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Looking for a "Dummy's Guide" to playing digital music files

SChat

New member
Keeping audio away from the computer

Keeping audio away from the computer

Probably an open door but is there a reason to buy an expensive music streamer. You can buy streamers for many k's even without DAC, for instance Aurender. What is the difference?
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/573-aurender-w20-review/

Suppose you use the best DAC in the world connect it with the computer and play music with Jriver, where is the possible improvement ?
Before one gets into the audiophile domain of audio vodoo - simple CONVENIENCE can be a major and perfectly valid reason for someone looking to use a dedicated renderer (streamer).

As more than one person has mentioned in this thread - not everyone is an expert in networking and codecs and bit rates etc etc etc. On top of that, not everyone wants to or likes to build their life around a "computer". For example, I spend ten hours everyday in front of a few computer monitors to earn a living. I do not want to use that super-inconvenient piece when listening to music or in my bedroom. And i certainly do not want the distraction of the cold light to be able to enjoy music.

So - for computer-dumb people like me - there is a certain naive child-like affinity for simple devices like Sonos, Apple TV or some other streamers that take away all that hassle and can be controlled using an iPad (which I find to be miles ahead in terms of convenience and ease of use compared to even an apple iMac or Macbook, let alone a PC).

PS - And a dedicated streamer does not necessarily has to be in the Aurender price bracket (£13,000 !!!) - £100 - £500 can buy a really decent piece of kit.
 

Jeff_C

Member
Try wifi and see

Try wifi and see

Does the streamer/Sonos/apple tv have to connect to the router/network hub(same as router?) using ethernet? How about wifi? My router is in a different room on a dfferent floor from my hifi! How about wifi?
If the streamer device is wifi capable, then by all means try it over wifi, but wired Ethernet is the better way to go if you are able to wire it. Wifi may work fine but do not be disappointed if you have issues using wifi.

The Sonos unit will work well over wifi if you connect a 'Sonos Bridge' to the router first via ethernet. Sonos uses its own mesh network independent of your own router's wifi.

I used the term network hub instead of 'router' because in the early days of networking a router was just that, it routed internet traffic, and there was no integrated bank of home network Ethernet sockets (a.k.a. switch). These days a network hub is the term for wifi/router/switch/modem combined in one box.

If you are struggling to use Ethernet cabling, then there is the option to use 'Home Plugs' which extend your home network using devices which use the existing mains cabling. One plugs into a main socket near the router another plugs into a mains socket near the streamer device.
 

SChat

New member
Ethernets

Ethernets

If you are struggling to use Ethernet cabling, then there is the option to use 'Home Plugs' which extend your home network using devices which use the existing mains cabling. One plugs into a main socket near the router another plugs into a mains socket near the streamer device.
Yes! I do have some of those in my home network. So - if I put one of them close to my hifi system and then connect to the ethernet ports on this plug (there are two) - would that still be less than ideal?
 

ssfas

Well-known member
HD routers

HD routers

If the streamer device is wifi capable, then by all means try it over wifi, but wired Ethernet is the better way to go if you are able to wire it. Wifi may work fine but do not be disappointed if you have issues using wifi.

The Sonos unit will work well over wifi if you connect a 'Sonos Bridge' to the router first via ethernet. Sonos uses its own mesh network independent of your own router's wifi.

I used the term network hub instead of 'router' because in the early days of networking a router was just that, it routed internet traffic, and there was no integrated bank of home network Ethernet sockets (a.k.a. switch). These days a network hub is the term for wifi/router/switch/modem combined in one box.

If you are struggling to use Ethernet cabling, then there is the option to use 'Home Plugs' which extend your home network using devices which use the existing mains cabling. One plugs into a main socket near the router another plugs into a mains socket near the streamer device.
With a Skyhub you will struggle with anything HD. The Virgin and BT routers are apparently very high spec dual band ac. Disable the Skyhub wireless, use it as a switch and attach a faster access point (I use Airport Extreme). At the hifi end, I use a Netgear WNCE4004 universal adapter. These can receive multiple HD video streams simultaneously, very fast and stable with 4 ports, so you can connect lots of devices. They are an absolute bargain at the moment, reduced on Amazon UK to about £33.
 

willem

Well-known member
Open architecture

Open architecture

You do not need an expensive streamer. What matters is the convenience and whether it is future proof. Therefore, dedicated streamers from audio companies are a bad because not compatible idea.

You are much better off with something with an open architecture like a pc. Since streamers move dat ain the digital domain, there should be are no issues of audio quality.

