Digital Audio for Dummies

As I have stated before, I'm a bit of an audio dinosaur.  I love simple.  I love reliable.  I love a high performance/price ratio.  So no surprise I'm still happily spinning discs.  Give me a nice CD player direct to an integrated and I'm good to go.

But it is 2018.  Reading on this forum about the demise of Oppo was a bit of a wake up call. Also the Lyngdorf 2170 has inspired me.  An elegant all in one box product that is ready to connect with many of the digital options now available.  So I'd like to get educated on what's out there and what you suggest.  Basically I would want to know about ripping all my CD's--exactly how that is done.  Dedicated audio computer?  How big of a hard drive/other considerations?  Wired vs. wireless.  And then what streaming services are out there?  Cost, quality, ease of use?

PLEASE keep things simple and don't assume the reader knows, for example, what Roon is.  I've seen it mentioned, but would want to know exactly what this does, how it functions, etc.

For the ripping part Windows has a program called Windows Media Player built in that can rip audio cd's to mp3 (or wav). If you want something better and still easy to use you could check out dbPoweramp. It costs money but seems to be very easy and effective.

After having ripped your cd's you will have a lot of file on hard drives and then you'll have to decide how to play those. An easy solution is to get a dac with usb input and connect it directly to your computer. If your computer is in another room you may need to buy a separate one just for audio but that is not as expensive as good hifi equipment. You can also get some streaming solution but that is a bit more work. The cheapest ones are based on Raspberry Pi and comes prebuilt but you still has to be technical to connect everything.

Some sites, like Hans Beekhuyzen's has more info about what you can use to play music from computers.
Appreciate all the feedback.  Obviously there's a lot to learn. 

amg56, over time I hope I can give more specifics but I'm in a learning phase and it's a bit difficult right now to give more specifics.  I'm sure in time I will.

One immediate question is sound quality.  It seems that a $29 optical drive isn't going to read CD's as accurately as what I have now.  I would hate to go through all the work of ripping all these CD's and then have digital data with less integrity than what I have now.  At least owners of megabuck transports might question this. An extension of this question might be this--Do some feel that their sound is BETTER after they went through this transition. (I suppose it's possible if less jitter, better DAC, etc.  But if just feeding a digital signal  say to the Lyngdorf, it seems the best you would do is equal, but not better).
One more vote for Bluesound Vault. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, I want to add that their support is first rate. The techs will help you with any transfer or set-up issues you may encounter. I believe you can call them before you buy.

 I want to stream those music files from my laptop to my DAC via my wifi.  I bought a chromecast but cannot get the right apps to do this.  Any help would be appreciated

How does a Chromecast drive a DAC?  HDMI?

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I am so confused about what to choose for ripping and then  how to merge streaming  into my several stereo systems. And what if I want to do LPs too?

If you don't have a server that automatically rips, then for PC, get dbpoweramp for ripping.  If Mac, get XLD.  Both freeware.

I have had recommendations for the Naim Uniti Core for ripping and storing digital music.  I’ve heard that Roon might be better.  Or maybe it’s just different.  I’ve just today heard about the gear recommended in this thread, Bluesound and Sony.  How to choose??

There are several servers out there that can rip CD's and stream music from services like Tidal.  They get their stream via wired Ethernet or WIFI. Once you get one of these, you are stuck with the audio quality that delivers.  Not much you can do if you don't like it. 

Roon can run on handheld devices, PC or Mac.  It is usually selected to enable streaming of Tidal.  If you are not planning to pay monthly for streaming services and only play your local files, there are many other options.

For most people that want great sound quality and networked audio, the choose the Ethernet to USB converters from Sonore, called "renderers".  These devices can drive USB to the DAC of your choice.  They require wired Ethernet from your router or switch to the renderer, no WIFI.  With these renderers, you can use many different playback softwares including:

1) Linn Kazoo/Minimserver/BubbleUPnP

2) Lumin/Minimserver/BubbleUPnP

3) Jriver

4) Audirvana Plus

5) Roon

6) Linn Kinsky/Minimserver

There are two different types of renderers supported by these playback controllers:   UPnP/DLNA and Roon RAAT.  You have to decide which you want.

Some playback software and renderer hardware supports only DLNA, others support Roon RAAT.  The Sonore devices support both. Also, some of these control softwares do not support streaming.

Virtually all my music is classical or opera and I’ve read with increasing despair that it can be very hard to get the right tags on classical music, so that’s one issue.

If you rip to FLAC while connected to the network, you will get all of the tags available.  The rippers also compare checksum to other peoples rips automatically.

Which one preserves the audio quality best?

.wav files are the most accurate, but some tags will be lost.  You still get album art, artist, date, sample-rate, format, composer etc.  All other formats compromise SQ IME.

Which software is best for managing playback?

Every one is different and a personal choice.  Most people like Roon.  Lumin, Audirvana Plus and Jriver are good too.

The question you should be asking is:

What playback/control software delivers the best sound quality?

They are not all the same by any stretch.  Big differences here.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio