MP3 player vs Squeezebox?

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Richard_2482

Guest
Probably a silly question....Can anybody tell me whether a Squeezebox 3 would give a better audio performance than my Zen Micro plugged into the AUX inputs of my NAD C320BEE amplifier, given the same 192kbps MP3 file, and if so why? Is the DAC in the Squeezebox better than that in the Zen (or my wife's IPod, for that matter)?

And similarly, coulld I expect to achieve hifi 'equivalence' between an Sb3 and my NAD C521BEE CD player, and if so what encoding format/bitrate would I have to use to achieve this?


Can anyone offer any general comments about the relative performance of MP3 players/SB3/CD players?

Thanks in advance.
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
The SB3 has a very good DAC, better than many CD players that cost 3 times as much. But as it has digital out you can use your own if you want.

But for it to really shine, you need to be using a high bitrate than or ideally a lossless format. The SB3 supports just about every format, but you are best off using FLAC (which is lossless) as it's 'natively' supported by the SB3.

In case you are new to this, lossless means that when the audio on a CD is ripped no data is thrown away, unlike with MP3 and other lossy formats that permanently throws away some data in order to achieve very small file sizes during compression. Just like how a JPEG photo quality degrades the more you compress it.
Lossless formats, like FLAC, preserve all the audio data and sound exactly as good as the original CD.

As for SB3's versus CD players; well assuming that you have used a lossless method of storing your music, the main benefits are the convenience it gives you. Having your entire collection at your finger tips. And you will never need to worry about scratched CD's again. In fact i have many damaged CD's that wont play in a CD player without skipping, yet i have managed to rip them slowly using EAC to FLAC and can now play them perfectly after years of missing them. You also have the world of internet radio etc. There are lots of other benefits, but i could be here all night! :) Maybe i will do the SB3 (or other streamer for that matter) V's Portable ones for HiFi use later or let someone else do that :)

It's a huge can of worms though, search these forums. Streaming is a massive topic around here right now.
 

lazymatt

Active Member
And similarly, coulld I expect to achieve hifi 'equivalence' between an Sb3 and my NAD C521BEE CD player, and if so what encoding format/bitrate would I have to use to achieve this?

I would suggest with good quality lossless files (like FLAC) the SB3 would outperform your CDP. Certainly my Sonos is equivalent in terms of SQ to my Roksan Kandy CDP. The Sonos and SB3 are very similar to each other in the quality they can produce with FLAC files.
 

GW43

Well-known Member
I have recently gone down the route of getting a Creative Zen Vision M, and ripped a load of CDs to it at the WMA VBR setting of 85-145kbps. This actually resulted in most tracks being around 140-160kbps. I then realised I had quite a bit of hard drive space left over and re-ripped a fair proportion of my CDs to the next higher VBR setting in WMA - 135-215kbps - this gave a typical bit rate of 250-320 kbps.

I bought an interconnect to connect the line-out of the Zen to a line in of my Arcam A85. Played through my MA GR10s the tracks sounded fine, but more detailed in the higher bit rate, a little smoother, but still a bit lacking in dynamics and excitement. Compared to my Arcam Alpha 7SE the Zen was not as good, but great for playing random tracks whilst doing other things around the house.

This got me thinking about a Squeezebox, and a friendly local home cinema shop lent me one for a weekend. Connected wirelessly to my router it was playing music in about 10 minutes.

The sound - in a word - BRILLIANT!

Compared to my Arcam CD player it is far more detailed, so less "warm". Soundstaging is far better, as is instrument separation. Needless to say I've bought one, and the CD player is due to be history.

With regard to the bit rate, I'm now using WMA Lossless (this gives a bit rate of anywhere between 500kbps and 1100kbps, so I'm ripping my CDs for a third time in 5 months! I've just invested in a 500GB USB HDD to store everything.

To be perfectly honest, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a track at 320kbps and one lossless. Studies on the web suggest the same.

WRT to codec, I tried EAC but it is not the easiest software to use, and the file tagging was a bit cumbersome, and the ripping was slow. I think for my circumstances and ears WMA Lossless is fine.

To sum up, I think the Squeezebox is better than my Arcam Alpha 7SE, which itself was no different to an Arcam CD73 when tested side by side last year. I was advised at that time (by a local hifi shop whose name is a number of trees!) that to significantly better the 7SE would require a budget of £1,000. The Squeezebox has done that for just over £200. The added convenience of having all your music at your fingertips is just terrific.

Tips:

Get the biggest USB hard drive you can afford - £100 gets you 500GB these days
Rip using a lossless CODEC
Prepare to never have to get up to change a CD again!
 

lazymatt

Active Member
Tips:

Get the biggest USB hard drive you can afford - £100 gets you 500GB these days
Rip using a lossless CODEC
Prepare to never have to get up to change a CD again!

Just to add to that - it's worth spending the extra on a NAS drive (as opposed to USB) IMHO so you don't need to have the computer switched on.
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
With regard to the bit rate, I'm now using WMA Lossless (this gives a bit rate of anywhere between 500kbps and 1100kbps, so I'm ripping my CDs for a third time in 5 months! I've just invested in a 500GB USB HDD to store everything.

stop.gif


Don't use WMA lossless with an SB3, use FLAC.

FLAC is a "native" format to the SB3. This means that the FLAC files are set directly to the SB3, then decoded by the SB3 and then played. If you use WMA Lossless, the files are first transcoded to WAV by Slimserver and then sent to the SB3 to be played. The upshot of this is that the much larger WAV files will put much more of a strain on your WiFi networks bandwidth which may cause you problems with stuttering music in future, especially if you use the WiFi network for other things, like web browsing etc, at the same time.

Also, the SB3 has some serious issues Fast forwarding and Rewinding non-native music. I also use OGG Vorbis (a lossy format). Before they added Ogg Vorbis natively to the firmware i found it a nightmare. I also had some Monkey Audio (lossless) music, this too was a royal pain at times. Sounded great, but skipping though a track was a no no.

Furthermore, FLAC supports gapless playback. WMA Lossless does not do it very well at all. So if you have any albums with a few tracks that merge seamlessly into the next, or require complete gapless playback (I.e. DJ Mixes, Live gigs, Classical, Opera, audio books, etc) then you need to use FLAC, or you will get a small gap or click between each track.
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
Just to add to that - it's worth spending the extra on a NAS drive (as opposed to USB) IMHO so you don't need to have the computer switched on.

Good advice :smashin:

But just to add a little more, the USB interface between the External HDD and PC can be a bottleneck for transfer speeds. Especially with large lossless files. If you don't want to do the NAS thing, i would really recommend you use an internal PATA/SATA drive and maybe have an external USB box just for backups.
 

GW43

Well-known Member
Just to add to that - it's worth spending the extra on a NAS drive (as opposed to USB) IMHO so you don't need to have the computer switched on.




I use Wake on LAN from the Squeezebox, and my PC goes into standby after 15 minutes of inactivity.

Also, at about £350 for a 500GB NAS drive,

https://www.ripcaster.co.uk/node/62?gclid=CL2VwZmvuIsCFQROEAodTAZjzA

that's 3.5 times the price of a USB hard drive. Is a NAS drive much cheaper to run than a PC? £250 difference buys a lot of electricity!
 

GW43

Well-known Member
stop.gif


Don't use WMA lossless with an SB3, use FLAC.

FLAC is a "native" format to the SB3. This means that the FLAC files are set directly to the SB3, then decoded by the SB3 and then played. If you use WMA Lossless, the files are first transcoded to WAV by Slimserver and then sent to the SB3 to be played. The upshot of this is that the much larger WAV files will put much more of a strain on your WiFi networks bandwidth which may cause you problems with stuttering music in future, especially if you use the WiFi network for other things, like web browsing etc, at the same time.

Also, the SB3 has some serious issues Fast forwarding and Rewinding non-native music. I also use OGG Vorbis (a lossy format). Before they added Ogg Vorbis natively to the firmware i found it a nightmare. I also had some Monkey Audio (lossless) music, this too was a royal pain at times. Sounded great, but skipping though a track was a no no.

Furthermore, FLAC supports gapless playback. WMA Lossless does not do it very well at all. So if you have any albums with a few tracks that merge seamlessly into the next, or require complete gapless playback (I.e. DJ Mixes, Live gigs, Classical, Opera, audio books, etc) then you need to use FLAC, or you will get a small gap or click between each track.


Fair point, but I have not experienced any of the issues you mention, and I can live with the issues around fast forwarding and gapless playback
 

lazymatt

Active Member
I use Wake on LAN from the Squeezebox, and my PC goes into standby after 15 minutes of inactivity.

Also, at about £350 for a 500GB NAS drive,

https://www.ripcaster.co.uk/node/62?gclid=CL2VwZmvuIsCFQROEAodTAZjzA

that's 3.5 times the price of a USB hard drive. Is a NAS drive much cheaper to run than a PC? £250 difference buys a lot of electricity!

Ahem....You can get them much cheaper than that.

It's not so much about the 'leccy savings, more convenience. But each to their own. I'm not suggesting you should upgrade if you're happy with your set-up, but for anyone looking to start out, it's worth going NAS IMHO.
 

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