Mountain View, California is the home of start-ups. Turn any corner and it's likely there'll be a name you recognise. Some have grown into huge companies, and some, like Netscape, have disappeared, recalled only by the boards that used to display their logos. Turning down what looks like a residential street, there's a small …
High End, Eh...
A bunch of good looking numbers do not high end make.
Let's see how it stacks up to real high-end audio.
But no matter how good they make it, the idea is fundamentally flawed. How can you expect hi-end sound from compressed audio formats ?
Was this a review or just a press release - did you actually hear the device or are you just going on how good you think it will sound given the spec.
Too much text on too little fact I think...
FAO Peter (above)
Peter, the article points out that this is indeed aimed at lossless audio formats... Otherwise, as the article says, stick with the squeezebox.
It does read a little like an advert, so I'll be very interested to see how this compares with a good quality CD player, supposed audiophile sound card (not from Creative) using both internal and external DACs, and the differing clock options which is realistically where digital differences can get in the way of things.
It'll need to be a double blind test to be worth the bytes of bandwidth it's transmitted on, too...
High end - yes...
It will stream compressed lossless (FLAC, Apple Lossless) and fully uncompressed WAV files - theres no reason why the quality should be any lower than the source material with the right engineering. Given that you could fit well in excess of 500 albums on a 500GB Hard Disc theres no reason to use a lossy format.
I think the internals pics make it clear the guy got to get hits mitts on the thing. Sitting down in a real-world audio environment - good hi-fi, proprly mounted speakers etc - is another matter, but it's a preview not a review.
Full write up in due course, Reg?
Not only lossy audio format
@Peter Roovers: the SlimDevices players support lossless compressed audio format (FLAC, see flac.sourceforge.net), which means that the output after decompression is exactly the same as the original input file. So, if you take some care converting the CD to audio files, using the right software and hardware, you can get the same quality out of the SlimDevices players as from a decent CD player.
I myself use the Squeezebox 3, connected to my hi-fi using the digital out, and I can't hear the difference between the original CD and the streamed audio. When I use the analog output of the Squeezebox, the quality is slightly less, though. Okay, I didn't spend more on my hi-fi then on the car, but it's pretty good all the same.
I have to agree with Steve though. I'd really like to read a review by audio specialists on the finished product :)
What would be the point...
...of creating such a device if it didn't incorporate lossless formats? Previous commenter should perhaps read the whole article.
I reckon it's a step in the right direction. Storing/playing music using computers has always had a pretty crappy image in the audiophile world, even with the advent of FLAC/Apple/Windows Lossless et al. Giving these CODECs quality hardware will mean they have a chance prove themselves 'properly' (or not, as the case may be).
It's just a pity that, as gear like this is coming out, more and more recordings suffer from abysmal/amateur studio engineering.
If I could afford it, I'd buy one.
Not worth it
I own a Squeezebox 3. I love it - it's (almost) perfect. I have all of my music archived to Apple Lossless (the better to transfer to an iPod), and it streams losslessly (or can be set to convert to mp3 on the fly if you are short on bandwidth). But I think in most cases it would be more effective (and versitile) to get a receiver with high-end DACs, and hook it up via digital (as I do now) than to upgrade to this thing.
It's very true Audiophile indeed!
Uses lossless and compressed files. Has perfect bit for bit transfer (up to Dac), unlike all CD transports which guess at bits if they can't read them quick enough. The way the clock is done is magic too.. you'd be pretty silly to stick an external Dac on this.
I can't wait to hear it.... mind you I guess MP3s are probably not going to sound so good through such a precise device (coupled with a top-end hifi).
It appears to include a top quality pre-amp too, which means I can get rid of my existing pre-amp, my SB2 and my Benchmark DAC1 too.... $2k is not beginning to look so bad after all! I might actually save money!
It REALLY is high end
As the author I'd just like to point out it really does work and IS high end. The benchmark was against a DAC1 and it performed better.
Also the internal clocks are extremely accurate, you may just be able to see in the monitor in the background some graphs, they compare the internal clock against an external one, and though both clocks were syncing at th esame time, the external clock was full of sideband "clicks" too, while the internal one was completely steady with no sideband issues.
The guy in the photo is Sean Adams the CEO and he is very dedicated to making this an extremely high-end product. The DACs and the linear PSUs came from the community who suggested they were the best of breed.
The Transporter has 4 digital inputs (optical, co-ax, bnc and XLR) and these can be connected to external devices (CD transport etc) which can then use th einternal DACs.
There are still some software bugs (mainly cosmetic) which will be ironed out before it is actually launched, and they are constantly trying to improve the sound.
Sorry if it sounds like an advert, but it's very difficult to have a play for an afternoon and not make it sound so. All I can say is I did see it working, it was playing lossless stuff and sounded very good.
Lavry DA10 also a contender
While this box definitely has functionality to spare, there are other products which may do better at D/A conversion for serious listeners. Among those is the Lavry DA10:
I mention this specifically because in at least one head-to-head with the DAC1, which you mention above, it won in terms of audio quality:
Anyways, one of the interesting comments in the shootout linked above is that it takes some time for a real evaluation of the pros and cons of a new toy in the audio chain to be determined. For this particular review the reviewer spent a number of months with both the DAC1 and the DA10 before drawing conclusions. That's probably not a possibility for most reviewers, but it's something to consider when reading product reviews.
"Sounded very good"?
"All I can say is I did see it working, it was playing lossless stuff and sounded very good."
...because you were bamboozled by all the shiny things and flashing lights and spectrum analyser displays. As has been mentioned before, a double blind test (using different sources, but the same material, amplifiers and loudspeakers, to keep them out of the equation) is the ONLY way to compare things like this. Otherwise, you simply have no reference point, and if you know what you're listening to, the brain will play so many tricks on you. Please try to be a little bit scientific, and avoid descending into the sort of self-serving drivel that is spouted by the hifi comics.
"CD transports...guess at bits if they can't read them quick enough"
Of course CD players have error correction and interpolation, which may be what you're meaning with your rather strange comment. But whether you're playing through the CD player's DAC itself or this device will make no difference - any uncorrected errors will still be there. And whether you replay an MP3 file through a £20 Chinese player or this device will also make no difference - these sort of bit errors will not be there. So I don't understand the point you are trying to make.
They really are hifi
The SqueezeBox 3 was reviewed in the latest issue of Stereophile and got excellent marks. The editor bought it for his use. For the average person, ripping a CD and replaying it via SlimServer will probably yield better results (a lot less jitter, for example) than playing it on a less than state-of-the-art CD player.
I tried comparing FLAC with the WinAmp alt-preset-standard MP3 encoding and can hear little if any difference, so I decided a factor of 4 compression versus 2 is worth it for my 20,000 classical tracks.
The SqueezeBox is a truly great product, and I use it also to listen to internet streams (like the BBC Proms concerts).
Hell, I thought it said Slim Devices Trainspotter! Here I was all set to configure one with my webcam feeds from Weymouth and Barnetby! Anyone know if the Slim Server can be hacked to provide image recognition and logging?