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Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

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Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Sun Apr 22, 2012 8:00 pm

I'm back, after a long, long absence. I couldn't think of a better place to ask my questions. (BTW, I am still a noob.)

I've pretty much decided to set up a Sonos system in my house. I've studied the Sonos web site and now have a pretty good understanding of the system itself. However, what is much more difficult to get a grasp of is the equipment and setup needed to have the best quality music (from CD collection) play in a convenient method over the system. I think that any comprehensive planning of the equipment purchases and set up begins with the CDs and the music files on them. I'm the kind of guy who won't buy one item util the entire system is detailed out -- I don't want any "Ooops, I should have bought that one instead!" discoveries along the way.

I have my CD collection on my HDD in Apple's AAC format. This was done a few years ago, before Apple's Lossless encoder was available. I now have around 88GB of AAC songs in iTunes. It was a real PIA to do all this, but I'm willing to do it again to improve the fidelity of the music that I will play over the Sonos system. I'd like to have the music stored and made continuously available on a NAS (I'll ask about these another time; I was unaware of these until three days ago). I naively thought I could just copy a CD/the tracks of the CD right onto a hard drive, but I learned that CD tracks have a file format of .cda, which is limited to inclusion on CDs. I did try to copy the track, but only a 1kb link was copied. So, after floundering around the internet, I returned to the Sonos web site and there they listed their supported audio formats: https://sonos.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/80/kw/file+types+supported/session/L3RpbWUvMTMzNTEyNTM4Ny9zaWQvaU5TekNpV2s%3D#var_g Uncompressed and lossless formats are AIFF and WAV, neither of which Sonos recommends. Compressed and lossless formats supported are FLAC and ALAC (Apple's Lossless format). Reading through these reveals that the Apple Lossless format is probably preferable.

OK, now to my question: As I rip my CDs onto my HDD as ALAC files, how much inflluence does the quality of my CD/DVD player/burner have on the quality of the new, compressed files? I looked up the specs of the CD burner and DVD burner I have, but no specs reveal much other than the speed ("x" factors, e.g., 24x). I can see that there might not be anything else to consider if the CD is copied exactly acurately. Is there any concern about which CD or DVD player I would / should use when I begin the monumental task of copying/ripping all my CDs?

The goal is to copy all these GBs of songs/files on a NAS and have that my primary music source on the Sonos system. Obviously, these files will need to be read. I'm assuming that the NAS is pretty much just a stand-alone HDD. Will the music files on the NAS be read accurately, resulting in the best available fidelity? Are there differing qualities of NAS devices that I should be aware of, and therefore, try to purchase for the relatively best music fidelity? I imagine that there is a DAC that all these files must pass through on their way to the speakers. I'm not sure where this/these are in the Sonos system or the quality of the DAC. As I type now, I'm beginning to think that this component (other than the quality of speakers) may have the greatest impact on the quality of music that I hear... (But I'd still want to use the "best" CD player and NAS I could unless this concern was irrelevant.)

Any and all thoughts and advice about this (or setting up a Sonos system, e.g., best NAS, best wireless router, etc.) would be welcome. Thanks for reading. (I'll probably be asking about the best router and its setup after I get a handle on this aspect....)
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Sun Apr 22, 2012 10:08 pm

NuGuy wrote:OK, now to my question: As I rip my CDs onto my HDD as ALAC files, how much inflluence does the quality of my CD/DVD player/burner have on the quality of the new, compressed files? I looked up the specs of the CD burner and DVD burner I have, but no specs reveal much other than the speed ("x" factors, e.g., 24x). I can see that there might not be anything else to consider if the CD is copied exactly acurately. Is there any concern about which CD or DVD player I would / should use when I begin the monumental task of copying/ripping all my CDs?


As you've found, some drives are faster than others, but its been many years since I found a drive that couldn't rip an audio CD accurately. Scratched and dirty discs is another story altogether, but if your CD"s are in good shape, any drive will probably do fine.

The biggest factor in quality is going to be the format you use to encode the tracks but it sounds like you've really done a lot of research on this. My only suggestion here would be to look and see what devices support ALAC. You're kind of painting yourself into a corner if its only supported by Apple and Sonos.

