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COMPUTER AUDIO:TO STREAM OR NOT TO STREAM ?

COMPUTER AUDIO:TO STREAM OR NOT TO STREAM ?

COMPUTER AUDIO:TO STREAM OR NOT TO STREAM ?

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There really isn’t much of a debate about the superiority of Hi Rez music files over cd in terms of sonics.Whether you download a 24bit /48k file or luxuriate in 24bit/192k or DSD material,all of them make music sound better, in some cases dramatically so than Redbook.
 
The thing about CDS is that they are incredibly easy to use and until recently Hi Rez files  and indeed any musical files stored on a computer were not both in terms of getting them on and off your pc or mac.
I tunes was a snap but it sounded mediocre at best and could only store and playback wav files -max!
Ripping cds and downloading hi Rez files has become infinitely easier over the last few years with the advent of programs like DB Poweramp .
Playing them back-not so much. First for hi Rez you needed playback software Like Jriver or Audirvana neither of which are in the slightest bit intuitive and take a steep learning curve .
Assuming you got the handle of it  the control and connectivity of it became an issue.Yes you could connect your computer to a praiseworthy USB DAC  and down load one of the many remote control apps for computers and playback programs to your Ipad in the hopes of seeing and playing back your music library from your easy chair. However,these Apps proved to be anything but reliable and controlling your computer from a distance became an endless cycle  of rebooting  both the Ipad and the computer to restablish wireless connectivity which would be lost the minute your computer or Ipad fell asleep.What a nightmare!
Fortunately , a few intelligent souls , like Paul McGown of Ps Audio and the folks at Aurender, Chord,Lumin, Primare and Auralic, to name a few came up with the idea that if you loaded  a Net Work Attached Storage device (NAS) with the appropriate music server software you could build a device (alternatively called a streamer or a renderer) that would act like a bridge between the Music on your NAS and your DAC . Then all you needed was an IPad App which could both see and communicate the with the NAS and Streamer to tell the NAS  to send the music through the streamer to the DAC and you were in business.
While setting up such a system required a modicum of tech saviness ,operating it was a snap.
Ultimately a few wise souls decided that there was no reason one could not combine both the Streamer and the DAC into one unit which both simplified setup and improved playback quality  significantly. The reason for this is that with a DAC/ Streamer the files from the the NAS can be
fed directly into the DAC without ever having to be converted  and unconverted to usb protocol!
WHAT A EUREKA MOMENT !which soon passed as better and better USB ins and outs were created.
THE BEST PLAYBACK FROM DIGITAL FILES FROM $2K-$8K  FOR ME AT LEAST SEEMS TO RESIDE AT PRESENT WITH STREAMER/DACS.
FROM ABOUT $9K UP THE SEPARATE MUSIC SERVER AND DAC APPROACH
IS ABOUT EVEN WITH THE ALL IN ONE PLAYERS UNTIL YOU GET UP ABOVE THE  $ 13k AREA WHEN SEPARATES LEAD THE WAY.
Ranging in price from the new N100 (ABOVE) at $2500.00 to the absolute state of the art in Music Servers, the WS-20 at $17600.00 , these fool proof  Network Players  come with from 0 to 12TB of on board storage .
Here is why i love them so much.
First ,they are true Music Servers ( as opposed to simple streamers) with playback software on board for any type of file including DSD.This means  that if you choose to use their internal storage there  is no need to perform the complicated process of setting up a NAS drive with Minim Server for DSD Playback.
                     Aurender W20
Second,they provide a significant amount of internal storage from 2 TB to 12TB depending on the model.Why is this important? Just think about what happens when your network goes slow or has some interuptions.You get drop out and noise. If you are pulling data from an internal drive the viability of your wired network is irrelevant and the response time is virtually instantaneous and completely solid.
The only connectivity you need  is wifi for commands only.
Third, Aurenders sound better than other Network players!
 To begin with,the fact that your musical files are isolated to the extremely quite internal drives on the Aurender means that Playback is quieter and far more detailed than pulling from an outside drive.
The entire design of the Aurender drives , their attention to electrical and mechanical isolation,their exceptionally fast software makes them a joy to listen through.
Finally they are devices designed to be used by every member of the family, incorporating Airplay so you can stream anything from your Ipad through the Aurender and, coolest of all , they incorporate an absolutely seamless Tidal interface  for those times wwhen you are too tired to create a playlist but still want to hear CD quality Music!
                         Aurender S10
The Lumin Audiophile Network Music PlayeRS
FROM THE MODESTLY PRICED D-1 AT $ 2000.00 TO THE STATE OF THE ART
S-1 AT JUST OVER $12000.00 LUMIN PRODUCES THE BEST SOUNDING MOST RELIABLE RANGE OF STREAMER DACS IN ITS PRICE RANGE.
Supporting iPad (or other tablet) control of Ethernet audio networks and independent USB server/HDD playback. The Lumin decodes DSD native including DSD over PCM (DoP), and includes DSD up-conversion, variable bit rate output, PCM lossless streaming to 32bit/384kHz, gapless playback and PCM up-sampling.No wonder Lumin refers to itself as 
“THE FIRST UNIVERSAL(PCM AND NATIVE DSD)NETWORKPLAYER”
FIRST OR NOT ,THE LUMIN NETWORK PLAYERS ARE UNQUESTIONABLY UNIVERSAL IN THEIR APPLICATION AND WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT THEY SOUND BETTER THAN ANY STREAMER /DACS WE HAVE HEARD VAGUELY CLOSE IN PRICE.
What makes Lumin Truly special in our eyes is that all this performance is contained in a package that is easier to use than any other network player OTHER  THAN The Aurender with A most robust and detailed Ipad app .
                              LUMIN A-1
Introduced in 2012, The LUMIN A-1( $ 7000.00) has garnered lavish praise from reviewers including the Likes of TAS
which awarded it Product of the Year  for 2014 in the category of upper end music servers
In the review and the Awards issue Neil Gader writes
“Had I not known better, I would have sworn I was listening to mastertapes.”It was an impression of resolution, soundstage integrity, and clean transient speed…reaching a level of musicality that will make even diehard analog fans forget its computer roots.” TAS Issue 249
The T-1($ 5000.00),a slightly simpler version of the A-1 was introduced to lavish praise last year .Performance is 90% of the A-1 .
                       LUMIN D-1
Then only this week Lumin amazed the audio world with the D-1, a network player which,  at $2000.00, provides astounding performance
and outplays any stand alone Streamer/Dac in the sub 5k region that i have heard!
 Lumin even solves the most annoying part of setting up a network streamer:configuration of a nas with minim software for DSD playback..
Introducing the L-1,Lumin”s own UPnP 2tb server. which  takes all the angst out of  setting up a NAS drive.
Preconfigured with Lumins own version of Minim software ,all you have to do is connect the L-1 to your computer and drag and drop the files from it to the L-1.The L-1 does the rest.!all for $1200.00!
CHORD’S FORMIDABLE
DSX-1000 STREAMER/DAC

