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Thread: Sources for your Harbeths

  1. #41
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Hi there Alan, good to have a knowledgeable industry guru in our midst... ;)

    Here is another good link for the best possible computer based sound: http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

    I must admit that I do not agree with the recommendations to set the output of your Mac to 24bit/96kHz for all audio files. In my opinion, upsampling from 16/44.1 to 24/96 has never resulted in more accurate sound. It might be 'nicer', but when you listen closely, timing and imaging are smeared and there is less solidity to the sound. I always aim for native sample rates.

  2. #42
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Everybody is going forward with digital audio in iMac and iTunes while I am going backwards by getting a turntable. I got my first turntable, a Rega P5 just recently and have to say vinyl certainly has its own charm. I have not stopped listening to LP's since getting the P5 although I currently have only 4 records in my collection. My CD player has been left untouched for about 1 week now.



    I can't believe it music companies stopped producing vinyl when compact disc starts its invasion in the mid 80's. With the current sound I'm getting from my Pat Metheny Group Travels ECM LP, I just cannot bring myself to listen to similar ECM CD's anymore which left me somewhat cold and emotionless. My only gripe is on the rare selection of LP's available on the market and the extra maintenance and care that need to be given to both records and turntable. I will probably get into digital audio by getting a Logitech Transporter or something similar when CD is confirmed a dead format with mainstream recording companies reducing production capacity or ceasing production completely.

  3. #43
    Jeff Day Guest

    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Quote Originally Posted by ryder View Post
    Everybody is going forward with digital audio in iMac and iTunes while I am going backwards by getting a turntable. I got my first turntable, a Rega P5 just recently and have to say vinyl certainly has its own charm. I have not stopped listening to LP's since getting the P5 although I currently have only 4 records in my collection. My CD player has been left untouched for about 1 week now.



    I can't believe it music companies stopped producing vinyl when compact disc starts its invasion in the mid 80's. With the current sound I'm getting from my Pat Metheny Group Travels ECM LP, I just cannot bring myself to listen to similar ECM CD's anymore which left me somewhat cold and emotionless. My only gripe is on the rare selection of LP's available on the market and the extra maintenance and care that need to be given to both records and turntable. I will probably get into digital audio by getting a Logitech Transporter or something similar when CD is confirmed a dead format with mainstream recording companies reducing production capacity or ceasing production completely.
    Hey Ryder,

    I think most of the folks that I know have also kept their vinyl rigs as well as adopted the iMac/iTunes/USB DAC approach. The better computer + USB DACs front ends out there (Wavelength Cosecant, Mhdt Havana) are performing quite a lot better than the best DACs fed by a transport just a few years ago, and arguably, are on par with (or exceed) vinyl in many ways now. The performance is high enough that even a number of the vinyl-philes I know are considering dumping vinyl rigs as a source completely and investing the $ in more music.

    A while back I heard a short demo of tapes from The Tape Project, and they pretty much blew away the best vinyl, like my 45rpm Acoustic Sounds LPs. It may be that the highest performance analog approach may be to go with tapes from The Tape Project, which incidentally has the side benefit of allowing for a studio quality conversion to digital to use as digital source material should one desire to.

    Times are changing in audio sources, with the result being there are a number of very good options to choose from that yield very high levels of performance.

    Best, Jeff

  4. #44
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the response. It is quite fascinating to hear that good computer audio is now on par or better than vinyl since my impression as with the some of the vinyl-philes out there is that digital still lacks something compared to vinyl. From what I know there are quite a number of hardcore vinyl-philes who still stick with their high-end rig, and I guess they must have lived with analog for the rest of their lives having more than 1000 LPs in their collection.

    Anyway I presume the best CDPs out there are equivalent in sound quality with computer audio + the best DACs, and it's just a matter of convenience, flexibility and cost-advantage of the latter that have caused most folks to dump CDPs(and vinyl) apart from the close sonic performance between the two. My current turntable blows my aging Krell CDP out of the water with the same music on both CD and LP and as such, my impression alongside a few hardcore vinyl lovers is that the best vinyl rig will still be quite a bit better than the best CDP/computer+DAC. As you have mentioned, times are changing; I and the rest of the old-school vinyl-philes may have not listened to the best digital yet.

    I will most likely venture into computer audio sometime next year when more exciting new technology gets introduced into the market alongside with some interesting DACs at more affordable prices. As for now, the turntable(and CDP) is here to stay.

    Cheers.

  5. #45
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Ryder:

    It's been a while since I owned a turntable, but I know what you mean. However, I will say that the mhdt Havana DAC (bought, now that I think of it, on the basis of reading Jeff's review of another mhdt product, the Paradisea +) is really an exceptionally musical piece of gear, for a digital product. To give you an idea, I ran my Mac straight into the USB input on my "second system" amp, the Aura Note (which is a very nice and musical little piece of equipment) and then into the mhdt DAC and the Aux input of the Aura Note, and it was absolutely no contest. The Aura Note, which had sounded fine on its own, was clearly more harsh, edgy and unmusical compared to the mhdt.

