Thinking about Laptop system - Newbie Questions

As an old timer (listening to 50% vinyl/50% CD), all this music server stuff is very new to me, but I am somewhat computer literate. I was thinking about building a nice little laptop based music server. Thinking about either a Logitech Transporter or Squeezebox Duet with separate DAC. I have a wireless router close enough to the 2 channel system so I can go either wireless or Ethernet.
Laptop is Toshiba with 4 Gb RAM, 340 Gb HD. I would use a stand-alone HD to store music.
So, I have a few questions: Transporter vs. Duet/DAC?
What format to store music? WAV, FLAC, etc.?
Can I still use the laptop while playing music?
Any other helpful hints?

Sorry for all the newbie questions. I am doing as much research as I can before I jump into this.

Thanks for any info.
FLAC would be my first choice for compression. Yes you can still use your laptop while it streams music. I'm sure others can help you with the comparisons of Logitech gear.

You have many choices and directions that you can go.You'll never use a CD player again, once you get it figured out!

Good luck
Make sure your external HD is QUIET. If you use iTunes use Apple Lossless Encoding to rip. Back up on another HD is always safer too. Wireless or ethernet is good. I'd go ethernet though.
I would go with the Squeezebox Duet or Classic and a good DAC. FLAC; wireless is just fine. I love my Monarchy Audio M24 DAC.

Some things to consider:

1) The SB Duet is limited to 24/48 natively (bit depth and sample rate).
2) The Transporter will support up to 24/96 natively.

High-rez PCM files are an exciting option for digital users (allowing for more information).

You can also go directly from your computer to a USB DAC and experience true 24/96 capabilities (I recommend that you check out Wavelength Audio's USB DACs here )

You can also build a server (with a streaming device like the Duet/Transporter) – but I would look for devices that will support at least 24/96 natively). Personally, I am going with the new PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC (PWD) because it will support up to 24/192 natively and it will also function as a server (once their forthcoming Bridge device becomes available).

I recommend going here to learn more about computer audio. Read up on the forums and don’t be afraid to post questions.

Good luck.
I recommend you forego the Squeezebox/Transporter route and just use a laptop, where you could choose your own software, preferrably more competent than Logitech's. You could get a Network Attached Storage to move the hard drive (the most noisy component on a computer) to another room, connected through your internet. The laptop -- or even better, fanless HTPC -- would use an external USB DAC directly to your sound system. The final component is optional; for convenience, you could get either an iPhone, or use a PDA, or one of those battery operated micro-laptops, or maybe even a good universal remote.

The laptop pulls music from your NAS music server, your phone/PDA controls acts as a remote control.

Because all hard drives eventually fail, make sure the NAS unit supports RAID.
Rakuennow- I like the suggestion of forgoing the Logitech devices, just using laptop and DAC. One problem I have is that where I use the laptop is across the room from the DAC. Would need to use a long cable. Also, my laptop has 3.5mm digital (optical) output. I could go Toslink into a DAC.
i am from the other camp and think highly of the logitech products as well as their interface. i use the sb duet to theta dac. i find very few hi rez music in my collection. it has changed the way i listen and enjoy music. as mentioned, back up your music! i lost one hard drive, fortunately it was a small portion of my music, 1000 songs or so.
another point...i have found zero difference in lossless formats or ripping tools. as a result, i chose the easiest to use which, as a pc user, is windows media player and windows media audio lossless files. many seem to think that eac and flac offer sonic benefits, i was unable to detect them in a very resolving system.
Richard - It would be much easier for my installation to use a SB Duet or Transporter. How is the sound quality of the SB Duet without DAC? Is it listenable until I get a DAC?
listenable is subjective. it is not a very good dac and i think most on this site would not find it listenable. the transporter is an all in one solution that includes a fine dac and clocking mechanism. there has been some threads here recently that discuss the additional benefits of the digital outs on the transporter (vs duet)as well. given what you have posted, that (transporter) would be my recomendation. full disclosure: i have a transporter listed but that has zero to do with my input. they are easy to sell so that has no bearing. good luck in your quest. it will be a real ear opener! it is an exciting time in audio.
I have the Duet and love it. This has been the greatest addition to my audio system ever!!! I run wirelessly from a Mac desktop (used to run from a PC with external HD like you are proposing and this was the same). I run digital out to my DCS stack (upconverted to 24/192) and then to the dac portion. File format is open to debate, but I have found that the full resolution files all seem to sound pretty much the same to me (I would be hard pressed to differentiate on a blind test). But they must be full resolution or there is a huge difference.

