FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Music as represented in 1's and 0's. Discuss anything pertaining to D hardware - CD, DVD, SACD, DAC, etc.

FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:26 pm

I am getting my feet wet into the digital hifi world. I would like to some of your opinions/recommendations on how I can effectively manage the digital music data and different formats for different players. The objective is to build high quality digital music files and played over several transports.

My music source:
1. CDs
2. FLAC, AIFF, WMA music downloads (CD and/or Studio quality)

My transports: (Currently can't afford all-in-one systems , such as, Olive, Pearchtree, etc.)
1. PC
2. Ipod Digital transports (e.g. Wadia, Onkyo, etc.)

Initial questions to begin with are:
1. Ripping CDs - Is ripping CDs to WAV format as the archive file, then, converting it to FLAC (for pc) or AIFF / ALAC (for Ipod) the best way to go? Or rip directly to FLAC? Objective is to have the best ripped digital file with no loss.
2. What's the best CD ripper? (minimun capability - FLAC, ALAC, WAV)
3. What's the best format converter? (minimun capability - FLAC, ALAC, WAV to other formats and vice versa)

Regards,
JoeyGS
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby Mamimili » Tue Jul 05, 2011 10:20 pm

Joey, i am dipping my toes into this pond, so your questions and timing are perfect for me :D

At the moment i am keeping wma / flac / alac files on a seperate drive until i can work out what to do with them, my plan is to end up with a small collection of tracks that i cannot live without, maybe 500 max. These will be for "at home" use only.
I am keeping all 3 formats because i have not sat down and listened to the difference yet. Sooner rather than later i want to end up with just one higher quality format.

For the digital travel files i use 320 max (lame), i do not see the need for anything better plus i lack storage as i use an 8gb iriver for travel.
To convert from higher quality files to 320, i am using dbpoweramp, 8 days to go on their free trial. It is incredibly simple to use and is priced at $26.
I have not tried any other convertors or read any reviews on other convertors. This was top of the google list so i tried it, and i look like staying with it.

My questions:
1) All this talk about ripping begs the question (i am begging for an answer :$ ) - Why would i want to rip CD's?? Is this for back up only or is there another reason?

2) For my "at home" digital files, why would a Squeezebox or similar be better than a PC?

3) As of now i cannot play flac files using itunes, am i missing something?

4) What are the alternatives to itunes? (not iriver, i already have that and find itunes easier).
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:11 pm

We have the same dilemma and here are my own thoughts and also from what I have initially read:

1. Ripping CDs because I have a collection which I want transported into my future digital Hi Def rig ---- most probably for convenience at the same time having the audiophile sound...... and another thing is preparing the eminent extinction of CD OR getting the taste of new technology in audio while I am still alive

2. PCs, as I have read, including laptops produce noise or what they call jitters which affects the transmission of the digital data into the external components such DAC or preamps or receivers. The new external transports (excluding the dac) or what they call digital media transports handles these jitters that does not affect or corrupt the digital data before it enters the DAC. There is the wadia or Onkyo ND-S1 and many others. There is a simple device named Hiface made by a (French)Italian company, M2Tech, which is a hi-end S/PDIF Output Interface (distributed here by Arch Audio) which ensures clean digital audio data streaming into the DAC. http://www.m2tech.biz/hiface.html. It appears to be a good device based on what I read from 6moon's review http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/m2tech/hiface.html

3. Flac in Itunes - So far from What I have read, it's Apple that does not want to openly share its platform with other competing formats. With your flac files you still need to convert into ALAC or AIFF so that it can be played into the Ipods. Even Rockbox have not catched up in their firmwares to make the newer generation Ipods take FLAC.

4. Some of the alternative to itunes are: Foobar2000, Songbird and MediaMonkey. Songbird's interface is quite similar to itunes. But I really have not decided which to use.
Last edited by JoeyGS on Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby Mamimili » Tue Jul 05, 2011 11:31 pm

JoeyGS wrote:We have the same dilemma and here are my own thoughts and also from what I have initially read:

1. Ripping CDs because I have a collection which I want transported into my future digital Hi Def rig ---- most probably for convenience at the same time having the audiophile sound...... and another thing is preparing the eminent extinction of CD OR getting the taste of new technology in audio while I am still alive



Aha! So ripping is copying the CD.
I thought it was the other way around, burning files to a blank CD, which i did not see the point of.....
I think i need to read a Glossary of Modern Terms :lol:
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby rtsyrtsy » Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:39 am

JoeyGS

Before anything else, I have not tried all the rippers, all the converters, and all the other bits and pieces of digital playback so I am not in a position to tell you what's best. I followed the most popular recommendations and found that the results are sufficient for me.

