CD Transport vs Music Server

longinc

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Nov 27, 2020
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It is fairly easy to put together your own server (really just a glorified computer) that sounds good if you are comfortable building computers.

But it is a real hassle if you aren't, or don't have the inclination (I edited my original post as no one really needed to know about what I have built over the years - it isn't relevant here).

USB reclockers etc? Meh. Its the handshake with the dac that matters - and what it is feed. It is abit of a never ending journey in some ways...

Depends what you are trying to do, and how far down the rabbit hole you go.

Frankly - if you aren't into computer audio - I'd stay away from it and unless you have ripped your CD's already or want to stream. It can be abit of a cruel mistress, and there is always the next thing that comes along.

Streaming is very cool though. I love it.

As far as natural sounding transports go one of my favourites is a Pi Tracer. One of the best of I have experienced and relatively inexpensive. But there are plenty of others. Some great suggestions here.

For inexpensive servers I also like the Naim servers. They are good, esp with a separate psu. Excellent via BNC, which your dac should take. Great app as well that you can control via your phone/tablet - it hooks up to most streaming services. One of the reasons (actually the main reason) I like my wee Atom is the app & streaming.

I think you can even get one that rips CD's and catalogues them as well, if you wanted that.

Madfloyd is very experienced in this. I'd have a look at his system, see what he has done - getting some tips off his journey wouldn't be a bad idea. And AL. M - they will have jumped through most of the hoops already.

These days - for me - simple is good.


Hope this helps. :)

@Andrew S. - thanks for your extensive write-up and pointers to some folk who have gone done the rabbit hole with computer audio!! I am not much of a DIY music server person and I can see how the constant tinkering can be fun for some. Unfortunately, I am semi inclined to DIY but mostly don't have the time to tinker with it.

Pi Tracer - are you referring to the 47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport?
 
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Andrew S.

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Thanks for your extensive write-up and pointers to some folk who have gone done the rabbit hole with computer audio!! I am not much of a DIY music server person and I can see how the constant tinkering can be fun for some. Unfortunately, I am semi inclined to DIY but mostly don't have the time to tinker with it.

I hear you. These days I would rather listen to music than build servers...having learnt the hard way. You can do it - but it is a maze - easy to get in, hard to get out. I ended up over at Computer Audiophile lost in Linux pages, and other equally time intensive places.

It is alot less stressful to buy something off the shelf that works as advertised. Kind of why I have ended up where I have, for the moment.

Sometimes there is real joy in having something very simple, inexpensive, and from which a whole world of music is accessible. I like relatively simple systems. Of course - you have to compromise sometimes, but if carefully planned, sometimes you do not. (I'm under no illusions btw - my current system is not an audiophile one - but it sure gets listened to alot).

Pi Tracer - are you referring to the 47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport?

Yes - you can't buy them new anymore - sadly. Actually 47Labs stuff is hard to get full stop. They may be a little esoteric these days to source. Very good though, especially with the power dumpty (I think by memory they were part and parcel).

There are so many good transports out there. It is really finding one within budget that will deliver the zero and one's relatively unmolested. I'm not really up on modern transports. Not much use I am afraid.
 
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longinc

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Neither, if you want analog, trade in your digital. :p


There is a chain of progression that makes me of two minds on this. LP's never sounded better and certainly never sounded as good on vintage TT in their day. CD is headed in this direction as well with local files and then streaming quite some way off from having their long term viability determined. You are making a split here that doesn't entirely make sense to me though. So I'm basing my answer off the above.

Fully agree with statement on DIY music servers above. Honestly this is an awful time to contemplate buying anything comprised of parts in such high demand and short supply as a server. Common sense dictates if you are happy with your streaming feeding purchases. Focus on buying and listening to physical media and physical media only. Expend your budget on hardware only as much as required initially and from there much time and effort tuning your system. System matching is bound to reveal shortcomings in equipment pairings you'll be glad to have a bit of left over budget to resolve.



There is wisdom in this that was placed last for a reason. All things are possible.


