New system: Is HDD stored music a real hifi option?

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Aug 10, 2019
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Hey folks,

My first post here so please be gentle.

I'm completely new to this and still trying to find my bearings. But basically I want to make the leap to a proper hifi experience.

At the moment I have an AV amp/receiver ... Pioneer VSX-AX2AS-S which I am feeding from my iPod. Yeah I know, not exactly hifi, however the set up has really allowed me to enjoy a large proportion of my music collection as everything is so easy to access (I hit the iPod button on the remote and can access the entire music library from my LCD tv). I also like the convenience of the AV amp as it lets me hook up my SKY HD, X360 or anything else I choose to my TV (via one HDMI cable ... so my girlfriend really approves of it too).

I know that AV amps/receivers often have to compromise with regard to audio quality as so much has to be cramped into one box (amp for 7 channels, HDMI switching, upscaling and about a zillion inputs and other options). So I am pretty resigned to having to buy a separate amp.

Now, my dilema is therefore this:

1. Buy a new CD player + integrated amp (something like the Primare I21 and CD21 as its probably one of the most beautifully built things I've ever seen at my budget level ... or Cyrus 6VS2 and CD6S because of some really good deals that appear to be on) ... and be restricted in the availability of music without moving myself off the couch;

or

2. Buy an integrated amp as above but feed it from NAS drive (a networked HDD running slimserver software which I already have, populated with FLAC lossless or similar) being accessed by a Squeezebox which then passes the digital signal via optical or coax connection to a Benchmark DAC1.

I would imagine that I would have pretty good results with option 1 but the convenience is what worries me. Therefore I would be really interested if anyone has had experience with a setup similar to my option 2. Would this really give me a proper hifi experience or am I kidding myself?

Thanks in advance for your advice :)
 

VoodooDoctor

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Sep 23, 2007
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I have the same dilemma.

If you go on the Slim Devices website, they have their Transporter, which has received rave reviews claiming that it is a sterophile's dream digital music device. I really want a Leema Acoustics Antila (which I am saving for) to partner my Tucana (that I got with a £1000 off!) but I do wonder whether the Transporter may be the way to go as I have all my CD's ripped in Lossless format to a NAS and the convenience would be great.

Any comments from the team would be appreciated... Sorry for the partial hijack!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="VoodooDoctor"]If you go on the Slim Devices website, they have their Transporter, which has received rave reviews claiming that it is a sterophile's dream digital music device.[/quote]

I've read some mixed reviews of the Transporter (some really positive, for example the Stereophile.com and others not so, for example TrustedReviews) and its pretty pricey (think it would cost around double of what I'm considering at the moment) as far as I know. The Stereophile review compared it to the Squeezebox + Musical Fidelity X-DAC combo ... not sure how it would compare to the Benchmark DAC1 though.

Btw, VoodooDoctor, are you running SlimServer on your NAS at the moment?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
QUOTE: New system: Is HDD stored music a real hifi option?

In a nutshell - no. However if you spend money wisely, you can get some products that will get very close!
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Well thats what I was thinking.

I'm just wondering though whether the Squeezebox, which I would use to access the music information on the network attached HDD would be the weak link in the chain (its a pretty inexpensive .. think <£200), and may cause some jitter, although from what I have read the Benchmark DAC1 supposedly employs some ingenious techniques to ensure perfect clock timing and is itself a very good quality piece of kit.

So in my view it boils down to two issues:

- can the Squeezebox send a signal to the Benchmark DAC1 which is of comparable quality to what the DAC1 would get from a CD player or the DAC is clever enough to deal with any timining/jitter issues

- is the Benchmark DAC1 a decent enough DAC in the first place

Maybe what I should do is go for the Cyrus pair for under £1k (rather than the Primare) and also buy the Benchmark and do some proper benchmarking when I have the two :p
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Music servers are certainly a HiFi solution. At CES this year many of the suites in the High Performance Audio section featured Macs & iTunes as their sources. Done right this can be far better than many CDPs.

If you're considering a Naim CD 555, then the music server is not a player.

I'll personally never buy another CDP.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
New system: Is HDD stored music a real hifi option?
Absolutely. Is the short answer. A little longer answer is:
I myself use the PC as my primary source. And it is already a lot better than everyday CD players. A carefully configured PC would be hard to beat by any CDP under a grand. And that's just about the sound quality. Add to that the convenience of use (availability, reliability, retention in long-term) and nothing beats a PC based solution.
I see HDD based "Entertainment Servers" becoming de-facto standard in foreseeable future.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I'm going to be getting new system for 'downstairs' soon (I store my CDs upstairs) and am thinking of alternatives to a straight CD player. But I don't want a network or any computers involved (!)

Would a Yamaha CDR-HD1500, say 450quid
Linked via coaxial to a Cyrus DAC-X say 1000quid
Then into say a Cyrus 8vs2 and suitable speakers sound any good, i.e. as good as a CD8X??
The Yamaha would just store CDs and play from the hard drive. Or is there a better option (no computers remember!!)

many thanks
jules.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I would have more confidence in the set up you are proposing Jules than my proposed setup due to the fact that you won't have to rely on a network to access the information or something like a Squeezebox.