NuGuy wrote:The goal is to copy all these GBs of songs/files on a NAS and have that my primary music source on the Sonos system. Obviously, these files will need to be read. I'm assuming that the NAS is pretty much just a stand-alone HDD. Will the music files on the NAS be read accurately, resulting in the best available fidelity? Are there differing qualities of NAS devices that I should be aware of, and therefore, try to purchase for the relatively best music fidelity? I imagine that there is a DAC that all these files must pass through on their way to the speakers. I'm not sure where this/these are in the Sonos system or the quality of the DAC. As I type now, I'm beginning to think that this component (other than the quality of speakers) may have the greatest impact on the quality of music that I hear... (But I'd still want to use the "best" CD player and NAS I could unless this concern was irrelevant.)

Any and all thoughts and advice about this (or setting up a Sonos system, e.g., best NAS, best wireless router, etc.) would be welcome. Thanks for reading. (I'll probably be asking about the best router and its setup after I get a handle on this aspect....)


In the simplest terms, a NAS is nothing more than a hard drive, or group of hard drives, on a network. For the Sonos, you're going to want to see what network protocols it supports. I'm guessing it supports iTunes so you'll probably want a NAS that supports iTunes streaming. DLNA is another standard that's used to stream music and movies. I'm guessing most iTunes streaming servers won't have any problems with AFLAC, but you may want to check and see if other media streaming services support it.

I'd check out the NAS units from Synology, QNAP and Thecus. They can be a bit pricey, but even the low end models have a lot of features and more than likely they'll do what you're looking for.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:02 am

Thanks. I'm at work now, so I can't do much surfing the 'net, etc. But, yes, Sonos seems to be endorsing Apple protocols. Admitedly, they are convenient. Sonos mentions Apple AirPlay, and I'm not sure what that is -- maybe this is a NAS? I'll have to investigate further, now that I've (we've) gotten the CD/HDD/Fidelity issue out of the way.

I would expect my NAS to be on & ready to go 24/7. In light of this, I think I would want something very durable -- many thousands of hours before failure. I'm wondering if any NAS units power down after a few minutes of idleness/no commands...? Assuming I might use a non-Apple NAS, is there a unit that particularly appeals to you, knowing its intended demands? I'm seeing a lot of solid state drives on the market now being advertised. If my music collection isn't too large (89GB as AAD files now), then an SSD might be the best way to go. I don't know how the AAD vs. ALAC sizes of files compare.... I'll have to rip a few songs to each format and compare.

(Initially, when I thought I'd do uncompressed copying, I expected to have to have a dedicated HDD or NAS that exceeded 1TB; I was going to get a 3TB to be on the safe side.)
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:58 am

Most NAS units offer a low power mode but it can be disabled. I would skip the single drive NAS units as there's no redundancy there in case of a failure. Look at least a 2 bay unit that will mirror a pair of 2TB or 3TB drives. That will give you plenty of storage for your music as well as a backup in case one drive fails.

I wouldn't bother putting an SSD in a NAS. Save that your your desktop or laptop. You'll get the most benefit there.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby redk9258 on Tue Apr 24, 2012 9:47 pm

I would recommend you check out Exact Audio Copy. It can guarantee the CD rips are accurate because it has the ability to compare the ripped files checksums with an online database. I would also recommend using the FLAC file format for lossless audio. You can decompress a FLAC file and it will have the same checksum as the original wave file. You may be limited as to what can be done with an Apple file format.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Tue Apr 24, 2012 10:04 pm

I second EAC. There can be a bit of a learning curve, but its a powerful tool.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:10 pm

Thanks. I haven't had much Apple equipment since I gave away my Apple IIe system, but my wife and I do have iPods, and I wanted to get her an iPad. But, seeing how the Sonos system works and that the iPad is simply an alternative control device, I wouldn't have to have my music in Apple Lossless. But we both are familiar using iTunes, and I suppose it would be easier to stay "in Apple." As you read above, my original plan was to (best) duplicate my collection in an identical format that the CDs are in, well, something like that - complete versions which are uncompressed and, by default, lossless, and this would be saved on a dedicated HDD as my Master Music File, so to speak. From this master file I thought I could/would make two (2) differing conversion copies: 1.) to Apple Lossless for use on our iPods and with the Sonos system, and 2.) to MP3 so that I could play these in my car. (In case you're wondering, my car just missed by one year the digital input on the radio/cd player. I was copying/converting my AAC files to MP3 (a real PIA, lossing a lot of data/file organizing dsate along the way) so that I could burn these onto CDs and play them in my car's 5 or 6 disc CD player. That was OK until the CD transport mechanism got jammed. So, the easiest solution I found and do, and one I think I actually prefer, is to copy the MP3 files onto SD memory cards and play them on a cheap FM radio transmitter unit that plugs into the cigarrette light/power port. I just play the songs sequentially, in alphabetical order. It's OK for me....)

