Is everything about plugging in to a confounded computer?!?!
I'll throw in a semantics monkey wrench. What isn't technically a computer nowadays?
I get home, slot the device in the dock, switch on the amp, then sit down.
Originally Posted by ArifC3
SO - I feel that using a portable player as a source is a bit of a botch - what if I wanted a decent living-room-based source for this set-up, you know, a proper source unit?
As far as I can tell, is what I'm supposed to do is get a laptop with my music on it, plus a 'DAC'. So we're talking USB output to the DAC.
I'm sorry - but having a stupid computer in the equation just feels too much of a botch, fine for 'karaoke', but no more.
I don't want to go back to CD players, as the convenience of large files storage in one place is just too good.
So what does the HiFi nut do if they want a decent digital source for their home amp and speakers?
Technically speaking, even a dedicated music server is a computer, just more specialized. I've seen some dedicated PC audio servers still for some reason using a Core i7 when its marketing blurb says it's specialized for music; others use a simpler (and cheaper) processor and of course are more focused with the software (not to mention its own screen on the chassis itself) that it won't require more power to run faster.
In any case if you want a really focused device you can start by checking these out:
Some of these can take either an external HDD or other USB sources, and even SD cards. Others can be hooked up to the home network, even wirelessly, and as long as you have a media server external drive hooked up to the router, you can access all music stored in there.
Originally Posted by ArifC3
Also - whether you're talking laptop as source or whatever - for the scenario where you have a source and then a DAC - what is it actually doing the 'playing'? For example - I could feed my current amp either via the Colorfly C4, or via a laptop/USB - will it sound the same? Would not the superiorness of the C4 have a bearing on what comes out of the speakers? I'm talking comparatively here - so of course the speakers and amp itself will limit 'quality' - but surely using the Colorfly versus a laptop must make a difference?
If not - then it's not actually the 'source' that does anything - it's just a dumb bin for data - which the amp then 'plays'?
Please educate me, and answer all questions posed!!
All your help and erucition appreciated!
As it is, I'm stuck with having to plug the Colorfly in each room where there's an amp - I want a proper dedicated solution, and which can communicate digitally with the amp - preferably coaxial.
The player, whether it is a PC/MAC, smartphone, or tablet, etc, does the playing. It reads the files, regardless of what comes after. Using it as a digital server just makes it a replacement for a dedicated CD transport (or a CDP if you hooked it up via its SPDIF output) in a system that has a separate DAC - it sends out a digital PCM (which can be out of compressed or ripped lossless files, which needs to be processed to output such) or DSD signal to the DAC through SPDIF or USB, which then decodes the 11000000011100101000101000000010100110101010101101001011000010111100000010101010000101111001010111 signal into an analog waveform, which then goes out into the amplifier. The sound ultimately is determined by the DAC, unless one such digital audio server whatever device it may be has some flaw in its implementation or design that the digital signal has too much jitter or has noise in it (or limited to some sampling rates and bit depth).
Also, many devices nowadays integrate a DAC and headphone (or even speaker) amplifier in the same box, sometimes with separate power supplies; some may be better at one than the other, but of course that doesn't mean a good DAC with a weak amp can't do well with efficient headphones or that an amp with what seems like an "afterthought USB DAC" like the Meier amp in the photos won't be a good enough DAC (I prefer it over a bunch of CDPs, including the Rega Apollo and Planet). In any case, teh source unit whatever it is still does the playing, the DAC does the digial to analogue conversion, then the amplifier amplifies the signal to get the right amount of voltage and current to run a headphone or speaker.
In your case, with a coaxial input, you have both a DAC and Amp in the same box. Any number of the devices Ive linked to above - and many others still - have a coaxial SPDIF output that can feed the digital signal to that. However, if what you need is to have one such device feeding more than one room where there is an amp-DAC or receiver with a coaxial input, that will be difficult - you'll either still lug around the music server into each room with an amp (what it can do remotely is access a server HDD or Cloud). You could probably use the computer, hook it up to some kind of SPDIF distribution box, and then hook up all those Amp-DACs into that. You can then use a tablet or smartphone as a remote for the computer's music player.
Alternately, if your amp has analogue inputs, you can set up a wireless DAC system like the NuForce AirDAC. You just hook up the wireless sender to the USB port on the computer and control it using a tablet, and in each room where you have an amp, you have one of the AirDAC receivers.