Are you using Windows or Mac? Depending on your operating system, the recommended tools will differ. On Windows, I use EAC (Exact Audio Copy) to rip and FLAC itself to do lossless compression. On Mac OS, I use Max. The key things for me are

    Read Until Right ripping so the CD/DVD drive goes over the section of the disc that it isn't sure whether it has a 1 or a 0 and some rippers even compare your rips with an online database as another layer of insurance that you ripped the 1s and 0s as the producers intended.

    Lossless encoding. I've tried WAV, FLAC, ALAC. FLAC and ALAC are indistinguishible to my ears and on my gear. If I use a memory stick plugged into my DAC, I can hear that WAV takes a slight advantage--but I have to listen hard to hear the difference. Some say that the DAC uses less processing if it is fed WAV and could perhaps explain it's slight advantage.

In case you need smaller files and must use lossy compression, my choice has been LAME to create MP3s.

M2Tech is Italian. Yung dealer ng M2Tech, mukhang Italiano kasi tisoy (Epoy, lakihan mo discount ko ha!). They make the Hi-Face (which is a USB cable and a USB to S/PDIF interface and an S/PDIF cable in one), the Hi-Face Evo (no USB cable but is a vaunted USB-S/PDIF converter which is also a DIY tweaker's delight with linear / battery power supplies, etc.). M2Tech also makes a DAC. There's also USB to S/PDIF converters like the Halide Bridge, Audiophileo, stuff from Musical Fidelity and Empirical Audio, and a bunch of China alternatives, etc. The key things for me to look for are:

    Asychronous USB. This ensures no (or maybe I should use the term, minimal) jitter.

    Sampling rate that is acceptable to you. If I were to get one of these, I'd look for one that is 24/192 so I can take advantage of hi-res music. I think Musical Fidelity's device is 24/96--many of the budget to mid-range ones are. If all you plan to play are rips from your CDs, you need nothing more than 16/44.1.

Mamimili,

I used to have a Squeezebox (with Red Wine Audio mods). Today, I use either an Airport Express via Toslink, a laptop feeding via Toslink, an iPod/iPad/iPhone via USB, or a memory stick. I'm not sure that the Squeezebox will always beat a computer. The only thing I can think of why Squeeezebox would be superior to a PC is that a PC is electrically noisy--there's a switching power supply inside. It probably has other things running (unless you go through the effort of shutting down all non-audio functions of the PC. If you're not handy with that, don't despair. Check out the product offerings from Olive, Naim (UnitiServe / HDX), or Mach2Music, to name a few that I know of.

You can play FLAC on a MAC. I use Fluke for that.

On a Mac, I use iTunes playing ALACs. Good enough for me. There's also Pure Music and Amarra if you're willing to fork out more. On a PC, my player of choice is Foobar. I've not tinkered around but I would like to with WASAPI and ASIO if playing from a Windows PC.

Here's a decent starting point for even more reading:
http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-Suggested-Hardware-List

Hope this helps!
Last edited by rtsyrtsy on Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby Dodie » Wed Jul 06, 2011 1:40 am

]My music source:
1. CDs. TRUE
2. FLAC, AIFF, WMA music downloads (CD and/or Studio quality)TRUE

My transports: (Currently can't afford all-in-one systems , such as, Olive, Pearchtree, etc.)FALSE FALSE FALSE
1. PC. TRUE
2. Ipod Digital transports (e.g. Wadia, onkyo nds1). TRUE

Regards,
JoeyGS

Group buy tayo sir joey :lol: :lol:
Get one for me pag kukuha kayo sa malayong lugar :)
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:15 am

Hahahahahahah..... sige will let you know.... pag may pera na...hehehe


Dodie wrote:]My music source:
1. CDs. TRUE
2. FLAC, AIFF, WMA music downloads (CD and/or Studio quality)TRUE

My transports: (Currently can't afford all-in-one systems , such as, Olive, Pearchtree, etc.)FALSE FALSE FALSE
1. PC. TRUE
2. Ipod Digital transports (e.g. Wadia, onkyo nds1). TRUE

Regards,
JoeyGS

Group buy tayo sir joey :lol: :lol:
Get one for me pag kukuha kayo sa malayong lugar :)
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:28 am

Thanks rtsyrtsy .... very informative indeed.

