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Integrating digitized music into home stereo syste
ArtVandalay7
post Feb 1 2008, 22:34
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Hello-I had a couple of general questions about how best (and least expensively) to integrate a digitized music collection into my home stereo/theater system. Currently, I am using EAC to transfer my CDs into lossless Wavpak format and using Foobar 2000 0.9.5 as a media player. I convert those files to duplicate MP3s for ones I want to transfer to my Ipod. I plan on getting 2 external 500gb hard drives for storage of the music (one for use, one for backup). I have a wireless network at home, but currently I am plugging in my laptop directly into my receiver using a Monster cable. In the background, of course, it sounds like the next door neighbor is using his leafblower due to the soundcard. I am really interested in learning how to get lossless transfer into my home stereo system and to do this the best way possible. Any ideas/help is really appreciated!!!
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nightfishing
post Feb 1 2008, 22:50
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Running an onboard soundcard to a "decent" stereo system is going to amplify the weaknesses of the chip.

An exteranl usb soundcard would do what you want.

I run a 1tb Firewire drive>Laptop>MAudio Audiophile USB>DAC>Receiver, but it can be done without the DAC.

There are a few "decent" usb soundcards that can be had for under $200 (several discussion 'round here about that very topic).

Very happy with my setup; small footprint, low noise (fans/hd etc) and excellent sound.

PS I am not sold on your "backup" strategy. I would use either DVDs or protable USB drives (or a combo of both) to do the backup and then store them someplace "safe" away from your main drive. With the exception of the drive failing, anything else that would cause you to lose the first drive (fire,flood,theft) will also cause you to lose the drive sitting next to it!

I use DVDs for backing up ripped CDS and the USB Drives for my live music.
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greynol
post Feb 1 2008, 22:55
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You might want to check into a Squeezebox or something similar as well.

Your original discs are going to outlast recordable DVDs, so I wouldn't waste my time with those, especially if you're not planning on handling them that much.


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nightfishing
post Feb 1 2008, 23:05
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QUOTE (greynol @ Feb 1 2008, 16:55) *
Your original discs are going to outlast recordable DVDs, so I wouldn't waste my time with those, especially if you're not planning on handling them that much.


But if the hd went down it would be MUCH faster to pull out 100 DVDs with tagged and sorted FLAC files than re-rip 1000 CDS.
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garym
post Feb 1 2008, 23:08
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you definitely need to get your digital signal outside your computer (noisy environment) and to a DAC (Digital Audio Converter). I use a Benchmark DAC-1. You can feed from USB, SPDIF, Optical, etc. into the DAC from teh computer) From the DAC (and there are other less expensive DACs, do some searching on DAC comparisons, etc.) you go to the analog inputs of your preamp, receiver, etc. There is also a new Benchmark combo preamp/dac which should be quite nice. No connection to the company, I'm just a satisfied customer.

http://www.benchmarkmedia.com/dac1/
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ArtVandalay7
post Feb 1 2008, 23:14
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I wasn't going to store the backup 500gb drive next to the other one, possibly even going to store it at a neighbor's place...still not the best idea?
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greynol
post Feb 1 2008, 23:24
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I'd go with the second hard drive over the DVD route any day.

1000 titles / ~14 lossless titles/disc = ~70 discs. On top of that it's recommended that you periodically check the condition of the discs and use redundancy in the event that data becomes unrecoverable. Recordable DVDs degrade over time and will eventually need replacement.

That's a lot of effort! I don't know about you, but my time is worth a lot more than that!!!


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ArtVandalay7
post Feb 1 2008, 23:30
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greynol, thanks, I'm trying to find out which brand of external hard drive is the most reliable for the least amount of money. I have a 80gb Western Digital drive so I suppose I'll go with them. Forgive my ignorance, but what does the Squeezebox do exactly?
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nightfishing
post Feb 1 2008, 23:36
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QUOTE (ArtVandalay7 @ Feb 1 2008, 17:14) *
I wasn't going to store the backup 500gb drive next to the other one, possibly even going to store it at a neighbor's place...still not the best idea?


That's fine. (I see a number of folks that spend a lot of time and effort backing things up and then leave the backups on top of thier computer).

The drawback to a second drive is that you have to physically "bring it back" to the computer to back up new files and then physically "put it back" someplace safe.

I find "most" people get "lazy" if the process isn't simple.

I use the DVDs because they are simple and easy to store. If one goes bad, I have the CDs to start from scratch with.

I use the portable hard drives (WD Passports) for the music that I do not have redundant copies of (large Springsteen Collection) and would have to reacquire if I lost everything.

