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Streaming - A Q&A Guide

This page changes as questions are added and answered

A client who has just had 800 cds ripped to a NAS drive has kindly put down his thoughts on metatags and renaming of his collection after it has all been ripped, scroll down to the blue section, and thanks Brad for your time.

Digital Streaming, or DS systems, are the hot topic just now, and rightly so.

While early examples were dismissed as poor quality and low end, our crop of new systems have broken through the glass ceiling to move way above cd and some people, (heresy here) have even suggested that it eclipses the best of LPs!

Many of you know how much I love my vinyl however, DS can be better, it depends on the original source. 24bit on DS is better than vinyl. There. I said it. My glorious 1950s and 60s jazz collection is better on vinyl, perhaps because some cd transfers were not good. 80s and early 90s cds are a mixed bag, some are better on vinyl and some not depending on the mastering. It's an argument I can pick the material for and win it either way for fun. Generally, Linn DS has no 'cd signature' and outperforms all cd players. There. More heresy!

Eagerly waiting for the 24bit transfers of John Coltrane to see how that compares to vinyl

Here are some frequently asked useful questions, send me your question and I will add it here.

Q What is streaming?

Any system that takes sound from a hard drive to an ampliifer can be said to be streaming. Taking it further, the music can be streamed around the house to local amplifiers/speakers or an all-in-one box.

Just because it is streaming doesn't ensure that it is any good. Streaming systems can run from lowly MP3/ipod level right up to 24 bit master tape level. The quality of the source, the digital to analogue conversion, the amplifiers, and the speakers all play their part in how good the music can be.

Q My ipod sounds pretty ordinary, how can streaming sound better than cd?

A Two parts to this:

1   Companies such as Linn and Cyrus have worked really hard to design systems that capture all the information from your ipod or itunes library. That same work has paid real dividends when listening to Spotify through Linn DS

2   By ripping your cd collection to a drive at the highest quality your starting point is already way above ipod performance. Downloading 24 bit master quality is much better again

Q Can I use Apple or does it have to be Windows?

A Depends on your system but with the systems that Lyric approve you can use either

Q Why will it change the way we listen to music?

A Having your collection at your fingertips, and access to 8,000,000 songs online, instantly, transforms your listening habits. Services are now adding more metadata, so not just artist and track but more band member details, who else they have played with, etc. It makes it more like having a double album with gatefold sleeve and proper artwork!

Q How do I start, do I need to have a computer on all the time?

A If you use your computer to store your music yes, however we recommend having a separate NAS drive which sits on all the time connected to your router without the need for your computer at all.

Q Why have Linn stopped making cd players?

A As the pioneers of streaming Linn saw the potential ahead of other manufacturers and want to give hifi enthusiasts the best advice. Their point is why buy an expensive cd player when you can have much better performance from our DS systems. If you still need a cd player then use a cheaper one, or keep your existing one, and concentrate your money on the real performance improvement to be had from Linn DS.

Further to this advice Linn put their money where their mouth is and discontinued the cd player format. A brave step. Rather than ekeing out the last cd sales let's move forward.

Q Why do you see Linn as the pioneers in this with so many others in the magazines?

A The way other manufacturers have rushed into this behind Linn is using cd dac technology that is good, but not the best for streaming from a low-noise, non cd based source. No one else has used a radical type of low noise differential dac exclusively for streamed sources. In any case have a listen for yourself and decide. I have listened to Cyrus, Arcam, Rega, Naim, Dcs, Roksan, Marantz and many others. Linn Ds is the clear leader

Q How much will it cost to get into this?

A If we take it that you have an existing hifi then with Sonos it can be as little as £ 320 plus a controller  makes it £599,  or use an iphone

Step up to Cyrus and £ 1400 includes a NAS drive to store your music and a Cyrus Controller

Linn at £ 999 works with an iPod touch/iPhone/iPad, plus add £ 100-150 for a NAS drive.

Higher performance levels jump to £ 1880, 2595, £4500, £12995!

  

BRAD's EXPERIENCES SHARED

Having recently used Lyric’s CD Ripping service, I thought it beneficial to commit to paper my experience as a guide to those that follow. The great advantage of Lyric’s ripping service is that they work their magic and you end up with a hard drive containing the ripped music. Like many, can find my way around a computer, so I knew that in effect what I needed to do was transfer the files from the hard drive to the NAS drive.

So, armed with a general idea of what I wanted to achieve, I sat down with my WD My Book Essential 2 TB External Desktop Hard Drive containing half a terabyte of music and my laptop.

At this point, it is probably wise to say that I have a Digital Streaming system that was set up for my by Lyric. So, in addition to a Majik DSM, I have a NAS drive linked to my router and the rest of my house by Ethernet over Mains (EoM). My laptop has therefore had Linn Kinsky, Linn Konnect and the Mybook folder installed under My Network.

I imagine that for most people, whilst the actual components may differ, the overall function of the various items remains the same.

