ednaz

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About ednaz

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  1. I lived through almost two years (oh my, maybe more) of online forum blather and gazillions of alternative tests when the big digital camera companies came up with lossless compression. What's different here is that it's not just "is it lossless" (OMG, you can't believe the insane things people did to test for that... most of which illustrated the proponent's lack of understanding of digital imaging) but MQA is claiming "and even better." So far, I'm OK saying it may be a much better compression algorithm. (For all the breakthroughs in genomics, we're still learning how to get better at assembling gene sequences...) Whether the additional information in MQA encoding adds to the sonic quality... that's an area where I have no experience in other digital domains. Other than in photography, where sharpening algorithms were initially embraced and eventually abhorred.
  2. I get that my wireless network may play a role somehow, but it's good enough to have MQA Tidal absolutely slay regular Tidal. However, in one of my comparisons, I streamed to my laptop from my music server on the same network that was streaming Tidal. Even with the Explorer 2, 24/96 files played from my laptop were slightly better sounding than software decoded MQA on my laptop (with two different DACs) and than hardware encoded MQA from my laptop. (Using both Sennheiser and Fostex headphones.) Same was true if I wireless streamed from my main server via my laptop, which SHOULD make all things network equal. I could only find a few albums on Tidal where I know the production quality would be good enough for hearing a difference (and where I know the album really well), so again, there are limits on all this back and forth. An awful lot of hip hop, reggaeton, and rock these days would probably sound as good on an AM radio as they would HD on a DAC. Honestly, there were some albums where they sounded the same no matter what approach I was using - the loudness wars pretty much wrings the life out of music. My conclusion is not that MQA isn't worth it. Absolutely is for Tidal streaming. But at some point the care taken in production when music gets re-mastered and turned into an HD file makes so much improvement that any other improvement is really a nudge and not a wow. At least for me, with the Explorer 2. Maybe different at the high end of DAC land.
  3. Music server streaming via fiber optic USB to DAC, for both local music (on in-chassis hard drives) and MQA software decoding. MQA DAC replaced the Exasound e22 in one test, Exasound won. MQA software decoding to Exasound vs local high res, local high res won. Also tried it on my MacBook Pro, streaming vs high res, a couple of different small travel size DACs. My home network streams 2xDSD and DSF to more than one system so I'm pretty sure I'm not bandwidth constrained.
  4. Very good explanation. Now I understand why I heard the differences I did with software decoding, through different DACs, and hardware decoding through the Explorer 2. My best DAC (not MQA) with software decoding in front mopped the floor with the Explorer 2 in full MQA hardware mode - because the differences between the DACs themselves were way more than the hardware decoding uplift. After fiddling with multiple DACs and different ways of playing back (and now I understand what went on behind what I heard) I'm a huge fan of MQA for streaming Tidal, but I'm unlikely to re-buy any music with MQA encoding. I did comparisons between streaming some of Tidal's MQA and HD non-MQA versions of the same music stored on my server, and local won (except on music recordings where everything was turned up to 11 in the production process - where the two were dead equal.) And while I wouldn't object to buying a DAC with MQA decoding capability, that would only be if the DAC is the best I can get at the price point for non-MQA playback... meaning, the MQA decoding pretty much needs to be a free feature. For the Explorer 2, in fact, that's kind of how it seems to me. It's excellent at its price point, with MQA thrown in.
  5. That's an amazingly well done review, with a complete lesson in how and why you took the approaches you took. I agree that you probably don't need to include all of it all the time, but please do pull out the lessons sections and have them available via a footnote link for each review... it'll save you a lot of people asking "but you probably didn't" questions. Really, I found myself re-reading the sections on time alignment, listening rooms, etc a couple times. I'm not in the market for new speakers, but am trying to improve the basic qualities of my listening rooms, and now I understand much better why a couple things worked and a couple things didn't.