There are External RAID drives if the fear is one drive going bad/corrupting the files. The bonus to that option is that you can set them to mirror everything and never lift a finger to back up.
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Nick.C
post Feb 1 2008, 23:46
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QUOTE (ArtVandalay7 @ Feb 1 2008, 22:30) *
greynol, thanks, I'm trying to find out which brand of external hard drive is the most reliable for the least amount of money. I have a 80gb Western Digital drive so I suppose I'll go with them.
Seagate cost a little more, but they come with a 5 year warranty.....


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plnelson
post Feb 1 2008, 23:50
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QUOTE (nightfishing @ Feb 1 2008, 17:05) *
But if the hd went down it would be MUCH faster to pull out 100 DVDs with tagged and sorted FLAC files than re-rip 1000 CDS.

That's what backups are for. 100 DVD's will take forever to feed back to your PC. And anyway, unless you're never going to add anymore music, the DVD's will be out of date (we have 1300 CD's-worth of music and add several new ones a week)

We keep all our music on our NAS to play through Sonos. (who wants to boot up a PC just to listen to music?) We back it up regularly to external USB HD's and keep them in two different offsites. USB HD's are CHEAP these days - there is simply no excuse to not do complete backups!
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greynol
post Feb 1 2008, 23:54
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QUOTE (ArtVandalay7 @ Feb 1 2008, 14:30) *
Forgive my ignorance, but what does the Squeezebox do exactly?

http://www.slimdevices.com/pi_squeezebox.html

QUOTE (nightfishing @ Feb 1 2008, 14:36) *
The drawback to a second drive is that you have to physically "bring it back" to the computer to back up new files and then physically "put it back" someplace safe.

I find "most" people get "lazy" if the process isn't simple.
The same applies to that set of DVDs. wink.gif

QUOTE (nightfishing @ Feb 1 2008, 14:36) *
I use the DVDs because they are simple and easy to store. If one goes bad, I have the CDs to start from scratch with.
With DVDs, if one goes bad due to degradation, you should probably replace all of them.

QUOTE (nightfishing @ Feb 1 2008, 14:36) *
There are External RAID drives if the fear is one drive going bad/corrupting the files. The bonus to that option is that you can set them to mirror everything and never lift a finger to back up.
It's not uncommon for an entire array to go belly-up, so be very careful.

This topic was been discussed at great length a year or so ago. I'll get you a link if you're interested.


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ArtVandalay7
post Feb 2 2008, 00:03
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the squeezebox looks kind of cool but looks like you can't use foobar with it. I guess I'll have to have one of the external hard drives and the laptop included with all of my HT components to use foobar to manage my entire music library...
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plnelson
post Feb 2 2008, 00:06
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QUOTE (ArtVandalay7 @ Feb 1 2008, 17:30) *
greynol, thanks, I'm trying to find out which brand of external hard drive is the most reliable for the least amount of money. I have a 80gb Western Digital drive so I suppose I'll go with them. Forgive my ignorance, but what does the Squeezebox do exactly?


Squeezebox is a poor-man's Sonos. They were recently acquired by Logitech.

Sonos is a product that consisting of little boxes called "Zone Players" that create a mesh network throughout your home and connect to your stereo(s) or even your speakers since some Zone Players have 50W (RMS)/ch amplifiers. One Zone Player has to be connected to your home network and this can be done through a 100base-T ethernet connection or wirelessly via a device called a "Zone Bridge". Sonos easily connects to your NAS so you don't need to boot up a PC to play music. It plays most standard file types and can use most common playlist formats.

The Zone Players are controlled by RF remotes with big, full-color displays for searching your music. It also easily connects to internet radio, Rhapsody, Pandora, etc. I love my Sonos system - it has totally transformed my listening and made it incredibly easy to play anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere in my house.

Squeezebox is a poor-man's version of this. It does not officially support attaching to an NAS, but if you are geeky and like to tinker under the hood (or bonnet for our UK readers) you can install slimserver on some NAS's and rig up a homebrew solution.
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nightfishing
post Feb 2 2008, 00:13
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QUOTE (plnelson @ Feb 1 2008, 18:06) *
Sonos easily connects to your NAS so you don't need to boot up a PC to play music.


Are there people in 2008 that actually turn their computers off laugh.gif
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UrbanVoyeur
post Feb 2 2008, 01:37
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I second Greynol on the back up to disk thing - it saves so much time and pretty large disks are cheap.

As for connecting the system, we could all say how we did it, and I bet no two would be alike, but they would each meet our needs and sound pretty god. The options in connecting a PC to a stereo and their relative merits could easily be overwhelming to a noob.

Does anyone know of some product comparison matrices? Or Maybe a guide - something along the lines of "if you use format X with Music manger Y and want to connect Z number of rooms with a computer (Always/Never) on turned then look at these products."

This post has been edited by UrbanVoyeur: Feb 2 2008, 01:38


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cliveb
post Feb 2 2008, 12:28
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QUOTE (plnelson @ Feb 1 2008, 23:06) *
Squeezebox is a poor-man's Sonos. They were recently acquired by Logitech.

