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Thread: Sources for your Harbeths

  1. #61
    AdamW Guest

    Default

    The Naim CD5X is doing a great job and a new toy is coming - a beautiful LP12 is on the way :-) My setup is almost completed..

  2. #62
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    Default Which DAC for M40.1?

    After all, I believe in that: the loudness difference is the real reason amps sound different, and all amplifiers will sound same through my speakers at the same SPL. So we don't need to pay an arm and a leg for amplifier. But, what about the DAC's?

    How extraordinary DAC's sound through Harbeth speakers?

    guess by approximation:
    Playback Designs MPD-5 with USB-X: wide soundstage, smooth and extremely detailed but thin and brittle?

    EMM Labs DAC2x: transparent and vivid; sounds clinical?, professional studio sound with lots of bass?

    MSB Diamond DAC IV: cymbal (regardless of how many different instruments are playing) rings out audibly until it is finished moving, like real but disturbing - too pretty to be real?

    dCS Paganini stack: sounds as if it's natural and coherent, but lacks some salt and pepper?

    ARC Reference DAC (prototype, nobody listened yet): perfect for instrumental music but not suitable for vocals?

    Is there anybody who made a real comparison? Which DAC should I choose to get a musical, warm, emotional and involving sound through Harbeth's?
    Should I get just Rega DAC and Brio-R for M40.1 (house sound with less dynamics)?

    I don't mean if x or y DAC works with Harbeth... I'm looking for best match to Harbeth M40.1 speakers.

    Can "audio switch-over comparator" make all DAC's sound same as amplifiers?

  3. #63
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    Default Teac pd-h600 cd

    Reasonably tweaked Technics SL1200 MK2 and it sounds sublime with my C7s, also a TEAC PD-H600 CD player, it looks a million dollars ( like a mini Esoteric if you will ), for the money it sounds really, really good which suprised me a bit.

  4. #64
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    Default Which DAC to choose?

    Quote Originally Posted by A. E. View Post
    Is there anybody who made a real comparison? Which DAC should I choose to get a musical, warm, emotional and involving sound through Harbeth's?
    Should I get just Rega DAC and Brio-R for M40.1
    I have been playing around with DAC's and file based audio for awhile now and made the commitment over a year ago to rip my entire collection of CD's to FLAC and sold my CDP. It is honestly the best thing I have ever done. The sound is far superior to my CDP and I can now play my entire collection very easily, as I use a Tablet computer, so I flick through my album covers and tap the album I wish to play. I built my own music server and saved a whole bunch of money too, which I have spent on music instead of a new CD player - one happy bunny here.

    As to your question, I think the combination you mention fits the sound you are looking for, the Rega's have a very natural warm almost analogue sound and pair extremely well with my SHL5's, above all they are musical. I am in total agreement with Alan here, don't spend a fortune on an exotic front end, you really don't need to, spend the money on music or take a holiday! I have never played so much music in my life since adopting file based audio and purchasing the Rega's. If you can try the Rega's with your Harbeths I urge you too, as I think you will be surprised how well they work together and for very little money too.

    Its all quite simple, but sounds like nothing I have owned previously and costs a fraction of what it replaced :)



    Tim

  5. #65
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    Default SSD Music server?

    Read your posts on this and the sources thread with interest: I'm trying to decide on a server to improve on iTunes airplay and to remove the need to use my general-purpose computer from the music-playing chain. Can you give us some more details of your "SSD Music Server"?
    Thanks
    David

  6. #66
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    Default "Audiophile" computer?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidlovel View Post
    ...and to remove the need to use my general-purpose computer from the music-playing chain
    What do you believe a music player to be, other than a general-purpose computer wearing a software disguise?

    Given that USB (in asynchronous mode) is probably the best digital audio interface (i.e. better than SPDIF etc.) in a domestic situation, and that most computers have at least three of them, what more do you require of a computer that has "audiophile music player" written on the box?

  7. #67
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    Default Intel Atom server

    Quote Originally Posted by davidlovel View Post
    Can you give us some more details of your "SSD Music Server"?
    Thanks
    David
    No problem David, it sounds like you are making the same decisions I was and I don't consider iTunes to be a totally competent music player either, OK for the masses and lossy formats but not for me.

