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Thursday, 02 July 2020

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Have you considered using an Apple TV device as a streamer, with a (small) TV hooked up as a "monitor"? The TV doesn't even have to be between your speakers.

You can get Amazon Music as an app on the Apple TV, as well as most of the others too (Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal).

Only issue is you'd need a preamp with HDMI in. Or if that doesn't work, consider an iPad and AirPlay (1 or 2) to a preamp that supports AirPlay. AirPlay is a full resolution link.

Mike, it might be worth it for you to first have your hearing checked to see what you can actually hear. I'm older than you, but I have found that my hearing has been changing and I can't hear many of the frequencies I use to hear. Checking might save you some money in gear.

[I get my hearing checked twice a year. My hearing tests perfect in my right ear and two ticks down at the highest frequency in my left ear, in which I also have slight tinnitus (affected by hydration--in fact, tinnitus is how I monitor my hydration. When tinnitus increases, I know I need to up my water intake). The audiologist only tests up to 8 kHz, but my hearing extends to 11 kHz which is good for my age. I'm very protective of my hearing--haven't been to an amplified concert in decades. Next appointment is in August.

I do have to laugh at all the "rolloff filters" in the DACs you can buy--they're all concerned with frequency response past 20 kHz, which essentially only healthy 20-year-olds stand a chance (an outside chance) of hearing. And all the old fogeys on audio sites complain that a DAC's FR is "not flat" because it's down by 1 dB at 19 kHz! As if any of them could hear that. --Mike]

I am a subscriber to Amazon Music (non-HD). I bought one of these chinese-made wonderdevices (SMSL Q5) into which you plug your computer or MP3 player via USB and your speakers and voilá! it plays music. Cost me €140 and hardly uses any shelf space. Replaces the Marantz hifi equipment which went to the recycling yard as it never really worked.

I've had the Cambridge Stream Magic 6 for six years now and I am still very happy with it. It's wired to my network, able to pull FLAC files off my NAS. I converted all of my 1000+ CDs to FLAC. The unit is in my stereo system and sounds terrific. The ability to pull in stations around the world on the internet is also a great feature.

Well, I didn't understand a word of that but you seem happy which is the main thing.

I am a music Luddite. Well, not really. My younger brother now has all my LP's. I settled on CD's about 30 years ago, and have had a hard time moving on from that. Not so, my brother (now, not so little).

He couldn't believe I was mired in the world of things, like CD's. "Go all digital," he said, "and you can have all your music with you all the time." So I did a little research, bought a program that could rip all my CDs to a lossless format and proceeded, over a period of several months, to rip all my CDs to a series of files. Then came Sonos and all disaster.

Sonos could run on a laptop, and plug into my 1990's off-the-rack stereo system. My level of audio-file-ness can be judged. Mike, by the fact that sitting in NYC this week, I can't even remember the make and model of the receiver. Perhaps Yamaha.

Anyway, it was all hooked up and there we were, able to enjoy a random sampling of my eclectic tastes in music. When . . . Sonos crashed. OK. Reloaded the program and things worked. . . until Sonos crashed again. Essentially, every time I wanted to listen to music, I had to wait for Sonos to re-index the entire catalogue of songs I had painstakingly ripped from one format to another. It was infuriating.

And it may have soured me on the concept of digital asset management as a whole. In the end GIGO (garbage in/garbage out). But I don't want to have to be an expert in the DAM aspect of things. I just want my music available to me without a lot of process. May I suggest a topic for a future column:

DAM for DUMMIES. I still have the hard drive somewhere with all those lossless files on it. But the joke is on me, because without an elegant turn-key hardware solution, the entire library and all the work that went into creating it is, in fact, lost. So: 100% failure the last time around. Cost me about $1K in Sonos hardware (never again). I realize that doesn't rank in the world of guys who actually can remember their amp brand. But I'd rather have spent that money on some suddenly obsolete Olympus gear.

Ben

If we're committed to streamlining the hardware side, why not 86 the power amp and feed the output of the CXN directly into powered speakers?