Btw ... I also want no actual computers involved in my set up (they are just too noisy and I don't want a complicated UI involving a PC), hence the use of a NAS HDD ... the one I currently have (QNAP TS109) is capable of running SlimServer and has passive cooling so its pretty quiet too (the only thing you hear from time to time in a quiet room is the disk spinning, but that could be easily taken care of by placing the NAS HDD further away or out of sight).

I'm really interested if someone has already managed to run a traditional (in the region of £2k-£2.5k for CD, amp and speakers) and HDD based setups side by side and compared the results.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="jules153"]I
Would a Yamaha CDR-HD1500, say 450quid
Linked via coaxial to a Cyrus DAC-X say 1000quid
Then into say a Cyrus 8vs2 and suitable speakers sound any good, i.e. as good as a CD8X??
[/quote]

No idea of that Yammy thingie, but anything that can feed the DAC-X without much of jitter will beat the CD8x by a HUGE margin. You just have to make sure it gives out a PCM signal at 44.1 KHz with a tolerable jitter, that is mo messy upsampling/oversampling/resampling before it hits the DAC.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="fr0g"][quote user="Hughes123"]QUOTE: New system: Is HDD stored music a real hifi option?

In a nutshell - no. However if you spend money wisely, you can get some products that will get very close![/quote]

HDD is an inherently better playback medium than a platter spinning a CD.
HDD with bit-perfect copies is already better than CD. So in what way is that not a real hifi option?

So to the original poster. In a nutshell - Absolutely yes.[/quote]

No medium which is copied to be played can supress the originaly designed way of playing. This is why "audiophiles" will not use HDD (however silly they may be).
 
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Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="Hughes123"]No medium which is copied to be played can supress the originaly designed way of playing. This is why "audiophiles" will not use HDD (however silly they may be).[/quote]

Preferring to use a CD over a HDD, which is a much more precise and reliable medium for digital data storage (reason pretty well explained by frog), is like preferring to use a cruise to cross the Atlantic rather than a plane. If someone refuses to accept HDD as a superior medium I will attribute it to his ignorance.
In audio world it is pretty fashionable to say - "I'm old fashioned", but that will not change the fact that the new methods being used for audio reproduction are far outclassing the older ones.
 

drummerman

New member
Jan 18, 2008
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[quote user="ranjeetrain"]is like preferring to use a cruise to cross the Atlantic rather than a plane[/quote]

Mr Everards 'Titanic' will appear any second ...
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Some have suggested that the process of copying from CD to HDD leads to some loss of quality ... not sure how this could happen though as during the copy process it should be possible to make a bit perfect copy.

Does this make sense to anyone?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="Grimaldi"]
Some have suggested that the process of copying from CD to HDD leads to some loss of quality ... not sure how this could happen though as during the copy process it should be possible to make a bit perfect copy.
[/quote]

If you have a photo CD, and you use your PC to view it, does the picture quality deteriorate when you copy the picture?
 

John Duncan

Well-known member
Jan 8, 2008
2,027
13
19,695
[quote user="ranjeetrain"][quote user="Grimaldi"]
Some have suggested that the process of copying from CD to HDD leads to some loss of quality ... not sure how this could happen though as during the copy process it should be possible to make a bit perfect copy.
[/quote]

If you have a photo CD, and you use your PC to view it, does the picture quality deteriorate when you copy the picture?[/quote]

Can do, if the jpg compression engine is invoked in the copy (like in File/Save As, or even Rotate Clockwise). But I do get your point.

One question I have, is how does EAC (eg) know it has a bit-perfect copy?
 
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Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="JohnDuncan"]Can do, if the jpg compression engine is invoked in the copy (like in File/Save As, or even Rotate Clockwise). But I do get your point.[/quote]

You know well, that's not the right way to do it. You do a copy at the "file system" level, bypassing the "viewer" software. If that serves as an analogy, let me add, the Audio Track copy would not remain "bit-perfect" if you copied through the "soundcard", or by capturing the "wave out" device.

[quote user="JohnDuncan"]One question I have, is how does EAC (eg) know it has a bit-perfect copy?[/quote]

CD-ROM devices understand a set of commands. So say, the command to read a particular sector is:
cmd0 <Sector_address>
Now a copy program, EAC & co, will give this command repeatedly for each sector it wants to copy. When the CD-ROM performs the command, it returns an error code. If the error code says copy was fine, it will move onto the next sector. If it gave an error, it will retry till it gets a perfect read. If it cannot, even after a trying for a certain time, then it will adopt even higher level algorithms to achieve a good copy.
But with all said and done, IF you have a good working CD-ROM, and you have a new spotless CD, there is no reason why would the "ripper" even need to apply "error-correction".
 