    Basically (and to cut a very long story short, as there was a lot of testing along the way, before arriving at v3 of my player) I wanted a stand alone player which had to be realistically priced, totally silent with no moving parts, energy efficient, headless, capable of being controlled remotely and sound superior to CDP's costing significantly more. My belief when it comes to file based audio is less is more and keep it simple. I have easily achieved all these objectives and it's been a lot of fun along the way too, with the satisfaction of knowing I have saved money, improved my sound and built it myself. I now have instant easy access to my entire music library (around 2,500 FLAC albums) via a hand-held touch screen remote - I use a 10" tablet, of the 'non-fruit' variety as the controller. I think I have never ever been as satisfied with my system as I am right now and thats after over 40 years of enjoying music. Mind you this is nearly all attributable to the SHL5's, which are an end destination speaker as far as I'm concerned. I hate box swapping and any such associated hi-fi nervosa, I listen to music not equipment.

    The server is based around an Intel Atom based mini-ITX motherboard, passively cooled, has a mini-SATA SSD plugged directly into the board (no wires or power cables), 2GB DDR3 RAM and an external DC Linear PSU which powers the server via a DC jack on the rear of the board. Software is Windows 7 Pro and JRiver Music Center and controlled by a remote app called Gizmo or from another PC via Radmin Server. Files are all FLAC streamed from a Windows file server. The things I learned along the way is SSD for the server O/S drive does make a difference over a mechanical drive and it is best to have the music stored 'offboard', either on a portable USB drive plugged into the server or streamed from a NAS. Windows 7 also needs to be configured to ensure nothing gets in the way of music playback. It is optimised for audio playback only and does nothing else but play music, either from my NAS or streamed from the Internet via the popular music streaming service. I use EAC to rip my files.

    I can't go too deeply into what I've done as I have been approached about marketing it as a complete product.

    Hope this helps?

    Tim

  8. #68
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    Default Re: "Audiophile" computer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pluto View Post
    What do you believe a music player to be, other than a general-purpose computer wearing a software disguise?
    There is actually quite a difference between a 'general purpose computer' and one which has been built and configured purely for audio playback. I've built 3 now and have also trialled both general purpose computers, laptops and different operating systems - there is a little more to it than just using an off the shelf home PC and installing some software. You are welcome to hear this difference if you think I am wrong? There is so much going on in a home PC, which when used for audio playback can influence the sound it produces.

    A simple test would be to try out JPlay software on your home computer and see if you can hear the difference? If you can't then stick with what you have and be happy, if you can, then you may realise it could be worth exploring a dedicated computer for playing music. I guess a lot depends on what you are happy with and what level of performance you are striving for, if all you are going to do is play lossy files from iTunes, then its really not worth the effort IMO, but if you want performance equalling competent and highly regarded CD player's costing well more than a 1,000, you have to do a little more, but you will spend a lot less. Of course you need to factor in a DAC as well and a good power supply ;)

    I'm really impressed with what can be achieved and without a huge amount of much effort either, if you know what you are doing.

  9. #69
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    Default DIY Atom server

    Thanks for the detailed response Tim.

    Like you my priority is the music (via SHL5s) so I'm reluctant to spend the time on a DIY project. I would therefore be very interested in a marketed product like this.
    For your information (you may already be aware) this similar DIY server is based on the Intel Atom processor:
    http://www.computeraudiophile.com/co...rver-caps-v20/

    David

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    Default Marketing secrets?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatGig View Post
    I can't go too deeply into what I've done as I have been approached about marketing it as a complete product
    Thus explaining rather a lot about your 'belief' that a general purpose computer isn't good enough.

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    Default Define 'inferior'!

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatGig View Post
    ... I don't consider iTunes to be a totally competent music player either, OK for the masses and lossy formats but not for me.
    Could you explain exactly what you mean? iTunes accommodates several non-lossy formats just fine (not FLAC, it's true, but FLAC files are easy to convert): WAV, AIFF, ALAC. How then is it "not totally competent" or only OK for lossy formats?

    I'm not sure I understand what you are intending to say. If it's an inferior product, how exactly is that so?

  12. #72
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    Default The standard PC

    Quote Originally Posted by Pluto View Post
    Thus explaining rather a lot about your 'belief' that a general purpose computer isn't good enough.
    Its not a belief and I'm not saying a 'general purpose computer' isn't good enough, far from it. What is fact is that a general purpose computer can be improved significantly by configuring it differently and by reducing electrical noise that some mechanical components can introduce into the playback chain. Taking certain device drivers out of the chain, no display (as in a laptop screen) and by shutting down a lot of Windows services does make a difference to the playback quality.