Years ago, I decided that music was the key, and that gadgets could become an unnecessary distraction. Not to mention a money drain.

So I bought some decent bookshelf speakers, and a decent box where I could push digits in one end and get analog out the other with minimal fuss.

While I still love the CDs that live in a file cabinet in the basement and in ripped form on a hard drive, music has moved on to new sources, for better or worse.

So I chose a streaming service (Spotify) in part after looking for the greatest breadth of offerings. One test I used was to search for guitar transcriptions of Satie's Gymnopedies.

Like you, I fretted over the monthly fee, but soon realized that in former years my monthly music spend was 5 times the Spotify fee. Frankly, the fee is great value for money.

A nagging concern for me is the section of the music's path from the artist to Spotify to my computer and thence to its exit port. My solution is to listen to the music, and gosh darn if the result isn't: "It's good enough". Good enough to satisfy my decrepit old ears and to not interfere with enjoying the music.

Yup, I'm still perseverating Z6 reviews long after acquisition, and I know I shouldn't be doing this.

[One little snippet of quasi-poetry really helps me: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Attributed to the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who used it in talks and sermons for years before it was set down. Reading reviews of something after I already own it is something that I would slot in the "courage to change the things I can" category. --Mike]

I'm sure it's great and you'll love it. Not for me though, considering it costs 28x the price of Google Chromecast Audio and will sound identical :-)

I guess I have been streaming for a real long time, but didn't realize it.
As an old Rock'n'Roller from the UK now living in the US, I listened to the late Brian Mathew presenting 'Sounds of the Sixties' since when it was first available on the internet. (Dial up days). I was so happy when cable came to my city.
When I was in Antartica, I even paid a lot of money for a satellite down-link to listen (in stunningly good quality) via a laptop and headphones.
If in your 70's, is that all it takes to stream?
Sounds good enough to me! But then I sometimes listen to cassette tapes.

John Darkro...."It's warm.''

Andrew Robinson...."It's anything but warm; it's transparent.'

Reminds me how happy I was back in the day to cancel my audiophile magazine subscriptions and to finally give my brain (and wallet) a rest.

The best such device, after a few months of research:
http://moon.codepoet.xyz/en/product/mind2-network-player/
Not made in Asia, connects to the main good services (even Deezer Hi-Fi that has a few advantages over the others).
A bit pricier but cheap considering the build quality and that it will be “maintainable” for both software and hardware. It will be easy to re-sell, eventually.

Ah, “perseveration”... as an autistic person I’m intimately familiar (I’ve also read “autistic inertia” in the same context). As Homer (the bald, yellow one) says about beer, perseveration might be “the cause and the solution of all [my] problems”*. Like other autistic attributes, for me it’s a neutral whose benefits or deficits come with application. It has had me buy camera gear (or stationery, or books, or...) I didn’t need, but also its doggedness has lead me to the conclusion (or exhaustion?) that I didn’t need it at all. And, of course, it has lead me too to the holy and perfect Right Thing That I Really Do Need. Having a partner who tells me that it’s better to spend $50 and find out than five months and remain unsure is of value too, I must admit. Though perseveration here has its own pleasure unrelated to the point of the research...

The rabbit hole is not online, the rabbit hole is in your head. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact some times it’s a wonderland.

(*Homer says “life’s problems”, But I’m one as to assume my experience has universal applicability.)

I've been collecting CD's since they first became available. They have all been imported to iTunes on a 17" MacBook Pro using its built in CD/DVD drive, and synched with my iPhone.

So now I can play all my music just using my iPhone wirelessly in stereo through either my ($265 x 2) pair of Apple HomePod speakers, or with AirPods in my ears. I'm sure that hi-fi hobbyists will scoff, but I find this ridiculously economical, small, and easy ... and I'm just delighted with the sound. YMMV

Cambridge Audio makes really good stuff at a fair price.
Good company with lots of history as I'm sure you know.