To start of with the music file formats would it be advisable to rip CDs and buy Hi Def tracks (at Linn Records or HDTracks and the likes) in FLAC or WAV format? And from the FLAC or WAV format you can further convert it into AAC, ALAC, Lame, MP3, etc.. Would this be wise in such a way that the further conversion does not in any way degrade as compared from ripping straight from the original CD?

To simplify.....which is better?

1. Rip CD into FLAC/WAV or buy FLAC/WAV or HD music files ------> convert to AAC, ALAC, Lame, MP3, etc. depending on the usage or which ever music player will be used (e.g. Ipod, PC, Laptop, other Mp3 players etc.)

OR

2. RIP CD straight into ---------> FLAC, WAV, AIFF, AAC, ALAC, Lame, MP3, etc.






rtsyrtsy wrote:JoeyGS

Before anything else, I have not tried all the rippers, all the converters, and all the other bits and pieces of digital playback so I am not in a position to tell you what's best. I followed the most popular recommendations and found that the results are sufficient for me.

Are you using Windows or Mac? Depending on your operating system, the recommended tools will differ. On Windows, I use EAC (Exact Audio Copy) to rip and FLAC itself to do lossless compression. On Mac OS, I use Max. The key things for me are

    Read Until Right ripping so the CD/DVD drive goes over the section of the disc that it isn't sure whether it has a 1 or a 0 and some rippers even compare your rips with an online database as another layer of insurance that you ripped the 1s and 0s as the producers intended.

    Lossless encoding. I've tried WAV, FLAC, ALAC. FLAC and ALAC are indistinguishible to my ears and on my gear. If I use a memory stick plugged into my DAC, I can hear that WAV takes a slight advantage--but I have to listen hard to hear the difference. Some say that the DAC uses less processing if it is fed WAV and could perhaps explain it's slight advantage.

In case you need smaller files and must use lossy compression, my choice has been LAME to create MP3s.

M2Tech is Italian. Yung dealer ng M2Tech, mukhang Italiano kasi tisoy (Epoy, lakihan mo discount ko ha!). They make the Hi-Face (which is a USB cable and a USB to S/PDIF interface and an S/PDIF cable in one), the Hi-Face Evo (no USB cable but is a vaunted USB-S/PDIF converter which is also a DIY tweaker's delight with linear / battery power supplies, etc.). M2Tech also makes a DAC. There's also USB to S/PDIF converters like the Halide Bridge, Audiophileo, stuff from Musical Fidelity and Empirical Audio, and a bunch of China alternatives, etc. The key things for me to look for are:

    Asychronous USB. This ensures no (or maybe I should use the term, minimal) jitter.

    Sampling rate that is acceptable to you. If I were to get one of these, I'd look for one that is 24/192 so I can take advantage of hi-res music. I think Musical Fidelity's device is 24/96--many of the budget to mid-range ones are. If all you plan to play are rips from your CDs, you need nothing more than 16/44.1.

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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby muypogi » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:40 am

First of all, medyo hindi ako naniniwala na di mo affrod Olive. .. heheh baka nagiipon palang. .. :P

For me, I'm quite satisfied with staying within the Apple Ecosystem. . . from what I've read so far, anything lossless is more than acceptable as a CD quality substitute, and I've heard WAV,FLAC,Apple Lossless and concluded that I've heard almost no difference so far in my system. The only thing that may improve when using a file vs CD transport is that the file, if ripped correctly, should technically be better vs CD transport, as you take out the errors associated with physical CD reading. So I'd advise to decide on the format, then rip accordingly. Tutal kung lossless yan, you can always transcribe to another format without any loss of fidelity.

So, to keep things simple, I've so far settled on:

Computer (iTunes) ---- wireless stream to Airport Express or via Apple TV ---- connected to DAC ----- connected to amplifier. Music controlled either via laptop or via iPad.

I should note that 320kbps AAC is my current preferred listening mode. Almost the same as CD. Only critical listening will reveal that there's a loss of some airiness and soundstaging, but not by much. Even with the Harbeths my system, it's still ok. Yung mga 256kbps tracks I buy off iTunes, yun medyo halata pa na compressed. Must be the way they rip. Madalian. I usually rip at 320kbps using iTunes pero using error correction always.

Siguro when I win the lotto or get a big fat bonus, I'll probably get an Olive and control it via iPad. For now, this is my preferred solution.