    You are entitled to your opinion if you think the sound cannot be improved and I'm sorry to be blunt, but you are incorrect. It really is clearly audible. As I said try JPlay on any computer, but especially a laptop and I would be surprised if you couldn't hear the difference. You should try it too, because as well as possibly changing your mind you could improve your sound if you are interested in file based audio ;) In fact I urge you to explore this if you are interested in a better sound, it honestly is an improvement.

    Regarding the snipe about the product, I shall ignore that and you dismiss this area of audio playback at your loss Pluto. Just listen to some high quality streaming products if you don't want to try JPlay (which by the way I'm not a fan of, but it does demonstrate very clearly what is possible by isolating the music playback away from what Windows is doing), as all they are, are computers in fancy boxes. Many of them sound very good, but are rather pricey.

    I wasn't expecting such a negative response from Harbeth owners TBH, as I thought sound quality would be important. People need to try things before they express opinions or dismiss those of others, if only for their own peace of mind. It's no surprise that Alan didn't have any takers for his amplifier challenge if people just dismiss ideas against their own belief, without even trying them.

    This ones a no brainer guys, but hey suit yourselves I was going to try and help those that were interested, but clearly I would be wasting my time.

    Tim

  13. #73
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatGig View Post
    Its not a belief and I'm not saying a 'general purpose computer' isn't good enough, far from it. What is fact is that a general purpose computer can be improved significantly by configuring it differently and by reducing electrical noise that some mechanical components can introduce into the playback chain. Taking certain device drivers out of the chain, no display (as in a laptop screen) and by shutting down a lot of Windows services does make a difference to the playback quality.

    You are entitled to your opinion if you think the sound cannot be improved and I'm sorry to be blunt, but you are incorrect. It really is clearly audible. As I said try JPlay on any computer, but especially a laptop and I would be surprised if you couldn't hear the difference. ...
    Perhaps I could chime in here.

    First, we have several Intel Atom (HP) boxes here, unused, which I'd be very interested in converting to media players. They're paid for, fully depreciated, Windows (Home Server) - which we understand - and gathering dust. So I'd love to be told how to put these to good use.

    Second: yes I think that a proportion of Harbeth users are chasing the dream of greater fidelity in the electronics. Most, I suspect and including me, have done all the dream chasing we're capable of, and it's ultimately been a lot of marketing hot air we've been clutching at which has not brought one microsecond of greater musical pleasure. So, when I see claims made of 'vast improvement' in sound by changing this piece of hardware/software or that, my (and I am not alone in this) first reaction is suspicion and scepticism and my second is .... prove it!

    If one cannot make even a novices attempt to compare A with B using some sort of rapid change-over (however that may be implemented is debatable) to prove the advance to everyone's satisfaction then it is my bitter experience that the exponent is unwittingly acting as an unpaid advocate for the product - an extension of the supplier's marketing department. It won't feel like that to him but I assure you that's how it will be seen from the suppliers side! And these endorsements pull others into the orbit and hey presto, a new room tuning sensation is born.

    We don't intentionally do co-brand marketing here for products we have no personal experience of, promoted by people we've never met, will never meet or wouldn't have any natural affinity with even if we did meet. When those folk start promoting Harbeth products on their web sites then we're ready to roll with them.

    Please remember we've been around this loop many times before and the rules are here.

    On behalf of the membership, may I say that I wholeheartedly encourage and will give full encouragement (and page space here) to anyone who has the b's to step forward with a really interesting product which they believe truly advances the frontiers if they make an effort to knock-out the confounding variables in a well constructed proving test. I'd admire them for even stepping forward, regardless of the outcome of the audio comparison.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  14. #74
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    Default Attitude to dedicated music server

    Have to say I am surprised by the turn of events here, or should that be the attitude towards a dedicated music server.

    Tim, "I wanted a stand alone player which had to be realistically priced, totally silent with no moving parts, energy efficient, headless, capable of being controlled remotely and sound superior to CDP's costing significantly more". So am I Tim.

    This "2GB DDR3 RAM" spoke volumes to me. Here is a product that removed the moving parts, pure memory.

    Tim, i am very interested in getting something similar to this as I am looking at a DAC of somesorts soon. Can we chat via PM?