    In a bout of what might be audiophile craziness, I then added a Bel Canto USB-Link. It did make a further improvement in definition and clarity, but the basic smooth and easy and musical - yet highly revealing - character of the Havana was unchanged. Maybe it's the non-OS architecture, maybe it's the buffer tube, maybe it's good design overall: but it's head and shoulders above most CD players I've heard. It probably sounds closer to your Rega than you might imagine possible.

    Eric

  6. #46
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Day View Post
    Hi Eric, I too enjoy using my iMac, iTunes, and Havana DAC combo - it provides an exceptionally good musical experience, and it wouldn't surprise me if CD players become extinct when more people become aware of the high performance and flexibility of this approach.

    Just a thought: I have been using ALAC when ripping my CDs to my Mac until recently, when I switched over to AIFF. The down side of AIFF is much larger file sizes (more than double), but the up side is that it allows you to replace the stock iTunes audio engine with the higher performance Amarra Computer Music Player offered by Sonic Solutions (the studio people), which offers quite a bit higher performance than the stock iTunes engine, while still retaining the full functionality of iTunes. The Amarra is only available for Macs, but now having heard what it can do I suspect that the approach of replacing the stock iTunes sonic engine with a high performance version will catch on. Just when you thought it was safe in the land of computer based audio, out comes something like Amarra that shows there is more to be extracted from the format. Given that a lot of studios use Sonic Solutions, it's nice to have their software for playback as well, and get the same sort of performance they're getting in the studio. The down side? It's expensive ... but I suspect more companies will enter the fray and bring prices down to earth.
    Jeff,

    Thanks, that's great information - though according to the Sonic Solutions website, there's a new version 1.1 forthcoming that will play ALAC files. Would be fascinating if you could do a review.

    Eric

  7. #47
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    EricW,

    Thanks for the comment. Now that has fueled my desire to go with computer audio and possibly getting a MHDT DAC. I have been reading lots of great comments on both Paradisea and Havana DACs from existing owners and guess there might be some truth behind all the rave reviews. Will plan for that sometime in future, probably with another pair of Harbeth speakers with the additional source.

    Cheers.

  8. #48
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Coming back to this topic after the passage of time ...

    The answer to "is iTunes bit-perfect" appears to be "Yes - if the OS settings are correct."

    See: http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/wiki/i..._-_Setup_Guide

  9. #49
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Quote Originally Posted by EricW View Post
    Coming back to this topic after the passage of time ...

    The answer to "is iTunes bit-perfect" appears to be "Yes - if the OS settings are correct."

    See: http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/wiki/i..._-_Setup_Guide
    In the version they investigated, this is true... They however should repeat that for version 8.0/9.0.

  10. #50
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Quote Originally Posted by garmtz View Post
    In the version they investigated, this is true... They however should repeat that for version 8.0/9.0.
    garmtz:

    True, but somehow I don't think Apple is the kind of company that would go backwards in an area like this. At least, I hope not. Anyway, I now have the new Snow Leopard OS and iTunes 9, and Benchmark's instructions seem to be applicable to those as well.

  11. #51
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Because of their increased resolution relative to my previous speakers, as noted in several other postings, the acquisition of a pair Harbeths (Super HL5s) lead me to review the sources I had in my system. I've started a new branch of this thread because in my case this process covered 3 types of source. I'd be interested in views on relative preferences and possible ways ahead.

    When I got the HL5s my main source was CD (Musical Fidelity CD Pre as a transport connected to a Bel Canto DAC3). Because I could only accommodate 30% of CD collection in the listening room, I set up an inexpensive wireless system to allow me direct access to the other 70%, which I had stored in Apple Lossless format on a Mac computer fitted with a large RAID disc. Using the Airtunes feature of iTunes on the Mac, I streamed the music to an AppleTV, which is connected by optical SPDIF to the DAC. This has worked faultlessly, with very little intervention necessary from me. The third source is my turntable rig, but this is not currently in the main system, being accessed via the computer.

    Considering the low cost (~?200) compared with my CD source, and listening via the transparent HL5s, the sound from the streamed music was very good; on some occasions it was better than that from the CD source. Which way to go - improve the wireless system or the CD system? As it was not obvious to me how to upgrade the wireless source without greatly complicating it I've upgraded the disc playing system. To cut a long story short I replaced the CVD Pre by a PS Audio Perfectwave Transport which gave a massive improvement: CDs now sounded far, far better than the streamed music. In fact I've never heard CDs sound so good!