Here is not the place to get into a pissing contest over Sonos v Squeezebox, but I'll just point out that before anyone takes plnelson's opinion of the Squeezebox too seriously, they should do a bit of independent research.

For anyone interested in soundbite summaries:

The Sonos system is a highly polished lifestyle product likely to appeal to the sort of people who don't want to get involved in the details. The sort of person who would buy a B&O HiFi system would probably be attracted to Sonos. It also has a sexy remote which looks very cool but I feel is just Too Damn Big.

The Squeezebox approach will appeal more to geeks, but there are some fairly exciting developments going on at the moment which will make it much simpler to set up for non-techies. There's a new WiFi remote about to be released which achieves a lot of what the Sonos remote does (but perhaps not quite so slick), and it's actually usable with one hand.

This post has been edited by cliveb: Feb 2 2008, 12:29
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Squeller
post Feb 2 2008, 12:55
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My choice was an IBM thinkpad + creative audigy 2 zs notebook, fb2k/girder, ir2pc.com, a lot of work and: Even my wife can control it easily now. Maximum flexibility, but a lot of work to reach the usability goal. I.e. have it all remote controllable. The latest usability problem I solved was to automatically and immediately run audio contents of an attached usb stick, even if it has no autorun.inf.
Only the notebook fan is a problem which you have to think of (I can afford to close the cupboards door in order to have it silent).
Another approach is a silent fanless pc (you can buy really nice ones), but you need an additional display then.

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ArtVandalay7
post Feb 25 2008, 23:36
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So after doing more research, I've found that some of the products I have looked at are not compatible with Vista...in case I use my current laptop for the interface/music player/link between my external hard drives full of music and my home stereo receiver, I want something that will work with Vista. Does anyone have any recommendations for good, affordable external sound cards to use with my laptop to play lossless files through my home stereo? thanks for any help!!!

This post has been edited by ArtVandalay7: Feb 25 2008, 23:36
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plnelson
post Feb 26 2008, 02:43
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QUOTE (ArtVandalay7 @ Feb 25 2008, 17:36) *
So after doing more research, I've found that some of the products I have looked at are not compatible with Vista...in case I use my current laptop for the interface/music player/link between my external hard drives full of music and my home stereo receiver, I want something that will work with Vista. Does anyone have any recommendations for good, affordable external sound cards to use with my laptop to play lossless files through my home stereo? thanks for any help!!!


Last I heard, Logitech Squeezebox Duet and Sonos both work fine with Vista. Vista is yet another reason why we shouldn't be dependent on a PC to play our music.
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UrbanVoyeur
post Feb 26 2008, 06:37
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QUOTE (ArtVandalay7 @ Feb 25 2008, 18:36) *
Does anyone have any recommendations for good, affordable external sound cards to use with my laptop to play lossless files through my home stereo? thanks for any help!!!


m-audio, edirol/roland both make affordable USB interfaces.


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S-12
post Feb 27 2008, 14:49
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If you would (1) prefer for any reason (to save money, to save configuration time, etc.) to keep your current setup of laptop --> receiver (or external HDD --> laptop --> receiver), (2) your laptop has a PCMCIA Type I/II (cardbus) slot, and (3) you will be satisfied with two-channel audio, then I'd recommend that you purchase an Echo Indigo IO audio adapter (price runs between US$150 and US$200). It is a high-end audio card for laptop PCs and is known for its high SNR/dynamic range and lack of audible background "hiss". In fact, when I've used a laptop/Echo combination and turned the volume all the way up on the PC and on the Indigo card with a silent audio passage, I've never been able to hear anything at all from the speakers (as it should be).

This isn't an "external" audio card, but rather utilizes the PCMCIA slot on your laptop (if it has one), so it may still serve your needs.

P.S. - It's described as mainly an adapter for "professional audio recording", but it provides very high-quality stereo playback just as well.

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ScottMayo
post Mar 2 2008, 00:19
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I like my Squeezebox. It understands a lot of different file formats (2 channel only, though, which is maddening sometimes), it's easy to use, and can be controlled from a remote or any PC, and if you're a geek, you can write your own interface to it. Mine's part of a totally automated system, controlled from my laptop. The DAC is ok, but I run the optical output to my stereo and use that. It can be used as an alarm clock. It can even be hooked to a variety of internet squeezebox-friendly content providers.

But it does mean having at least a small PC on whenever you want music, somewhere in the house. I got a little, low power "brick" PC, so having on 24/7 wouldn't drive my electric bill up too far, and it has plenty of CPU to support multiple squeezeboxes.

To the snide guy who wonders if anyone turns their PCs off in 2008 - yeah, responsible people do. It's past time to take energy conservation seriously.
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