music server question -- iTunes + terabyte server ??

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by maikeru, May 17, 2004.

  1. maikeru macrumors member

    Jan 7, 2004

    i'm a serious music and equipment junkie....have a pretty serious home stereo.

    i would LOVE to be able to source high quality sound through a music server, but even mp3, etc. just does not cut it for non-portables....

    hard drive storage costs are getting cheap enough for me to just dump a whole uncompressed (AIFF ?) cd onto the drive....

    so here's my question:
    how do i get that data from a server or external hard drive into my pre-amp without degrading the sound?

    also, could i then re-convert all that data to mp3 or whatever for my iPod?

    lastly, would iTuned allow me to control BOTH the uncompressed and compressed files on the stereo, powerbook, and iPod ??

    thanks for any insight !!
  2. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    I'm not enough of an audio junkie to give you a good answer, but here's one overly simplified option (not nearly as in depth as what you're trying to do):

    Get yourself a G5. Rip your CDs as uncompressed (or better yet, the new Apple Lossless codec, to save half the space at no quality expense). Hook your stereo up via the G5's optical audio out. Play songs via iTunes. This is what I do, since I'm not an audio junkie and my Mac is very close to my stereo.

    That's too simple for what you're trying to do, but there are, I believe, audio cards for the Mac that will save you having to buy a G5, or you could do something similar with a cheap PC server, or there are products designed to stream music from a mac to your stereo, and some might be lossless.

    I'm trying to be helpful, but I'm sure somebody else knows way more than me.
  3. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    if you use apple's lossless to rip your cds you can put them on your ipod right from itunes, but they will obviously be much larger files and thus you will not be able to fit as many songs on there as if they were compressed audio i dont know anything about hooking up to your soundsystem sorry
  4. Craigy macrumors 6502

    Jan 14, 2003
    New Zealand
    Getting your audio out.

    I think itunes supports uncompressed AIFF / EAV audio as standard so you could encode your cd's in that way - look in the advanced tab in the preferences. You could then also convert these to MP3 (using iTunes again or some other application) and Keey your MP£ and AIFF tunes in seperate fodlers.

    You could use an optical out if you have a G5 desktop - if you do not I would suggest you buy an external firewire audio interface (They starr from around £100 in the UK - companies like MAUDIO etc) - This would give you bother opical (TOSLINK) and SPDIF on RCA Phono together with standard analogue outputs with half decent D-A converters. The usint would also allow you to record digital / analogue audio into the mac.

    While the Apple 'lossless codec' is good, I find it hard to beleive any compression software would not degrade the sound qualitiy even slightly, I would image you could tell the difference quite simmply on a decent HiFi.

    The oter thing I might suggest is that you get an external firewie drive and use this as you music library. You could easiliy move this come computer to computer and it leaves your mac HD freed up.

    Hope this helps.
  5. bertagert macrumors 6502

    Jan 13, 2003

    I have a similar setup as you. This is what I'm doing:

    Go to They have two products. Soundbridge (for playing music only) and the Digital Media Player (for playing music and watching photos on the TV).

    The Digital Media Player has an on screen (on your tv that is) for browsing and playing media). I opted not to get this as the Soundbridge is for music only and has total support for playing all your songs in any format you have and the ability to use itunes for your player (plus, i don't care to see my photos on the tv or have to navigate my songs on the tv screen). Current formats supported: MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis (does not play DRM files downloaded off of itms or any WMP files with DRM. You can play and organize your music through a web browser, itunes or on the on screen display of the player it self (check out the site to see). This includes playing your playlist etc. Player also comes with a remote to change tracks/playlist if you would rather do it that way.

    This is all streamed to your home stereo through your network either wired or wireless (compact flash wireless card optional). You can also get the optional mounting brackets that attach right to your rack or on the wall.

    All in all, this is a pretty sweet setup. Oh, it also allows you to stream internet radio as well. I pre ordered mine the other day. Hopefully it will be here in the next few weeks.

    Final note: there are a lot of third party people that extend the product to play other stuff/some are even trying to stream video files. Go check it out. Its probably the answer to your question.
  6. melchior macrumors 65816


    Nov 17, 2002
    in the scenario you are looking at, the weakest link is the sound card. as long as you can be satisfied with your sound card running a clean and interference free output (digital output is by no means the only path to take. a high quality sound card with high quality cabling should be enough)

    as for your choice of storage format. FLAC is the audiophiles choice, but quicktime isn't exactly friendly... the same for SHN. but these are what you use if you care more about your music than your software. apples lossless is slightly dubious. there is no doubt that it does reproduce almost every bit of sound, but there is the catch, there are a few bits missing. Decoding of the Apple Lossless files can be done with QuickTime Pro 6.5.1 (Export -> Sound to Wave). BUT! The decoded files will not be bit-identical to the original WAVE files. Comparing the WAVE files with Exact Audio Copy showed that the decoded Apple files were a few (less than 100) samples shorter than the original files. Most people wouldn't care, but then, most people think 128k mp3's sound fine...

    how many songs do you have? in itunes i have about 45 days worth of music. most people consider that a somewhat excessive amount. if you are serious about a terabyte server that would give you about 70 days of continuous 44khz 16bit raw aiff audio. AND you'd be able to use itunes.. =)

    i wouldn't mind hearing what you ended up doing...
  7. ibookin' macrumors 65816


    Jul 7, 2002
    Los Angeles, CA
    Like others have said, there are quite a few options for high-quality sound output from your Mac. What you'll probably want to do is get some kind of information display (like an LCD or something) to put on your stereo rack, and then a remote.

