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Best way to get computer files to DAC via ethernet?

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I've been an audiophile for over 30 years. My computer system (with many outboard drives and several terabytes of music) is in my office. My hifi is in my living room: Electrocompaniet modded 24/192 DAC, Audio Research preamp, Pass Labs X250.5 power amp, Aerial 9 speakers, Parasound belt-drive cd transport, PAD cables, Shunyata AC conditioning.

I run digital files via ethernet cable (under my house) from my office computer (27" iMac) to my hifi. Right now, I'm using a modded Squeezebox 3 with a custom power supply to transfer the digital signal from the ethernet to its SPDIF output, into my DAC.

Here's the problem. Digital files from the computer (16/44.1 or even 24 bit) do not sound nearly as good as digital files from my cd transport. So, something in the 'chain' from computer to DAC is causing degradation of the signal. I'm looking into a Logitech Touch, because I've been told the clock is better the than SB3. However, I'm also completely open to other alternatives.

Thanks very much!
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  1. m3lraaHnevetS's Avatar
    really do.

    you will be amazed and put your transport up for sale soon after.

  2. mountainmusic's Avatar
    Hi Steven:

    Per my post - my computer system is at least 30 feet, and several rooms away from hifi. Need a solution that works through ethernet cable...

  3. esldude's Avatar
    Mac Mini or netbook set up with your hifi rig in place of the SB unit you are using. Combine with a good USB to SPDIF convert like Audiophileo, Halide Bridge, or V-link. Let that feed your DAC. Your main computer would be able to act as a server to feed the hifi computer over the ethernet. Or set up a NAS unit anywhere on the network and let the small local hifi computer access the NAS over the ethernet.

    My guess is the SB isn't a match for your CD transport, however using the above mentioned USB to SPDIF converters and a small computer will be competitive if not superior.

    So this works over ethernet, you replace the SB with a small computer and a quality USB to SPIDF converter.
  4. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
    Hi Mountain Music - I recommend looking into the Linn DS products.
  5. mountainmusic's Avatar
    This makes some sense - even though there a ton of information published about USB being the worst way to transmit audio files. I understand that's the purpose of the converters.

    However, the SB3 allows me to PLAY MUSIC FILES in my living room. Once I take the Squeezebox (or Touch) out of the equation, how would I play music files on my hifi?

  6. esldude's Avatar
    The small computer, say a Mac Mini in your living room, communicating with your other computer over the ethernet will play those files using iTunes or other music playing software. The result will go from the Mini via USB to the converter then will go on to your DAC. Unless I am missing something about your set up.

    For that matter, you don't need the ethernet once you get this far. You can connect an external drive right there with the Mac Mini to play your files if you wish.
  7. mountainmusic's Avatar
    Don't really want to set up another full computer system (console, monitor, keyboard) in my living room. If I could've used the Mac Mini as just a hub I could control from my office, that would be fine. But I still don't think I get get files to play from the Mac Mini that way?

    This leads me to believe I still need the best sonic solution for digital music files that are 'arriving' at my hifi via ethernet cable - as it's currently set up. The Squeezebox 2 does the job, BUT, even though I paid $400 in mods for it, still degrades the sound. My understanding is that it's the clock in the SB that is the drawback. Which is why I'm looking into the Touch - it has a better clock.

  8. barrows's Avatar
    about what you believe!

    "This makes some sense - even though there a ton of information published about USB being the worst way to transmit audio files. I understand that's the purpose of the converters."

    The above is complete nonsense! Well implemented async USB equals any other method of getting digital music files to a DAC.

    If you are wedded to an ethernet solution, you will need to shop carefully, as many of these are still works in progress. The Linn streamers appear to have the least problems, and the highest level of sonic performance if you get into the Klimax DS territory. The Touch might be a good solution, but its clock, while better than the SB, is still not up to the level of that in most truly high end solutions (I would recommend a really good power supply for the Touch). Do you have to use your current DAC via SPDIF?, or wouldl you be willing to purchase a new DAC? SPDIF is a flawed interface, which will never perform as well as a dedicated async USB DAC, or Ethernet DAC (Linn, PS Audio) as these do not rely on SPDIF communication with its embedded clock signals.

    Another solution would be the Resolution Audio Cantata and Pont Neuf bridge: this allows one to have their computer elsewhere, with a USB over ethernet interface (see the current issue of Stereophile for details).

    Additionally, you might contact Jesus at Simple Design/Sonore music servers; he is close to introducing his own concept on networked audio, and is great to work with.
  9. mountainmusic's Avatar
    Thanks for the note. I would say be cautious what you believe to be absolute truth. As for 'complete nonsense, there have been dozens of articles online, and in Absolute Sound from reliable sources about the faults of USB and audio file transmission (firewire is thought to be vastly superior). Many high end digital audio component manufacturers admit that the USB interace is the weak point in their designs.

    That said, I'm using a balanced (XLR) digital link from my cd transport to my DAC. Balanced analog cables to the DAC to the preamp. Unfortunately, the Squeezebox only has SPDIF digital output. I've experimented with at least 10 different digi cables, and decided the Acoustic Zen MC2 is the best to my ears.

    I do agree that the Touch solution is not optimal, and would of course use an upgraded power supply with that. As mentioned in my original post, my current Squeezebox has had several mods, most having to do with the power supply. I did look into the Cantata (current issue of Stereophile), but it's $6K, and I'm not sure if I can simply run audio files to it via ethernet - like the Squeezebox. The problem also becomes one of control. How does the Cantata know which of my computer files to play? It's complicated, but I have a feeling new products are on the horizon that will do what the Squeezebox does, only better.
  10. Paul R's Avatar
    Ty the touch. They are currently selling for $209. Amazing amazing device.

    If you like it, then look at machines like Auraliti, Sonore, Naim, NAD, and Linn. They cost more - a lot more - but it would seem that is how the increase in quality comes about.