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Looking for a "Dummy's Guide" to playing digital music files

SChat

New member
I have looked for this information here and in other forums. The fact that I have not found anything that I can understand is almost certainly a testimony of my dumbness than anything else.

The audio forums are full of discussions that are moresuited to people writing a thesis on digital formats and technology rather than anyone who simply wants to listen to music. And dealers / product websites want to sell mega-£££££ electronics that can play music simultaneously in my bedroom and on moon but cannot simply connect to my system unless I buy another ££££££ kit that upsamples/downsamples and need yet another.......

I have a pair of SHL5 plus connected to an integrated amplifier (200 wpc) with built-in DAC that can take a host of different inputs and I use a CD player as my source for playing my 1000 plus collection of CDs.

I have now a growing collection of digital music files (mostly purchased from iTunes store) and I am looking for a simple way of playing those files through my amplifier.

So - I am turning to the knowledgeable no-nonsense folf on this forum for advice.

My boundary conditions are:

A. I do NOT want to have to play music using a laptop or computer
B. I want to have my music stored on an external hard drive physically connected to my amplifier
C. Ideally this should be controllable using an ios app. Via iPad/iPhone and be Apple ecosytem compatible
D. It should be able to connect to streaming serviceslike TIDAL and Apple Music
E. I do NOT need or want to be able to play/stream music to multiple rooms

Any practical suggestions?
 

ssfas

Well-known member
My guide

My guide

I have looked for this information here and in other forums. The fact that I have not found anything that I can understand is almost certainly a testimony of my dumbness than anything else.

The audio forums are full of discussions that are moresuited to people writing a thesis on digital formats and technology rather than anyone who simply wants to listen to music. And dealers / product websites want to sell mega-£££££ electronics that can play music simultaneously in my bedroom and on moon but cannot simply connect to my system unless I buy another ££££££ kit that upsamples/downsamples and need yet another.......

I have a pair of SHL5 plus connected to an integrated amplifier (200 wpc) with built-in DAC that can take a host of different inputs and I use a CD player as my source for playing my 1000 plus collection of CDs.

I have now a growing collection of digital music files (mostly purchased from iTunes store) and I am looking for a simple way of playing those files through my amplifier.

So - I am turning to the knowledgeable no-nonsense folf on this forum for advice.

My boundary conditions are:

A. I do NOT want to have to play music using a laptop or computer
B. I want to have my music stored on an external hard drive physically connected to my amplifier
C. Ideally this should be controllable using an ios app. Via iPad/iPhone and be Apple ecosytem compatible
D. It should be able to connect to streaming serviceslike TIDAL and Apple Music
E. I do NOT need or want to be able to play/stream music to multiple rooms

Any practical suggestions?
This is exactly the problem I've been having the last few weeks. I am not a computer person. I use apple because idiots like me can use them. Had a ripper/streamer/server that was giving me issues and I wanted a simple system that worked.

So here's my idiot's guide.

Firstly, remember that we're talking computer audio so think about computer prices. A 4tb hard disc costs £100, a computer say £400 (mac mini, PC), cables £10 each. Keep those sorts of costs in mind.

The components you need are:
1. Storage (the server) - usually referred to as NAS (network attached storage)
2. A processor to handle the software (the control point)
3. The player (renderer)

The best and cheapest option is usually a NAS from Synology or QNAP. Look on Amazon. They are computer components sold in their millions globally. You get a box with a Linux-based processor and a range of applications, including a music player (Music Station), all of which have iOS versions. The can connect by usb, but ideally they should be networked.

The problem is that they are noisy. The best solution is to keep it somewhere out of earshot from where you can run a CAT6 cable to your DAC. You can do this over a long distance. If you want to connect via usb, 5m is probably a sensible limit, but you can extent that with a powered usb hub.

Obviously if you use a network server your DAC must have a network input. If not, you can then use the usb input. There are bridges that have a network input and usb output. I have one on trial by a company called SOTM, because it is both a bridge and receiver for DNLA (i.e. is can be seen by any number control point point software) and Airplay. I may send it back as it does not work 100%. There is another one just launched called an Auralic Aries Mini, which does much the same and has Tidal etc built in and you can attach a usb drive, which is cheaper and easier than a NAS drive.

