Computer Music and Streaming

I'm happy to announce that in my personal home audio system I have started using digital files for music playback.  In essence this is what iPod users did for years, playing back music from digital storage.  There is a big difference though when an audiophile listens to digital music through his home music system  The difference is in the quality needed for the digital music files, and in the quality of the playback equipment and software.

MP3 picMusic for handheld Apple "i" devices is usually "ripped" from CD's to a digital file, or downloaded from the internet.  This digital music is typically in a high compression lower quality format like MP3.  This may suffice for iPod music listening while exercising or in the car, but it doesn't begin to suffice for listening to music on a high quality home system.  That is why higher quality compressed music formats like FLAC for example are used by audiophiles, but the WAV picbest format of all for high quality music is the uncompressed WAV format.  Yes, WAV files do use 10 times the data storage space as MP3's, but we're not talking about an cell phone being the normal storage device here.  We're talking about hard drives, as in your computer, which come inexpensively in 3 and 4 terabyte sizes these days.  In other words there is no problem in storing your WAV music files.

Websites like HDTracks and many others are now providing high resolution music file downloads.  This Download pictrend reflects the shift that is occurring away from buying music on physical media like CD's, and buyiing digital music files instead.  If you can't find a particular musical selection on one of the high resolution download sites, you can still procure the CD and rip it to digital file form. 

You also need media player software on your computer, with JRiver Media CenterJRiver iPad high on the recommended list.  The companion JRemote app also goes on your tablets or phones for superior browsing of your music.  Indeed this is one of the attractions for using digital music files, accessibility and convenience.  This software also provides audiophile level possibilities for configuring the audio playback to be "bit perfect".

Now finally let's speak about DAC's.  A DAC is a digital to analog convertor.  It is a very important element in the playback system.  A quality DAC usually runs from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.  The reason for these DACs is the sound going out to the rest of the audio system.  Pure, intoxicating, musicality.

Streaming from Online Sources, especially from Tidal, offers a way to enjoy a much wider selection of music without actually buying the music.  Basically, music on demand. For $20 per month Tidal offers higher quality music streams than most other online streaming services. The quality of most of the Tidal streams is very listenable, though normally not matching the quality of playback of home-based sources like locally stored WAV music files, direct CD playback, etc. Here again the quality of the system DAC is part of a formula for success in enjoying streamed music.  Currently, a reasonable minimum for a DAC's format compatibility is that it be able to handle up to 192khz PCM, and handle single and double DSD.  The DAC also will need high quality internal circuitry to handle the rest of it's tasks with musical transparency.