The hard drive was recommended by Lyric as it is reliable, has ample storage space, can act as a backup and can be linked to the laptop by a USB cable. So I unboxed the hard drive, connected the USB lead and powered it up. The onboard software was installed quickly, and soon in Explorer view I could see both the external hard drive and the NAS drive folder into which I was to copy the music.

It is again assumed that the reader has a reasonable grasp of moving files on a computer. All I had to do was go into the music folder of the external hard drive and copy all the music files. I then pasted them into the shared music folder in the NAS drive. The benefit of doing cut and paste in this manner is that it allows the system to quickly flag up any duplicate albums that may be both on the existing NAS drive and on the external hard drive. A decision can then be made about copying or not. That was the quick part.

I had no real idea of how long it was going to take to download the files. A few hours I thought. Well, the fact is the 500Gb took the best part of 38 hours to transfer. The rate seemed to be 15Gb of music an hour. Now I was linked by wireless to my router and then by EoM to my NAS drive. On reflection, the process may have been swifter had I found a long Ethernet cable and had connected my laptop directly to the router.

I have chosen to control my DSM via an iPad using the Kinsky program. It was a relief to see that albums had been transferred and the NAS drive brimming with music. It would be nice to think that there was nothing now to do but choose some music and sit back. However there are a few minor housekeeping issues that needed to be dealt with. Bear in mind that I tend to look for my music under the Artist/Album heading. This seems to be the place most of the strange things appear, so my focus was on getting this listing right.

The key housekeeping issues for me were:

Multiple artist names

Missing albums

Conflict between Artist and Album Artist:

Double CD albums appearing as a single album

Compilation albums

Missing album art.

Being completely new to the idea of Digital Streaming, I did try to read around the subject, but the problem is much of the information is provided by the informed. This is great, provided you speak “informed”, but not so good if, like me, you are not skilled in tongues. The challenge I faced was not only in how to phrase my questions for the search programs of the various forums, but also in interpreting the information in the threads that I did find. I did however work out that I needed a program to “edit the tags”.

I downloaded one of the many options available, MP3Tag. There are others and Lyric use Tag and Rename. They all do the same thing – sort out album artists/names etc. What follows is how I used the program to sort out my housekeeping. There is every chance there is an easier way, but this worked for me!

The starting point for MP3Tag is to point it in the direction of the music folder on the NAS drive. It then reads all of the track listing information (tags) before showing all the tracks on screen.

 

Multiple artist names

Rolling Stones, The and The Rolling Stones

Maverick, the and The Mavericks

J.S. Bach, J. S. Bach and JS Bach

OK. As this data is (probably) picked up and verified by the web, the accuracy of the information is dependent on the accuracy of the original input. So to fix this I did the following (I assume the reader is familiar with how to select multiple items – highlight top one, shift+left click the bottom one.) I decided I was going to run with the artist name The Rolling Stones. So I highlighted all the tracks of the album that was listed against Rolling Stones, the. I changed the name in both the Artist and the Album Artist fields, then clicked on the Save icon in the top left of the toolbar. A dialogue box appears detailing progress, and then you have to click on OK to proceed.

In my case all the Bachs were together on screen, so I highlighted all of them, and made the same amends as above. All of my Bachs are now J. S. Bach.

 

Missing albums:

One Belle and Sebastian album was listed as Belle and Sebastian. The other two albums were listed as Sebastian.

Bob Marley lost half of his albums and the missing albums were listed as The Wailers.

Here the issue is that the artist name appears with back-slashes in the middle of the names e.g. Belle\\Sebastian, Bob Marley\\the Wailers. To fix this I highlighted all the album’s tracks and in the edit field to the left, I replaced the backslashes with & or “and”. I also made sure the full amended name was repeated in both the Artist and the Album Artist fields.

Conflict between Artist and Album Artist:

Four Adiemus albums appeared in the Adiemus list, but others appeared under Karl Jenkins

Here I made sure that Adiemus appeared in both the Artist and the Album Artist fields – following the same process as above to first highlight all the tracks in the album.

 

Double CD albums appearing as a single album

 

Here I found that some double CDs were appearing as a single album, with two track 1s, two track 2s etc. Now this fix may not be perfect, but it works.

Highlight each of the tracks in turn and in the small field at the bottom of the editing box, the number of the disc will show – either disc 1 or 2 (or 3 if triple albums like the Rolling Stones’ GRRR). My solution was to edit the Album name for the second disc tracks by adding (Disc 2).

I am sure there are better and quicker ways of doing this, but as a quick and dirty solution that works, it has my vote.

 

Compilation albums

I found that each of the artists from a compilation album e.g. Elton John’s Two Rooms, appeared in the listings as individual artists with the rest of the album data being correct. What I wanted to do was get them all back into the same album.

The fix I went for here was to highlight each of the affected tracks and edited the Artist field to say Various Artists.

 

Missing album art.

 

Need to work this one out!

 

If this doesnt cover your question then use contact us to drop me a line and we'll see what we can advise, and thanks Brad for taking the time to do this for everyone