Remember that you still have to rip CDs on a computer and back them up, the cheapest option being duplicate usb drives.

So it is starting to get complex. For the reason, I am not surprised that people get something like the Melco N1A - a division of Buffalo, the hard drive company. This is an all-in-one solution plug-and-play, 4tb storage and £1,600.

My solution was premised on my already having a large (16TB) NAS drive for other reasons and wanting to find an easy way to store my music on it and get it to my DAC. I am doing it wirelessly, which adds to the problems. Basically you need a good router. The sky hub is insufficient, so I added a router and turned off the sky hub wifi.
 

Kumar Kane

New member
Use the Sonos solution

Use the Sonos solution

Any practical suggestions?
Sonos Connect - perhaps more expensive than many, but still the gold standard and the simplest to implement if you have a stable WiFi in your home. If you don't you might need to run an ethernet wire to it. The Connect offers analog and digital outputs.

The hard drive containing music would need to be ethernet wired to your WiFi router, not the amp.

And Sonos will almost certainly the first to offer integration with Apple Music, promised by the end of 2015.

The only thing that Sonos will not do for you is hi res music files.

While I note that you don't need it, you might surprise yourself in future by giving in to the advantages of Sonos play units that will play all the music you can play today, in any other part of your house with sound quality that also may surprise you. No other investment than the play unit/s - WiFi enable active speakers - will be needed because your existing infrastructure will be used.
 

learning

New member
NAS remote controlled is the answer

NAS remote controlled is the answer

Someone will be along to provide details on Apple streaming or casting, but it's worthwhile to point out that you can't connect a hard drive directly to your DAC/amp. You will need some sort of device connected to your DAC/amp that supports casting or streaming of content from your hard drive, like an Apple Airport Express which provides an optical digital output.

Get a NAS with multimedia functionality and the NAS can be the source, with remote control by iPhone or iPad. Newer NAS drives have software which will run various music and video apps to serve as the heart of video or audio steaming without having to use a laptop or PC.
 

Kumar Kane

New member
Dipping your toes for USD 35

Dipping your toes for USD 35

See post #72 and also the entire thread if you have the time/inclination:
http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?2739-Chromecast-Audio/page4

The one issue for you is that Apple and Google don't like each other, but I know that the Chromecast App works just as well on compatible iOS devices.

The device costs just USD 35 and can offer an optical digital feed into your amp if that has optical inputs.Else you will need to get a commodity 1 to 2 RCA cable to move analog signals across to it.

Apple Music isn't supported, but Spotify, Rdio and some others are, and so is Tidal probably. You can be listening to them in about 5 minutes of unboxing, and see how the streaming solution and related concepts work for you for a small investment.

As I have written in the linked post, Sonos still offers advantages over CC that are worth evaluating for a personal value for money assessment that only you can do.

You can then decide next steps, including how to rip your CDs and move the music to a NAS. The time involved in doing this is the significant effort if you have a large CD collection. Adequate for music NAS boxes can be had for just approx USD 100 now.
 

SChat

New member
Bluesound player

Bluesound player

Many thanks for the replies so far. While researching Sonos functionalities, I came across a Sonos equivalent called Bluesound.

It can apparently play Hi-Res files as well - they have a model that has an inbuilt HDD (2 TB) and a CD ripper all in one. Anyone knows anything about them?

If I connect a Sonos connect to my router and then connect a NAS to it ... Then I will need something to connect to my amp so that it can receive the signal over wifi, right?
 

Kumar Kane

New member
Bluesound and cost

Bluesound and cost

Sonos Connect is wired to your amp delivering line level signals to it. It pulls the commanded music from the router attached NAS, or from music services, wirelessly. The NAS can also be ethernet wired to the Connect, if that is more convenient.

Ideally one Sonos unit is also wired to your router in a multi Sonos installation, but if your home Wifi is robust and stable, this isn't a must and you can have the Connect wired only to the amp.

Bluesound does all that Sonos does, at a much higher price point. The CD ripper is a one time need. The only thing that it does that Sonos does not do is hi res music.
 

hifi_dave

Well-known member
Streaming

Streaming

You can stream from your router direct to the Devialet.