    I recommend the Keyspan remote. I have one that came with my EyeTV, and while the remote itself does not have many features, the software allows you to use other remotes that offer more control. Note that I have not tried this myself, so I don't know how well it works.

    Either that, or you could use a Bluetooth enabled Palm or Sony Ericsson (or Symbian) cell phone with this: to remote control it. This would actually almost eliminate the need for the monitor, as the title/artist/etc. would be show on the phone display.

    For storage, you'll probably want a cheap PC with a lot of disk sitting on your network. Either that, or get a LaCie BigDisk. I don't know of any currently produced Macs that hold over 600GB, unless you modify them.
  8. Makosuke macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2001
    The Cool Part of CA, USA
    It's not cheap, but any G5 with two 400GB Hitachi 7K400 SATA drives installed will hold 800GB with no modification. Add one of the two available extra-drive-mount-kits, and you can fit up to 5 drives in a G5, for between 1.25TB and 2TB, depending on whether you want to limit yourself to 250GB drives or not.

    That said, I'd probably use an external case as well--there are plenty of nice ones on the market. Ideal, if money was no object, would be one of the 4-drive hardware RAID-5 Firewire 800 cases; those have a spiffy transfer rate (though far lower than in should be on current G5s, due to a glitch in their FW implimentation), provide "automatic" backup with the RAID, and you end up with either 750GB or 1.2TB of useable external storage, going with 250GB or 400GB drives.

    As for Apple lossless, I'm not an audio nut, but although there might be a miniscule difference in the resulting output, I expect it's EXTREMELY minimal (not like the difference between uncompressed and AAC or MP3 audio). I'll bet it has something to do with the "edges" of the file--for example, the lossless codec has a minimum chunk of time, so the file gets cropped at the end by a few milliseconds, producing the discrepancy in before and after files. (An interesting test to see if this is the issue would be to re-lossless-encode one of the "different" uncompressed files, and see if it comes out the same, indicating that the only difference was a hair of length or some similar artifact. It's also possible that the difference is happing on the decompress end, not in the compression.)

    Assuming that you've still got your CDs laying around if you ever want to go back to the source, the advantage of Apple Lossless is that it's going to be very close to FLAC if not functionally the same, but since it's QT compatible, you can easily use it with iTunes and the iPod, so you don't have to forego using iTunes or cross-code every time you want to download your tunes onto your iPod.

    If it's that much of a deal, though, uncompressed CD works with iTunes and iPod, even though you don't get the ~50% savings of FLAC or Apple Lossless.
  9. advocate macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2004
    Holy cow! You mean to say that all those times I zipped up text files, I was actually losing quality? Maybe my screen resolution just isn't high enough to see the difference!

    Get over it. Audio files are files just like any other. A lossless codec isn't lossless unless the byte stream coming out the decoder is identical to the byte stream that went into the encoder to begin with.
  10. Craigy macrumors 6502

    Jan 14, 2003
    New Zealand
    I've got nothing to get over - simple an observatin not a critasisum or something to become upset about. All our music library is compressed and I havent had a decent hifi for years. I have however spent 20 years in the recording insudtry and seen enough 'audiophiles' get upset over stupud things like 24bit vd 16bit, sampling rates of up to 192k to satisfy some, and those who can still tell the difference between vinyl and CD.

    I know very little about Apple's 'lossless' codec - but I think know enough about most kinds of exiasting audio compression to know that I've never ever come accross one that is truly lossless. I hope I'm prooved wrong.
  11. melchior macrumors 65816


    Nov 17, 2002
    nothing is truly lossless? well, yes. and there are no straight lines in the universe.

    but as far PCM encoding goes FLAC and SHN are lossless. the data that goes in, comes out the other end *identical* but where do these fall short? in the original encoding of PCM. if we had the luxury maybe we would demand that all the music we cared about was only listened to on vinyl.

    recording, it's own essence degrades from the original sound. and thus anything following that is a lesser. super audio cd, dvd audio, vinyl... they all represent attempts at higher definition of audio.

    the bottom line? if PCM audio is good enough for you, then FLAC and SHN replicate that 100%. apple's codec replicates that at 99.9%

    you have a choice =)

    oh and as for audiophiles, there is audiophilia and there is just plain crazy. can i personally tell the difference between cd's and vinyl? of course i can. can i hear the difference between 256 aac and cd? yes. do i care so much that i won't settle for anything less than the original cd mastering? no. i don't. some do. they pay for it. it's their money. let them do it. let them spend $100's on cables. maybe they make it a tax write-off? =) good luck to them!
  12. warcraftmaster macrumors regular

    Dec 5, 2003
    no one said this you get a g5 and on of thos Xserve RAID and get the fibre channel thing. hook your g5 and your RAID plus you could get 3500gb :eek: witch i think is more then you need unless you inport dvds tooo. just change music folder location out on to the xserve and you can have 750,000 songs at 128 bits i think :confused: you do the math but i am going to do this when i am a million air :D
  13. nuckinfutz macrumors 603


    Jul 3, 2002
    Middle Earth
    re Apple lossless

    Nice thread on Apple Lossless. It seems that plenty of people are getting bit for bit copies of wav files after encode/decode from Apple Lossless Encoder. I'd feel %100 confident that your audio would remain pristine in either FLAC or ALE.

    There is no way i'd pass up to opportunity to save 50% of my drive space without losing quality. Lossless is the way to go.

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