I am an audiophile addict! However, I love iTunes and the ability to instantly access all of my music from multiple locations around the house. Accordingly, I have been searching for a subjectively perfect system that balances my desires and still makes me say "WOW" when I sit down for a listen.
In addition, I now have a young daughter and my wife took away my office and converted it in to a guest room :-( Luckily for me, I am a master debater and was able to successfully negotiate for access to the two hallway closets downstairs ... I have now effectively turned them in to the world's smallest home office / audiophile listening room.
I have been playing around with components, software, and disc ripping formats in an effort to create a true audiophile sound system that uses a Mac Mini as the main source component. I feel that I have finally succeeded in my quest and have put together quite an amazing sounding system based upon the Mac Mini and iTunes.
I have been using the system for two weeks now. And, since the new speakers need at least 200 hours to break in and the new DAC needs at least 100 hours of use until it is truly ready, I will not be able to post an in depth review until next month. In the mean time, here is my setup and a mini review of my observations so far. A more in depth review will follow that will include my reasons for choosing each component of the system:
Mac Mini 2.0Ghz
Newertech miniStack V2 500GB HD
Drobo 2TB HD
Simaudio Moon I-7 Integrated Amp
Bel Canto DAC3
Shunyata Hydra Model 6 Power Conditioner
Dynaudio Confidence 1 Speakers
Nordost Tyr Balanced XLR Interconnects
Nordost SPM Speaker Wire
iTunes - CDs ripped using Apple Lossless
Indigo Home Automation Software
iRed IR Remote Automation Software
WOW!!!!! This is going to work! Already it is musical nirvana and the components haven't even broken in yet. Precise imaging, HUGE soundstage (considering the miniscule size of my listening room), perfect highs and a tight bass. When this system blooms later on this month, it will be a jaw dropper.
More to come ...
My audio system, as well as my home automation system, can be accessed and controlled from my iPhone or from any computer connected to the internet from anywhere in the world. I have added a pic of the Indigo control page that allows me to do this ...
OK ... finally got the entire system to be controlled from my Pebble Smartwatch using applescripts. Now I don't have to lug that bulky old iPad around the house ... I just click a button on my watch ;-)
Mbenher ... I have been using Indigo for this for a LONG time. I used to use Crestron, but the programming is a complete headache compared to the ease of Indigo ... if you are on a mac of course. Plus, they finally just added Z-Wave support to Indigo ... It's about time ;-)
Pwfletcher, how did you choose indigo? I am looking at automating my home and the audio store I patronage is highly recommending Crestron? I'm curious if you also looked at Crestron and how you decided to go with Indigo/insteon. Are you happy with the system?
Great system! How did you arrive at the C1's? What were your other choices? I like the C1's, though it's quite a jump from my NHT C3s. Do you think a modest tube integrated (e.g. 50 wpc) could properly drive them?
Nice equipment, but the closet thing is perplexing. From the photo it looks like your closet is roughly 3 feet across and the speakers are placed in the corners of the closet. I presume your listening position is right at the entrance to the closet. This setup violates all the recommendations of the Dynaudio manual for speaker placement. The speakers are to wide apart for your listening distance, they are too close to the corners for their bass reflex design and you are listening too close for the drivers to achieve coherence. That being said, your setup is so far out of the mainstream that you could actually have stumbled onto something quite good. As a comparison I would recommend you temporarily setup the speakers as the manufacturer intended and compare.
I was curious if you had played at all with the Musical Fidelity gear. I've got a system set up tunneling iTunes to AE to Toslink to DAC(MF TriVista)/stero and I love it. The Toslink obviously smoked the miniplug option out of the AE. I don't have a jitter correction device in the signal path, but have been more than pleased.
My reference standard has been my Musical Fidelity A5 CD player which is virtually matched by my AE/DAC solution, despite the source musical being stored in 192kbps and 256kpbs MP3 files. I thought it was better than pretty darn good. I'm not sure I want to move up to Apple Lossless encoding because of the storage overhead with that solution for the time being. But I am curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much in advance.