Thanks @rando for your POV on this matter. LP's - they definitely sound great. But, it was a trade off I decided to make because to put together a nice sounding analog front end can get really $pricey too + the inconvenience of taking care of those LP's + those annoying surface "pops". I felt investing my $s in digital was a compromise I was willing to make. Like you say, digital is getting close enough to analog. DO you have CD transports and off the shelf music servers you like?
 

rando

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Sep 22, 2019
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There are a lot of transports out there and unfortunately many of note are impossible to repair if some forward thinking person didn't collect a few parts (and knowledge of how to apply them) in preparation of this future. A search for Eera here could prove interesting to you if vintage transports are of zero interest.

Music servers occupy a very fluid landscape where programming could be said to dictate a larger sphere of influence over perceived qualities than quite a bit of what fits in the box (or between them). This is the reality of removing physical media from the equation. ;) Of the more feasible options I advocated for two of equal worth; Wait for the dust to settle before revisiting the server option (while focusing on CD playback). Or dive in to enjoy streaming and instant access to thousands of tracks as well as CD's.
 
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Gregm

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Mar 14, 2019
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@Andrew S. - thanks for your extensive write-up and pointers to some folk who have gone done the rabbit hole with computer audio!! I am not much of a DIY music server person and I can see how the constant tinkering can be fun for some. Unfortunately, I am semi inclined to DIY but mostly don't have the time to tinker with it.
Likewise disinclined (and a tad lazy as well!). Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to compare the two approaches: a Metronome transport vs a diy-ish streamer / puter playing local files. We did it at home with a couple of friends.

The verdict was that the computer sounded better or indistinguishable, in that order. The comparisons were sighted but I would switch from one source to the other, the audience unaware of which source. Passive pre through my TVC with both sources connected and playing simultaneously. .

We listened to classical and some rock.

Please note that I am not criticising the excellent Metronome transport in any way. The computer was helped by two reclockers, whereas the Metronome had no such help.
 
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jespera

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Jan 12, 2018
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Thanks Everyone for your quick responses and insights. Super interesting and lots to consider. Perhaps i should have framed my question slightly differently - between a CD transport and music server, which one will get me to the most natural and analog sounding for the least amount of $'s. My impression (could be totally wrong) is that with the music server, you need to spend a fair more $'s getting USB conditioning/re-clocking and the music server right (and with the music server the more independently regulated/higher quality power supply dedicated to each of the key components of the server yields meaningful SQ improvements), and if you are streaming you have to get ethernet right too (and I believe some folks go into great lengths to getting audiophile grade switches, ethernet cards and even optical isolation etc. That's alot of $'s to spend to get good sound VS compared to spending on a good dedicated CD transport (and one is pretty much done). For context: I will be using a R2R NOS DAC. And as for the wealth of music that streaming provides, totally get that - I tend to explore music using streaming (off my macbook/headphones) and for the music I like, I will either download or buy a high quality CD for it. So to optimize my digital front end for streaming convenience is not a top priority for me. I am happy listening to a few very high quality recordings (on CD or a local file) - I am rather simple that way.

Thanks again.

Spend 1k usd on a philips cdm1 based cd player and use it as transport.

Spend the rest and much more on computer boxes to try to get them to sound as good as the cdm1.
 

longinc

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Likewise disinclined (and a tad lazy as well!). Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to compare the two approaches: a Metronome transport vs a diy-ish streamer / puter playing local files. We did it at home with a couple of friends.

The verdict was that the computer sounded better or indistinguishable, in that order. The comparisons were sighted but I would switch from one source to the other, the audience unaware of which source. Passive pre through my TVC with both sources connected and playing simultaneously. .

We listened to classical and some rock.

Please note that I am not criticising the excellent Metronome transport in any way. The computer was helped by two reclockers, whereas the Metronome had no such help.
Thanks @Gregm , what was the spec for the DIY streamer/computer, and which reclockers did you use?
 