I thought it was interesting that their CD Transport costs $600 bucks,
and their complete CD player with 'bypassable' DAC is $349.......
.....I know, I know, but still given Cambridge's quality, do you think you'd notice the difference in transports?

How about the MARANTZ M-CR612 MELODY X - or id it maybe to mundane for you :-)

All the best, Anders

Mike. You don't need to give Amazon any free advertising for their streaming music service. They're already gobbling up the entire dang world. Tidal is a great alternative.

fotofiend

I am no longer concerned about getting perfect sound. What I prefer is to listen to streaming radio stations as I am lazy and like to have someone else curate music for me. This way I hear music that I would not have picked on my own. Here are a few of my favourite stations.
https://womr.org/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_6music
http://www.wnmc.org/
https://www.wqxr.org/
https://radioparadise.com/player
Hooking up one of these is one of the easiest ways to get internet radio streaming through you stereo; https://gracedigital.com/

I've been using mpd, and ripped my CDs to flac for years. I use a NAD Wireless USB DAC to connect my PC to my stereo downstairs, and control it all from my smartphone with a mpd client.

And I've been using nothing but Linux since 1996 at home so all the software to do all of this is free. Works pretty well, but I still enjoy playing CDs and records.

Mike,

I know this is all probably sacrilege for audiophiles, but after being around the block with Onkyo amps and Cambridge Soundworks speakers (among others), I am wholly satisfied with the sound quality and simplicity (and connectivity) of two stereo-linked Apple Homepods. Great bang for the bucks.

ACG

happy subscriber to Qobuz here.

Hi Mike,
Just in case Roon and Qobuz shouldn't have the classical music you look for, try Naxos music library.
It's more expensive, though.
[ I can access it for free through my local (Swedish) public library card, and the choice is very wide.]

We can't live without music...
In these infecting times ... why not start with a sneeze, I mean music starting with a sneeze, ;-) , :
the Háry János suite by Zoltán Kodály.
Here with Antal Dorati & Philharmonia Hungarica:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw5fXWF49fk
(I found two recordings with Hungarian musicians on Youtube, this is the one with a bit more pep.)

It would be interesting to read your review or even just impressions of the CXN v2. I've seen lot's of Darko and Robinson videos before but never tried anything they have reviewed.

Remember the 'P' range of audio amplifiers, e.g. the P60?

Cambridge Audio have always made excellent pieces of equipment at affordable prices.

Hu Mike - you might find the Bluesound Node 2 streamers worth investigating. It streams, plus I can plug in my ripped CD library that's on a LaCie Quadra HD, via the USB connection. Controller via app on my phone. Thence into an Advent 300 (used as a pre) and a Dynaco ST-70 and a pr of Klipsch KG-4A's. YMMV. Cheers.

What is the purpose of converting CDs to digital files or purchasing streamed files that were originally recorded prior to the advent of PCM (c.2000) ? They do not contain any music in the very highest frequencies - just empty buckets of nothing. It's just a way for distributors to re-sell you what you originally purchased on LPs and CDs. As for your ability to hear ultrasonic frequencies, a recent study by Dr. Aix shows that when confronted with a choice between a well recorded FLAC file and a downsampled to Redbook FLAC file the subjects could only identify the better file 50% of the time. That's just guessing. Save your money or invest it in better speakers.
Kenneth Sky, M.D., F.R.C.S.(C)

One thing to note is that all the streaming devices have limited lifetime. This makes me reluctant to buy expensive ones. Sure, the device may be working OK 10 years from now. But will it support the streaming services that will be out by then? If it has a phone app, will it keep being updated to whatever phone I will have by then? Sadly, from my experience, the answer is no. At the moment I just assume that the device will either never be updated, or only for a couple of years.

Regarding musicians' compensation from streaming services, I'll add to my comment from the other discussion, where I mentioned Damon Krukowski's book, The New Analog. In that book, he refers to an article he wrote in Pitchfork that included some figures, including the following:

"Galaxie 500's 'Tugboat' was played 7,800 times on Pandora in the first quarter of 2012, for which its three songwriters were paid a collective total of 21 cents, or seven cents each."

https://pitchfork.com/features/article/8993-the-cloud/

The larger point of his article, as he wrote in his book, was about "what we are losing while we gain the convenience of streaming: the ability for the business of music to function successfully on anything but a massive scale."