That's the limit of my knowledge.
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Managing meta-data

Managing meta-data

Having been battling with wifi and the like for over a week, Dave's sage advice is only missing the point that CD players still exist (and are available for sale) and, beyond the physical exertion of getting out of your chair, they sound just as good.

For the last three years I'be been using a device that rips the CD, stores and plays. Very effective, but it only used AMG Pro and a free CD-lookup database. In retrospect its preference for WAV was a disaster as I am now re-ripping due to the lack of metadata.

I am using dbpoweramp and the associated cover art and tagging packages, that came at a cost of 46 pounds. A lot of money, but even after a day or so I am appreciating the accuracy and ease of correcting metadata. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find the music you want.

I never understood why violinists recorded the Mendelssohn and Bruch concertos together (and other famous pairings). The worry of not knowing whether to file the disc under ''M' or 'B' was enough to lose sleep. Maybe they were hoping that people would buy two copies for piece of mind. Now all we have to remember is to look under both 'Beethoven, Ludwig van' and 'Ludwig van Beethoven'. The number of different spellings of Chopin's first name (Federick, Frydryk, etc.) is the modern day metadata-ist's nightmare.
 

ssfas

Well-known member
BBC magic

BBC magic

I should add that a database is not worthy unless it contains the metadata for the Goon Show recordings, which are better than Penicillin or chicken soup.

Once again, fine BBC recordings done in challenging circumstances. Live comedy performances with a big band, jazz quartet and what seemed like the entire BBC sound effects department.
 

Jeff_C

Member
Good library search is essential

Good library search is essential

...Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find the music you want.

I never understood why violinists recorded the Mendelssohn and Bruch concertos together (and other famous pairings). The worry of not knowing whether to file the disc under ''M' or 'B' was enough to lose sleep. Maybe they were hoping that people would buy two copies for piece of mind. Now all we have to remember is to look under both 'Beethoven, Ludwig van' and 'Ludwig van Beethoven'. The number of different spellings of Chopin's first name (Federick, Frydryk, etc.) is the modern day metadata-ist's nightmare.
A good library search facility is needed. I do not worry too much about ambiguous ways in which the meta-data may be held, because there is always a way to find the piece either searching on the "Artist", or the piece of music in "Songs". Some searches can prove more troublesome than others though. I have about 13 variations on the spelling for George Frederic Handel. There are accented and non-accented versions as well as actual spelling differences. Because there is Handel and Haendel and Händel, the trick is to try and use a common part such as "ndel" as the search term. It may include hits within the search that you did not want (like Mendelssohn) but I find it is better to work from a fuller hit list than not have all the hits for the artist you do want.
 

chirhonix

Member
Getting rid of diverse spellings - folder structure

Getting rid of diverse spellings - folder structure

I don't like it either to have an artist spelled differently. So all my rips are in a directory structure like genre/artist/album. So I can open an entire directory like maybe Händel in mp3tag (tags also flacs, my preferred file type) and change all spellings in the artist tag.
 

chirhonix

Member
Flac

Flac

For the last three years I'be been using a device that rips the CD, stores and plays. Very effective, but it only used AMG Pro and a free CD-lookup database. In retrospect its preference for WAV was a disaster as I am now re-ripping due to the lack of metadata.
Since you already ripped the CDs, did you try to encode them with flac and after that to try to tag them with e.g. mp3tag? mp3tag tags many file types and can look up freedb database. Should take much less time IMHO.
 
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Jeff_C

Member
File conversion

File conversion

Since you already ripped the CDs, did you try to encode them with flac and after that to try to tag them with e.g. mp3tag? Should take much less time IMHO.
I agree. There are plenty of file format converters, dbPoweramp includes a converter. Foobar2000 also. Fobar20000 is also good for editing tags.
 

kerouack

Member
NAS and Plex

NAS and Plex

One option is a NAS with Plex server, and then a new apple tv with Plex (180 euros). With that you can control the music on TV, with the apple tv remote.

Another option is buying the cheaper old apple tv (70 euros, but you can "not" install Plexx on it without a hack), and then access the NAS from plex on ipad, and do airplay to the apple tv.

