April 2012 Issue - page 5

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You’ve been able to advise me many times in the past, and now I need that help again! I have long dreamt about replacing my modded TEAC T1 CD transport with one of its expensive Esoteric cousins, but digital audio seems to be going through a revolution which promises better than CD-quality results, even from ripped CDs. As this is as surprising as it is welcome, is it madness now to consider spending so much on such a device, or is computer audio not mature enough yet to warrant the same expenditure?

This has been brought to the front of my upgrade to-do list by the breaking of the TEAC’s tray mechanism, and although I can get it fixed (as I have once before in its twenty year existence), I thought it might be an omen to start dipping a toe into computer audio waters. As I am a long-term hi-fi nut, with both vinyl and CD sources, I know nothing about this and have understood only a percentage of what I’ve read! So I need simple go out and buy this and this and install that kind of advice.

Unless you think it hopelessly outdated in pure sonic terms, I would prefer, for now, to keep my existing DAC, an  (with remote volume control fed directly into a Chord 1200B). I have a recent Asus laptop (running Windows 7, 64-bit) with a lot of CDs ripped to it losslessly (I think!) already, in WAV form, and iTunes for use in my iPod Classic 160. I could use this into one of the DAX’s digital inputs with a USB to S/PDIF converter (in which case which one?), or would you recommend a music server, NAS, etc.?

Regardless, it should be remote-controllable for volume and track from the listening chair. As my speakers are modded Quad 63s, it is a highly revealing system which will certainly show up any shortcomings, so rather than give you a budget I would prefer to ask you to recommend items of equal (or better) sound quality to my existing gear, for as little money as you think I can get away with !

Thanks again,

Ross Heyward




Great remote control and fine sound quality make the Cyrus Stream X a good network player for a system with Quad ESL-63s, like that used by Ross Heyward.

Hi Ross. Your Audio Synthesis DAX Decade Black Gate Balanced works at 44.1kHz and 48kHz sample rates only – it is nearly ten years old now. This prevents you from playing 24/96 hi-res files unless down-converted – and then you will lose quality. It will do as a stop gap though. You could produce down converted copies of hi-res files using a programme like XLD and load them up to Windows Media Player or alternative, such as Foobar. I do not know whether the audio drivers of your Asus with Windows 7 can be set to down-convert internally, but certainly a Mac running OS-X 10.6 or higher can handle this task. Look at our comparison of USB-to-S/PDIF convertors this month to choose a suitable product.

Adding in remote control gets complicated, because you either need a large screen by the hi-fi or a small one in your hand and there are myriads of possibilities here, from iPhone and iPad apps to dedicated remotes, or a Sonos Connect perhaps. The Cyrus Stream X we reviewed last month is a player that would suit you, it seems to me. NK


In addition to reading hi-fi magazines such as yours, I also read a computer magazine. In the latest issue, there is a letter from a reader about digitally downloaded music, in which he asks if he can sell the digital files that he has paid for, but does not now wish to keep. He mentions that he can of course legally sell his unwanted CDs, DVDs, tapes or indeed, books.

The law allows an ‘original’ of something to be resold. But digital downloads have no physical presence and are viewed in law as a ‘copy of an original’. So they cannot be resold. The only way they could be resold is for the hardware that they are stored on to be sold with them! And even this could break the terms and conditions of contract.

So digital downloads appear to have no second-hand value at all, under current law. Which doesn’t bother me in the least, as I only want music on physical media and will never buy downloads! So, “old, dead CD” and LPs, and even tapes are fine for me. As long as I can buy them, and when I can’t I’ll just stop buying music at all. Is that what the music industry wants?

No, actually what the greedy entertainment industry really wants is for us to pay for every time we play a track or album. They would love to have downloads that “expire” after a given time, so we would have to re-buy them. They love the idea of charging us for streaming films, for example, because we would only see it once.

Best regards,

Rod Theobald.




A high quality USB memory stick like the LaCie Whizkey is one way we can store downloaded music. No flashing led, plus fast download speed and aluminium RF screening.

Yes, sadly there is that expressed wish, to charge us per play. I remember music sites trying to sell songs that would expire after ten plays – an extraordinary idea in some ways. However, it could be argued that there’s no difference between this and live performance, where we pay to listen just once – and walk away with the memory only. We have become used to physical storage formats.

It was the emergence of recording that allowed this and storage of music brings historical value to it. It ceases to be a fleeting pleasure for listeners, as music was before recording became possible. Unfortunately, physical formats seem to be falling out of fashion. Album downloads represented 30% of the total music market in the UK in 2011, the BPI say, and the figure is rising fast, at 24% last year. With CD sales down to 86 million and falling around -12% per annum there isn’t much life left in this old dog. But then it has been going thirty years now, a lifespan similar to LP (1960-1990) and with a very similar ‘bell curve’ sales pattern too. With this as a background, and no alternative to CD, then we are all going to have to improvise.

As hard drives form piles awaiting secure disposal in my home I’m not putting my faith in any hard drive. We either store music on memory sticks in future, or try and sneak into an Adele concert with a Walkman Pro! NK


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