    I chose the PWT because it could also play data DVDs containing high-resolution music files (up to 24bit / 192 kHz). I had already experimented with digitising some of my LPs, creating DVD-Vs and DVD-Audios, and playing them on a DVD player, but I found that the disc navigation was very poor compared with CD. So I have now transferred several albums to data DVDs (at 24 bit / 96 kHz) and these sound very good.

    So I think I've sorted 2 of my sources, but I'd be grateful for any advice on how to upgrade the wireless source. Please note I do not want a computer in the listening room, and it is not really practical for me to hardwire the computer to the listening room by ethernet.

  12. #52
    unleash_me Guest

    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    I've been using PC as a source with Havana for sometime now and can say that this combination is definitely more convenient and sounds even better than my old Marantz 15S1 combo I had earlier.

    You can read in detail about the merits and demerits of using computer as a source from some of the best in the business here.
    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue41/ca_intro.htm

    Cheers.

  13. #53
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Quote Originally Posted by unleash_me View Post
    I've been using PC as a source with Havana for sometime now and can say that this combination is definitely more convenient and sounds even better than my old Marantz 15S1 combo I had earlier.

    You can read in detail about the merits and demerits of using computer as a source from some of the best in the business here.
    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Issue41/ca_intro.htm

    Cheers.
    I bought the Havana mainly out of curiosity (a DA converter with a valve output circuit -- how cool is that :)) and have been listening to it intensively over the weekend. It is nicely built and has worked flawlessly so far. Without any measurable data to back up my claims, I find it sounds natural and plays music pretty well too(?)

    Having just read the article linked to unleash_me's post, I started listening to Jorma Kaukonen via Spotify. River of Time is warmly recommended!

    In my opinion, if you are into audiophile components, the Havana will give you a greater ROI than high-end cables for example. However, no doubt Harbeths have always and will continue to sound great with any reasonable CD player / computer sound card for the rest of us.

    tto123 from Finland, the country of Jormas and Kaukonens, far away from Havana


    Edit: No, no, no, here is the article I've read: http://www.positive-feedback.com/Iss...hdt_havana.htm

  14. #54
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    tto123, I just read the review of the Havana earlier today before you posted the link here. Seems like many folks have commented on the excellent sonic performance of this tube DAC. Most reviews by Jeff Day have peaked my interest, not only this Havana DAC but the Leben amps as well. Incidentally he is using the Harbeth 40.1 so that is a plus point should folks consider the components he has reviewed.

  15. #55
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Thanks for the link unleash me. I'd skimmed through this before but not the link it references which considers a lot of the nitty gritty involved:
    http://www.positive-feedback.com/Iss...s_computer.htm
    Some useful advice here for making cost-effective improvements.

    I've made some progress in terms of increasing the sound quality from my streamed music source; I've changed the power lead to a Russ Andrews Powercord-8 and the mains distribution block to an Alner-Hamblin MF02. These brought a blacker background, more relaxed music, more ambience and a sweeter top. Still not up to the quality from the PS Audio PWT but closer.

    From my limited research I guess I need to do something about the high level of jitter that I'm told the AppleTV generates e.g. look at a re-clocker. The above link records that iTunes is as good as any other means of ripping CDs, as it produces bit-perfect copies. I'd be quite happy to stick with iTunes, with Airtunes for wireless transmission, as it offers all the facilities I need, but for the fact that it cannot handle hi-res digital music.

    David

  16. #56
    unleash_me Guest

    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Glad I could help David.

    Last year I moved from Marantz 15S1 combo and ProAc 140. It was a nice combo and served me well for many years. But my current setup is the best I have had so far and I'm pretty sure I will not be upgrading for a very long time! Tried to be a hifi purist for 2 decades but eventually embraced the PC based solution. Never been happier :-)

    My system current system is like this:
    FLAC/WAV from PC.Foober.WASAPI through MHDT Havana DAC to McIntosh MA2275 powering a pair of SHL5. Cables and ICs are from Chord Signature. For the DAC the USB and Powercable are from MHDT itself. For the rest of the system also, I'm using the stock cables - still a skeptic over them even after all these years.

    Cheers.

  17. #57
    johnfish Guest

    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Quote Originally Posted by davidlovel View Post
    Because of their increased resolution relative to my previous speakers, as noted in several other postings, the acquisition of a pair Harbeths (Super HL5s) lead me to review the sources I had in my system. I've started a new branch of this thread because in my case this process covered 3 types of source. I'd be interested in views on relative preferences and possible ways ahead.

    When I got the HL5s my main source was CD (Musical Fidelity CD Pre as a transport connected to a Bel Canto DAC3). Because I could only accommodate 30% of CD collection in the listening room, I set up an inexpensive wireless system to allow me direct access to the other 70%, which I had stored in Apple Lossless format on a Mac computer fitted with a large RAID disc. Using the Airtunes feature of iTunes on the Mac, I streamed the music to an AppleTV, which is connected by optical SPDIF to the DAC. This has worked faultlessly, with very little intervention necessary from me. The third source is my turntable rig, but this is not currently in the main system, being accessed via the computer.