I've read some about EAC while researching Sonos infomation. It is very well-regarded and popular. I'm sure I could convert anything to anything with it.

I want the iPad not to serve solely as a Sonos controller, but also as a way to the Internet, and for playing games (she like slots) that aren't too memory demanding. But I thought I read somewhere that the iPad could NOT multitask. Of course, you'd want to control and listen to music over the Sonos system via the iPad "controller" app. But at the same time, while listening to music, play a game or surf the 'net. I'll have to research some more about this. If I can't control the Sonos and do something else simutaneously, then that would be a deal breaker for the iPad. In that case I would start researching Android tablets. BTW, for anyone who knows, if you were controlling/listening to the Sonos via the iPad as the Sonos controller, how could you NOT also get game play sounds coming over the Sonos system at the same time? If the game did not have an "sound off" switch, and only the volume, then there might be a real problem.... (Gee, I'm such a noob....)

I spent an hour or two on the Sonos site looking for NAS and router recommendations. Sonos lists a few Manufacturers and says that "MOST routers work with Sonos.... Well, that's not much help; I want to know that the router I'm buying will work, not that it probably will, before I buy one. So, I spent most of my time over on their forum, thinking that if Sonos themselves are unwilling to make specific recommendations, that there should be some Sonos forum members who will. Well, surprisingly, there were few recommendations. Nothing, really, about a real good router. But I did find that, as Ian mentioned, Synology NASs are the way to go. One guy says he has a two-drive, 2TB each, "J" series, mirrored/redundant ("backup" although someone there replied that having your backup drive out in the environment and susceptible to fire, theft and other hazards it was not really a backup drive). I'm sure I'll go this same route, maybe with 3TB dirves if I'm sure I can also use the same NAS as a backup device for for all the stuff on my computer. Also, Synology works well with iTunes (altough I'm not sure how that makes a significant difference, but is reassuring for guys like me). I got tired of Sonos' lame answers to their FAQs and I emailed lengthy a reply to a "NO, this was not helpful" response button, with suggestions. I'm sure I'll be the object of disparaging conversation at Sonos HQ on Monday morning....

I appreciate all the replies. Thanks.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Sun Apr 29, 2012 2:55 pm

It looks like the Sonos just plugs into an ethernet port on your router so pretty much any will work. It's too bad it doesn't have built in wireless.

Having mirrored hard drives technically isn't a backup per se. However, it does protect your data if one fails. You may want to see if Synology offers some sort of cloud based backup. I can't remember if they do.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:27 pm

No, there are some hardware incompatability issues. If you're curious: https://sonos.custhelp.com/app/answers/ ... cnpUV2s%3D

I doubt that I would ever store anything in a Cloud.... I'm just not that trusting of a guy.... :-?
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Wed May 02, 2012 12:53 pm

I'm searching through the Synology web site -- man, there's a lot of information there! They seem to be very consumer oriented, and this is good for me. It looks like their DiskStation DS212J "Budget-friendly 2-bay NAS Server for Small Office and Home Use" fits the bill. I'm starting to read the user's manual. Here's a link from that PDF I stumbled across regarding the type of HDD drive that is supported by RAID. I would have never known any better: http://wdc.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1397 I'll have half the equivalent of an Associate's degree in Computer Science before I buy that Sonos system... :-?
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Wed May 02, 2012 7:23 pm

The latest Crutchfield had some info on the Sonos. I see you need a wireless bridge if you don't want to run ethernet cable? Is that right?

http://www.crutchfield.com/p_616BR100/S ... tml?tp=257
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Thu May 03, 2012 12:38 pm

As I understand it, The Sonos system has to be physically connected to your IP somewhere. It could be at any of their components, e.g., one of their independent/self-contained speaker assemblies, as all Sonos components are designed to be wirelessly interconnected. You only need a single hard wired connection to a single Sonos component. In most cases people will opt to conveniently connect to the Bridge near their computer rather than inconveniently at a remote speaker. Once that single wire connection is made, all Sonos components will then be wirelessly connected (via Sonos' own wireless system) and will function as an interactive system, supporting up to a total of 32 units.

