Dedicating a "computer" for your music system
For many of us, a dedicated "Digital Music Source" is highly desirable if not required.
Over the last several years, I have migrated through several generations of computing gear in my stereo. From a laptop to a MacMini, then a commercial server, and now a purpose-built system server. WHEW!
Why a dedicated machine? Because; The Music! The system needs to be there and ready to play if it is going to get used. A well designed and accessible system brings more enjoyment to the whole family.
Let’s get started!
Today I would discourage anyone from purchasing a laptop or general purpose PC to use as their Music Computer. It is hard to get the best audio quality without having a purpose-built computer. For some, it might be fun to build your own Audiophile Computer, for most people this is a bad idea!
Next, there is the problem of what to buy. Just like buying a new car, this can be confounding. The two of vendors that I regularly see in use each have four models in their lineup. While they all have a similar function, there are incremental features and sound quality enhancements across their lineups. Another builder I like is Small Green Computer, they also have a nice clean lineup.
I want to outline some of the features that may be important to help steer the discussion.
Before you even decide on a "digital source," we have to choose an operational design and core software. One example is a software system called Roon from RoonLabs. Roon provides access to local music, Tidal, Qobuz, and basic Internet Radio system. Roon provides multiple views into the world of music with vibrant information displays is designed to enhance discovery. Roon is a subscription service.
Companies like Innous have their design for accessing music and controlling your systems. Wolf Audio Systems uses Jriver Media Center for their control point software. Both of these companies also allow the user to use Roon. There are many other systems, such as Antipodes to evaluate. As I said, this is like shopping for a new car from New Zealand, the USA, or Portugal!
One of the first decisions is CD ripping. Do you have a library of CDs that you want to rip? There are services that RIP CDs for you or you purchase a server that has ripping hardware. Some listeners prefer to rip on their computer and manage all the metadata on their own.
Now we have to think about internal storage needs. I have about 6000 albums on my system, and it is a bit less than 4TB of storage. That has been growing slowly for me, at least. Do you plan to purchase music? HiRez? Make sure you have the space you want and plan for that future. Can the drive in your server be upgraded?
Streaming music services are next on the list. In my system, I run Euphony Stylus that has integration with Tidal and Qobuz, Youtube, and Internet Radio. From the personal assistant side, I have also been listening to Apple Music and Deezer HiFi.
When using the Kii Three speaker system for playback, the server will most likely connect via USB. Presenting a clean USB signal to the system is "a capital good" idea, along with avoiding complexity!
So a little knowledge goes a long way to ask the right questions when you want to acquire a digital source.
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