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Anonymous

Guest
And back to Grimaldi again... When you install an application (Game, etc) from a CD... If there is one single bit wrong... the whole thing wouldn't work...The CD ripping software can acheive the SAME from any CD - why would a music CD be any different? (They are both simply a series of 0's and 1's at the basic level)
Don't get me wrong, I totally understand these concepts, hence why I was raising the question.

Perhaps those who do experience the fall off in quality are not copying tracks as "computer files".

Another point that someone mentioned on another forum was that HDDs are able to read flawleslly (the medium is much more stable, etc) however HDDs rely on their very fast rotational speed to re-read sections of the disc if errors are present (most spinning at 7,200rpm) thus achieving their error free results.

However, reading the data in an error free manner must not be all thats required ... timing is critical (which is not the case when loading a word file or internet explorer), so perhaps it is this aspect that HDDs and PCs have not been able to master ... HDD it self not having a dedicated clock and the actual processing done by the CPU also leading to timing distortions (both the HDD and the CPU will have internal clocks but these will not be optimised to sync perfectly with the HDD and the output via coax, optical or USB).
 

VoodooDoctor

New member
Sep 23, 2007
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Think I've found my solution: http://www.linn.co.uk/klimax_ds

Only £9600....

To me it seems that the biggest issue is the DAC that the streamer passes the digital stream to. Beresford seems to be popular but has anyone tried a Squeezbox with a more "upmarket" (e.g. Cyrus or even Chord Company) DAC and noticed much difference???
 
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Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="Grimaldi"]
However, reading the data in an error free manner must not be all thats required ... timing is critical (which is not the case when loading a word file or internet explorer), so perhaps it is this aspect that HDDs and PCs have not been able to master ... HDD it self not having a dedicated clock and the actual processing done by the CPU also leading to timing distortions (both the HDD and the CPU will have internal clocks but these will not be optimised to sync perfectly with the HDD and the output via coax, optical or USB).

[/quote]

"Timing is critical", that's a valid point, and worry not that is taken care of well. If I were to explain it in detail, it would take quite some time to write. In short, the clocking is handled by the soundcard ,in case of a PC, in case of Squueezebox there would be some equivalent.
Some other things to keep in mind are:
>> Most modern equipments contain their own clocks. Reclocking takes place at virtually every step. So, even if the PC messes with the timing somewhat a good DAC will be able to make up for it easily.
>> Jitter can not only affect the data signals but also clock signals. So if you are afraid of poor timing, that can happen (and does happen) in case of a standard set-up of a stand-alone CD player as well as a transport+stand-alone DAC, also.
I do not see why one should think a HDD based player cannot reproduce a digital data-stream at par with a standard CD player. In fact a PC will be more accurate at it for the reason that its internal clocks are 100s or 1000s times faster than consumer grade audio equipments.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
This is all very interesting and makes sense to me. BUT surely all you are likely to loose is the odd 'bit' with a cd. i.e. it wouldnt improve the sound quality (or degrade) running through HDD. The sound a cd produces is changed by the respective component setups of the player so it produces a sound that the designer thinks it great/wants to achieve. The only thing improving the read quality would do is help reduce any missing blips when playing back the track, eg a jump. Its not like analogue where you get distortion etc...or is it?

I admit everything I just said may be b***x but hey.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Not sure what you are really saying. If you meant that "final sound quality", i must admit, that's a valid point too.

So talking of "other components" that affect the "sound", assuming rest of the set-up would remain the same. (1) SMPS (2) DAC (3) OP Amps and other components

(1) A good HDD based player must also make use of an "adequately capable" power supply.

(2) Same DAC will always produce the same output given the same input whether its installed inside a standard CDP or a convergence product. Since an HDD based system will produce better quality data stream, the DAC will perform even better. So if a Rega CDP uses a certain Wolfson DAC, it can be said a HDD based player will produce the same analogue signal using the same DAC (till that stage). And we are still left with the benefit of better quality data stream.

(3) OP Amps and other components play an equally important role in the final sound. So if a convergence product makes use of the same OP Amps, Capacitors and other components, it still will produce sound with the same characteristics.

We are still left with the benefits of better quality data stream, enhanced usability, and availability in long term. And if you replace the HDD with a solid state storage device, you have one solidly built, virtually maintenance-free system that's not so prone to vibrations, blips, pops, skips and the list goes on.

I believe the reason why convergence products are not making a cut with audiophiles is that no one is really trying to come up with a system that meets the expectations of an audiophile. So far they are being manufactured and marketed more like life-style products than an audiophile's toy.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
[quote user="VoodooDoctor"]Beresford seems to be popular but has anyone tried a Squeezbox with a more "upmarket" (e.g. Cyrus or even Chord Company) DAC and noticed much difference???[/quote]

Stereophile rates Chord DAC64 very highly as they do Benchmark DAC-1. A reviewer went to the extent of saying "I can't recommend that audiophiles spend more money on a DAC until they audition the Benchmark Media DAC1 in their own systems. It's that good."
 

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