It looks like the Bridge is wired to the wireless router, and I'm wondering what function the wireless router serves (strictly within the Sonos system) if it connects directly via a wire to the Bridge. It would SEEM that the Bridge could connect directly (via wire) to your IP modem.... But, I'll need a wireless router since I'll want to use an iPad for other activities in addition to controlling the Sonos.

http://www.crutchfield.com/p_616BR100/S ... tml?tp=257

PS - Of course you would need that router if your computer was configured for wireless use and was not directly connected to the router to begin with....

PPS - I'm checking this out: http://www.crutchfield.com/p_779STMGC6S ... ml?tp=7046
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Sat May 05, 2012 7:59 pm

OK, I guess adding this YouTube link will not send my thread off course much more than it is. Here is the first of a series of six parts describing the Sonos system:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gL0-7BOg ... E642EBDF76
There's some kind of autoplay selection link here for this series of Sonos tutorials; auto play is not on. The weird thing is that to access episode #2, you have to click on the "Previous Video" button. (Clicking on "Next Video" takes you to episode #6....)



BTW, the Sonos site says you can connect directly into your modem IF it has a built in router:
http://www.sonos.com/support/help/3.4/e ... System.htm
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Sat May 05, 2012 10:57 pm

The thing I don't like about the Sonos is that it doesn't work over existing wireless networks. If you want to use wireless, you have to buy their bridge.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Dartman on Sun May 06, 2012 1:31 pm

You know you can get a media player that will do more for MUCH less and play all the music you want in any format, plus everything else.
I have a couple and the music I play with mine sounds fine to me but maybe the Sonos has a audiophile output stage or something that makes it worth a huge premium to have.
One of my players even has a wireless dongle kit and probably works with others as well though I've never bothered to get one for it. I use gigabyte wired network here as it just more stable and fast compared to trying to get wireless to do everything.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Mon May 07, 2012 12:04 pm

Dartman - I haven't made any financial commitment to anything yet, and I would be interested in at least reading about your player/system. Can you post a link to a/the product(s), or provide a product name that I could Google? I'm not familiar with the media player (this is a dedicated HDD?), as well as the "gigabyte wired network."

I never initially intended to go this Sonos route. My CD player is old and getting flaky, the receiver is old and has no remote control. So, I began investigating replacement components for these. Then I thought it would be really great to get around the stacks of CDs we have and also make playing "them" easy and convenient. My wife also wanted a player in the bedroom, and was suggesting a Bose combo unit.... Anyway, one thing led to another. The Sonos "sounded" good (not its audio fidelilty, but I have read that it is decent for all but the most sophisticated audiophilic ears). It's still the front-runner of my considerations. Again, figuring out the Sonos components is relatively easy--its the wireless router and NAS evaluation/selection/proper setup & use that's delaying my purchase.... Sonos (after my critique of their info offerings) responded and they will get back with me after evaluating my "suggestion." The reply was a boilerplate/automated email....

I've decided on the wireless router. I'm the kind of guy who wants to make only a single purchase and to stretch its potential life out as long as possible. (I buy cars expecting to drive them for at least 15 years.) I've decided on the Cisco Linksys EA4500. Seems to have everything--multiple connections (incl. USB), dual band capability, and the IP6 protocol (staving off obsolesence). If this Sonos system goes well, I may wirelessly connect my TV to watch Netflix or whatever (i.e., expand my wireless realm); I want the inherent/potential flexibility to expand.

Thanks.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Dartman on Mon May 07, 2012 10:00 pm

OK, here's the link to Pivos forum for the Aios media player http://www.pivosforums.com/. This is their own forum and has a lot of good info and answers to many questions, the latest firmware updates, the semi official user made updates, all that stuff. It will hold one 3.5 SATA drive internally, has a few external USB ports so other external drives can be added, and other options I've forgotten about more then likely.
Here's the forum for the user made updates for the WDTVLive that I also have so you can check it out though I don't think they make the live or live plus anymore but they may still have some plus units around, or refurb deals. http://forum.wdlxtv.com/ I like my Aios player better right now for playing all my HD video and computer format files and movies, The WD has more cool widgets and internet gadgets and can play almost everything the Aios can but the Aios supports ISO playback and BD ISO playback a bit better. As far as audio I think they both will play almost any format and have various playback options though I mainly have DTS audio files and DVD-Audio files I'm playing back and they sound great but of course you'll need a working 5.1 system, HDTV hopefully, and a wired network, or wireless for the Aios, to plug it all in and work together.
I paid 99 for the Aios, and about 120 for the Live and you can find them or other similar units for that kind of money all over, or much more, depending on what extra goodies or special playback options, like full Blu Ray ISO menu support, that you'd want. You of course would have to put all your CD's and whatever else you want to play into about any format that makes you happy and sounds or looks best so you'd have some time converting everything but once it's done you can put the disks away in case anything happens to the files, and not have to play them again.
Good luck and hope you find something that suits your needs and wants no matter what it may end up being.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Tue May 08, 2012 12:06 pm

Thanks, Dartman. I noted your reply late last night and have not had a chance to really read about the Aios media player yet. I'll get to it sometime today/tonight.