  6. Just an update. After struggling to get the Mini to use my music server as its library, the "use network library" option - it'd scan, be fine for awhile (ranging from an hour to a couple days) and then BANG couldn't find the library. So the LightningDS app was pretty much worthless. I did try an external USB drive, hoping against hope that I could then have my music server sync files with it (hey, it's linux, right?) and while I can see the Mini on the network, it won't let me write to it. Since my music library is about 2.6tb... an internal drive, or even an external drive, if I can't update it easily, won't help. Then I stumbled across this. I'd been using the Mini as a UPNP endpoint with Remote... then noticed that there was DLNA server setup. I picked that, pointed it to my JRiver library on the music server. It scanned the music and set up its own local library. Now when I use Lightning DS, the Mini pulls music down, but has the quick response that comes from having the control on the Mini, less lag than with Remote. For some reason using DLNA works wonderfully, giving me access to the remote library with solid reliability, where using "remote library" in the Mini's menu didn't work.
  7. Smokey will always remember you. Good on you for stepping in to help a creature who couldn't do for himself. I've done rescue relays (dogs rescued from a state with an excess, transported through a series of drivers in a relay to a state where they're needed) and every one of them has been excellent, and seeing the faces of the adopting families (sometimes I'm the last relay) is a huge reward. You've got a hell of an incredible odyssey story... no cyclops or sirens (well, OK, sirens, but a different kind) but an odyssey nevertheless. Think how dull the week would have been otherwise.
  8. I have issues streaming Tidal to any device if I'm on the 2.4ghz network in my house, none at all if on the 5ghz network. Select the 5ghz network, if you've got a choice. If you don't, you'll probably need to get a wireless router that does have that. That lower frequency network gets all kinds of interference - microwave ovens are very close to that frequency, as are many mobile phones, baby monitors, etc. I can even stream 24/192 and DSD to the Mini on the 5ghz network. We've locked devices that can't do 5ghz (my old Logitech Touch, for example) to the lower frequency network, along with guests... all music and media use the higher frequency network.
  9. At least with the player app, the only indication is that it is in the Masters section, as they say that everything there is MQA. Not sure about MQA enabled DACs though.
  10. Been playing around all day (as I worked through crappy chores) with MQA on Tidal via the app (both Mac and Windows) versus non MQA versions, and then comparing the MQA versions to red book and HD versions of the same albums. The DAC is an Exasound e22 and all the audio was going through the Exasound ASIO driver. Comparing MQA versions of albums to non-MQA on Tidal, if there's a lot of voice, mid-range content, or the MQA version has been remixed significantly since the non-MQA, the MQA version stomped all over the non version. With the exception of rock stuff where the albums were mixed tightly to the top of loudness, which didn't sound any difference one way or the other. So... Joni Mitchell Blue? The MQA version was remixed 2016, and both my wife (who says she can't hear this stuff) and I could tell you how tall her chair was when she was playing. She was absolutely corporeal, compared to HD or red book. A very telling example... Ray Charles and Milt Jackson's album. The MQA version vs the non-MQA Tidal stream, the saxophone was seriously better on MQA, but otherwise... I might have preferred the non-MQA. And then, late in the album, there's a short tom-tom solo from the drummer, and I'll be damned if that drummer didn't materialize right in front of us for that solo. Enough that our 3 dogs all went rigidly focused on the slightly right of center location. And then... meh. So far... I'd be thrilled to stream MQA on Tidal vs non-MQA. Will make a difference for a significant number of albums, although not all. I would not be thrilled to buy MQA media where I own a 24/96 recently remixed or just plain awesomely mixed 16/44 before. It reminds me of what I've heard with the Blue Note jazz releases under Don Was' oversight, where almost every re-release sounds like a totally different recording than the 16/44 versions I own. God bless Rudy van Gelder. But a ton of other jazz re-releases are indistinguishable from the red book versions I already own. So far, for rock and alternative... the difference is imperceptible. I've seen people raving about early Led Zeppelin MQA releases, and I'm going to check that tomorrow. But, with Bare Naked Ladies, Dream Theater, CSN... not so much. I've ordered an Explorer 2 to see if having the DAC do the decoding changes my opinion. An energetic and curious puppy destroyed my old AudioQuest mobile USB DAC so I have free reign to order a replacement.