I would add that in these current times, another source of income for artists trying to survive (live performances and the merchandise sales from those performances) has disappeared for the time being.

-larry

Sonos Port is half the price and seems to offer the same functionality. It is also available without a wait and likely returnable if it doesn’t meet your needs. Why did you settle on this one?

Since you've decided to forego the cheaper options that are indistinguishable to the listener, perhaps I could interest you in some Leica special editions?

:)

Enjoy the new unit! Looks nice.

David Lowery, of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, has written extensively about artists getting paid much less from streaming than from AM/FM radio. He has posted more up-to-date breakdowns of his royalties over the years, but this post from 2013 is one that I could find:
https://thetrichordist.com/2013/06/24/my-song-got-played-on-pandora-1-million-times-and-all-i-got-was-16-89-less-than-what-i-make-from-a-single-t-shirt-sale/

Sonos Port is *exactly* what you want.
https://www.sonos.com/en-gb/shop/port.html

I run a Raspberry Pi4 streamer which has the Volumio OS/Music Player, connected to a DAC. John Darko has a YouTube video on the Raspberry Pi as a streamer. I'm a Tidal subscriber. Really happy with it.

The full set up:

Tidal/Tidal MQA - mConnect - Raspberry Pi4/Volumio - SMSL M500 MQA DAC - XTZ Power Amp - Q Acoustics 3020i Speakers.

Mus Aziz - I would agree with you. Even the expensive Bryston streamer is nothing more than a glorified Raspberry Pi running modified open source software (mpd I think in that case). Volumio is pretty good and I also used it for quite a bit. For $100 you can get a Pi and a HiFiBerry DAC card that meets you needs, and Volumio, and you are pretty much set for network streaming from a network drive or a few different services.

I still have mine and plan on using it again with my headphone amp. However, I have been *really* pleased with the Sonos system though. The Port (which I don't have) is a bit expensive for what it is, but the Sonos software is pretty nicely set up and they take care of all the updates and everything! And if you have multiple units, the synced playing is great. Sonos puts the One and One SL (like the one without the Amazon Alexa mics) on sale periodically - you can pick them up for ~$150, which is a steal for a streamer, software, and powered speaker that doesn't sound too bad.

I resisted for a long time using a variety of Airplay hacks, before moving to the Pi solution for a few years, and finally hopping on the Sonos train last year. I've been enjoying it.

My worry for Mike with his unit (which looks really nice) is when they stop supporting the phone app in a few years... From the perspective, Volumio is far superior.

I’m still busy buying LPs. Today I just invested in a Shure M97 cartridge, successor to the venerated V15-V MR.

The LP album jackets and liner notes are much better than streaming. What has anyone read about great compositions, artists and performances while streaming while working while running to save the tea from over-steeping? Great LP selections at Goodwill are 99 cents, and just need a bit of a clean. The whole “It only costs virtually nothing!” argument seems to me to be .... just a bit cheap. Sorry.

You can pass LPs down to grandchildren - much more satisfying than invisible files.

Hi Mike.

"...Amazon Music HD... is really for computer-connected systems, which mine will not be, ..."

Not quite. As I mentioned in my comment on your first article, any BlueOS device (I suggested Bluesound Node 2i at half the price of the Cambridge) will stream Amazon Music HD along with most other music streaming services. And it is controlled via your iPad app.

No computer involved. Really not sure what you get for double your money and the loss of Amazon Music HD.

cheers
Arg

I have a Cocktail Audio X40 https://www.cocktailaudio.com/home/ which is worth a look. Great DAC, a phono stage should you head back into the vinyl field (and can do needle drops), a CD transport and very good ripping software. Plus all those different streaming options and internet staions. Acts as a preamp as well. Love it. Worth comparing to a Cambridge.

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