Earlier in the evening I checked my email, and there was my usual daily Newegg.com message. This one declared 15% off all NAS units! So I checked a couple out. Well, I read the Newegg.com reviews of the Synology NAS unit that I had my eye on. Most were favorable, all said that setting it up was a little tricky, might be difficult for someone without true computer skills & knowledge. A few were not favorable at all, and in addition to set-up difficulties, pretty much damned Synology's poor customer service.... I think this is a deal breaker for me & Synology. (One guy reported that a customer rep, like the third one in a series of hand-offs, said he couldn't understand him and hung up on him...! I guess that's an effective way to get rid of troublesome customer. :( ) QNAP has a near-identical NAS (consumer entertainment oriented), but I haven't read the reviews on this one yet. A cursory review of the reviews of one NetGear product severely criticized their lack of customer support also. More research is in order.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Tue May 08, 2012 2:24 pm

NuGuy, do me a favor and update your email address. Any time someone replies to this thread, I get a bounce notice.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Tue May 08, 2012 4:38 pm

PM'd
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Wed May 09, 2012 9:43 am

Hey, Dartman - I finally had a chance to look over the Aios media player. I did some reading and watched a couple of YouTube audiovisual descriptions. It is a pretty cool unit, and it seems that just about everyone likes it. But it's a little too visually oriented for us - we're just not into a lot of movies, etc.. (yet), -- we don't even have a flat screen TV! We're just a couple of sticks in the mud; we'll "get there" some day. (My entertainment center is a 21-inch Panasonic cathrode ray tube TV with built in VHS and DVD players.... I did see that the Aios unit has the composite/RCA connectors.) So, I think the Sonos with its multi-room wireless speaker capabilities is probably best for my circumstances; it should make my wife happy. Now all I have to do is select a decent user-friendly two-drive NAS made by a customer-friendly manufacturer. Anyway, it's always good to evaluate all possibilities so that we can make informed decisions. I appreciate it. Thanks.


PS -

Checked Newegg.com out during lunch. Searched NAS unit via Best rating. I'm gonna get the QNAP TS-212-US: http://www.newegg.com/Store/SubCategory ... der=RATING

QNAP lists compatable HDDs on their site.... next stop.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Dartman on Wed May 09, 2012 8:19 pm

My HDTV is a 2005 Toshiba 34HFX84 34" CRT set here also. I bought it because it was a good price and has great black level, unlike any of the LCD or plasma sets at that time. It even had 2 HDMI inputs and that was pretty new and they still work with everything I have and a MonoPrice 4 way HDMI switcher.
It'll be interesting to hear what you think of the Sonos but I'm a happy camper with my media players as I do a lot of video capturing to the PC with my HDHomerun prime networked Cable card 3 tuner box 8)
Sounds like your making the right choice for your needs and use so enjoy when you get it. :D
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Wed May 16, 2012 11:11 pm

Well, tonight I spent some time on various sites reading up on NAS units; did a lot of reading at the QNAP community forum reading up on users' NAS units w/ Sonos. It seems there is some compatability issues or working issues. Even the QNAP folks have problems getting their NAS units to work correctly. (But their posts mentioning Sonos are 1-2 years old....)

Seems like an awful lot of Hitachi HDDs arrive DOA.

A popular combo of NAS/HDD on Newegg.com: QNAP TS-219P+ and Samsung HD204UI (2TB).

Anyway, I'm about ready to fall back to Plan A and simply forget the Sonos system. Originally, my wife just wanted an new amp and CD player..... (Plan A). The idea to have all my music available with the touch of my finger, and in different rooms, was my idea, the (very) small amount of Geek in me. :)

I'll have to sleep on it. Maybe waiting a year or two would help. I'm sure there will be some product improvement, and competition.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby Ian on Thu May 17, 2012 1:17 am

There are amps out there now that support DLNA.
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Re: Fidelity of Music Saved to HDD

Postby NuGuy on Thu May 17, 2012 8:36 am

I had to Google that... :-? I'll check it out later. Thanks.
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