iTunes or Looney Tunes? The great music server debate.

Jul 1, 2010
8,713
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0
#1
Forgive the goofy title. My long background in advertising still has me believing that I need an interesting headline to get people to read the body copy. And while I don't want to call Amir out for one on one debate (I suspect he's significantly smarter than I am and I hate to lose...). I do think he would be a great candidate to fill in the blanks below and challenge the logic, particularly as they relate to setting up a server in Windows. Care to join the party, Amir?

With that said, here's the story...

Doing A Computer-Based Music Server, My Way (ie: Getting Ponked)

I suspect the management here at What’s Best got together and said something like “we need to find something constructive for Phelonious to do.” Nevertheless, I’m honored that anyone would think my humble contribution could be the start of anything constructive. While I will try my best to fluff this piece up with all the dark humor and utterly irrelevant asides I can come up with, at its core it will be a short story because for me, the process of setting up, configuring and operating a computer-based music server looks like this:

2X1TB external hard drives>Mac/iTunes>DAC of choice>your existing system

You can, of course, do all of this on a PC, and my understanding is that it is only a bit more complicated, but I’m a Mac guy. And while I have a modern Mac that will run Windows, in another window (the gist of the old legal challenge…), while running OSX programs...well, running Windows on a Mac is like running Yugo on a Ferrari (my apologies, Amir. I couldn’t resist ☺). I’ll count on Amir to dress the Windows.

OK, back to the outline:

2X1TB external hard drives>Mac/iTunes>DAC of choice>your existing system

Why two drives? One of them stays in a closet (a closet in someone else’s house would be better) and only comes out for occasional backups, the occasion being whenever I’ve added enough new music that re-ripping it would be too time consuming.

iTunes? Are You Serious?

Why iTunes? The more pertinent question would be why not? It is free, powerful and versatile. It can be configured, in a click, to be a simple list of its database or an elegant, graphic flow of album covers. You can parse the data just about any way you see fit – song, genre, artist, album, composer, file type, or all of the above. It rips, copies and converts to other formats (not FLAC, but that’s easy to get around) seamlessly, transparently and without error (if you’re using error correction. It’s a great piece of software.

But some people believe other players sound better. This is a pretty tough case to make, given that a media player’s only job, beyond its database and human interface, is to move digital data from one place to another. It shouldn’t “sound” at all. Yet some hear. I believe they are hearing deviations in the data. In older versions of Windows, my understanding is that you get them automatically if you don’t work around them. In iTunes, on a Mac, getting and keeping bit perfect for any given sample rate is very simple: Go to Audio Midi Setup in OSX and tell it what you want. OSX doesn’t adjust rates automatically, though, it downconverts or upconverts to whatever your settings are and then your data is no longer bit-perfect. This problem is addressed through the use of programs like Amarra and Pure Music, which provide automatic switching, and I personally think that is their only advantage. Quite a few folks out there seem to think these programs “sound” better than iTunes. I respectfully disagree. I’ve tried both of them and when all other things are equal, I hear no differences between these programs and iTunes. Pure Media is a worthwhile investment if you plan to have hi-res files in your system. And if it sounds better to you too, good for you. The bar it sticks on top of iTunes is goofy-looking but that, and the $129 is a small price to pay if you think it sounds better.

Will A Really Weak Computer Give You Stronger Sound?

So can it really be that simple? Yes, but you can complicate it if you like through the process of system optimization. In a nutshell, it involves minimizing the processor activity going on while your computer is playing music. At the extreme, it requires a system dedicated to music playback, with solid state hard drives and maybe even an upgraded power supply. There is some logic to the theory: more system activity means more electrical activity and more hard disk activity, resulting in more noise that could be carried, with the data, to your analog systems. I just think a more effective solution is galvanic isolation. I use a digital transport that isolates, re-clocks, converts usb to optical, coax and AES/EBU, and then sends optical to my active speakers, coax to my headphone system. It sounds great and it doesn’t hobble a computer.

The Jukebox Of The Gods

I guess the biggest question, or it should be, anyway, is what does my listening gain from all of this?

A) It sounds great.

B) I can walk into my listening room, type “So What” into a little box, and up pops the version from the original CD release of Kind of Blue, the KOB re-master, a couple of live versions and a couple of duplicates from boxed sets. And that’s just Miles. I’ll get a few covers, too.

Yeah, I know: And I call you guys obsessive…

P
 
Jul 1, 2010
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#3
Do not mock Looney Tunes or we shall not be friends.
Forgive me RUR, I did not mean to mock Looney Tunes, only to turn a phrase. I hold Looney Tunes in the highest regard. Was it the implied relationship to Windows that insulted the highest of Loonies? (ducking and running......)

P
 

steve williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#4
I had asked PP to post this thread here not only for informational purposes but to see if we can draw out any member who feels this is a simple but worthy topic to debate. If not, my advice would be to move it to either general debates for everyone to discuss or to its appropriate forum.

Did anyone hear me mention "Amir"
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
0
0
#5
I had asked PP to post this thread here not only for informational purposes but to see if we can draw out any member who feels this is a simple but worthy topic to debate. If not, my advice would be to move it to either general debates for everyone to discuss or to its appropriate forum.

Did anyone hear me mention "Amir"
I've even thrown a couple of barbs at Windows, hoping to draw Amir out, Steve, but no luck so far. He must be actually doing something constructive.

