How do I get the best in digital sound?
This is a question that we have agonized over for many years and the answer is provided by the computer industry. Modern computers provide huge processing power and data storage at low cost. The cost of the hardware has been amortized over millions of machines and so the audio industry reaps the benefit. You can buy terrabytes of storage at relatively low cost. A home computer when configured correctly as a Music Server will outperform all but the very best CD players or CD transport/DAC combinations. The Music Server wins hands down not only on price but also on convenience and functionality.
What type computer do I need?
For PC users we recommend that the Music Server is a dedicated machine used exclusively in your audio system. Don't clog it up with all sorts of business or games applications. Choose components that emit the lowest noise, generate the least heat and consume the least amount of energy possible. This will give you the best sound quality and keep the Music Server as quiet as possible. You can use an on board sound card like the Lynx cards that fit in a PCI slot. They will give an excellent result and keep things simple. However for the ultimate in digital sound the sound card or DAC should be external to the music server. This keeps it out of the electronically noisy environment of the computer. In order to bring the digital signal out of the Music Server we recommend using a professional interface card like the Lynx AES16. This will occupy one PCI slot and will provide a very low jitter signal to your DAC. The regular digital output on the computer's motherboard is not adequate if you want the ultimate in sound quality.
For Apple users we recommend the MacBookPro, iMac and MacPro since all have both Firewire 800 and USB interfaces. These are excellent for connecting up to your DAC. You can fit a Lynx AES16 card to a MacPro if you wish to use AES/EBU balanced connection to your DAC.
What DAC do I need?
You can use any high quality DAC and the sound quality will obviously depend on how good it is. Puremusicgroup can supply DAC's from Playback Designs. If you have a need to play SACD as well as regular CD's we have the all in one player from Playback Designs MPS-5 which can accept inputs from an external source such as a computer based Media Server.
What software do I need?
For PC users we recommend that you use "Media Monkey" or "J.River Media Center". For maximum performance use a Lynx AES16 interface card.
When ripping CD's into your Music Server you can use Exact Audio Copy (EAC). EAC is a free download from www.exactaudiocopy.de. Always rip your CD's in WAV or AIFF format. Don't bother with compressed formats as they don't sound as good. These days computer storage is very cheap and so worrying about conserving storage space is not necessary.
For Apple Mac users you only need iTunes. We recommend the Amarra, Audirvana or Pure Music plug ins for Apple users. This is an enhancement to iTunes and gives better sound along with greater user convenience.
How do I live happily ever after with digital?
Don't waste money on half baked solutions. You will only find yourself dissatisfied within a short period of time and wanting to upgrade very quickly. The money you have spent will be wasted. If you follow our advice and buy the right equipment it will not be surpassed any time soon. You will have a system comparable to what the mastering engineers are listening to when they are creating the digital music that we listen to. If you are achieving that kind of digital sound it is the best you can do.
Where can I get High Resolution Digital music?
Reference Recordings HRx
Review of the HRx format
HD Tracks offer 24bit/96kHz downloads
Linn Records offer FLAC downloads