I personally like the Duet software, it is easy to set up, easy to learn. And yes, you can do other stuff on the computer when playing music. You can also now buy external HD's that you don't need to hook the computer to to run these systems (which is nice if you are using a laptop and don't want to get it out).

The duet is like a picture remote control that works from anywhere in the house via the wifi. You can even get additional receivers and operate them from the one hand held. Operating the hand held is little different than your Ipod, pretty darn easy.

Also, once you go the external HD route, you may as well get two. One to store your music on and the other to have a copy of all your music. Take the copy one and send it to your old college buddies and ask them to put their high res. music on it too. What a great way to grow your collection!!!!
ckoffend-how does the duet sound through the dcs vs the transport through the dcs stack?
In response to above Q directed to me: For a while I ran a Esoteric X-03-SE through the DCS upsampler and DAC, but most of the time I just ran it direct.

I ended up getting rid of the Esoteric (though it is a terrific CDP, one of the best I have owned). I would say the Esoteric through the same DCS equipment was slightly better than the Duet. But, as is noted, I sold it and have gone a long time without a CDP (though I am looking right now for another one - Suggestions?).

In the past few years I have had a lot of good digital (Resolution Audio, Wadia, Audio Aero, Esoteric, EMM Labs, now DCS) and I am hard pressed to find a SIGNIFICANT improvement by these players over the Duet into the DCS. The convenience of it is just wonderful.

As a reference, I have run several good preamps in this system set-up (BAK, Cary, Aesthetix, Jeff Rowland, Krell). The speakers have pretty consistently been Watt/Puppy 5.1s and the amplification has been mostly Krell FPB 300-C (just offered as a reference to get a better feel for the sound I like and my basis).
thanks ckoffend. we have smilar taste. i use a krell fpb600c and wp7's. my front is much more humble as i have not gotten around to moving up. i still use my old theta casanova as a prepro and run my duet to a digital in. the system doubles as a theater with watch surrounds and center. good to hear your satisfaction with the duet/dcs combo. it supports my belief that we have reached the point where that type of configuration is the ideal digital source. not perfect yet, but ideal. thanks again for the reply and apologize if i have gotten off topic ...
Well, I decided to go with a Squeezebox Duet and Cambridge Dac Magic to start my music server adventure. It should give me a good base to start with. Now need to get a nice HD and back-up to store my tunes.
Thanks to all for supplying some great info.

You're going to love it. Here's what I know about the Duet from experience...

Ultimate Duet Settings:
Replay Gain – (off)
Turn on Audio – (always on)
Crossfade –( none)
Smart Crossfade – (none)
Crossfade Duration – (0)
Volume Control – (100% fixed)
Volume Adjustment – (none)

The best codec is Flac because the SB Duet supports Flac natively and allows you to use the fast-forward and rewind functions on the controller (with wav files those functions do not work).

Also, I highly recommend ripping with EAC, which you can download for free. I will be more than happy to "walk you through" the initial EAC setup.

Additionally, a good external linear power supply can be added as a tweak – check this out.

Good luck....and report back on how you (love) your new
welcome to the fun! i agree with 2chnlben, you will love it! also agree with his setting suggestions for the duet. as i posted earlier, i use a different ripping source and file form but either way you sill be fine. it comes down to what you are comfortable with, doubt you will detect an audible difference. enjoy!!
I have decided to use FLAC instead of wma lossless, since it is a native format for Squeezebox Duet. Using a trial version of dBpoweramp to rip and/or convert. EAC seems to be a little too complicated for me.
dBpoweramp is a good choice.

If you haven't already done so, at night, turn off all the lights, sit in your listening chair - just you and your backlit controller (and of course your remote for volume - I wouldn't use the controller for volume control) close your eyes...just a minor movement from your index finger is all that is necessary to advance to the next album or song title. You only need get up to refill your medicinal - unless you keep it handy.....