Off topic though, LPs sound much easier on the ears. . . pero nothing beats the convinience of having your music just a tap away. . . :rock:
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:53 am

@muypogi,

Just curious.... how does your airport express connect to your DAC? USB to SPDIF?
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby muypogi » Wed Jul 06, 2011 11:02 am

JoeyGS wrote:@muypogi,

Just curious.... how does your airport express connect to your DAC? USB to SPDIF?


I have 2 products that connect to the built-in DAC in my HK990. 160GB Apple TV (which holds my iTunes purchased videos and can stream music from my laptop) via conventional toslink, and the Airport express via mini-toslink jack to normal toslink. The Airport express can only output music via the 3.5mm jack, either analog or digital optical. The USB port is strictly used for printer sharing.

BTW, Stereophile tests show that the digital out of the Airport Express is bit-perfect. John Atkinson used the Airport to feed his Mark Levinson DAC, with very acceptable results.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby muypogi » Wed Jul 06, 2011 11:28 am

Alternatively, here's a shortcut way to make a music server for USD1500 more or less, depende sa DAC na gamit mo.

http://www.psaudio.com/ps/how-to/how-to ... sic-server

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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby rtsyrtsy » Wed Jul 06, 2011 8:25 pm

JoeyGS wrote:Thanks rtsyrtsy .... very informative indeed.

To start of with the music file formats would it be advisable to rip CDs and buy Hi Def tracks (at Linn Records or HDTracks and the likes) in FLAC or WAV format? And from the FLAC or WAV format you can further convert it into AAC, ALAC, Lame, MP3, etc.. Would this be wise in such a way that the further conversion does not in any way degrade as compared from ripping straight from the original CD?

To simplify.....which is better?

1. Rip CD into FLAC/WAV or buy FLAC/WAV or HD music files ------> convert to AAC, ALAC, Lame, MP3, etc. depending on the usage or which ever music player will be used (e.g. Ipod, PC, Laptop, other Mp3 players etc.)

OR

2. RIP CD straight into ---------> FLAC, WAV, AIFF, AAC, ALAC, Lame, MP3, etc.


Since you have not made up your mind yet on which lossless format you would like to store music at, I would suggest that you go with WAV for now for both RIPs and for hi-def purchases/downloads. You can convert your WAVs to FLAC or ALAC or whatever later after you've chosen your lossless format. You can of course RIP and convert or download FLAC and you can convert them to FLAC / ALAC / MP3 or even WAV later on.

If you are in an all Apple environment, I don't really see the need for lossy formats like MP3 or AAC. Sa laki ng memory ng mga portable players ngayon, I never really feel that I don't have enough lossless music in my PMP. Then again, this is just me.

Here's a thought: if you plan on storing your music in a myriad of formats like the original files (likely) WAV, lossless files (FLAC / ALAC), and lossy files (MP3 / AAC), you'd be eating up a lot of storage space. If it were my money and I can't decide yet between non-WAV formats, I'd store everything in WAV but keep 2 different copies on 2 different hard drives--this way, you have back-up. The last thing you want to do after lovingly ripping your CD collection is to repeat that time-consuming process in the event of a hard drive crash!
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby Gino » Wed Jul 06, 2011 10:15 pm

I am using my MacBook Air 11.6" as my digital player. I rip cds with iTunes and use Apple Lossless. It sounds fine out the headphone jack to my amp. I don't feel the need to use an outboard dac.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Sun Jul 10, 2011 4:17 am

I have tried several decoders/converters, namely: Exact Audio Copy, DBPoweramp, Foobar2000, and Songbird

For me, to build an archive of lossless music format, I found WAV or FLAC format to be most practical.

1. WAV can easily be drag/drop into Itunes. Itunes can play WAV directly if PC will be the source. Itunes can also convert WAV into ALAC (Apple Lossless) if the Ipod will be utilized as the digital transport. The premise of all of this is to play hi resolution music files (so MP3, AAC and likes is not being considered on my part). WAV is 2x the size of FLAC and will occupy more disk space.

2. FLAC will have the same digital information as WAV and is half the file size. FLAC cannot be played directly into Itunes. FLAC will require another player (software) to make PC as a source transport. FLAC needs to be converted into ALAC in order to be played into Itunes and likewise have your Ipod as the source transport.

