You are actually asking a few questions here, and depending how you answer them, then branches to other issues.
Let’s assume you want to rip your CDs to files, or buy files directly online…
You have to rip your CDs to files first. You have many ways to do this… I use Exact Audio Copy (EAC) a program that ensures a bit-for-bit transfer… program is a bit fiddly… you can use Windows media player… you need to set the rip settings to be the highest quality, lossless, and rip to WAV files.
Once you create or buy files, you need to store them somewhere. You can save them on your PC hard drive, an external hard drive attached to your PC (usually via USB) , or a device attached to your network… these are usually call Network Attached Storage Devices… or NAS for short and this box is usually connected to your router via an Ethernet cable. If you are not computer savvy, and you are only looking to store your music for playback, you should keep away from a NAS as you now are getting into “computer and music networking”… yikes.
Regardless of where you store them, you must back them up… so whatever you do, buy two disc drives and keep one as a copy to the other… at a minimum.
Organization… regardless of where you store them, you must organize your files. I recommend the following:
- Folder called “Music”, then within that folder,
- Folder for each artist or band… for example “Rolling Stones, The” and within that folder,
- Folder for each album “Exile on Main Street” and within that folder,
- Folder for songs… start each song with the track number “15 All Down the Line”
Organizing in this way will make managing your collection with Windows easy. Your ripper like Windows Media Player, will automatically add on the song number in front of the name so they appear in album order.
Now you must play them… you need a program on your PC or whatever to play them. I use Foobar, it is free (Ted uses it) but it is fiddly. Roon is another popular player. You install the software and then tell the software where your library is… each player program will do different things to “manage” your music collection and allow you to choose what you want it to play.
Now you must send the music from where it is stored to your PS Audio DAC. The player software does this by the way you set it up. There are two common ways… 1) a USB cable from your PC to the DAC (works no matter where you store your music and is the easiest and least fiddly), …or 2) Ethernet cables between your DAC and router, your router and NAS (where music is stored) and your router and PC (wireless can be substituted for an Ethernet cable here). NAS storage via Ethernet to your DAC can be a challenge if you are not IT savvy…
So the simplest configuration that always works and is easy to setup is:
- USB cable between the DAC and your PC
- USB cable between your PC and external disc drive (two of them) where your music library is located
- A player like Roon or Foobar to play and control your listening
Lots to think about, not a simple answer… once you get this simple system up, you can then consider a NAS. A quick note about a NAS… usually you use a NAS for more than just a music library… it is a storage device on your network that any device, phone, tablet, PC can access. You can also put many different files on it so again, others on your network can access it. And, lastly, it can be a backup for all your PCs and devices… but it needs a backup too… so it can get complex.
Bruce in Philly