  11. I wanted to clean out my music server (the annual dust removal) and so unplugged everything, cleaned it up, plugged everything back in, and then couldn't get any recognition of my DAC. An hour of futzing around, and finally thought, lets's see if I damaged the USB ports while vacuuming... try a different one. Well, the different one was USB3, and suddenly everything was fine. Tried a thumb drive in the USB2 port, and it was fine. Switched the Corning to the USB2 port and once again, no DAC found. When I'd replugged after cleaning, I'd mindlessly plugged the Corning cable into a USB2 port, where before it had been USB3. Lesson learned. I've seen some discussion group arguments about whether USB3 is in fact better than USB2. But whatever... the Corning is way, way, way better than even a very short regular USB cable.
  12. I've been thinking about if I'd feel differently if I still had my Tandberg and Teac reel to reel players, and the 600 or so tapes I made (or traded for) of rips from brand new vinyl, or from reel to reel studio and concert mixes. The pops and cracks that developed on vinyl albums weren't an issue with R2R tape. And... depending on the speed and reel size, I had 90 minutes or more before I had to get up and intervene. Sold my library of rip tapes (many of which were 3 hour mix tapes...) 20 years ago, when both my R2R machines had given up. No way to test my current reaction to that analog reproduction method. It may be the mist of memory, but I feel like my 7.5 ips rips of albums would have held their own with my current digital system, where a CD is the source. Some of the bootleg studio mixes may even be better. But... mist of memory.
  13. Thanks for the review, I'm very interested in reading his take on analog vs digital. And I enjoyed your opening analogy. As a photographer with three four drawer file cabinets full of negatives and transparencies (and that's after tossing away the bad shots), and a 9TB digital archive (excluding the scanned images) I understand the contrasting film/digital experiences. I still shoot large format from time to time, and the whole process of loading holders, stepping through the adjustments, processing film is still fun for me, but mostly in a nostalgic way. Ran a few rolls through my Nikon film bodies earlier in the year and found myself un-moved by the experience, and disappointed in the images themselves - I'd forgotten how little dynamic range there is with transparency film, and how much grain there is once you get much over 11x14. I've decided that I don't really understand the romance of film, and other than reminding myself how I started in photography from time to time, am pretty happy to have a fully digital workflow. I have professional photographer friends, however, whose only digital camera is their point and shoot. And even today, having at least the capture portion of a fine art photograph involve film significantly ups what you can charge for a print. A fully analog chain gets you even more. Why? Just because. Earlier this year I also re-sampled the vinyl experience. I still have my 20 linear foot record collection, since I can't bring myself to take them to the dump. I cleaned up the old Michel turntable, found I had an unopened so new cartridge/needle, wired it into my main audio system, and grabbed a handful of albums. A few hours later I carefully removed the oil from the bearing on the Michel and put it back in the closet. It didn't grab me in any way, I'm sorry to say. I didn't think the sound quality was better, or even equal to, my all digital music system. The cracks and pops from being played hundreds of times (often at parties where the people handling the albums were significantly impaired and so not terribly careful) did make me crazy, and there was no joy for me in the ritual of cleaning the albums and setting the needle down. Perhaps the Michel and amp are old and not up to par, and I'd have a revelatory experience with someone else's setup? Dunno. But it really did feel pretty equivalent to my current ambivalence about film. To each his or her own, I think. Despite feeling comfortable my mind is made up, I'm still intrigued by the discussion and debates.
