Some advice/assistance needed on buying a new tuner & amp

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Some advice/assistance needed on buying a new tuner & amp

My ancient receiver (Armstrong 1970's vintage) is on the point of dying, and I need a replacement. But what sort of kit to go for? I still play CDs and LPs, and listen when time permits to FM radio. But there are now digital feeds, which I find a bit perplexing.

OK, there are a load of sites which can be directly picked up by an internet-connected device such as the Arcam Solo Neo.

But there are also streaming sites which can only (as far as I can see) be accessed via a web browser (e.g. Gramophone player) or special software (Spotify, BBC iPlayer). How does one get these into the amplifier? I can string an audio cable from my PC to the amp, but this isn't ideal. A better solution would be to use my existing wireless network.

I asked my local "hi-fi" dealer and his comment was "I dunno. I use a Mac and it just works." And Googling doesn't produce much either. I found some software called Jamcast which claims to stream the audio output from the PC onto the wireless network but couldn't get it to work with a trial Arcam box, and neither manufacturer was able to help.

It seems to me that there's a gap here. Digital feed comes into the PC, but the only way to get it to an amplifier is to use the soundcard, even though the amp has a DAC which is miles better than the PC's. Or am I missing something?

Peter

RE: Some advice/assistance needed on buying a new tuner & amp

This will provide an optical digital output from the PC:

http://www.dv247.com/computer-hardware/m-audio-transit-usb-interface--17369

You can then send the bits to the DAC of your choice.

It also has a stereo analogue output to send staight to an amplifier. The DAC inside it is probably audibly indistinguishable from even a "high-end" DAC, given the state of current technology.

Edit: I've just noticed this is no longer available! However, I'm sure there are plenty of other similar devices around.

Like this:

http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/product/15385-e-mu-0404-usb2-0.html#sterling_uk

Robin

RE: Some advice/assistance needed on buying a new tuner & amp

Thanks, phileas, but I didn't make myself clear. I don't want to have to string a wire (optical or copper) beween the PC and the amp. I've got a wireless network in the house and the new amp will also have wireless Internet ( I expect). So what I want to do is to use the network to stream the PC output to the amp, which will have its own DAC - why should I wish to buy a second one? It's a software solution that's needed, not yet more hardware. And that's what seems to be missing.

There's plenty of software around which will let me store music on the PC and be picked up by the networking side of the amp. But nothing that I can find which works and lets me take streamed music off the Internet via the PC. So the data path would be Internet store (e.g. Spotify) -> PC running Spotify software -> (missing software) -> wireless network -> amplifier -> speakers -> my ears. Does that help?

Peter

RE: Some advice/assistance needed on buying a new tuner & amp

Peter

The type of device I had in mind was really just a way to convert USB to digital optical, the DAC part tends to be included. I'm sure there are simpler/cheaper gadgets than the second one I linked to. You can of course get soundcards with spdif out. However, I understand what you mean about not wanting a wire.

So, your PC is in a different room from the hifi? Or are we talking laptops here?

You've obviously looked into this more than I have. When you say "There's plenty of software around which will let me store music on the PC and be picked up by the networking side of the amp", is there not another piece of hardware before the amp? Or does this software come with the amp? I'm intrigued!

Obviously, there are streaming devices. I use Squeezeboxes with third party software plugins. So I can use the BBC iPlayer, for example. Whether anyone will be writing a Gramophone Player plugin anytime soon is doubtful!

It seems to me what we want is extra hardware. A sender and a receiver, which converts spdif to network traffic and back again prior to the DAC. This system would be hardware/software independent. Of couse it means extra boxes which is not good!

Sorry I couldn't be of any help to you.

Edit: I've just been looking at the Jamcast web site. It looks promising. I'm going to try getting it working with my Squeezebox. I'll report back. If it works, then I would have thought it should work with e.g. the Arcam Solo.

Robin

 

Robin

RE: Some advice/assistance needed.

