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All great advice here RatRob.  Whilst I don’t have the real-world experiences expressed here, I’ve read a fair bit on all this.  I am fairly tech savvy and enjoy a tech-tinker.  Thus, I looked into the well reviewed options of computer-based internet and home-stored streaming.  In the meantime, we use Spotify quite a bit at home (3 kids), and I have set this up with a cheap old iPhone permanently plugged into my stereo setup as the streamer.  This can be controlled by any device in the house.  

In terms of ripping my (large) CD collection, I have tried a few time to use computer-based programs to rip them to a drive, but I have stalled on every occasion (time, lose interest, hit tech problems....) and gave up.

 

What I came to realise was that simplicity and ease of use trumps everything else, where the goal here is listening to music!  Any complexity and the missus and kids will just listen to Spotify on headphones or a little crap Bluetooth speaker via their phones.

 

Thus, I have concluded that I will get:

- a unit that uses a high quality inbuilt DAC and connects directly to my stereo via RCA’s.  The option to use my own external DAC(s) would be a bonus.

- the unit must have an Ethernet port to connect to my home network via a stable wired connector 

- it needs to happily stream Spotify and Tidal.  Digital radio would also be nice

- it needs to have an inbuilt ripping facility so I can finally get around to that CD collection!  It needs to automatically file and tag and add metadata and all that.  Thus, I just need to insert the disc and nothing else!

- it needs to be able to read of an external drive and/or a NAS so storage can get as big as I want.

- it needs a crazy easy software interface that the entire family can use from any device in the house (wired it wireless).  Software/firmware needs to be easily upgradable and ongoingly supported (I will generally avoid “boutique” computer-based units I reckon, as I worry about longer term support...

- sound quality needs to be top notch, but not top tier

 

So that leaves a few choices, but not THAT many.  I’ve narrowed it to most likely a Bluesound Vault 2i.  I’d be happy to hear from the brains-trust here if other units fit the bill.  

 

In the end, make a priority list.  Sound, convenience, level of tinkering, storage.  That will lead you to an answer!

 

Happy searching.  Mat

Edited by Mat-with-one-t
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66 eh - a mere pup...   I gave away my TTs and LPs (some 40 years ago and the remnants recently).  Didn't like the platform even way back when.   I have copied all of my CDs to rem

Keep the CD player and the CD’s for when the mood strikes you.   Skip the part about ripping files and storing them and backing them up and making sure the file names are correct and making

For some people, the physical experience of loading a CD is important.   Some people claim CDs sound better and have invested in expensive CD players or transports.  Others, like myself who

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1 hour ago, davewantsmoore said:

So stop "telling people stuff" about streamers/computers then....  Your 4 points each lie somewhere between plain wrong, and mildly misleading.   🤣

 

That being said... I would agree that is someone is happy with CDs / CDP (why wouldn't they be) .... then why change?!  :) 

 

Just  my opinions, Dave, about computer music systems when compared to CDs. 

 It's what we do on forums, "shoot the sh&t" 🙃

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14 minutes ago, Mat-with-one-t said:

Bluesound Vault 2i

As was reading your list the Bluesound Vault 2i came to my mind immediately.  The BluOS is a great interface. 

Edited by Mpr_65
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😀😀 Sorry Ratbob if we have scared you off.   I would not be surprised if you are hiding under the bed about now.    Alot of information, all at once.

 

Take your time to digest it all.    Google is your friend.

 

Regards Cazzesman

 

 

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When I was using a PC with files on it i found myself skipping tracks all the time, i likely spent about 20% of my time skipping tracks.

 

I prefer to just pop a CD in and hit play, I rarely even bother to use the players remote.

 

The huge amount of available material on line isn't that attractive to me as I would not listen to or like a large amount of it.

 

As for sound quality It's not even a factor as both can be done well, or poorly.

 

I like green, some prefer blue.

Edited by muon*
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13 minutes ago, muon* said:

When I was using a PC with files on it i found myself skipping tracks all the time, i likely spent about 20% of my time skipping tracks.

 

I prefer to just pop a CD in and hit play, I rarely even bother to use the players remote.

 

The huge amount of available material on line isn't that attractive to me as I would not listen to or like a large amount of it.

 

As for sound quality It's not even a factor as both can be done well, or poorly.

 

I like green, some prefer blue.

Blue here. I push the button on my PC and play things that are 16 hours long without interruption, only pausing to save the second half for the next day.

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3 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

Blue here. I push the button on my PC and play things that are 16 hours long without interruption, only pausing to save the second half for the next day.

 

Sheesh! I have no ties and few responsibilities and I get no more than a couple of hours at a time without some kind of interruption! I'm impressed, Con :)

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Just now, muon* said:

Sheesh! I have no ties and few responsibilities and I get no more than a couple of hours at a time without some kind of interruption! I'm impressed, Con :)

Haha, I've been working from home since long before this Covid mess, and listen to my HiFi at the same time, which is why I clock up thousands of valve hours each year.

