So pretty much a newbie here. Just bought a Sprout100 and have a pair of Martin Logan 35XT’s on it. I’m just running itunes through the bluetooth connection right now. It sounds great, but what are some more “cleaner” methods of getting music to my Sprout (or Stellar, when I upgrade)? Been doing some reading here, but I don’t understand a lot of what’s being said. Simple as possible please.
Great question, and I’m sure you’ll get a lot of interesting advice.
One easy step is to switch to USB from your computer instead of Bluetooth. Bluetooth compresses audio when it sends it, and the data does not come out perfectly intact on the other end - it’s a lossy transmission. USB sends the data without this loss.
Next thing to look at is the quality of the music you are playing. If it’s from Spotify, Pandora, or was downloaded as MP3, the music has gone through a lossy compression, meaning some of the original data has been lost.
How important this fact is is a bit uncertain. Some folks cannot hear the difference between high quality MP3 vs lossless CD quality.
Others can hear differences between very high sample rates far beyond CD quality.
If you’re interested in experimenting a bit with file quality, you can try out a test like this.
And the most important improvement anyone can make to their stereo system - take some time to really enjoy it. Whether that means relaxing with a drink and the lights low while listening intently or having a dance party, remember that your stereo is a companion designed to make life more enjoyable. When you’re chasing the dragon of better sound it can be easy to forget this sometime.
A major bottleneck for SQ is the software. iTunes is bad because it resamples and converts the bits.
Look into BitPerfect or Audirvana for Mac.
You want a program that gets the data out without any conversions (unless you are getting into upsampling to DSD). Getting the right software is one of the important steps in making a system more transparent.
The advice from @Schroedster is good. Bluetooth cannot support the bitrate of CD quality music. Music is compressed when sent across it. There are various codecs used for this, from SBC at 320kbps to LDAC at 990kbps (the most common is probably aptX HD at 576kbps). Since CD quality is 1.4mbps you are going to get some degradation. If the music source is an mp3 then that will be expanded and then re-compressed by Bluetooth; not an ideal scenario.
Whether this matters much is something else. I can tell the difference between high bitrate mp3, CD, and hi-res files, but it is not enough to spoil my enjoyment of the music. It isn’t until the bitrate of an mp3 drops below 192kbps that it becomes irritatingly deficient. If you want audiophile quality then you shouldn’t use Bluetooth, but if you are more interested in just listening to the music rather than analysing nuances of soundstage then it could well be OK for you. Your decision entirely.
I too am new to the Sprout100 and the ins and outs of digital music. I still don’t have any kind of music streamer and still do use a CD player. The sound I get from this combination is pretty amazing.
But I also have been playing music via Bluetooth to the Sprout and have been happy with the overall results. The Sprout just has a way of making the music sound amazing.
One thing I did do was upgrade the music player on my iPhone. I wanted to experiment with FLAC files on the iPhone, so I bought Sigma Tunes ST-1 and noticed that when it plays the AAC files on my iPhone the sound is better. A tighter bass and overall better listening experience. It is very low cost and could be a slight jump for your current situation.
Sigma Tunes reads the music library on your phone and you can begin playing your current music via this app immediately.
USB to your computer would be cleaner and better sounding than the Bluetooth option.
Hey Paul, yeah, I’m rebooting a laptop I have purely for this reason. I’m still not sure which software to run on it (I will start with itunes), and uploading my cd’s to whatever software I use. I figure getting Bluetooth out of the equation is a good first step.
If you don’t mind a bit of a hassle and you like a lot of customization options, I’d recommend looking into Foobar2000. It’s free open source software that does not interfere with sound quality.
With some work and help from resources online, you can make Foobar2k function nicely and look as clean as expensive music management software. Out of the box it’s a bit ugly, though.
Audirvana is a great piece of software in my opinion and works on both Windows and Mac platforms.
I recommend ripping cd’s with dbPoweramp.
Very affordable and easy to use and the error checking is nice.
This video is a nice starting place if you’re interested in foobar. I’ve also posted a link below to foobar’s download page.
Also, if you want to take things even further with foobar. You could think about moving to a linux based operating system like Ubuntu or some other linux operating system. I do think linux based computer play back sounds better than Mac OS or Windows. With that being said, Audirvana and iTunes are not supported on linux so be aware of that before changing operating systems.
Once you have your hardware and software sorted out. You might want to look at upgrading the usb cable between the computer and the sprout. It would definitely help create “cleaner” sound.
Personally, I would recommend a couple other things before going for an upgraded USB cable.
Specifically, the next step in my book would be getting speaker placement and room treatment right. It’s a headier topic than switching USB cables, though.
@stonefree1911, keep us posted with how things go when you get the laptop set up. After that we can go on a deeper dive into the rabbit hole if you’d like
Once I get this laptop up and running, I think I’m going to go Audirvana via USB. Are there any recommendations on a good USB cable for this?
We’ve got a fair few Curious USB cables floating around the office that the team likes using.
The price, however, makes it a bit of awkward match for Sprout100. If you do go to Stellar, it should be a perfect fit, though.
Yeah, that’s a bit high for my sprout system. I’ll get a good cable tho.
I’ve only had my Sprout for over a week…and I’m already looking at the Stellar components…is this an illness?
I’ve had great results with other Anti-cables, though I have not had a chance to try out their USB
Given their 30 day return policy, I would be willing to give it a shot from my positive experiences with their XLR and speaker cables.
I feed my original sprout via USB from a mid-2011 Mac Mini running squeezelite, a Squeezebox/SlimDevices/Logitech Media Server software-based endpoint. Mainly out of curiosity, I’ve just ordered a Schiit Audio Wyrd USB “decrapifier” and two of their Physt USB cables.To date, I’ve primarily listened to my Sprout using B&W P7 headphones, but have just rearranged my office desk to make use of my B&W Matrix 805’s for nearfield listening.
Oh yes it is:) I would check out Pangea cables on Audio Advisor. They offer returns if you don’t like it. Pangea is good bang for buck cables IME kinda like the sprout.
You may consider a first generation Regen to clean up the noise.