The DSX 1000 is Chord’s range-topping network music player. With a full-color screen, remote control and operation via a number of today’s uPnP apps for the iPhone/iPad or Android smart phones, the DSX 1000 has been designed to make the best of digitally stored music files. It can play: MP3; WMA; WAV; AAC; ALAC and FLAC with 24/192 AND DSD support where possible. A custom version of the SongBook app is also offered to give you full control and set-up functionality via your smart phone or iPad. The DSX 1000 offers the same high quality built-in analog volume control circuit used in Chord’s Reference preamplifiers. This gives highly accurate volume adjustment without the problems and low-level distortions associated with digital volume controls normally found in streaming products. It also offers both fixed and variable outputs, via both balanced XLR and RCA phono connections, so you can use the DSX 1000 with your existing system or use it directly with just a power amplifier. The most important feature, however, is that the streaming engine is coupled into Chord’s flagship QBD76 DAC technology. This design reclocks all the data, removing all of the jitter issues that can affect other products where the DAC is coupled into the main streaming chip. The way in which the digital data is converted to analog from the network is the most important part and will affect the sound quality more than any other component. Chord’s legendary DAC expertise and proprietary circuits are what separates this truly state-of-the-art streamer from all the other ordinary ones. Hear the incredible DSX 1000 today – it’s not just any streamer! Value priced at $13,000.

High Resolution DACs

There are many superb Hi res DACS
from $2500 on up which make having An Aurender Music Server into an absolutely Neccessary component.
Some our favorites are :

The Playback Designs MPD3 and MPD5:

The  PS Audio Direct Stream DAC

Luxman DA-06

Metronome C6 +
Metronome C8+
Metronome Nausica
Soulution 760

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