Sound Quality: USB vs Bridge


#1

Assuming this has been covered, I tried a ‘search’ query, but I didn’t find anything. If this has been covered, please redirect me…

As a Bridge user, I have been tempted to try USB as a comparison (simple curiosity), but I have been reading about issues including induced electrical noise from USB…I have been following reviews on the Uptone Regen as a solution. Has anyone used both sources (USB and Bridge), and if so, what are the differences in sound quality - if any? Is there any compelling reason to use over the other?

Thanks.

_Ben


#2

I use both. I prefer the combination of my Synology NAS with MinimServer feeding the Bridge. When I owned a PWD, I bought a small headless Windows computer to use for playing DSD with a Schiit Loki DAC, since the PWD was PCM-only. Now I own a DS which handles single-rate DSD via the Bridge, but for double-rate DSD I still use the computer with foobar2000 with USB. The computer is a CAPS Carbon with a SOtM USB card, running Windows 8.1 (yuck).

Out of curiosity, I did comparisons involving PCM even though my initial reason for getting the computer was to play DSD. For a long time I found the sound of the Bridge superior. Finally I got around to tweaking the computer (external linear power supply, Paul Pang Red USB cable, Fidelizer). With these tweaks in place, the SQ is very close; I could live with either.

My takeaway is that USB does require more effort than using the Bridge but that both can sound excellent. I should add that I have never used the Windows machine to feed the Bridge, leaving that task to the Synology and MinimServer.


#3
magister said I use both. I prefer the combination of my Synology NAS with MinimServer feeding the Bridge.......

My takeaway is that USB does require more effort than using the Bridge but that both can sound excellent. I should add that I have never used the Windows machine to feed the Bridge, leaving that task to the Synology and MinimServer.


My experience too.

#4
rogerdn said
magister said I use both. I prefer the combination of my Synology NAS with MinimServer feeding the Bridge.......

My takeaway is that USB does require more effort than using the Bridge but that both can sound excellent. I should add that I have never used the Windows machine to feed the Bridge, leaving that task to the Synology and MinimServer.

My experience too.


Please pardon my ignorance, rogerdn and magister, but in using MinimServer with your Synology DiscStations, is MinimServer installed on the NAS, being used instead of DSM and Audio Station, or does it reside on a computer from which it is used to access the music files stored on your Sinology NASs?

I have DiscStation 713+ and use DSM and Audio Station to serve music files to my DS DAC over a LAN, and I am not at all happy with the limitations this places on my system. I’ve been looking for an alternative to DSM and Audio Station, and it sounds like MinimServer might be the answer.

Thank you.


#5

Yes MS resides on your Synology and replaces their server. I think if you check DMS has MS as an app you can install. Also there is a MinimWatch app you can install on aWindows computer, maybe Mac too, from which you can do tagging. Go to the MS site and you will find choices available. It’s quite reliable but I do not find the SQ different from Audio Station. What limitations are you experiencing ?


#6

Just to add to what rogerdn said:

  • You need to have Java on your Synology as well as the MinimServer app; the trick is to get the right version of Java which varies depending on the processor used in your particular Synology model. Details about this are on the MinimServer website.
  • MinimWatch is available for Mac as well as Windows, but you use it to set the options in MinimServer, not for tagging. For tagging you need a third-party app like mp3tag (for Windows) or metadatics (for Mac).
  • In general I agree that there's not much difference in sound quality vis-a-vis Audio Station.
  • MinimServer offers a great many additional options, though, mainly relating to display of information (based on your tags); this is particularly important for classical music listeners. I know of no other server that gives you the kind of control over what you see that Minim does--assuming you have your tagging in order.
  • Minim also gives you the option to transcode files into WAV on the fly, which sounds better on some systems, and to play DSD either natively or via DoP (I can't remember if Audio Station handles DSD or not).

#7

+1 with magister and rogerdn, in my case referring to the B2. It sounds better than USB, although I have not done any USB tweaking in the manner of others.


#8

Yes it does DS64 (only).


#9
rogerdn said Yes it does DS64 (only).
Correction, don't believe Audio Stn does DSD.

#10

rogerdn, magister and tony22,

Thank you for your very helpful replies to my inquiry. I’ve got to look into MinimServer, MinimWatch and metadatics (I am a Mac user).

The limitations I have experienced with DSM, Audio Station, File Station include, as rogerdn notes, that they don’t allow me to stream DSD files. But more important, as a Mac user for years, I have grown to expect applications to be relatively intuitive and to some degree “idiot proof,” or Steve Jobs might have said, “bozo proof.”

I also expect user documentation to be easy to use. In general, documentation for DSM and various applications (Audio Station & File Station) on the SynologyNAS is not easy to use.

