Steven Stone Changed My Life!

Robert Harley -- Sat, 07/19/2008 - 16:58

Steven Stone Changed My Life!

As an inveterate analogophile, I have entered the digital age, kicking and screaming but inevitably dragged along with the appearance of digital playback equipment that approached the best that analog (vinyl) has always offered. Equipment like the Esoteric P-03/D-03/G-Orb has made this life passage considerably easier than I expected. Now along comes Steven Stone’s “Music Servers for Audiophiles-The Time Has Finally Come” in the August Digital Issue. Until his review of the Logitech Squeezebox Duet, I had always considered such products as strictly low-fi accessories for background listening while working on one’s computer. After reading this thoughtful review and duly noting that Steve linked his Squeezebox to a superior DAC, I took the plunge and bought it. Following the hook-up diagram from Wi-Fi to Duet to DAC, I dutifully opened all of the free accounts that I could (already having Sirius and Rhapsody subscription services).

For potential listeners (and possible buyers), all I can say is WOW! Listening to on-line services with at least 128 kbps through an audiophile system, the sound is good enough to hold your attention without apologies or fatigue. I would add that I upsampling the 44.1k stream to 176k via the Esoteric D-03. The price of admission, compared to some of the other music server alternatives, is silly cheap. Readers who are Sirius, Rhapsody or other music service subscribers will enter a whole new sphere of existence when they play these music sources through good equipment.

As Mr. Stone points out, the added ability to surf some of the best radio in the world is an amazing bonus that would alone justify such a system.

A couple of minor cavils and caveats. To access stored mp3 files, there is a program called MP3tunes that talks directly to ITunes. The bad news is that depending on the number, size, and resolution of the files, it literally takes hours to sync these files to the MP3 locker. The good news is that once done, new files are added fairly rapidly. Another problem (that did not prevent me from using all of my squeezebox’s functionality) is that certain virus detection programs, like McAfee, prevent the Squeezebox center from opening. There is a work around for this problem but it requires disabling and reinstalling the virus protection software. Hopefully, the Logitech team will work on this bug.

I am truly in the Absolute Sound’s debt. Having added the Squeezebox Duet to my system, a new and exciting listening experience is now mine forever.

Lawrence Devoe, M.D.

Augusta Georgia

Steven Stone -- Sun, 07/20/2008 - 08:47

Welcome to the 21st century!

I think music lovers and audiophiles never had it so good. :D

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

dhs0403 -- Sat, 04/23/2011 - 08:54

You're right -- especially when it comes to the streaming FM stations located world wide.
Never before have we had free and unrestricted access to such a variety of music.
I use a Macbook, Music Streamer and ITUNES/RADIO to stream FM from the internet into my receiver.
Question -- The ITUNES metrics for each station include the kbps bit rate and the kHz sample rate.
At one end of the spectrum, we have stations like KMozart citing 32 kbps bit rate and an unknown sample rate.
At the other end, we have BBC Radio 3 citing 320 kbps bit rate and 44.1 sample rate.
-- since this is streaming music, do these statistics mean anything?
-- if they do, how do they compare to the metrics for Red Book CD?
Keep up the good work.

Steven Stone -- Sat, 04/23/2011 - 09:05

 Hello Dave,
My personal experience is that anything below 64 kBPS sounds phasey and amusical.
128 kBPS is decent, but for full fidelity 256 and above is the ticket.
320 kBPS still isn't as full rez as 44.1/16 redbook, but it can be quite involving. Unless you do a real-time A/B between 320 kBPS file and a 44.1/16 file you might not notice the loss.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

hltf -- Sat, 04/23/2011 - 12:37

Many thanks from me too for your advice on how to get into computer audio. I have found your W4S DAC2 and Mac Mini recommendations to be right on the mark.  I am very impressed with the sound I am getting this last month or so from this configuration.  I have been using my TV screen as my computer monitor using HDMI to connect the computer to the TV.  The W4S DAC2 is quite amazing - harmonically rich and detailed, non-digital sounding, excellent bass -  a big upgrade from my previous players.  And altogether very affordable.
Very much appreciated and please keep it coming.  Regards,

hltf -- Sun, 10/02/2011 - 17:51

I read your recent article on the Bel Canto DAC3.5 and also the Peachtree iDAC.  I have a related question.  I see that you have been making comparisons among DACs using the Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 4 USB convertor.  Are you using the version with the Turboclock upgrade or the standard clocks that come with the basic unit?  Thanks again

Steven Stone -- Sun, 10/02/2011 - 19:03

Hello Hasan,

According to Steven Nugent I have the almost latest version of the Off-Ramp with the clock and regulator upgrades. After RMAF my unit goes back for the latest Power supply upgrades.

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

hltf -- Sat, 01/21/2012 - 06:14

I am still debating the advantages of adding the Off-ramp 4 USB convertor for my W4S DAC2 which is currently connected to a Mac Mini. I read a review recently in which a designer of very high end servers suggested that the Lynx AES-16 sound card is currently the best way to connect a computer to a DAC - i.e., better than USB. This makes me wonder whether I would eventually (not in the near term as I wouldn't make any drastic changes now) be better off with a bigger computer and a Lynx AES 16 card than the Mac Mini with the Off Ramp 4. In other words, would you have a view as to which way the computer audio world will eventually head - towards USB with asynchronous or other such devices such as W4S /Off Ramp /Audiophilleo /M2Face etc, or towards other interfaces such as AES/EBU using specialized sound cards etc? I ask because I am pondering the most cost effective improvements to make (if any) to make to my current audio set up.

I should also mention that I recently set myself up with QOBUZ - the French CD quality internet streaming service at EUR 29 per month and am very pleased with it. Through my DAC2 I find that QOBUZ's 16/44 streaming sound quality is slightly behind what I can get with Amarra/ITunes for 16/44 tracks on my external hard drive. But the hugely increased access to music and the cost savings are a real boon. All of these listening options have been enabled for me by your really excellent computer audio suggestions so thanks once again for those.



agb -- Sun, 01/22/2012 - 09:20

Dang, I have the same question Hassan raised. Will a USB converter like the Audophilleo DEFINITELY improve the W4S DAC-2...and some other good dacs?
Inquiring minds want to know. WE DEMAND TO KNOW!
And yes Steve, you and the W4S changed my life too. All my wrinkles dissapeared, I've grown two inches taller, lost 20 pounds, my wife can't keep up with me in bed, neither my girlfriend, my old car repainted itself, and all the trees bloomed in winter.

Steven Stone -- Sun, 01/22/2012 - 11:24

agb, demand all you want. If YOU want to know DIY!
I will be reviewing an Audiopheo product in the near future. I don't know which or when, but they ARE on my radar...

Steven Stone
Contributor to The Absolute Sound,, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications

firedog -- Mon, 01/23/2012 - 06:14

 On the forum there is a long thread about the Audiophilleo, and comparing it to other converters:
also this one comparing converters:
and this one talking about various DACs and how they sound with various converters:

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