  14. Had my Mini for about two months now. I used it initially without the external power supply and it sounded great for the price point. When I added the power supply, I was really surprised at how much improvement there was. I've tried linear supplies on other units in the past and the differences weren't big enough for me to keep them, but in this case, it's huge. Really like the sound - seriously better than the previous DAC on that system, which was at the same price point. The only issues I've had are networking issues. My music is on a Windows machine that serves our whole house, and is connected via fiber optic USB to our main listening room's DAC. Whole variety of devices being served wirelessly, but all of them are running as UPnP devices, or Logitech Server devices. I wanted to run the Mini with Lightning DS, to see if I liked the UI better than JRiver/JRemote. I had no problem connecting to the server, which was set up to share (I grab music on to my laptops before I travel...). Library scanned fine. Then a few days later, couldn't find the path to the server at all no matter what I tried. Contacted tech support and in the middle of some troubleshooting (over a few days), suddenly it found the server, and scanned just fine for reasons neither of us could figure out. Tech support did say that a higher reliability approach - because it's simpler - would be to have the Mini connect to a NAS over wireless and not through a Windows computer because of all the things that Windows can do to screw things up. Ran fine for awhile. Came back from some travel, away for a couple weeks, and uh oh, couldn't find the server share again. This time I switched it to USB, then back, and it connected immediately to the Windows server and scanned fine. Once again a couple days later, couldn't connect... then I could. I'm providing info to tech support, but given that the Mini is the only device I have connecting as (effectively) a peer, I don't know if the problems are at the Mini or the Windows server, or at the wireless router. Meanwhile, 4TB USB hard drives are dirt cheap, so I got one, copied all my music on to it, plugged it in to the Mini and had zero hiccups. I figure I'll copy new music on to the hard drive monthly, and run it that way until I decide if I like Lightning server UI - may just switch to having the Mini be a UPnP device served from JRiver like the rest of the devices in the house. There's zero sound difference running the Mini as a UPnP device versus using Lightning DS.
  15. Bought an Aries Mini with much trepidation. We have an Exasound E22 in our main media space and it's stunning. I needed something for my studio space, which was still basically streaming to a Logitech Transporter, which while it didn't sound bad with everything, sounded way worse than the Exasound for anything that was not compressed, but still sounded as good as or better with compressed files. However... my studio sound system's weakest link was the Transporter. I tried a Bluesound Node2 but weirdly, it was half the volume of the other components connected to the integrated amp, and tech support at Bluesound had now answers (and I was not alone... four other people posting.) Got my refund on that and then bought the Aries Mini. Based on reviews, I also bought the Aries power supply, initially ran it with the wall wart supply. I don't find the Lightning DS app to be so intuitive, but I know that may be because I've got years of using JRiver's JRemote, and habit is a powerful thing. The unit I bought was tagged as an "open box" which caused issues... when you initially set up the Mini, it asks for your email and a password, and since my unit had been set up once, it took me a week before someone at Auralic reset the system. No surprise, it's not as awesome as the Exasound e22. But, it's really, really good. Better than any of the Logitech systems I still have, better than the Bluesound Node2 (although with the low level output I had to turn the integrated amp WAY WAY up). Better sounding than the DAC in my multichannel preamp, better than a few low cost DACs I've heard in other situations. I find the Lightning app to be ok. Not intuitive, but really, a huge part of that is probably my familiarity with JRemote. Every interface behaves differently, and I struggled to not play one song ad infinitum, then to not have the same album show up no matter what else I wanted to play. But once I figured out the basics (the documentation is, um, well, great if you developed the UI... but for someone who's on his third or fourth streaming UI, kind of weak) I was happy to enjoy the sound. It sounds really good with the wall wart power supply. Then I added in the Auralic linear supply - having unpacked it very carefully, so I could return it without objection if it wasn't a big jump in sound. Took me less than 5 minutes to decide to ditch the packing material. The Aries Mini sounds totally different with the linear supply, different meaning deeper, wider, clearer. Made me wonder if I should have acquired the Auralic Altair, which includes a linear power supply plus networking plus DAC, and Auralic says isn't an Aries DAC plus networking. Dunno. I'd love to see an analysis of the Altair vs the Mini with power supply. I have one more location where I need to replace older streaming gear, and that's my dilemma now - Altair or Mini + power supply. I think Auralic did a great job with the Mini. I'm very happy with it. Other than when I am going to turn the lights down to barely on and listen deep into music (for which I use the Exasound DAC, about 6x the price), I need something that sounds good enough to make me happy and productive when working, but not necessarily low lights deep listening quality. I think it's going to be everything I want to listen to when I'm not only listening. BTW, the price in the US includes a year of Tidal. I was rolling my eyes on that until I started using Tidal. The Aries Mini is exceptionally good with Redbook quality, and therefore with Tidal. I realized that it's given me a "free" Tidal subscription because I'd placed zero value on that aspect of the purchase. At least in the US... it's impossible to imagine a $300-$400 streaming DAC (in other words net of the Tidal subscription) what would sound this good.