Differences between setting up 'USB audio' vs Streaming to Bridge?


#1

For a long time I have been vaguely aware of the different digital audio tools available, such as Fidelizer, Amarra, etc. I always assumed that tweaking a computer’s audio system was only necessary when using the computer to serve music files via USB directly to a DAC. I also assumed that streaming audio files via a network directly to the Bridge effectively eliminated the need to perform said tweaks to the computer’s audio system. No matter how many posts I read about this subject, I still can’t determine a definite answer.

Is there any reason to set up, tweak, or run digital audio tools on a computer when said computer is used in the following setup: External Hard Drive (USB) > Computer/server > Router (via Ethernet) > Bridge (via Ethernet)…? In this type of setup is there any processing whatsoever of the audio signal being performed by the computer?

I sure would love to have a firmer understanding of this…

Big Thanksbeer_gif

_Ben


#2

Sadly that is what I thought too, but it all matters.


#3

Ben, it’s not just the tweaks to the computer’s audio systems per se. It’s a matter of eliminating unnecessary processes that can interfere with network traffic just as they can with audio processing. The less the computer has to do in the background, the more it can concentrate on what you really want it to do (such as network processes). That’s the theory, at least. I don’t do a lot of tweaking myself (I mostly use a Mac and found a script that turns a lot of stuff off but haven’t really noticed much of a difference). I suspect the tweaking has less of an impact on network playing than USB but that’s just a gut reaction, which means it’s probably wrong. I’d suggest trying one or more of the cheaper/free tweaks and see if you hear a difference but, in any event, I wouldn’t obsess about it. Remember to enjoy the music.


#4

Thanks woot & steve.

Since my ‘Netbook’ is dedicated to my music server, I could literally turn everything off that is not necessary. I will ‘Google’ options, but I am also appreciative of any information my ‘forum friends’ can provide - i.e.: recommended ‘scripts’ that will ‘turn off’ unnecessary features/programs.

Thanks - Enjoy your weekendbeer_gif

_Ben


#5

The simple truth is no matter what you do to a computer it’ll never really compare to a dedicated audio device…Try an Auralic Aries, or better yet any Aurender and you’ll know what I mean…


#6

+1 Ground up servers sound significantly better than PCs, especially PCs like the Mac Mini. A frustrating truth I do not want to be true.

In addition to the above, the Bryston servers are excellent.

Aurender’s prices are such that the product better be mind-bogglingly better than the already superb, less expensive options. I would enjoy trying one out.


#7

I find this hard to understand…Believable, yes…why though? We’re talking about transferring digital data to a renderer, where everything is re-clocked and scrutinized by a highly sophisticated digital lens, then converted to DSD…


#8

Which is exactly why I noted: a frustrating truth I do not want to be true.

I assume the care taken in eliminating any form of noise - timing, electrical such as ground loops, etc. - all matters.


#9

But Bridge 2 beta fed by a Mac Mini trounces my Aries, which trounces the Mini connected by USB. The other B2 beta testers who also own Aries seem to have had similar experiences.


#10

Cool.

I cannot comment on the Aries as my experience with one is limited. It appears to do very well at its price point.


#11
timequest said External Hard Drive (USB) > Computer/server > Router (via Ethernet) > Bridge (via Ethernet)....?
There's a lot to tell how a computer streamer can be tweaked and setup. One of the most important things is the external harddrive. Make sure not to use USB2 for this.

#12

This is a great topic and we have covered it here and there in other threads. There are many factors involved and many (most?) we really don’t understand yet. Commercial servers are often small, low powered (CPU-wise) embedded systems. How they are powered (power supply) and filtered varies and storage is either spun or HDD. Software may be Linux or a variant of Windows and either will then run music server software from a variety of sources (some, I suspect, in-house but many use either commonly available programs, like JRiver, or perhaps variants). This capsule description is overly simplistic and there are systems out there that do not fit in these broad categories. My point is that there is not any “magic” inside these boxes, just carefully tuned computer hard/software, much of which is available on the open market. Some look “computerish” and some don’t but that is essentially all that they are.

