Can you get a good Hi-Fi to play digital music. Or is it a waste of money?

nsr1200

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Jun 30, 2010
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I have been out of the Hi-Fi game for about five years now and recently started getting back into it all again. Alot has changed in five years and the main difference is for me is my entire music collection is now digital (mp3, flac, aac).

I currently have a Yamaha RX-V396RDS AV Receiver and a pair of the rather enormous Wharfedale E-50's. The speakers I must say are brilliant considering they are now quite long in the tooth. The AV is not bad either. All my music is currently being run through the optical out of my PC straight into the AV.

I want an upgrade now, a complete overhaul of my rather minimal setup, but I am worried that if I start investing good hard earned cash will I really be benefiting from audio bliss or just compressed hell?I am not particularly interested in Home Cinema setups mainly due to the fact I don't watch enough films to warrant the cost, but there is also something very nice about having two beautifully crafted speakers centralised in the room.

I would like a new amplifier, a new pair of speakers, possibly free standing and some sort of audio storage and play back device. I will also be purchasing a PS3 in time for the release of Gran Turismo 5, although judging by the amount of set backs that game has already suffered that is not top of the list. As I mentioned before although I don't want a home cinema setup, I would like it to be able to perform with some dignity while playing the odd blu-ray or the ever lust after GT5.

I would like to think this can be accomplished with £1000, but I will wait to see what the jury says.
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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it will help with suggestions if you state the type of music you listen to, and what kind of sound you'd like from the new kit. also, the size of the room and how much free space will the speakers have to the sides and rear.

oh, and is the ps3 part of the £1000 budget?
 

nsr1200

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Jun 30, 2010
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The type of music I listen to can range from pop to electronic dance, to jazz. It's hard to say what kind of sound I would like from it but I like bass, nothing that over powers me too much, I have neighbours! The room size is approxiamately 10' x 12' and the speakers are intending to have 50cm on one side and 1.5m on the other side, they can be shifted around though (they will be sat on either side of a chimney breast). I'm not really sure how much space will be at the rear, but I have 1 metre maximum clearance depending on the size of the speaker cabinets.

I am not going to include the PS3 in the £1000 budget.

Thanks
 

nsr1200

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An absolute favourite Album of mine is Massive Attacks Mezzanine, track 1 called angel is hauntingly brilliant when played with the right kit.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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nsr1200:
the main difference is for me is my entire music collection is now digital (mp3, flac, aac).

will I really be benefiting from audio bliss or just compressed hell?

I would like to think this can be accomplished with £1000, but I will wait to see what the jury says.

Source is your problem, no point in going mad if its compressed, lossless on the other hand is limited only by your DAC. An iMac or a PC can send emails, browse t' web as well as play songs; my CD player cant. I know where I'm going. I'll leave others to comment on amps and speakers, its a mine(d) field...good luck dude!
 
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Anonymous

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A laptop with these:

http://www.whathifi.com/Review/AVI-ADM91/
 
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Anonymous

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I agree with Taylor74 but the Avi's are just over budget,we are using ours for hours on end some days and you can connect your Blueray player via an optical cable. The bass will be less but it is fast and wonderfully tight,and you could add a sub in the future.
 

nsr1200

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A part of me wishes sometimes that my music was not all pugged away on a hard drive, sometimes I think it worth just biting the bullet and going back to CD again, but with nearly 20,000 songs now digital that is almost out of the question, unless I start to take up a new musical genre that I don't already own in my collection.

I long for the days of good Hi-Fi, that I once had. I have some thinking to do......
 

Craig M.

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Mar 20, 2008
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you could use a squeezebox to access music from your pc, then you'd just need a amp and speakers. do you want to buy new or would you consider 2nd hand?
 

xtsili

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Jun 24, 2010
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let's make the long story short. Get a decent sound card, a decent dac - and there are plenty out there - and then make a short list of budget amps and speakers based on WHF reviews of revelance and I think you won't be any far from a good sounding system in the price tag you have set - given that you have some sort of desk-top computer at home
EDITED BY MODS - House Rules
 
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Anonymous

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Personally I like the Squeezebox or Sonos option - but get a good dac. I think you may be surprised how good existing equipment can sound with a good dac and lossless files.
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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nsr1200:
A part of me wishes sometimes that my music was not all pugged away on a hard drive, sometimes I think it worth just biting the bullet and going back to CD again, but with nearly 20,000 songs now digital that is almost out of the question, unless I start to take up a new musical genre that I don't already own in my collection.

I long for the days of good Hi-Fi, that I once had. I have some thinking to do......