As I have downloaded music files to my SynologyNAS, for example, I have somehow managed to get two copies of tracks for several CDs on the server. So, every time I move one of these albums to the “Playing Queue” each track appears twice in the queue – i.e., 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, etc. This is annoying because it is not easy to remedy the problem by removing the duplicate tracks, and I can find no information in the documentation for the NAS that tell me how to identify the cause and permanently remedy and avoid this problem in the future. It is not as obvious as having two separate instances of the album showing up when the files are sorted by album; the album shows up only once.

Another problem is that, because my NAS failed, I returned it under the warranty. Although all music files were preserved on the two hard drives that I removed before sending the NAS back to the manufacturer, all the album art I had entered was lost.

One more issue: I rip all CDs to my iMac using iTunes (using AIFF files). Then, I download them individually to the NAS using Download Station. I would like simply to use the functionality in iTunes to download and store my music library, as organized by iTunes, to the NAS.

However, I have not yet been able to find an answer to the question: If I do this, will DSM/File Station/Audio Station be able to recognize these music files and serve them to my DSD and PWD (I have two systems on my LAN – one uses the DSD, the other the PWD).

My sense is that the SynologyNAS software is meant for those who are relatively adept at system administration, and I cannot lay claim to any know how in that arena! sad_gif

I am grateful for any advice and information I can get. Thank you.


#11

moose88bash,

You’re going through some frustrating things. I use a Mac only rarely, so I can’t help you with specifics. But a couple of things:

  1. The Synology software is not very “Mac-like” and I agree that the documentation could be better. That said, if you can get some help and stick with it, I think you will find it does what is needed quite nicely. I have gotten to like it very much after going through a moderate learning curve, and I am no network guru. For example, I had never set up a RAID system before, and I know this can be tricky, but the Synology made it easy.

  2. The inability to play DSD files is nothing inherent in a NAS, Synology or otherwise; it is a function of the software you are using (assuming, of course, that you have a DSD-capable DAC). MinimServer, JRiver, and probably other Mac players like Audirvana can do DSD just fine off of a NAS.

  3. Remember that you can store you files on a NAS but you don’t have to use a server on the NAS. You can do it that way (Disk Station, MinimServer) or you can use a server on your computer and point it to the files on the NAS. The former method is nice if you want to access your files from different locations in the house, using a tablet with control point software.

  4. I hope some iTunes users here will help you; I cannot. I get the impression that iTunes is, or wants to be, a closed system – that is, Apple expects you to do all your music management from with this software. There are good and bad aspects to this approach. I believe that the loss of your cover art is a symptom of this. Whatever iTunes did to add the art only works within iTunes. Is it possible with AIFF files to embed the cover within each file as you rip the CD? This takes up a little more disk space but insures that you never lose the art. I use FLAC files (which iTunes will not read, but which are widely used on Linux and Windows, and some Mac players other than iTunes can play them). I embed the art and so never have to worry.

I do not think that Audio Station will play nicely with iTunes, because the latter is not designed with cooperation in mind. But maybe some Mac users can help you with this.

Basically there are two ways to organize your digital audio. You can use an all-in-one approach, such as iTunes or JRiver. This is convenient because you can do everything (rip, tag, add to library, and play files) within one program. But you may find it difficult, even impossible, to leave that program or you may lose data in the process as with your cover art. The alternative is to rip and tag your files using programs designed for that purpose and copy them onto your NAS using the Finder. Then your server is configured to read and play them; if you ever want to use a different server, no problem, just install it and have it load the files. Hope this helps.


#12

I agree with magister. I may be out of date but in the past iTunes would not embed the artwork if you let iTunes find it rather than adding it manually. Instead it would keep it in a separate file that did not function if you used the music files in another program. You can certainly use iTunes to rip your files and then copy them over. It may be the increasingly cranky old man in me but it seems like over time iTunes has become less useful for people like us (e.g., for file management) as it has added all kinds of other features. I generally rip CDs using dBpoweramp on a PC (they are working on a Mac version and it may even be available in some form) but I use metadatics on a Mac for most of my tagging chores. It’s not free, as I recall, but not expensive either. It’s available through the Mac App Store.


#13

Thank you, again, magister, and stevem2, for your helpful advice.

Now, I am at least hopeful that I can work through my issues and reach a good solution before I take the major step of downloading 1,000-1,500 CDs to the NAS. I’m trying to get to the point that I do it once, and it works.

It looks like I would be well advised to move to an alternative to iTunes for ripping and tagging. I’ll explore the options suggested above.

Thank you so much.