    Considering the low cost (~?200) compared with my CD source, and listening via the transparent HL5s, the sound from the streamed music was very good; on some occasions it was better than that from the CD source. Which way to go - improve the wireless system or the CD system? As it was not obvious to me how to upgrade the wireless source without greatly complicating it I've upgraded the disc playing system. To cut a long story short I replaced the CVD Pre by a PS Audio Perfectwave Transport which gave a massive improvement: CDs now sounded far, far better than the streamed music. In fact I've never heard CDs sound so good!

    I chose the PWT because it could also play data DVDs containing high-resolution music files (up to 24bit / 192 kHz). I had already experimented with digitising some of my LPs, creating DVD-Vs and DVD-Audios, and playing them on a DVD player, but I found that the disc navigation was very poor compared with CD. So I have now transferred several albums to data DVDs (at 24 bit / 96 kHz) and these sound very good.

    So I think I've sorted 2 of my sources, but I'd be grateful for any advice on how to upgrade the wireless source. Please note I do not want a computer in the listening room, and it is not really practical for me to hardwire the computer to the listening room by ethernet.
    All u need is an iPhone or iPod touch > download free "remote" thru itune apps. Now u can have your Macbook/ / PC away in other room & yet got yourself full control of your itune collection on handheld device of iPhone/iPod touch stream thru Airport Express wi-fi. Full navigator on itune Playlist /Artist / Song & volume +- . Isn't it amazing :)

  18. #58
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    Default Re: Sources for your Harbeths

    Thanks for the response Johnfish.

    In my post I forget to mention that I also use an iPod touch as a wireless remote to control playback from iTunes running on the Mac - as you say it is amazingly easy to use. I use an Airport Extreme connected to the Mac by ethernet to do the wireless streaming. I noticed that you mention volume +- so I guess that you are using the analogue output from your Airport Express? If so I'd suggest that you could improve the sound considerably by using the digital optical output instead and feed this to a separate DAC.

    The point of my posting, and why I sought advice, is that the Airtunes approach (software + Airport Express / Apple TV) only supports music up to CD quality (16 bit / 44.1 kHz). How can I best stream higher resolution music? Since writing previously I have upgraded some power supply elements:

    - I changed to a mains distribution block that greatly reduced the level of RFI (radio frequency interference) reaching the system; this gave a large improvement in sound. See:
    http://www.alnerhamblin.com/

    - I changed the mains lead supplied with the Apple TV to one made by Russ Andrews. This gave a further, but smaller, improvement. See:
    http://www.russandrews.com/product.a...XBKXMRTGNUIFEV

    - I changed the power supply in my Bel Canto DAC3 to a virtual battery supply (VBS1). This wrought an astonishing improvement - the system now sounds more 'analogue' than my turntable, but with all the detail and accuracy I associate with digital. See:
    http://www.stereotimes.com/MW2009b.shtml

    Happy listening

    David

  19. #59
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    Default

    I stopped using my Quad 77 Player a few years ago. A standard Audigy soundcard on a PC did a better job, such is the pace of technology.

    My CDs are ripped to FLAC files and are stored on the hard rive of my laptop (and another PC)

    I have a Squeezebox under the TV which reads the FLAC music library by WiFi connection and drives a Beresford Caiman DAC (c200) Consider one before spending more.

    The DAC in the Squeezebox is good but not great, but with and external DAC the sky is the limit.

    The Squeezebox also doubles as a radio tuner pulling in high quality radio stations from around the word. It beats my Quad 77 tuner. Do remember that for years the BBC has sent broadcast material to the transmitters over a 14bit digital network - that's not quite as good as CD quality.

    I can also link my laptop directly to the Caiman DAC by a USB cable and send a bitperfect stream to the DAC. I don't, because the Squeezbox does it for me wirelessly.

    There are many tips on computer audio here

    http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/

    I wont ever be using a CD player again.

  20. #60
    AdamW Guest

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    Currently I have a very fine Sugden CDMaster CD player and Kenwood KT-5020L tuner. While the tuner will stay here for a long time (FM is the wife domain, I rarely listen to the radio..), the Sugden is already being packed and will be replaced with the Naim CD5X next week.. I expect a small, but exciting improvement in the sound quality, esp. after adding the TeddyCap to the Naim. In the future I plan to add the Naim DAC to the CD, which will be also used for a file/stream player.

    The only thing that I'm still think about is about going vinyl - I'd love to have a fine TT, but since right now I have zero vinyls, I doubt if there is a point in investing the money in the TT, arm, cartridge, phonostage, etc.

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