Why? I am genuinely interested in your opinion as I am considering doing just this. I can understand the pleasure of owning CDs and the process of opening the case, viewing the inner label etc, there is something tangible about your music collection, something inherently technologically impressive in the form of this shiny silver disc; similar perhaps but no as strong as the tactile pleasure of andling a vinyl LP.
 

nsr1200

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The whole thing about digital music has been on mind mind for a while now, and even through I pose the question at the top of this thread "Can you get a good Hi-Fi tp play digital music?" I already deep down know the answer. You have to have a compromise, everything pugged away on your PC is all well and good, as there is no mess or space loss due to thousands of CD,s and you can access everything at the touch of a button or click of a mouse, but essentially what you gain in space and have at tyour fingertips you lose dramatically in quality, and this is something I maybe can't accept any more, not forgetting the fact that you lose all the glamour of owning a CD.

This then leads to another question, as mentioned before. Do I start buying up discs again, or shall I start acquiring flac files or any other form of lossless digital media? Last time I checked flac wasn't the most accessible digital purchase on the like of itunes. AAC is good but I am not convinced and mp3 is....well... lets just say it's very compressed, and once that quality is gone you can't get it back no matter how much kit you have.

The more and more I flick through the pages of What Hi-Fi the more I would like to go back to basics, two quality speakers, a decent integrated amplifier and a CD Player, with the added addition of an ipod dock, and thats it (oh and possibly a DAB) I want quality not thousand of techno gadgets that look good but don't actually improve my listening experience.
 

The_Lhc

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Oct 16, 2008
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nsr1200:The whole thing about digital music has been on mind mind for a while now, and even through I pose the question at the top of this thread "Can you get a good Hi-Fi tp play digital music?" I already deep down know the answer. You have to have a compromise, everything pugged away on your PC is all well and good, as there is no mess or space loss due to thousands of CD,s and you can access everything at the touch of a button or click of a mouse, but essentially what you gain in space and have at your fingertips you lose dramatically in quality,

Cobblers, you're doing it wrong.

and this is something I maybe can't accept any more, not forgetting the fact that you lose all the glamour of owning a CD.

Glamour? It's a piece of plastic. Besides it's still best to buy cds and rip them yourself, that way you get quality you want.
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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nsr1200:You have to have a compromise, everything pugged away on your PC is all well and good, as there is no mess or space loss due to thousands of CD,s and you can access everything at the touch of a button or click of a mouse, but essentially what you gain in space and have at tyour fingertips you lose dramatically in quality, and this is something I maybe can't accept any more

Simply not true. I have a Uniti in the house right now, so can compare the relative merits of CD, Airport Express into the digital input, uPnP and direct from a USB stick, and to me there's no discernible difference between any of them, given the same source material.
 

nsr1200

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Is there any loss of quality with compressed digital formats, or even "lossless". If not I am genuinely confused on what a thousand quid could buy me to the best of out an average 128k/b - 320k/s mp3 formats.

Thanks
 

SteveR750

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Mar 11, 2005
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The point is that a PC with lossless ripped files off or CDs is going to be at worst as good as any CD transport, most likely better as the transport has to deal with error correction in real time as its streaming, a lossless file doesn't suffer from this. I look at it this way, I will still buy CDs but instead of playing the CD on a CDP it will all be stored on a computer which would replace the CDP as the main source of recorded music, with no loss, and maybe an improvement in quality depending on the quality of the DAC I use.

The big advantage is the possibility of streaming / downloading music off the net, ok its compressed but that's fine for a lot of the time, especially when a lot of rock / poop stuff is compressed to black hole densities in the studio and bears little resemblance to the original instruments being played. I see this is a big "bonus" over simply using a CDP.
 

John Duncan

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Jan 8, 2008
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nsr1200:
Is there any loss of quality with compressed digital formats, or even "lossless". If not I am genuinely confused on what a thousand quid could buy me to the best of out an average 128k/b - 320k/s mp3 formats.

Thanks

There is a theoretical loss of quality yes, but I have yet to be able to distinguish reliably between 320k and lossless (compressed or uncompressed). A thousand quid would buy you an Airport Express (or some other streaming device such as a Squeezebox or even a Blu Ray player, so you could still spin discs when you need to), a decent DAC, and a great amplifier and speakers such as the Marantz PM6003, Rotel RA-04SE or Cambridge 650A plus a pair of EB Acoustic EB1s. There might be some squeezing of the budget in certain areas to hit a grand, but it's there or thereabouts.

Alternatively, there's always the AVI ADM9.1...
 

nsr1200

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Jun 30, 2010
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Finally an answer that gives me some bearing on what to do. I had not thought of the transport mechanics or error correction on a CD Player, but with the digital media you have none of that...Thank you


I was beggining to think my entire collection was not worth the hard disk space it took up, but I now have a little bit of hope.

So with the majority of my collection being mp3 I was originally intending on getting some kind of music server then running it straight to the amp, but should I have another box in between these two?
 

nsr1200

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Jun 30, 2010
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Thanks that is very helpful! All I want to do is make the right choice and not end with a load of kit that ends up dissapointing me.
 

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