    Dedicating a computor to be a music server offers clear advantages in the music playback chain. Rather than go down the line of replacing my aging CD player I'd rather use a DAC which will access both my digital collection of flac files and give access to a whole host of internet radio broadcasts.

    But as said elsewhere, I am far from digital savy to a large extent.

  15. #75
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    Default Marketing the server

    Quote Originally Posted by Tryfan View Post
    Have to say I am surprised by the turn of events here, or should that be the attitude towards a dedicated music server.
    So am I to be honest, as for some reason I seem to have provoked some quite confrontational reaction, which was not intended or desired and if anyone has misunderstood my intentions please accept my apologies, I have no hidden agenda and I'm not trying to promote anything - far from it in fact. I was only wishing to pass on a little of the pleasure I have found since adopting this method of playback and for very little money too. I am known on another forum and have helped quite a few there, who are extremely happy with what has been achieved and the only thing I have accepted in return is a thank-you. As a casual user of this group, perhaps I was wrong to post here and can take down my threads if desired?

    As I stated in my post #68 if people really disbelieve you cannot differentiate between a dedicated server and a jack of all trades home PC, you are more than welcome to come along and try for yourself - bring your laptop and you can even bring a DAC of your choice, the only thing I won't change are the Harbeth SHL5's. These are so natural in their presentation I really would be surprised if you didn't hear the difference? As for proving it, well this can actually be very easily tested by yourselves before going too much further just by trying JPlay - again, this is nothing to do with me and I am not an advocate anyway, as its too expensive and if you have a dedicated server its somewhat superfluous as a lot of what it attempts to achieve is dealt with by configuring a Windows computer purely for file based audio. JPlay is aimed at people who want to use a general home PC for music playback, without having to tinker with it.

    What JPlay can do however (by a free trial) is easily demonstrate to a sceptic that a computer can play very good audio and elevate the performance of a 'bog standard' machine, just by bypassing the operating system and its many processes. If you cannot detect anything by trying JPlay, then your journey is over and you can stay where you are and be happy with what you have, after all different people have different goals and expectations. What JPlay does is load a very bare-bones playback engine completely inside the CPU cache and plays music files direct from RAM. This completely takes out anything Windows is doing, which on a general purpose PC is rather a lot, these processes can influence the sound quality. But hey, don't take my word for it, try it yourself and see what you think - just Google JPlay.

    I was a complete sceptic and happened upon the whole file based audio thing by chance at a time when I was considering an upgrade to my ageing CDP. I have spent quite a bit of time honing it and even went out of my way helping a few folk who were just starting out, so much so that I wrote a few pages about it, which you are welcome to view (link below). Its quite dated now as it has not kept pace with my progress and as you can see differs from what I posted above, but it perhaps presents things a little better from my perspective. The major difference being the move to an SSD drive in the server, with the FLAC files stored elsewhere on the network. I am nothing more than an enthusiastic amateur who loves music and happens to be able to build computers, as my job involves understanding how they work and being able to explain it. I'm not a computer expert or software developer, but I have been building and maintaining computers for a number of years now.

    What I can thank you guys for is the scepticism, as it has helped me make up my mind about where I go from here in relation to my server. I have been thinking about it for awhile, but have decided not to enter into any sort of commercial venture as that's not really me. I have a full time and very demanding job so I don't really want to get into troubleshooting peoples computer problems. What I have done up to now has been just for the fun of it and the pleasure of helping a few folk out that are less computer literate than me, so I shall continue in that vein. So with this in mind; Alan I would be more than happy to try and turn your Atom PC's into music machines if you are genuinely interested? Also Tryfan and Davidlovel if you want to PM me I can tell you where I am right now and offer some advice if you would like it? However, a lot of what you may be considering should be covered in the web-pages linked to below, so you probably won't need my advice anyway. I cannot extend this to anyone else who may pop up from this point on, as I really am quite busy and working with PC's all day does mean getting involved 'after hours' is a bit like homework! I will only be offering advice too, I certainly don't have time to start building computers for people ;)

    A.S.
    Second: yes I think that a proportion of Harbeth users are chasing the dream of greater fidelity in the electronics. Most, I suspect and including me, have done all the dream chasing we're capable of, and it's ultimately been a lot of marketing hot air
    This I am in total agreement with Alan, never actually went down that road at all to be honest and have only had 3 stereo systems in 40 years before my present one and I have reached the end of the road now, as I am also happy I have a music server that meets my needs, which was the final piece of the puzzle - I have you to thank for that as I am blissfully happy with my SHL5's, they are keepers for sure and hopefully will outlast me!