So, in order to allow the PC and Ipod as digital transport,
WAV = Simple, 1 ripper/converter, Itunes as player is enough, but, 2x the file size of FLAC
FLAC = Needs 2 Players (Itunes and FLAC player), 1 ripper/converter, needs to convert FLAC to WAV for Itunes, 1/2 the size of WAV

As for the CD ripper/Converter, I prefer DBpoweramp and second Exact Audio Copy (EAC)
1. DBpoweramp is most convenient. Can rip CD to desired format (WAV, FLAC, ALAC). Can convert to and from into the desired format. Can do batch conversion at one go. Not free.
2. EAC is also convenient. But cannot rip or convert files into ALAC. Limited to WAV and FLAC for lossless files. No batch processing. It's free.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby Gino » Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:59 am

My "master" files are flac. I keep them on a usb hdd. I use XLD to convert them to Apple Lossless for iTunes. Oh, I am using OS X.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:53 am

And me.... I am using the windows environment
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby egay » Wed Jan 09, 2013 4:13 pm

JoeyGS wrote:And me.... I am using the windows environment


Joey,
For windows, I am staying with WMA & FLAC...

but since I bought a Mac, I decided to try iTunes and ALAC and I like it even better not only for SQ but especially for managing my collections and getting the right album cover (when available in the apple library, I guess). I am now RE-RIPPING (no conversions) my collection and am at 100GB at the moment (and still going on).

I think you can play WMA & FLAC in ITunes but with additional codecs (?). I don't like using "additional" anything so I use either iTunes or VLC; I discarded all my WMAs and retained my MP3s, WAV, & FLACs. I play my WAVs & FLACs using VLC and MP3s & ALACs via iTunes (and in my iPod for mobile needs). Passing through the same DAC, the SQs are almost the same.

I made a very negative post in one of my threads regarding iTunes because I was so frustrated THEN... I realized I had ALL my files (i.e. WAVs, FLACs, WMA) converted into ALAC and THAT REALLY SUCKED... I mean, stupidly sucked! I had since corrected myself and re-ripped. I am happier. :clap:

Oh, BTW, I still have windows machines (W8 now) and I still hear my Mac sound better.
I don't know the technicalities but I am happy.
If you want the techy part, login to HYDROGEN AUDIO and read some of the most ... ().... discussions I've ever encountered concerning computer audio. well, they did help me.

.e.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby JoeyGS » Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:03 pm

Windows environment really needs some tweaking such that you are able to play the music file in memory, shutting down all unnecessary operations unrelated to audio play, keeping the fan from working and isolating electrical noise to pollute the audio digital signal highway. I you are able to achieve this it can beat the MAC set-up.


egay wrote:
JoeyGS wrote:And me.... I am using the windows environment


Joey,
For windows, I am staying with WMA & FLAC...

but since I bought a Mac, I decided to try iTunes and ALAC and I like it even better not only for SQ but especially for managing my collections and getting the right album cover (when available in the apple library, I guess). I am now RE-RIPPING (no conversions) my collection and am at 100GB at the moment (and still going on).

I think you can play WMA & FLAC in ITunes but with additional codecs (?). I don't like using "additional" anything so I use either iTunes or VLC; I discarded all my WMAs and retained my MP3s, WAV, & FLACs. I play my WAVs & FLACs using VLC and MP3s & ALACs via iTunes (and in my iPod for mobile needs). Passing through the same DAC, the SQs are almost the same.

I made a very negative post in one of my threads regarding iTunes because I was so frustrated THEN... I realized I had ALL my files (i.e. WAVs, FLACs, WMA) converted into ALAC and THAT REALLY SUCKED... I mean, stupidly sucked! I had since corrected myself and re-ripped. I am happier. :clap:

Oh, BTW, I still have windows machines (W8 now) and I still hear my Mac sound better.
I don't know the technicalities but I am happy.
If you want the techy part, login to HYDROGEN AUDIO and read some of the most ... ().... discussions I've ever encountered concerning computer audio. well, they did help me.

.e.
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Re: FLAC, ALAC & the Ipod system - How to manage?

Postby alexg » Wed Jan 09, 2013 5:26 pm

I use iTunes to rip my CD's into my Macbook Pro with SSD drives (I replaced the hard disk with an SSD and the optical drive with an adaptor and use another SSD drive). Format is apple lossless.

I use a hiface bought from JoeyGS to convert USB into SPDIF then into my Buffalo DAC directly to my tube amp. Sounds excellent. I use Amarra for playback.

I have copies of my music on my iPhone that I use to play music on my vehicles, sometimes over USB cable or sometimes bluetooth audio. Very convenient.

For casual listening, I stream my music wirelessly from my iPhone into my Airport Express into another DAC and into my tube amp.

Now my CD's are going into storage after I ripped them. 8)
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