BlueFox

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I ripped all the CDs I consistently listen to, and now download new music each week from HDTracks. For playback I use a Lumin X1, probably one of my best audio purchases.
 

bonzo75

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Likewise disinclined (and a tad lazy as well!). Nevertheless, I had the opportunity to compare the two approaches: a Metronome transport vs a diy-ish streamer / puter playing local files. We did it at home with a couple of friends.

The verdict was that the computer sounded better or indistinguishable, in that order. The comparisons were sighted but I would switch from one source to the other, the audience unaware of which source. Passive pre through my TVC with both sources connected and playing simultaneously. .

We listened to classical and some rock.

Please note that I am not criticising the excellent Metronome transport in any way. The computer was helped by two reclockers, whereas the Metronome had no such help.

Actually I posted similar results where three of us found the same between metronome transport (not the top model) and their own streamer a few years ago. Don't think that streamer got much traction commercially though
 

Gregm

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Mar 14, 2019
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Thanks @Gregm , what was the spec for the DIY streamer/computer, and which reclockers did you use?
The reclockers are Ideon audio 3R -- two, daisy-chained. The server is a Mini-X, I3 processor 8G ram, two internal SSD, one for each player. The Musichi player is Windows based whereby most windows functions have been deactivated. The other player is Ideon's own which is Linux-based and sits (is that the right word?) at the kernel. Soundcard, etc are deactivated.

For what it's worth, I am also using aftermarket USB cables, reclocker to reclocker, to DAC

The whole thing is much simpler than my description implies!
 
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Gregm

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Mar 14, 2019
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Actually I posted similar results where three of us found the same between metronome transport (not the top model) and their own streamer a few years ago. Don't think that streamer got much traction commercially though
Interesting!
As I understood it, we used their previous gen top model -- Kallista (Callista?).
 

Lampie519

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@Lampie519 which DAC do you use?
I designed my own NOS dac with dual mono SPDIF inputs so it can handle the upscaled data from the Chord transport. I am still tweeking it here and there but the sound can only described as "no signature" (it is just not there).
I have build some for a couple of people and they do not want to part from them ever ;-)
For the final "product" i would like to make use of handblown glass as makes each unit unique and a peace of "art" so to speak.
 

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Andrew S.

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Oh a Pathos Lagos as well....lovely amplifiers - really nice. A friend had one with a pair of TD712's - it drove them wonderfully.

The blown glass I like very much. Particulalry the brown semo round/oval one. Is that a hobby of yours as well? It is something I should like to learn to do.
 

Lampie519

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The blown glass I like very much. Particulalry the brown semo round/oval one. Is that a hobby of yours as well? It is something I should like to learn to do.
I am still in a learning curve with the glass handling and "fusing".

The Pathos belongs to a friend of mine, he is indeed very happy with it.
It is matched up with a pair of Rosso Fiorentino's.
 

Andrew S.

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How wonderful.

Rosso Fiorentino's? I know Rosso Fiorentino was an artist of course, but do not know the speaker company.

Apologies to the OP for getting a little OT here.
 
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Lampie519

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The combination here is as follows:
Unison CDE as transport in combination with a "Lampie519" dac (no streamer of any kind as it is the only source),
The Pathos Logos and the "Volterra's"
6moons audio reviews: Rosso Fiorentino Volterra
 

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longinc

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I designed my own NOS dac with dual mono SPDIF inputs so it can handle the upscaled data from the Chord transport. I am still tweeking it here and there but the sound can only described as "no signature" (it is just not there).
I have build some for a couple of people and they do not want to part from them ever ;-)
For the final "product" i would like to make use of handblown glass as makes each unit unique and a peace of "art" so to speak.
Very nice @Lampie519 ! You selling these DAC's at some point?
 

mullard88

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Jun 5, 2010
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The pi-tracer is truly amazing. I regret not buying it when it was still available. I was so impressed with the way it sounded that it gave me thoughts of giving up all my cartridges and to go all digital. A flat fish is also nice but of course not it the league of the pi-tracer. Muralman talked about his flat fish years ago in this forum.
 

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