Apple Macbook Pro 15" 2.5GHz (4GB RAM/500GB HD) running OS 10.5.6 and iTunes 8.1 Airport Extreme N Basestation Airport Express Basetation Sony Optical Cable Musical Fidelity TriVista DAC Nordost Blue Heaven Interconnects NAD 1700 Preamp Nordost Blue Heaven Interconnects NAD 2700 Power Amp Monster Cable DALI Helicon 400 MkIs Belkin PureAV Home Theater Power Console PF60
the bit rate when i use xld is 1411 kbps. if i don't use xld, i get around 1000 kbps straight apple lossless. using xld increases the size of the file to 3 times the size without xld. for example, a 4:46 minute song with xld is 48.2MB whereas apple lossless without xld is 14.2MB in size. But size does matter. disk is cheap!
Whats the bitrate your using for Apple Loseless 160Kbps? or? LoseLess (meaning you lose no data upon Compression/Decompression). I've heard from a guy who works in Post Production for a major Studio that anything less than 160 isn't that good, he uses AAC and WAV both at 320 and he's also an Audiophile.
Have you also tried AAC at 320 the other codecs offered by apple? MP3 at 320 Kbps, MP3 VBR, Audible (formats 2, 3, and 4) WAV, and AIFF?
i have heard the benchmark using the usb connection and i didn't like the sound compared to using the other connections. but i also think there are better sounding dacs than the benchmark and purchased other name brand dacs. if you really need a usb dac, the dac that looks/sounds promising is the new audio research dac with usb. i heard it at rmaf and was impressed. i'm going to my local dealer and have a better look. all of my setups use a jitter device between the computer or the apple express devices and my external dacs. i use coax between the jitter devices and the dacs. by doing this, you are able to pick the dac that you like best, not a dac you have to be stuck with because you need a usb connection.
How much of a difference do you figure between using Airport Express / MAC / Benchmark via SPDIF vs. MAC / Benchmark via USB? If you haven't done the test yourself could you narrow it down to a best guess? Has anybody tried this test?
drubin - i agree with you on usb dacs. i haven't heard a good 1 yet. the new audio research dac 7 might be a good 1. i listened to it at rmaf (using coax and toslink) and it sounded very nice. the audio research rep indicated that the usb is comparable to the diigital inputs. we will see.
but i have to say that the jitter devices i use between the mac/airport express and the dacs make a huge benefit.
I am very impressed with your audio system. I too would use different cables. I have always been a balanced audio guy myself and the sound quality I get from my Audio Science audio card is fantastic. It plays PCM, MPEG, and MP3 but I am sticking with the PCM as it maintains a certain listening quality that goes with the rest of your hardware. Good Luck getting the bigger room as my wife would put me in the closet and the audio system in the living room:)
I have to say that I really like all of your gear. I have an I-7 in my system on loan for audition and my pair of c-4's will be here on friday. BUT certainly you can find a better "room" to put your gear in. there is no way you can get the soundstage to be even close to realistic size and the closet interactions with the speakers must be horrible. Man i gotta tell you i humbly say that you are wasting 15-20K worth of gear. Please speak to your wife about putting the system in a reasonably sized location. If your system was in a location where it could breath I am sure you would be blown away by the impact and soundstage that the Dyns can do in the right environment. This is just my two cents and hope you can get your own space to enjoy what is a really nice setup.
I also have Dynaudio Confidence C1's and have been doing my own experimenting with a Mac Mini and several different DACs. Although I am confident that USB out of the Mac Mini will ultimately be the way to go, in my opinion, you are making a big mistake going USB out into the Bel Canto DAC3 (which I also own). It's a poor USB implementation and sounds it -- flat, bloated, lacking in clarity and tonal color. Again, this is my opinion. I get superior results using a quality Toslink cable (WireWorld) into the Toslink on the DAC3. Set Audio Midi to 16/44 and not 24/96 (unless you have 24/96 files). If you can, give this a try and see what you think.
I am eager to try products from Emprical Audio and Wavelength, or the latest UltraFi iRoc, which uses Empirical's OEM USB module. These products should beat the Toslink. But I would stay away from the USB input on many of today's DACs.
I am very interested in doing a apple system with my I-pod touch and a apple minie, with apple tv set up. Please give me some good insight. What will be the most important and firt thing to get ,and what can i do with out? I want to stream music all threw my house with audiofile quality.