There is little disagreement on whether big CPU’s or little CPU’s are better. Either can be made to sound pretty darn good but it takes some experimenting to get there. Remember, just because many servers are low powered systems does not mean that this is the only way to go. These companies are looking to make a profit and that style of hardware is really, really cheap and compact in comparison to, say, an i7 based machine. I’m not saying that one is superior to the other, just that if I was going into the server business, I would choose the more economical solution. I use bigger hardware because I am more familiar with it. I have just gotten a new i7 K processor that I can under clock and under volt. Hopefully I will come up with similar improvements to what Wijnand has gotten with his setup. The CPU under volting made an impressive improvement in my server and the under clocking may be an even bigger jump. Of course all that may be just peeing in the wind in that it just brings the big, electricity hungry processors down to Atom processor range at greater expense.blush_gif

If you are working with a laptop, your range of tweaks is limited. IMHO, the easiest way to get to better sound in your situation is to try Fidelizer with the music player software of your choice (I use Minimserver) and shut down any other programs running, like Explorer, Word etc… Give the free version a shot. I use the Pro version and it does sound better. I had previously done my own surgery by shutting down processes and services and tweaking other Windows functions but Fidelizer sounds better to me and, frankly, the computer runs smoother this way (extremist mode with networking). I don’t use my server for anything else other than music btw, and I run Win 8.1. Eventually I will try Win Server 2012/JPLAY/AO but I am concentrating on hardware at the moment. What matters the most is hard to say. It all adds up and in many, many ways it would be much easier, and probably cheaper in the long run, to go with a commercial product. But it’s not just a hobby, right? It’s an obsession…

Sorry that this is a lot of vague stuff. The details are pretty daunting, especially if futzing with computers is not your thing. My point is that the computer end of things makes more than a little difference in your sound and is definitely worth pursuing.


#13

Gordon reports that he also prefers B2 to the Aries when using a Mac Mini with minimserver (my main setup) but thinks they are basically equal when using a hard drive connected directly to the Aries with a good USB cable. I need to do some more comparisons with direct connections (unfortunately I don’t have any high end USB cables with a Micro USB connector for the HD side). I use the Mini/minimserver approach because I’ve found it more reliable when adding new music.


#14

Steve2

Just to elaborate on the quoted comment.

To me, almost every change of component or wire makes a sonic difference. Not necessarily better or worse but different.

I was running JRMC to Bridge2 and found it a bit “warm” and dynamically dull IMHO.

I preferred Audirvana + on the Mini to B2, but ONLY in simple HOG-MODE.

I listened for a while to Aries using JRMC as the library, then Minim server on the mac. Neither rang my bell.

Since Auralic activated the USB input on the Aries I have been there ever since. My best guess is that I have eliminated unnecessary components and their cables and that has resulted in a better SQ from my rig. It also results in flawless performance from the Lightning control app. HD, Tidal, and tons of internet radio.

My rig is now reduced to Aries, Amp and speakers. Again less cables and power cords to deal with. clean and mean and everything just works. [ Still could trade my JR amp for BHK mono-blocks, perhaps] :>}

Listening now to Paul Chambers, Bass On Top.

“Enjoy The Music”


#15
wijnand said
timequest said External Hard Drive (USB) > Computer/server > Router (via Ethernet) > Bridge (via Ethernet)....?

There’s a lot to tell how a computer streamer can be tweaked and setup. One of the most important things is the external harddrive. Make sure not to use USB2 for this.


I assume you recommend USB3…? How can you tell which USB port is 2,3…etc. I assume there is a way to verify via the UI,?

#16

USB 3 ports usually have the letters “SS” for “super speed” along with the usual USB symbol. Often the inserts on the plugs are colored blue.


#17

G, having done a very brief comparison of B2 fed by Mac Mini/JRMC 20 and the Aries with a direct connection to a WD 4TB drive (using the stock USB cable on the hard drive, Kimber silver USB cable from Aries to DS), in my system the Aries didn’t come close. With the Bridge things just snapped into focus (exact same reaction I had when I went from Mac Mini to DS via USB to the Aries to DS via USB with the same cable). Just goes to show that every system is different and people will get different results. The Aries is a very nice piece of kit with some great features and I could happily live with it as my main source. For now, I prefer B2 in my system. That could change with the next firmware update, cable or hard drive change, or full moon.


#18

Good to hear.

At least the BII must be a helluva better performer than the BI, given my experience with the Aries.


#19

Steve

Well aren’t we the lucky ones to have a choice of both methods.
I have my DSD HD plugged into the Aries and My FLAC n Hi-Res PCM still via the Mac n JRMC.

Maybe the greatly improved UIs are trending me more to musical enjoyment lately n my critical ear is getting some much needed rest? [ I’m sure that won’t last, though]

Either way, one thing for sure, every little change of anything seems to make a difference so I guess that is all part of the enjoyment of our Nirvana journeys. Lots of fun and fun to share our experiences as well.


#20

Any thoughts on the new ‘Mini?’ Looks very interesting: http://www.audiostream.com/how-is-ted-coding-the-fpgaent/auralic-ariesmini

I wonder if the reduced cost necessarily means a reduction in performance…