#14

Yes I use dBPowerAmp too and like it, and while it will take maybe 15 minutes, they have good step by step setup instructions and mine worked on first try…to my surprise. I had really bad experience with iTunes on my Mini, over a two year period a third of my library was corrupted in various ways. Have never figured out how it happened, anyway several years later everything on my Synology is fine.


#15

This evening I decided to see whether DSM/Audio Station/ File Station on the NAS would recognize files stored in an iTunes Media Folder on the NAS.

I have a new Macbook Pro to which I had not ripped any CDS.

I ripped one CD, and then in ITunes preferences used the Advanced tab functionality to move my iTunes Media folder to the Music folder on the NAS.

I then tried to find the one CD on the NAS, using Audio Station and File Station and searching in every way I could try.

No luck. It was as if the iTunes Media Folder were not on the NAS – even though the CD stored in the folder would play using iTunes on my Macbook Pro.

So, I’m definitely going to have to take one of the routes suggested above.

Thanks, again.


#16

Log into your NAS, open File Station, and right-click the music folder, then choose properties.

Make sure that permissions have been set so that iTunes can read the music folder.

I don’t know exactly how that applies to your situation, but I do know from experience that not having permissions set correctly is sometimes a source of problems with Synology.


#17

I’m sorry, magister, I must not have described clearly the situation I encountered after moving my iTunes Media Folder to the NAS.

iTunes “found” and played the music with no problems. The album art was also displayed by iTunes on my Macbook Pro.

What I could not do was find the music file (1 CD/album) that was in my iTunes Media Folder on my NAS, and I could not use Audio Station or File Station to move that album or any of its tracks to the Playing Queue on the NAS to play the music on either my DSD or PWD.

It was as if the iTunes Media Folder was “invisible” on the NAS, except to iTunes running on my Macbook.

Also, I was logged into the NAS as the administrator. I have permissions set so that the administrator has access to all files.


#18

I can’t help you as I’m not an iTunes expert but here is a link to a how-to that I found, maybe it will help.

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/12/how-to-offload-your-itunes-library-to-a-nas/

But it looks like there were a number of problems he had to resolve for it to work so not sure how easy it would be.

Edit, after reading through the article it may not apply to what you are trying to do, as I said I’m not an iTunes guy.


#19
Moose68Bash said I'm sorry, magister, I must not have described clearly the situation I encountered after moving my iTunes Media Folder to the NAS.
You were clear, I did not read carefully.embarassed
It was as if the iTunes Media Folder was "invisible" on the NAS, except to iTunes running on my Macbook.
This is very strange. Did the file really get moved at all?? We need people with iTunes experience here--I'm out of my depth.
Also, I was logged into the NAS as the administrator. I have permissions set so that the administrator has access to all files.
Since iTunes could play the file, I don't think it was a permissions issue. But just for general info: in Synology each app must have permissions to access a folder. For instance, on my system MinimServer has rights to read all my music folders; otherwise it won't play the files. Usually the Synology software handles permissions OK, but occasionally you need to fix things manually (as happened to me once). My thought was that iTunes perhaps did not have permission to access your Synology's music folder.

#20
magister said
Moose68Bash said I'm sorry, magister, I must not have described clearly the situation I encountered after moving my iTunes Media Folder to the NAS.

You were clear, I did not read carefully.embarassed

It was as if the iTunes Media Folder was "invisible" on the NAS, except to iTunes running on my Macbook.

This is very strange. Did the file really get moved at all?? We need people with iTunes experience here–I’m out of my depth.

Also, I was logged into the NAS as the administrator. I have permissions set so that the administrator has access to all files.

Since iTunes could play the file, I don’t think it was a permissions issue. But just for general info: in Synology each app must have permissions to access a folder. For instance, on my system MinimServer has rights to read all my music folders; otherwise it won’t play the files. Usually the Synology software handles permissions OK, but occasionally you need to fix things manually (as happened to me once). My thought was that iTunes perhaps did not have permission to access your Synology’s music folder.


rogerdn and magister,

The link was very helpful, rogerdn. It sounds like what I want to do can be done. Now, the question is, “Can I do it?” I think I will still need to install MinimServer, because I don’t think iTunes will recognize my DSD and PWD on the network. And if, Audio Station does not serve files in my iTunes Media Folder after it is on the NAS, perhaps, MinimServer will.

From what the article says, it sounds like I did not really move my “test” iTunes Media Folder to the NAS at all. After doing as I did, the article indicates that there is a second step to actually move the folder. I have no idea where the author learned that such a step was necessary.

So, as magister asked, “Did the file really get moved at all?” The answer, I suspect, is “no.”

Well, I have more work to do. I’ll try to get to it this weekend.

Again, thanks to both of you for your help and your persistence. Mac experts or not, you certainly know more about this than I do.