The cheapest streamer now is a Chromecast. Use the digital output into a good DAC, and you are as good as it gets. Use a nice tablet with it, and the human interface is similarly high end.
 

SChat

New member
Wireless, ethernet

Wireless, ethernet

With a Skyhub you will struggle with anything HD. The Virgin and BT routers are apparently very high spec dual band ac. Disable the Skyhub wireless, use it as a switch and attach a faster access point (I use Airport Extreme). At the hifi end, I use a Netgear WNCE4004 universal adapter. These can receive multiple HD video streams simultaneously, very fast and stable with 4 ports, so you can connect lots of devices. They are an absolute bargain at the moment, reduced on Amazon UK to about £33.
Thanks

I have BT internet but i use the BT hub to only feed signal into to a ethernet network (that unfortunately has no access point where the hifi is). I then use an Airport Extreme as the master router to run the wifi network.

So - what I can do is to get a wifi adapter like the one you mention that would connect wirelessly to the wifi network and then provide ethernet access point for the hifi components?

What do you use as a streamer?
 

SChat

New member
Philosophical choices for digital consumers

Philosophical choices for digital consumers

In the field of IT enabled interfaces and devices - consumers have two choices.

Choice A - Go for open architecture. (Android Phones, PC, DIY networking, DIY computer audio)

upside - Typically costs less and allows for endless customisation, upgrade, extension.

downside - the consumer needs to understand the technology and in fact know what s/he is doing and be happy to tolerate bugs and other "system crashes"

Choice B - Choose products designed around consumers by companies that understand both technology and customers (Apple/OSx/ios devices, streamers from audio specialists, Airport, Apple TV)

downside - more expensive, there is a premium for getting someone else to do the thinking and to take the hassle away and potentially also a brand premium. Can only do what it is designed to do. Limited room for customization, NO room for experimenting, no extension, no enhancements - upgrade demands replacement

upside - the customer does not need to think, know or worry about the "technology"; plug-and-play; typically idiot-proof; no bugs, no crashes

two different philosophies. naturally appeal to two different sets of people. People in the second group envy those in the first - for their knowledge, their ability to do lots of tweaks in their systems and phones, their tech-savviness and the fact that they get all of this and spend less. All people in Group B can do is to take more photos, make more phone calls, listen to more music, watch more videos, and do lots of non-technical "stuff" without any clue about how all the stuff is working!

I remember setting up my first wifi router from a reputed brand. In those days I had a PC at home and I bought a Li#^$¥s router. In the next three days I learnt more about routers than probably those who design them for a living through reading and numerous phone calls to their helpdesk and frequent trips at midnight to my friend's place to look things up on the net (mine was being "set up"). Really educational. And then over the next one year, I did not get much opportunity to waste time surfing the net - most of the time I had more learning opportunities as either the router or the PC kept crashing (if not both).

it was then that a friend of mine told me "Look - you should get a Mac and an Airport Express. You are too dumb to use proper technology". I felt insulted. Of course. But I swallowed my pride and bought what he suggested. As soon as I started the Mac, it popped up a message saying "I detect an Airport Express. Do you want me to set up new wifi network using this device?" Two minutes and five clicks and a few keystrokes later I had my own home wifi network with a name that I wanted and a password that did not require me to learn a machine language. This iMac is now a little over 11 years old and while it struggles to cope with demands of modern software with its slow processor and tiny RAM and hard disc storage - it has not crashed ONCE in these 11 years. Extremely boring!

Apologies for the long apology. I realise one has to be really dumb in today's world to buy and use purpose-designed gadgets at a premium when so much more fun can be had at so less price by choosing the DIY open architecture route.

One unrelated data point - In the Q1 2015 financial results, 90 per cent of the profits from the smartphone sector went to one company selling closed architecture phones with less than 19% volume share of the market. That means only one thing - they know what their customers need and more importantly what the "yet-to-be-their-customers" aspire for.
 

kerouack

Member
Tables turned

Tables turned

Maybe some people think, too, that when you are not paying for a service or product (like with android software, that is free), you are not the client, you are the product.
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Network bridging

Network bridging

Thanks

I have BT internet but i use the BT hub to only feed signal into to a ethernet network (that unfortunately has no access point where the hifi is). I then use an Airport Extreme as the master router to run the wifi network.

So - what I can do is to get a wifi adapter like the one you mention that would connect wirelessly to the wifi network and then provide ethernet access point for the hifi components?