In both cases, apple tv connected to your DAC. With old apple tv, it has optical output, with new one it has only hdmi, so one option is using the optical output from the tv, if you dont have tv, then you would need to use the hdmi audio out.

If you already use ios devices, this option can be good and cheap. Even a cheaper option would be using Plex on the ipad, and then buying a chineses device connected to your amp, to be able to do airplay to it, i think price in alibaba was 30 euros, but, if you have a tv, i recomend you apple tv, with it, futhermore, you can accesss a lot of music in internet, like amazing youtube concerts with great quality.

So my option here is NAS with Plex server and apple tv.
 

Jeff_C

Member
Stick with the CD cover spelling

Stick with the CD cover spelling

I don't like it either to have an artist spelled differently. So all my rips are in a directory structure like genre/artist/album. So I can open an entire directory like maybe Händel in mp3tag (tags also flacs, my preferred file type) and change all spellings in the artist tag.
A lot of this is down to personal preference and although it is better to have all Handel recordings in one folder, the purist in me is reluctant to deviate from the spelling on the CD cover. That is why I tend to put up with all the variations in spelling.
 

SChat

New member
Many choices

Many choices

I do not want to rip my existing CDs. I agree with ssfas that CD players are still available and I can do with the exercise!

I do not understand why I need something like Plex though? Don't good NAS storage come with inbuilt software - like Synology with DSM etc?

Lastly....I can use either Apple TV or an Airport Express to stream - though I might prefer the later. Alternatively, getting the Pioneer Network Player or the new Yamaha CD-NT670D may not be a bad idea - its a network music player that can also play CD. or I can use a Sonos Connect.
 

willem

Well-known member
Thesaurus of personal names needed

Thesaurus of personal names needed

I am a seasoned library user, and good library catalogs cover this by creating a thesaurus of personal names connecting all the different spelling variants of author names.

Unfortunately in the digital age the quality of library catalogs is rapidly declining because administrators believe that all this can be automated. I have started using Spotify, and the unprofessional quality of the search options drives me nuts. They really need to re-invent the wheel.
 

Jeff_C

Member
Many choices indeed

Many choices indeed

I do not want to rip my existing CDs. I agree with ssfas that CD players are still available and I can do with the exercise!

I do not understand why I need something like Plex though? Don't good NAS storage come with inbuilt software - like Synology with DSM etc?

Lastly....I can use either Apple TV or an Airport Express to stream - though I might prefer the later. Alternatively, getting the Pioneer Network Player or the new Yamaha CD-NT670D may not be a bad idea - its a network music player that can also play CD. or I can use a Sonos Connect.
The problem is always tailoring your needs to what is available in the market place. Nothing seems to do everything which is required, or you may have particular preferences. As you do not want to rip your CD collection, the Yamaha CD player cum network streamer may look to do what you want. It also has Airplay, but may not stream from Tidal or Apple Music. You already have a CD player so that part of the hardware is redundant.

There is no mention that the Pioneer (N50A) network player will connect to Tidal.

The Bluesound Node 2 seems to tick all the boxes but is more expensive (than Sonos), and are they in it for the long run?

The Sonos connect also seems to tick all your boxes but does not play hi-res files which you do not have anyway.

To get a Chromecast Audio working with files stored locally may not be straightforward. I am unsure whether Tidal supports Chromecast Audio.

In general Apple Music is too new to know what devices will be supported.
 

kerouack

Member
Plex v. Synology

Plex v. Synology

I recomended plex cause I don't know if synology has now an Apple TV app. So with plex you don't even need iPhone or iPad if you have a tv in the room. Maybe synology has or will have Apple TV app, I don't know about that. Plex is good software developed through lot of years. But yes , you could use the NAS software too, in Apple TV, if they have, or iPad and AirPlay to Apple TV.

If you have tv in the room and other iOS devices I would go to Apple TV. With a NAS you can do a lot of things , and with Apple TV too , like streaming concerts from medici classical music app, and a lot others, watching movies and more.

I don't see the point about the Hifi route like a network player is there are computer options than can do a lot of things and , very important , easy to use ( that's why I did not recommended blackberry pi, even knowing it is very cheap )
 
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