I wonder if you folks would take pity on a complete newbie to internet audio. I have been a record spinner all my life. I am not computer savvy at all. I just bought some new gear (PS Audio Directstream, Pima Luna HP amp, Harbeth Hl5 plus speakers, Nordost cabling). I bought the USB bridge card for the PS Audio unit. I haven’t the foggiest idea about how to get started with Internet music sources. I was going to just buy a Mac Pro laptop, download audirvana, and get started. I have read with great interest this entire thread, but now am hopelessly confused. Would anyone be willing to stick their neck out and recommend what I should, allowing for the fact that I need to be told exactly what to do (what cables I need, what buttons to push, etc.). I am exaggerating a little, but only a little. Thank you.
There are two ways to play digital audio: with a full-size computer, or through a NAS drive. Some people, like me, don’t care to have a computer in the music room. You can buy a NAS (I use a Synology 213, now I believe replaced by the 214) with MinimServer, controlled from a tablet and feeding the Bridge in my DS. I like this setup very much. It would cost you about $400 for the NAS and $200 for two WD Red drives (shop around for good prices) which is less than a Mac.
From a full-size computer, most people use USB rather than ethernet connections (although you can use the latter). I would point out that if you are accustomed to using Windows, perhaps at your day job, there is no reason you have to switch to a Mac. Somehow the idea is out there that Macs are better for audio; that may have been true at one time, but no longer. Please, folks, I’m not saying Macs are bad; if one is already a Mac user, no problem, but I know some people who just assume they need a Mac for audio.
My suggestion is to consider which setup you would prefer, and then we can help you more. For those less experienced with computers, setting up a NAS-based system is a little more complicated – but there is still quite a learning curve no matter which way you go. And a NAS has some advantages, such as being able to play your music from anywhere in your house you have network access, without leaving a large computer on all the time. And you will need external storage of some sort anyway, for backup if nothing else.
There is a website dedicated to beginners in computer audio; I just tried to find it, but I can’t. Maybe someone else can supply the link. There is also some good information on the Audiostream website.
When downloading music from the internet, does it matter in terms of quality if one’s internet connection is via Wi-fi, as opposed to a wired connection?
It shouldn’t matter so long as your Wi-Fi is robust enough to handle the traffic (including anything else going over the same Wi-Fi network).
So, I have my MacBook Pro loaded with audirvana. Have my new direct stream connected via USB cable, feeding my new Primaluna amp and Harbeth speakers. Problem? No sound at all. I think it is a apple problem, but I was with a geek squad guy for 4 hours last night and he could not solve it. The ps Audio unit sees the macbook fine. We could get the Mac book internal speaker to play. But not throughout the Directstream. Any suggestions.
For clarification, if I run just ITunes, and do not power up the DAC, the music plays audibly through the Macbook internal speaker. Is soon as I fire up the DAC, the music cuts out immediately. This suggests, again, that the DAC and the Macbook are communicating, and that the music server is working. I do at times get the notation in the MacBook that many have mentioned on the internet, that the source has no output. ??? And when I go into “sound” and select the ps audio line, and then exit, the next time I go back in the computer has Unselected the ps audio. So the selection will not stick. Even when I force it however still no sound.
You mentioned when you started this thread that you just bought some new gear and then enumerated some very nice components. Are they all new? This may be a really dumb question (forgive me) but has this system ever produced any music at all (except iTunes through a MacBook speaker)? Do you have either another pre-amp you can test with the PrimaLuna or another digital input to feed the Directstream? Before focusing on the computer end I just want to make sure we have a functioning audio system correctly wired.
Assuming we have cleared that hurdle then I would propose some orderly debugging:
- Power up all components and make sure to select the USB input on the Directstream.
- Connect the USB cable to the Mac and wait a few seconds for the USB Audio to initialize.
- On the Mac under Applications / Utilities find the "Audio MIDI Setup" app (the icon is one octave of piano keys)
- After you start this application the screen should show a series of input / output devices on the left. At the very least you should see "Built in Output" (the Mac speakers). There should also be a selection for the Directstream. If not, I would try plugging and unplugging the USB cable (wait a few seconds between). If that doesn't work I would seriously consider trying another cable. Use the shortest best quality USB cable you have.
- Assuming you see the Directstream select it. To the right there will be some configuration information. For the sake of this test it doesn't matter a lot what you select but just to make it easy (and assuming your iTunes has media files ripped and/or encoded from CDs) let's set it to 44100.0Hz 24-bit integer. Make sure the volume sliders are all the way to the right.
- Now with this output selected fire up iTunes and try to play a track. Check that the master volume is all the way up.
- Look at the DirectStream screen. Does it indicate an input of 44kHz and 24-bit? If so, it is seeing the bitstream from your computer. If not then I might consider reviewing the installation of the bridge card.
- Do you happen to have a USB headphone amp (or a friend you can borrow one from)? I would hook that up and see you can get that to work with your Mac. If neither that nor the Directstream appear to get a bitstream then it might be off to the genius bar with the Mac.
Thank you very much for all that. Yes, everything is new. And yes, I am just getting back into audio, after having been systemless for several years.
Usb has been selected on the DS and the screen reads “USB input, source.” The light is green.
When I go into system preferences, sound, the DS is shown and selected, but the hated language appears below: “the selected device has no output controls.”
In the audio devices window, the DS is shown, is selected, and the right it says: “PS Audio USB 2.0 Audio Out.” The volumes are all turned all the way up. Mutes not checked.
With all this in place, I fired up ITunes, turned master volume to full, pressed play . . . Nothing.
the DS reads exactly the way suggested.
Great advice and thanks Andy. The times I have seen this have no output it was caused by the driver, identified in the audio midi area as PS Audio USB 2.0, not selected as the playback device (it’ll have a little speaker icon next to it if it is selected).
The other issue, and Andy mentioned this one, the master volume is turned down.
Audiorvana seems to be fairly problematic as well. It’s a great program but I do hear a lot of complaints about such basic things as connecting. You might want to contact their support as well. Or, try turning Audiorvana off (quit) and make sure you’ve followed Andy’s list.
Nice job, Andy!
Ponzi, I hope you get things up and running soon. I expect it will be a pretty simple fix - once you find the problem.
I am embarrassed. I switched a couple of noisy 12au7 tubes and everything sprang to life.
Do not be embarrassed. We have all experienced this sort of thing. I suspected it would be easy to address, the problem is determining what is wrong.
As a friend of mine notes when we are working on a car or motorcycle: “If you cannot fix it with a hammer, you have an electrical problem.”
Perfect. You made my turkey day.