    In answer to your final point (and if you wished it), as I have now decided not to accept the offer to market my server, I would be happy to outline what I currently have as a working file based audio server. I'm actually just about to perform a final upgrade, as I have settled on a configuration I'm happy with, so it wouldn't be too difficult to document the process. People should then be better equipped to tackle a similar project if they so wished, or at least be able to judge if its within their capabilities, as this seems to be an area of growing interest? This is not new either, similar servers can be found elsewhere on the internet and there does seem to be an area of agreement in basic design principles, which have been discovered independently of each other.

    Tim

    Windows Music Server

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    Default Clarification about iTunes compromises?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatGig View Post
    So am I to be honest, as for some reason I seem to have provoked some quite confrontational reaction...
    Well, I think Alan has said it very well. However, I still would like to know exactly what you mean by saying iTunes is "for the masses [only]" and "okay for lossy formats". What is the factual basis for those statements?

    It's good that you're enthusiastic about computer audio, but when you make blanket statements that are not substantiated by any facts, and then sidestep questions about what you said, you inevitably bring your own motivations and credibility into question.

    As for the lack of moving parts, you can now buy a MacBook Air with up to 512 GB and a MacBook Pro with up to 768 GB of solid state memory. I assume there are equivalent machines available on the Windows side, for those who prefer that option. Probably even for less money.

    As for the Windows background processes, it's my understanding that there are very few of these in the Mac OS, due to its Unix architecture. However, whether the background processes in Windows have any audible effect could only be determined through a proper test.

    But regardless of which operating system and software one uses, I have to say it's never really been clear to me why a dedicated music server would be any better than a standard computer, provided one has good playback software and a good quality DAC.

    So I ask again, if there's something specific about iTunes that compromises playback quality, what is it?

  17. #77
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    Default A DIY music server?

    Quote Originally Posted by GreatGig View Post
    ... I have no hidden agenda and I'm not trying to promote anything - far from it in fact. I was only wishing to pass on a little of the pleasure I have found since adopting this method of playback and for very little money too. ....
    Well that's crystal clear. Thanks.

    This music server idea is really of much general interest - to me too. I really like the idea of turning disused, low power hardware (which would otherwise go into a skip) into a juke box. Fantastic idea! But, perhaps we could separate the eco-warrior in all of us from the audiophile evangelist with all the obfuscation that seems to bring along and just concentrate on how to actually build the server, step by step. Then we can let folks make up their own mind about whether software drivers are audible or not.

    If you agree I'll have another thread created 'A DIY music server' and you are free to educate us all. In fact, a better idea to avoid confusion is separate threads for different server concepts, then builders can chose one approach that suits them and follow that right through.

    How about that?
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

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    Default A headless box

    Quote Originally Posted by EricW View Post
    .................
    But regardless of which operating system and software one uses, I have to say it's never really been clear to me why a dedicated music server would be any better than a standard computer, provided one has good playback software and a good quality DAC.
    [/B]
    A standard computer requires a mouse/trackpad, keyboard and display to be used - not what I want on a server. I want a box that you plug in, switch on and can play music as I can with my CD player. Such boxes exist; any user preferences in setup can be done via ethernet.

  19. #79
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    Default What is a music server?

    My primary question: what differentiates a "music server" from a simple* (but adequate) NAS device (Synology, Qnap etc.)? {or even a standard PC - Mod.}

    One simply points the player on another part of the network to the area of the NAS containing the music files, and play them using one's preferred software.

    * Einstein: everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

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    Default A special computer?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidlovel View Post
    A standard computer requires a mouse/trackpad, keyboard and display to be used - not what I want on a server. I want a box that you plug in, switch on and can play music as I can with my CD player. Such boxes exist; any user preferences in setup can be done via ethernet.
    Sorry if I was not clear - I meant "better" in terms of sound quality, not a matter of preference as to peripherals.

    My mouse and keyboard are wireless, so they're easily put away; and as for the display, you need a display somewhere or you won't know what you're playing.

    But fair enough - a preference for a dedicated box, just because, is a valid preference and not to be argued with. What I'm sceptical about is the idea that such a box is fundamentally different in performance from the standard computer that just sits on your desk.

    I think having a thread about different approaches to computer audio is a great idea.

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