Streaming music is simple but often seems far from it.
There is a lot of confusion about Streaming. Basically it is listening to music stored on your computer or on a storage drive connected to your network. You may already have a lot of your music on your computer, particularly if you have iTunes installed.
The days where you’d walk into a room to be greeted by a vast collection of vinyl, CDs, and DVDs stored lovingly on a bookcase are disappearing. Many people are freeing up space and embracing the freedom of the digital medium. CD players are in decline and the manufacture of CD’s won’t continue forever.
Why would I want to Stream?
- Sound Quality
- It gives you easy, convenient access to all your music easily (from a tablet or I-Pod) and without physically having to get up and find it.
- Players will play all your stored music, regardless of what sort of music file it is (MP3, MP4, WAV, FLAC etc)
- Access to internet radio
- Access to subscription streaming content like Spotify, Deezer etc
- It will allow you to listen to High Definition music which sounds dramatically superior to CD’s (up to 70% more data)
- Your archived music library will be available (if you wish) in multiple rooms and to multiple users
If I am already “streaming” via iTunes connected to my stereo why do I need do anything else?
Aside from the convenience iTunes is poor. The reason is simple; it is built around MP3, a format that just don’t cut the mustard. The use of compression means that data is lost in the encoding process, which means resolution is sacrificed for the sake of convenience and smaller file sizes. This might be fine on the bus when you’re listening to your iPod or smartphone, but if you are passionate about music you’ll want better. If you allow your music to be reduced in quality (by ripping it to iTunes on default settings) you can NEVER recover that quality because it is gone forever.
Do a little experiment; listen to your ipod connected to your stereo system and then listen to the same music on a CD. The difference will be quite huge. Sure the iPod has all the advantages of ease of use and portability and a lovely user interface but for sound quality it is lacking. We’re not “dissing” the venerable iPod but merely explaining that it is a very limited device.
We know a lot of people have heard Streamed music and claim they don’t like it. Most often it is because they are listened to streamed music at low quality.
Why not have the sound quality of the CD (or better) AND the convenience of the iPod. That’s what Streaming offers.
Making your music library work for you properly is simple. And doing it properly means you capture ALL the information on your CD’s and NOT only 70% of it.
In order to do this properly we recommend dBpoweramp. This is a piece of software that makes bit perfect copies of your CD’s with very little effort from yourself. Basically you insert a disc and let the software discover what the disc is, find all the track data, genre information etc before archiving an exact copy to your music library. The software makes repeated passes at the CD until it has captured all the music and then tells you that it has taken a bit perfect “rip”. It access music databases in order to gather album artwork and also to ensure that your “rip” is perfect.
It also catalogues the data to enable you to access it by artist, song, album or genre. No matter how large your music library is there is NO easier way of finding the music you want and enjoying it.
“There are other rippers but we prefer this one; we find it easiest to use. It also has some handy other features that enable you to do clever things with your music library. These include converting copies of albums to other formats for i-Tunes or for portable players”
Interestingly a bit-perfect archived copy of your CD can sound better than the CD itself! That sounds like witchcraft but when you bear in mind that CD players are rarely able to recover all the data on the CD but a Streamer does so every time it starts to make a little more sense. Every time you play the album you get to hear 100% of what you paid for in the first place.
High Definition Audio is the future of music.
Once you’ve archived your own collection of music you might wish to consider treating yourself to some albums in high resolution.
High resolution audio refers to audio that has a higher sampling frequency and bit depth than CD, which is 16-bit/44.1kHz. High-resolution audio files usually use a sampling frequency of 96kHz or 192kHz at 24-bit or even higher. That means up to half as much information again!
What’s so good about high-res audio?
It sounds better! And not my a small margin either. Read on to discover why.
When music entered the digital realm the major driving factor behind new technology was convenience. By taking the analogue sound wave that was once pressed into vinyl, slicing it up, and converting it to 1s and 0s allowed it to fit on a small shiny Compact Disc. These were great because they could be played thousands of times without degrading, they weren’t so susceptible to scratches and fingerprints, were easier to store and were pretty cheap to manufacture. At the time there was a big hoo-ha that they just didn’t sound as good, and lacked all the great qualities of vinyl that music lovers and audiophiles had come accustomed to.