What do you use as a streamer?
That is correct. The AE broadcasts to the the WNCE4004 adapter. The set-up of the WNCE4004 is simple. You plug it into a computer with a RJ45 cable and it should open a browser. If not, there is an local address that you type in and get access. It will detect all available networks, select the AE, enter the password, wait a couple of minutes and then plug the RJ45 connection into your audio system.

I don't want to use an expensive streamer, as I have a very good usb DAC. I could buy the network card for the DAC, but very expensive and the DAC does not have Tidal/Qobuz services built-in.

I therefore went for a network bridge - i.e. ethernet in to usb out, but one that also hosts streaming services and can be controlled from ipad or mac. I currently have on trial a sotm sms-100 (now discontinued). OK, but sometimes slow to wake up and occasionally needs to be rebooted. I do not like temperamental electronics. Basically, if your router gets rebooted, you might have to reboot this device as well. When it is working, it is fine.

I was lent it as I was after the Auralic Aries Mini. It is a new product and stocks are scarce. May be another few weeks.

If I didn't already have a large QNAP server at home I might have bought the silent QNAP AV server.
https://www.qnap.com/i/uk/product/model.php?II=147
This can connect to a compatible DAC by usb or ethernet.
The QNAP music software works very well, I use it most of the time and it is rumoured a Linux version of jRiver will be available on QNAP and Synology soon.

The other option is a mac mini usb or optical out to the DAC. I tried this, it blew up (a fatal RAM crash 5 days in) and went back. You need a screen from time to time and screen sharing can be a bit fiddly at times.

The popular audio unit is the Melco N1A. Seems pricey for a processor and some hard drives, and you still need a computer if you want to rip CDs.

I understand that the issue with QNAP and other NAS drives is that some of them are not fast enough to stream HD video. Not a problem for me, don't do it. The wifi adapter will not have speed issues with anything HD.

p.s. After a Sky fix, the skyhub is now streaming 24/192 audio without breaks.
 

SChat

New member
Streaming issues

Streaming issues

That is correct. The AE broadcasts to the the WNCE4004 adapter. The set-up of the WNCE4004 is simple. You plug it into a computer with a RJ45 cable and it should open a browser. If not, there is an local address that you type in and get access. It will detect all available networks, select the AE, enter the password, wait a couple of minutes and then plug the RJ45 connection into your audio system.

I don't want to use an expensive streamer, as I have a very good usb DAC. I could buy the network card for the DAC, but very expensive and the DAC does not have Tidal/Qobuz services built-in.

I therefore went for a network bridge - i.e. ethernet in to usb out, but one that also hosts streaming services and can be controlled from ipad or mac. I currently have on trial a sotm sms-100 (now discontinued). OK, but sometimes slow to wake up and occasionally needs to be rebooted. I do not like temperamental electronics. Basically, if your router gets rebooted, you might have to reboot this device as well. When it is working, it is fine.

I was lent it as I was after the Auralic Aries Mini. It is a new product and stocks are scarce. May be another few weeks.

If I didn't already have a large QNAP server at home I might have bought the silent QNAP AV server.
https://www.qnap.com/i/uk/product/model.php?II=147
This can connect to a compatible DAC by usb or ethernet.
The QNAP music software works very well, I use it most of the time and it is rumoured a Linux version of jRiver will be available on QNAP and Synology soon.

The other option is a mac mini usb or optical out to the DAC. I tried this, it blew up (a fatal RAM crash 5 days in) and went back. You need a screen from time to time and screen sharing can be a bit fiddly at times.

The popular audio unit is the Melco N1A. Seems pricey for a processor and some hard drives, and you still need a computer if you want to rip CDs.

I understand that the issue with QNAP and other NAS drives is that some of them are not fast enough to stream HD video. Not a problem for me, don't do it. The wifi adapter will not have speed issues with anything HD.

p.s. After a Sky fix, the skyhub is now streaming 24/192 audio without breaks.
Many thanks. My Devialet 200 has inbuilt streamer but the native streaming app does not work on an iPad. However, it also has inbuilt WiFi - so one thing I might try is to see if I can connect the NAS to my router and then connect the amp to the home WiFi network and stream over wifi. No harm in trying! If the network is weak, I may use a WiFi adapter or an Airport Express/Extreme connected to the amp using Ethernet.
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Refurbished Apple products

Refurbished Apple products

Many thanks. My Devialet 200 has inbuilt streamer but the native streaming app does not work on an iPad. However, it also has inbuilt WiFi - so one thing I might try is to see if I can connect the NAS to my router and then connect the amp to the home WiFi network and stream over wifi. No harm in trying! If the network is weak, I may use a WiFi adapter or an Airport Express/Extreme connected to the amp using Ethernet.
You should not need the expense of the Airport Extreme if you have a BT or Virgin router. Connect the NAS to it by ethernet and give it a fixed IP address. Stick a WNCE4004 into the D200 ethernet socket (after setting it to receive from your router) and that should do it, for a cost of £30.

