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In the Forum: Didital Things
In the Thread: Computer Audio
Post Subject: Computer AudioPosted by skushino on: 1/6/2014
Recently I tested the waters of computer audio.  I've been using a Sony SCD-1 transport / Museatex Bidat DAC combo for digital playback.  It has been a source of enjoyment for years.  My goals for trying network-based music files were:

- reduce physical CD clutter by ripping discs to network storage
- gain access to Internet radio and music services like Pandora, Spotify, etc
- gain personal experience with network audio sound quality

First, I turned my attention to my home network, upgrading with faster broadband service, added an 802.11n wifi router, and a Synology NAS.  After using and verifying that the upgraded network operated properly (this took a few days), I connected my 'everyday' system to the Internet using a Sonos Connect.

I expected to trade sound quality for convenience wrt to Sonos.  The question was whether the sound quality would suffer too much.  First impression was sufficiently positive to install a second Sonos on the main system.  The Sonos connects to the router, modem, and WAN via a wireless Sonos Bridge.  On the LAN side, Sonos feeds a SPIDF digital output to the Bidat.  The NAS is connected to the wifi router.

As expected, the convenience is easily addicting.  The ability to control music on both systems independently and create playlists for different events, times of day, and moods, is a joy.  Streaming radio sounds 'good enough', lacking the analog signature of a classic tuner.  But, I was surprised by my preference for playback via the network compared with the Sony SCD-1!  Music simply sounds less artificial and more natural via the network.  The difference is easy to distinguish, and contrary to my expectations.  This may be a case of having cake and eating it, too.

But the greatest benefit was unanticipated: I love having the ability to listen to radio stations from around the world.  I've traveled extensively, and listening to music from foreign cities is almost like making a partial visit.  For instance, my favorite classical performances are often Russian - it's pretty cool listening to the Moscow, London, and Geneva, Switzerland classical stations, among others.  For jazz, I go to New Orleans, Chicago, NYC, SF, and also Geneva, Switzerland. Electronica and chill? London, UK.  I can listen in to local radio up in Whistler, BC, where I visit to ski.  News?  BBC, CBC, and NPR.  This access is great for exposure - not just to recorded music (there are many options for this), but exposure to the cultural context and language from abroad.

I haven't started using online music services - yet.  I feel like I have access to the largest repository of recorded music in the universe by going online.  My sole regret is not having done this sooner.

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