of the new Chord Hugo TT as a headphone source and the bluetooth input has lower quality than wired input.

    It is not really about whether a digital based system is worth it, many have already made the change. You can get good and bad sounding digital or analogue systems just the same.
    Spot on. Computing power was a non-issue years ago, nevermind modern devices in 2015. Moore's law. Modern smartphones can record and playback full HD video, processing music is a basic expectation.

    Flac - and other lossless codecs - compresses the original audio file without loss of information.

    Lossy compresses the original audio file by also removing information, that is data outside the range of human hearing.

    Lossy (including MP3) does not need to be a dirty word. i use 320kbps lame encoded mp3 files on my phone. Ultra high fidelity is not a requirement for commuting as am not paying attention. That does not invalidate others who want lossless files for the outdoors. Personal choice.
     
  10. stephenbarnes

    stephenbarnes
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    I have recently used Q2 VBR Vorbis for my portable player, that means I can have twice as much as a higher bitrate, and it sounds amazing. I have played back those files on the main system and the changes are slight.
     
  11. sounddog

    sounddog
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    Regardless of arguments over sound quality of FLAC vs WAV, the big problem with WAV is that metadata support is variable, whereas FLAC has well defined metadata support (track number, track title, artist, album name, etc) which virtually all players support.
     
  12. Jota180

    Jota180
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    The best bit about having your whole music collection on a NAS drive is you can browse the lot from your favourite chair. You can play individual albums, tracks, make huge play lists, randomise the whole collection so you get a surprise every song. You'll never scratch another CD again! My CD's are bought, ripped on the PC and stored on my NAS drive with a back up copy on a NAS extension and then the CD's are stored away.

    One other thing, with a cable or wirelessly you can stream your music to any number of rooms in your home.
     
  13. TomScrut

    TomScrut
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    People make digital music sound far more complicated than it is, nobody on this thread but a lot of people get put off unnecessarily by others over complicating things. You need some sort of computer or NAS that you are going to store your files. You need something to play the files, PC & DAC or streamer. That's about it in short.

    Whether you stream or play back directly from the storage PC/NAS is a decision based on what DAC/streamer you like best. I actually play back on a PC with a DAC but I have the files on a NAS. I could say that the NAS is an unnecessary part of playback apart from it is useful for other things.

    And is it worth it? Hell yes. All your music at your fingertips without needing to get up and swap discs is great.
     
  14. D'@ve

    D'@ve
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    It could be the acronyms we all use that that put ordinary folks off, they are a real mystery to most people. I mean to say, ignoring the commonly used ones such as WAV, CD or (perhaps) VBR, this thread is full of:

    NAS
    DAC
    FLAC
    AIFF
    ALAC
    EAC
    UPNP...

    and so on. More than enough to send any newbies who encounter it scurrying away to digital spy or back to their X-boxes! :D
     
  15. BlueWizard

    BlueWizard
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    NAS - Network Attached Storage - a Hard Disk Drive attach to your local computer network

    DAC
    - Digital to Analog Converter - converts a series of digital numbers into voltages that can drive an amp and speakers.

    FLAC
    - Free Lossless Audio Codec - A very popular free Audio format that uses lossless compression.

    AIFF - Audio Interchange File Format - an audio file format standard used for storing sound data for personal computers and other electronic audio devices.

    ALAC - Apple Lossless Audio Codec - This is Apple's version of FLAC. High quality lossless compressed file format for audio.

    WAV - Waveform Audio File Format - (WAVE, or more commonly known as WAV due to its filename extension) (rarely, Audio for Windows) is a Microsoft and IBM uncompressed audio file format standard for storing an audio bitstream on PCs.

    MP3 - MPEG Audio Layer 3 - a means of compressing a sound sequence into a very small file, to enable digital storage and transmission. MP3, much like the photo file format JPG, throws away a lot of data in order to compress the file. Generally, this is the lowest audio standard, though it comes in different degrees.

    MPEG - Motion Picture Expert Group - an international standard for encoding and compressing audio and video content.

    Metatdata - Technically data that describes other data. In this context it is information imbedded into an audio file that describes that audio file. For example, Album, Artist, and Track information, etc....

    VBR - Variable Bit Rate (I assume) - a term used in telecommunications and computing that relates to the bitrate used in sound or video encoding. As opposed to constant bitrate (CBR), VBR files vary the amount of output data per time segment.

    PCM - Pulse Code Modulation - a method used to digitally represent sampled analog signals. It is the standard form of digital audio in computers, Compact Discs, digital telephony and other digital audio applications. This is the raw data format that is typically used to drive DACs and similar devices. For example, most Digital Data coming OUT of a TV digital out is in PCM format.

    EAC - Exact Audio Copy - Software for burning CD to Digital Computer Files. Free for non-commercial use.

    Exact Audio Copy

    UPNP
    - Universal Plug and Play - a set of networking protocols that permits networked devices, such as personal computers, printers, Internet gateways, Wi-Fi access points and mobile devices to seamlessly discover each other's presence on the network and establish functional network services for data sharing.

    DLNA
    - Digital Living Network Alliance - Founded in 2003 as the Digital Home Working Group, the DLNA (www.dlna.org) sets guidelines for using the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) protocol to transfer and stream media between computers, mobile devices and home theater equipment.

    Any others????

    Steve/bluewizard
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015
  16. Don Dadda

    Don Dadda
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    Audacity - Not an acronym but a widely used and mentioned software editing tool for digitizing Vinyl or music recorded onto cassette tape.
     
  17. D'@ve

    D'@ve
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    Excellent work there BW, I knew them all apart from ALAC (I will have nothing to do with Apple) but the list will be helpful to some. Maybe it deserves its own stickied thread, into which other acronyms could be posted then merged into the list?

    Is digital worth the effort? Well as a recent convert, having been forced to buy a DAC (Arcam IrDAC) in order fully to integrate all my gear including PC and 3 PVRs to run through my old Arcam amp, I would say that it's becoming essential these days. It may or may not sound better than my old analogue systems but it's opened up new upgrade possibilities, definitely doesn't sound any worse, and I now have added flexibility.

    So I'd say "yes", in my case it's been worth it - even though I will not be transferring many of my digital CDs DVDs or BDs, and not even my vinyl, to hard drives.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2015

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