Apple have a daily list of refurbished items on their site. I got my Air Ext that way, saved about £40, is delivered like new with all the fancy wrapping. A refurbished mac mini for £339 into the D200 with local storage by usb might be an option.
 

SChat

New member
Controlling the Mac Mini

Controlling the Mac Mini

You should not need the expense of the Airport Extreme if you have a BT or Virgin router. Connect the NAS to it by ethernet and give it a fixed IP address. Stick a WNCE4004 into the D200 ethernet socket (after setting it to receive from your router) and that should do it, for a cost of £30.

Apple have a daily list of refurbished items on their site. I got my Air Ext that way, saved about £40, is delivered like new with all the fancy wrapping. A refurbished mac mini for £339 into the D200 with local storage by usb might be an option.
I have thought about the Mac Mini option at times - but would I need to connect it to a monitor to operate? or could I operate it remotely using iPhone/iPad?
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Techie solutions

Techie solutions

I have thought about the Mac Mini option at times - but would I need to connect it to a monitor to operate? or could I operate it remotely using iPhone/iPad?
The mac mini requires a screen to get past the user login, so if you are doing a reboot (e.g. OSX upgrade) you will need a screen. There is a way around it, far too complicated for me.

You must use a password login as the system will be open to your network.
If your audio is near a TV, you can use it with a HDMI cable. Check compatiability. Some macs can be used as a screen, but not all. Retina screens are no good.

When it is up and running, you can screen-share with a macbook or a VNC app on a phone. I believe there is a Windows screen-sharing route.
If you have a music library under 1TB, the £568 1TB 2.5ghz version is a sensible option.

It is a techie approach, whereas many people just want an app to play music and that's it.
 

oes77

New member
jRiver remote

jRiver remote

You can control the JRiver Media Center (cheap and excellent music playing program for PC/Mac/Linux) via the remote app jremote. I do.

Two caveats:

1) no access to online streaming such as Tidal HiFi,
2) occasionally you need a screen after a restart or to reconnect to the WLAN. Must have WIFI
 

SChat

New member
Synology

Synology

A computer screen or a TV to play my music is a big no for me. A Synology NAS connected through a wifi adapter controlled via its (Synology's) app on an iPad seems to be the way to go
 

willem

Well-known member
Ironically Apple is your problem

Ironically Apple is your problem

I agree that we do not want tv or computer screens. A small tablet would be ideal, however. Ironically your problem is in the complex integration with the Apple ecosystem. You could use Airplay and an IPad, but you would actually be streaming from the tablet rather than casting.

Moreover, from what I understand Apple does not support dlna, although from what I also understand some network drives now offer workarounds (I posted some links a while ago). With a Chromecast all this is a lot easier. You use the tablet to tell the Chromecast what to do, but after that the tablet can be turned off. Chromecast will also work with the NAS. The only limitation in your case is that you want to buy (and stream?) music from Apple.
 

SChat

New member
Synology NAS and controlling it

Synology NAS and controlling it

I agree that we do not want tv or computer screens. A small tablet would be ideal, however. Ironically your problem is in the complex integration with the Apple ecosystem. You could use Airplay and an IPad, but you would actually be streaming from the tablet rather than casting.

Moreover, from what I understand Apple does not support dlna, although from what I also understand some network drives now offer workarounds (I posted some links a while ago). With a Chromecast all this is a lot easier. You use the tablet to tell the Chromecast what to do, but after that the tablet can be turned off. Chromecast will also work with the NAS. The only limitation in your case is that you want to buy (and stream?) music from Apple.
No. That is not correct.

A Synology NAS comes with a native OS and a disk manager. One can connect the NAS to a router by an ethernet cable. Then at the other end one can either use an ethernet connection via a streamer or a wifi streamer like Apple TV or Airport Express. The Synology Diskstation Program comes with an app that can be installed on an ios device (iPhone or iPad) and that can control the NAS and stream music from there. Compared to an Apple TV a Chromecast is light-years behind in terms of user convenience, IMHO.
 
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