The PC's in the same room (but in a different corner) from the hifi. Which is why I don't want to strings wires around the place if I can help it. So (being a cheapskate - or financially stretched, whichever way you want to look at it) I want to economise on new hardware by using the existing wireless house network.

As I understand it, Windows XP and later have uPnP built in, and the Solo Neo (and I assume other such boxes) has uPnP software built in which allows you to pick up the "My Music" folder from the Windows box. That worked fine when I tried it. But it won't pick up streamed music.

I'm sure that Squeezebox or similar would work (not that I've looked into is very deeply) but that's yet another expenditure on top of what I'm already going to have to spend on the tuner/amp replacement. Also, do I need two of them (one by the PC, one by the amp), or does it use uPnP? The specs don't say, so I rather assume it's proprietary and you get locked in.

As I used to be a programmer I could probably have written a suitable program, but that was a long time ago... And learning how to use the Windows API is something I'd prefer not to go into.

 

Peter

RE: Some advice/assistance needed.

The Squeezebox isn't really what you're looking for. It just so happens that it can do iPlayer because there's an app for it. It consists of a server (software on PC) and a box plugged in to the hifi.

My hardware "solution" (spdif>network>spdif) doesn't exist as far as I know.

It seems you want to get a web page (with audio) running on the PC and then "tune-in" to it with your network player. Jamcast apparently is supposed to do this. It sounds like it should work with the Arcam Solo and also my Squeezebox.

I haven't got it working yet!

Edit: Just got it (Jamcast) working! I can tune in to it over http using a url.

Robin

RE: Some advice/assistance needed

Well done getting Jamcast working. I didn't have much time, as the Solo Neo was only on loan from the shop over a long weekend, and quite a bit of that was spent in getting the hardware up and running, and checking out the FM and DAB reception. Now I've got a new PC running Windows 7 so that might be better. As far as I can see Jamcast just allows you to capture whatever would be coming out of the PC's speakers, and makes it available via uPnP to any audio device that's on the local internet.

Anyway, I've sent an email to the Gramophone for Andrew Everard's attention, so something might come of that.

Peter

RE: Some advice/assistance needed.

Phileas wrote:

It seems you want to get a web page (with audio) running on the PC and then "tune-in" to it with your network player. Jamcast apparently is supposed to do this. It sounds like it should work with the Arcam Solo and also my Squeezebox.

Out of interest (as a Squeezebox owner), what will Jamcast enable you to do that your Squeezebox won't?

"Louder! Louder! I can still hear the singers!"

- Richard Strauss to the orchestra, at a rehearsal.

RE: Some advice/assistance needed.

SpiderJon wrote:

Out of interest (as a Squeezebox owner), what will Jamcast enable you to do that your Squeezebox won't?

Well, I could, for example, get the Gramophone Player running on the PC and then listen through the hifi via the Squeezebox. It means I don't have to wire the PC to the hifi. I don't know of any other way of doing this at present, without extra hardware.

I probably won't personally ever do this, I just set it up out of interest. 

Robin

RE: Some advice/assistance needed

ptoye wrote:

 

Anyway, I've sent an email to the Gramophone for Andrew Everard's attention, so something might come of that.

And have had not even an acknowledgement, let alone a reply.

I've read Everard's latest article in the May issue, and this still implies that you need to buy extra kit (iPhone etc.) to interface. Why should you have to if the amplifier already has Wifi and uPnP enabled?

Peter

RE: Some advice/assistance needed on buying a new tuner & amp

>Or am I missing something?<

IMHO, yes. Only a tiny number of peeps have amps with built-in DACS. 99% of users are looking for a network music streamer with DAC which present an analogue feed to their 2-channel amps.

Maybe what your looking for is a unit with Airplay like Marantz CR603 which will stream a feed from iTunes running on a PC.

N.B. There's a plugin for SQueezebox Server which will 'capture' everything from the PC's soundcard and stream that to player(s) over the network.

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