Typical Digital File Formats:
DSD (Direct Stream Digital);
DSD stands for Direct Stream Digital. It’s a high-resolution format that produces a high-resolution signal in a different way to that employed by the PCM system that can be transmitted as WAV, FLAC, ALAC or AIFF.
MQA Audio (Master Quality Authenticated);
A method of digitally storing recorded music as a file that’s small and convenient enough to download, or even stream, without the sonic sacrifices traditionally associated with compressed files.
Studio Master WMA (Windows Media Audio);
High Definition download sounds identical to a Super Audio CD. For people who want the best. Can be burned on to a DVD-Audio. Best for Windows Media Player users only.
CD quality FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec);
Sounds identical to a CD and great if you want to burn a copy onto CDR without any loss in quality from the original CD. Suitable for all computer users.
CD quality WMA (Windows Media Audio);
Sounds identical to a CD and great if you want to burn a copy onto CDR without any loss in quality from the original CD. Best for Windows Media Player users only.
The highest quality of MP3 possible is 320kbps. Want to add music to your iPod or other portable player? Then this format is best for you. These are the smallest files so will download fastest if your download speed is slow. Suitable for all computer users.
There is much conjecture over the sound quality benefits of DSD and MQA being superior to all other formats. However, from our listening sessions and with the right set up, we've found that FLAC can produce results that are very close in performance to both DSD and MQA
Basic Set Up: (PC or MAC)
The most important obstacle we must bypass in order to successfully couple your MAC or PC to your hi-fi is the audio output of the computer itself. If you make the easy mistake of connecting a stereo mini to RCA from the computer you are relying solely on the computer's internal DAC. Not good! We learned just how important DACs were during the dawn of the CD era. Out-board transports and DACs, as opposed to one-box players, became the path to digital nirvana. OK, well, not Nirvana, but closer to real music! Fortunately for us there are plenty of companies coming up with high quality DACs for both MACs and PCs (and even for Squeezeboxes; bypassing its internal DAC for on-the-go performance). This way our computers/music libraries act simply as the digital source, and with a decent DAC you are positioned well enough to enjoy decent sound through your own stereo system.
First you need to download a high quality media player capable of playing uncompressed 24/192 FLAC/Hi Res files, such as Media Monkey or JRiver
- IMPORTANT:- Ensure the settings on your computer are correct for High Resolution Playback:- (Windows Users ) Right click the loudspeaker icon at the bottom right of your screen, click playback devices, Double click on the DAC icon you are using, Click on advanced and set up for 24/192 studio quality and apply.
So you've got your computer updated and want the simplest route to play high resolution files. What next? You need a DAC that will cope with 24/192 via it's USB input and is asynchronous, removing jitter issues. Such as Graham Slees Majestic DAC along with a quality USB Cable - Analysis Plus Purple USB Cable
Streamer System Set UP (Wired or Wireless)
Typically music streamers and network player/renderers come complete with a DAC-section and typically play lossless, DSD and high resolution digital content. They are a dedicated hi-fi component designed to work without being attached to directly to your a computer. It sits within your hi-fi system, and connects to your home network and has the ability to play audio stored in another location. This location can be over the Internet, in the form of a streaming service like Spotify or Tidal, or an external hard drive.
Control applications can be bespoke or universal such as Roon, Orange Sqeeze and so on, which are readily available for your smart phone, tablet or computer, depending on the requirements of the product and user.
Here the key components are led by the front end with Network Streamers such as;
Electrocompaniet ECM-1 Network Streamer
or the Bel Canto e One Network Bridge
You now have a number of options for storing and accessing your music.(depending on product features) with the use of your control software you can create a music library, access Tidal/Spotify type services, also set up an external NAS drive, save files on your computer, a usb stick etc. You'll still need a high quality USB cable such as the Analysis Plus Purple USB Cable and perhaps a high quality Ethernet cable for that extra touch.
Audiophile Set Up (Music Server/Streamer)
To get the best audiophile experience with digital music we've found that there are three issues that need to be addressed in order to provide the best sound;
- To minimise power noise
- To reduce vibration
- To optimise firmware
The Innuos ZEN MK3 is an outstanding Music Server/Network Streamer with the ability to outperform any computer audio set up, improve upon a Streamer/NAS drive or Computer/NAS drive set up, with far more rewarding results.
The Innuos ZEN MK3 provides typical network streamer functionality with the convenience of having your entire music library and streaming services incorporated into one unit with the ability to control remotely with a mobile device. (You can also connect your existing streamer if preferred) More importantly, there are significant sound quality gains to be had by using a digital transport solution like the Innuos MK3 with a lower noise floor and a more organic, natural sound that sounds more focused and unconstrained at the same time.
Of course a first class DAC is required to take advantage of this superb server and they don't come better suited than the high performing Bel Canto DAC 2.7
Don't skimp on those cables! Try the Purist Audio Design Ultimate USB Cable and for the utmost audiophile connection, use Purist Audio Designs CAT7 Ethernet Cable.
Finally, to get your digital based system performing at its best, you should use the amazing PAD's Luminist system enhancer USB . A magical little device worth its weight in gold.