P
 

RUR

WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
647
0
0
SoCal
#7
I had asked PP to post this thread here not only for informational purposes but to see if we can draw out any member who feels this is a simple but worthy topic to debate. If not, my advice would be to move it to either general debates for everyone to discuss or to its appropriate forum.

Did anyone hear me mention "Amir"
Sorry for the levity, Steve. I can't delete my post in this forum(!), so please feel free to do so.
 

Jay_S

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
308
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San Francisco - East Bay
#9
I've got an old Thinkpad running Windows 7 and a shiny new MacBook Pro. I have the latest version of Itunes on both. The Thinkpad works much better with Itunes when accessing files wirelessly from my NAS. The files are sent to an Airport Express and then via Toslink to my DAC. The Macbook Pro works but is much slower. It displays rotating beach balls before it finally settles down.
 

steve williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
#10
OT but I equate those rotating beach balls to be Mac's version of the Windows blue screen kiss of death :)
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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Albuquerque, NM
www.fightingconcepts.com
#11
I have read that Airport Express does not wirelessly transmit files in greater than 44.1 KHz samples, thus rendering high-res files useless in that application? True, or False?

Lee
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
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Albuquerque, NM
www.fightingconcepts.com
#12
Also, which system (PC or Mac) is less prone to loss of function when used as a server? I know that PCs are affected by far more viruses, etc., but does that apply to this usage?

Lee
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
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#14
I have read that Airport Express does not wirelessly transmit files in greater than 44.1 KHz samples, thus rendering high-res files useless in that application? True, or False?

Lee
True. I only have a very few hi-res files. They're really not worth the inconvenience to me.

P
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
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0
#15
Also, which system (PC or Mac) is less prone to loss of function when used as a server? I know that PCs are affected by far more viruses, etc., but does that apply to this usage?

Lee
I'm not sure what you mean. Use as a music server is not particularly resource-intensive. I don't think it stresses the system more than any other multi-tasking.

P
 

RBFC

WBF Founding Member & Super Moderator
Apr 20, 2010
5,121
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36
Albuquerque, NM
www.fightingconcepts.com
#16
As I understand it, PC-based machines are more prone to crashes, etc. than Macs. As I'm not that versed in computers, I would ask this to those that have more experience.

Keeping the thread warm for Amir....


Lee
 

Johnny Vinyl

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
May 16, 2010
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#17
An upgrade to Win7 may solve that problem for you! I can't compare it to a Mac, but my newish DELL has had no issues with crashes.
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
0
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#18
As I understand it, PC-based machines are more prone to crashes, etc. than Macs. As I'm not that versed in computers, I would ask this to those that have more experience.

Keeping the thread warm for Amir....


Lee
I don't have enough experience with 7 to judge yet, but my past experience with 98 and XP tells me that OSX is more stable. But if you just shut down the PC at night and re-started every morning it took care of 90% of the issues. Really, though, the difference is maintenance. PCs need it or they slow down over time. Macs don't. My iBook ran for 5 years, constantly hooked up to the internet, often left on for weeks at a time without re-booting. No firewall. No virus protection. No utilities. I never de-fragged the hard drive. I never un-installed and re-installed anything. I just ran my music collection and my business on it -- Safari, Mail, Quickbooks, Office, iTunes, etc. -- day in and day out for 5 years until something in the power function was becoming unreliable and I deemed it time to replace it. When I did, it wasn't running noticeably slower than it did when new.

But this is not a Mac vs. PC debate. It's a discussion of how to set up a computer based music server, and that can be done quite effectively on a PC, I just need someone to fill in those blanks as I have never done that myself. If there is anything controversial, debatable here, it is the audibility of different computer audio playback software, and the value of "optimizing" computer systems for audio. There are plenty out there in the world of computer audio who disagree with my positions on these two issues.

P

P
 

rblnr

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
May 3, 2010
1,878
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#19
I use iTunes as well. Also Squeezebox Server which can directly access the iTunes library and stream 24/96. The Squeezebox Touch can output 24/96 to a DAC via s/pdif. W/the iPhone/iPad control, I can't fathom why anyone would want to pay several thousand dollars for some of the other streaming systems out there. A Sooloos salesman once told me that the great thing is that they backup automatically. Think I'll save the cash and handle that myself.

I'm a hardcore Mac guy and try to avoid PCs whenever possible. Part of it is familiarity, the other is that they seem (or were, haven't used 7) clumsy to use, were rarely plug 'n play with anything, and throw popups at you constantly. A PITA vs. Mac.
 
Jul 1, 2010
8,713
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#20
I use iTunes as well. Also Squeezebox Server which can directly access the iTunes library and stream 24/96. The Squeezebox Touch can output 24/96 to a DAC via s/pdif. W/the iPhone/iPad control, I can't fathom why anyone would want to pay several thousand dollars for some of the other streaming systems out there. A Sooloos salesman once told me that the great thing is that they backup automatically. Think I'll save the cash and handle that myself.

I'm a hardcore Mac guy and try to avoid PCs whenever possible. Part of it is familiarity, the other is that they seem (or were, haven't used 7) clumsy to use, were rarely plug 'n play with anything, and throw popups at you constantly. A PITA vs. Mac.
Time Machine will back up automatically in OSX, so that's not an advantage. Systems like Sooloos and Sonos allow zones, so you can be playing different content in different rooms. iTunes doesn't have that capability. Yet.

P
 

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