It might surprise you to learn that when they hit the market, CDs were actually the lowest quality music format – even 8-track tape was capable of holding much more information than this optical media. The dynamic range – the highs and lows in volume and subtleties of the music – as well as the underlying ‘noisiness’ of the recordings suffered, but to the average listener this didn’t really matter, and they were just so convenient that most people didn’t seem to care. In fact for a majority it was probably an improvement on worn out cassette tapes! But there were still those that remained firm that vinyl and the original analogue formats just sounded better.
Fast forward ten or fifteen years and welcome the MP3. Suddenly the prospect of having 10,000 songs in your pocket really appealed, and it was even more convenient to be able to buy an album without walking through the rain to the record store – or even better to discover amazing new music through the internet. But this required music to be chopped up in to even fewer 1s and 0s and compressed into even smaller spaces. This is when the music really started to suffer, all that chopping and compressing sacrificed even more dynamic range, squashing the subtleties, and adding noise in the holes where there once was music.
So how do we get back to the place where we left vinyl behind – all that great musicality and almost intangible qualities of the rich analogue sound – but still take the best bits of the new digital world? Step up the High Resolution Audio – the closest you can get to the master-tape of the actual recording; it doesn’t get any better!
Where do I store all my music?
You’ll need somewhere to store your archived music library and of course the new music that you buy either on CD or by downloading. We don’t recommend storing it on your computer because if you have a large collection it will slow your computer down. Also computers fail and get changed pretty regularly and the last thing you want to be bothering with is ensuring you don’t lose precious music files.
A stand alone storage device that sits on your network is the best solution. These will plug into your router and allow access to your music regardless of if your computer/laptop is switched on. Such drives don’t need to be anywhere near your audio system and are low-maintenance devices.
This is a QNAP Network drive and is perfect for the job. It connects to your network via a Ethernet cable and is compact and runs quietly. It can be left on and will spring to life when needed and “sleep” when not.
There are lots of other devices but we strongly recommend the QNAP. With a 2 TB drive inserted into it this unit it can store approximately 5,000 CD’s and currently costs about £200. These are reliable devices with all the software pre-installed to allow your music library to be browsed easily and reliably.
Of course you can also download music to add to your library. With the advent of High Definition Audio we feel sure you’ll want to invest in some of your favorites. (especially when you hear them). But CD’s have never been cheaper and so the fastest and cheapest way to expand your library is to continue to buy affordable CD’s for as long as they remain available.
Other solutions exist
If you don’t want to bother with a computer you can use a “Rip and store” device like the Naim Audio UnitiServe above. This is essentially everything you need in one box and you need to do is to connect it to your router via an Ethernet cable and load discs into the slot. This is a more costly solution but an extremely elegant one and one that suits people who are not comfortable with computers.
You now have a library of really high quality music. It is secure and catalogued and is ready for you to listen to. Now you need a player. This is rather like a CD player but unlike a CD player it has no moving parts and instead of playing CD’s it plays music from your storage device.
There are many different streaming players available. The reason for this is because some do different things. Some have amplifiers built in and some are self-contained and actually built into a speaker. Sonos is the best example of the most affordable type. Sadly Sonos does not play the better music files and as a result we don’t stock it.
A standalone streaming player that can connect to an existing stereo is made by Arcam and costs £399. It can be used wired or wirelessly. It is a pretty nondescript box and sounds very good indeed. It is the best affordable solution. Click for more information.
The Naim Audio ND5XS above is a far higher quality streaming music player. Like the Arcam it can be added to an existing stereo. It sounds remarkable and has a lot of additional features that make it a joy to use. Find out more here.
There are many others but these two give you something of a flavour.
The unit above is much more than a streamer. It has a very good streamer in it but it also has a DAB/FM radio and a very high quality amplifier. It is all fitted into a discreet shoebox. More info here
Moorgate are on hand to help explain and demonstrate what Streaming is all about. We offer many products and solutions. And we have them on demonstration. If you get the chance come along and see what Streaming music is all about.
Our experience, knowledge and products will get you really enjoying your music library and ensure that you get the very best of the music you’ve been collecting all your life.