Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Squeeze Me Together

I've been enjoying high rez music through my Logitech Transporter SE, recently purchased as NEW! on eBay.  Logitech released these SE units, lacking the famous selector knob with force-feedback, in 2011 at a somewhat reduced price from the original model from 2009.  Many complained that Logitech was selling off the spare parts that might be required to repair the original Transporter model, which had been ingloriously discontinued.  But few complained about missing the selector knob.  Most users used it a few times, but then settled in using either the remote control or the Squeezebox web interface or both.

Squeezebox had been an independent company, for some reason then bought out by Logitech who didn't seem to carry the concept very far.

Actually, IMO, the concept doesn't need to be carried very far.  I'd be happy (at least for a start) with a simple Ethernet to SPDIF device.  I imagine such a thing could be built to high standards and still sell for less than $100.

One thing, you do actually need to decide which files the SPDIF is going to be outputting.  So, essentially, you need some kind of "player" (which selects file, plays it, allows for pause or stop).  However, as I understand it, this functionality exists in the Squeezebox software itself, now Open Squeeze.

Now at least I've got the bill filled, plus lots of extras, with a real Transporter.  It turns out some of those extras are at least temporarily useful.  For some reason my Tact processor isn't accepting 88.2kHz inputs, even over coax or AES/EBU from the Transporter.  It does accept 96kHz inputs.  And, it turns out that 88.2kHz is quite a popular high rez format.  So as I do with all my various disc players, I take the (extremely high validated quality) analog output from the Transporter, and resample it to 96kHz with my Lavry AD10.  And, as that always does, contrary to audiophile purism, it sounds marvelous.

Sadly, at this time I don't run balanced all the way to the Lavry…none of my selector devices permit mixing single ended and balanced inputs.  I now intend a large rebuild of the Aragon 28k to turn it into a mostly-passive selector device which would take both balanced and unbalanced inputs, and send a single unbuffered balanced output to the Lavry, with polarity reverse and other features.

However, in that longer term, I should also fix the Tact, and/or exchange the bedroom and living room Tact devices (because I think 88.2kHz still works in the bedroom unit) so I can have direct digital (though I suspect it would be Very Hard to tell the difference).

Anyway, though I don't need it now, here's a discussion of how to replace the Transporter using a Raspberry PI.

You need:

1) Raspberry Pi 2, Model B
2) Hifiberry DAC+ or Hifiberry Digi+ (spdif output!)
3) 5v, 2.5A power supply micro-USB
4) Case
5) 1gb microSD card
6) Picoreplayer (software)

Apparently Hifiberry and Raspberry snap together.

In the week since I ordered the Transporter, apparently Google and Amazon have figured out what I want better than I could.  Now I'm seeing tons of "network players" that might work nearly as well or perhaps even better than the old Transporter.  I have some fondness for the actual Transporter however because (1) I read about it in Stereophile and was incredible impressed by top notch measurements in 2009, (2) that high performance has also been validated in measurements and usage by Archimago, and (3) it uses an allegedly open source Squeezebox software.  The two downsides are that resolution is limited to 96/24 (well that's the same as my system anyway) and that it doesn't support DSD or DSD128 (which would be handy to have to play-into my system through analog reconversion).  I had been thinking about getting an extra gadget, a Pono, to support DSD but it would require the new preamp to use the best-quality balanced outputs of the Pono.  Also the Pono would let me experience first-hand the moving-average type reconstruction filter Ayre has developed.  And that brings to mind a 4th limitation of the Transporter: it doesn't have optional digital filters.  (Now I can imagine a more "ultimate" network player as being one that supports HQPlayer.  However, most machines capable of supporting HQPlayer are going to be troublesome "real computers" that I'd rather not have to deal with.  HQPlayer is part of the emerging player standard of Computer+USBDAC which I am diametrically opposed to.  Somewhere I think the creator of HQPlayer might describe a DIY network player+DAC.)

Anyway, here are some of the alternative players:

Pioneer Elite N-30 (listed for $250!)
Teac NT-506 (does DSD128 and may have variable filters, high quality clocks and clock input!)
Arcam AirDAC

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