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6 minutes ago, Ittaku said:

Haha, I've been working from home since long before this Covid mess, and listen to my HiFi at the same time, which is why I clock up thousands of valve hours each year.

I'm at home most of the time, but I listen for 2 to 5 hours a day at most.

 

Definitely blue you are :thumb:

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51 minutes ago, cazzesman said:

Sorry Ratbob if we have scared you off.   I would not be surprised if you are hiding under the bed about now

Gotta confess your right.

I was thinking this streaming lark would be simpler but so far it’s not looking that way.

Pretty much all the info, including file formats, software and hardware is completely new to me, yikes (and you need a PC?) I’m still running Windows 8.1, I keep things till they break. No NBN for me either, runs past the house but I have no need of it.

This started as I was looking at buying a new Luxman and thought why bother if I move to streaming and the quality isn’t there. 

So far the view from under the bed is to stick with what I know, my trusty old VRDS 25, KEF104.2s and get a new Luxman. 

Then for casual listening use the USB MP3 files compiled from iTunes on the old Oppo 105.

I will endeavour to answer everyone though, so many great comments. Cheers

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22 minutes ago, Ratbob said:

Gotta confess your right.

I was thinking this streaming lark would be simpler but so far it’s not looking that way.

Pretty much all the info, including file formats, software and hardware is completely new to me, yikes (and you need a PC?) I’m still running Windows 8.1, I keep things till they break. No NBN for me either, runs past the house but I have no need of it.

This started as I was looking at buying a new Luxman and thought why bother if I move to streaming and the quality isn’t there. 

So far the view from under the bed is to stick with what I know, my trusty old VRDS 25, KEF104.2s and get a new Luxman. 

Then for casual listening use the USB MP3 files compiled from iTunes on the old Oppo 105.

I will endeavour to answer everyone though, so many great comments. Cheers

Geez you just made it easier mate!  If I’m not wrong, you can just plug in an old iPhone or iPad to the Oppo via USB.  Download Spotify or Tidal (try a free trial) apps to this device, and to any portable device you want to use as a remote.  

 

What you need:

- a “streamer”.  This can be an iPhone or iPad.

- an Apple “camera connector” cable.  Make sure it’s a genuine one (copies never work).  This will allow you to have your “streamer” device connected and to stay on charge at same time.  I’ve done this with an iPhone 5 I got for free.

 

https://www.apple.com/au/shop/product/MK0W2AM/A/lightning-to-usb-3-camera-adapter?afid=p238|sPY4llAMz-dt_mtid_18707vxu38484_pcrid_115761117166_pgrid_31514823646_&cid=aos-au-kwgo-pla-btb--slid---product-MK0W2-

 

- IF you have another iPhone or iPad, this can be your remote control

 

so thus your connections are:

old iphone>lighting to USB camera connector>Oppo 105 USB input

 

I got into streaming this way, and the cost was a used “camera connector” for $15....

 

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27 minutes ago, Ratbob said:

Then for casual listening use the USB MP3 files compiled from iTunes on the old Oppo 105.

Mate. Sign up to Spotify or Tidal and just use the Oppo and a screen. The blokes on here that are more digital savvy then me will guide you through setup.

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Just now, Wimbo said:

Mate. Sign up to Spotify or Tidal and just use the Oppo and a screen. The blokes on here that are more digital savvy then me will guide you through setup.

Ohh, see above lol.

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Keep the CD player and the CD’s for when the mood strikes you.

 

Skip the part about ripping files and storing them and backing them up and making sure the file names are correct and making sure the album artwork is in every song and connecting the nas or connecting the hard drive........ (waste of time IME!)

 

Go strait to the decent streamer and a tidal subscription option, press play and enjoy, it’s simply the easiest way to get to the object at hand with pretty high quality which is enjoy the bloody music!.

 

if you think the CD sounds better to Tidal, play the CD.

Edited by Hi-Fi Whipped
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Gotta' agree with Hi Fi Whipped.....   go straight to a decent streamer and a Tidal subscription. .....   with good gear, the quality is as good as CD and, I was once terrified to say it, even better ! I did the vinyl revival thing, also updated to a great Marantz SACD, only to be eventually seduced into the convenience AND QUALITY of streaming. I have a second hand Auralic streamer ( thank you Stereonet )  , a Regen thingy also from Stereonet, _.  all for the price of my new SACD Marantz.    ........ then get the best DAC you can afford ( and there are great ones between $800 to $ 2000  on Stereonet .... sorry, I went crazy here and bought something new,  a Mirus Pro for a stupid amount of money but have absolutely no regrets as it's fantastic in my system. Now I can read equipment reviews that refer to test tracks or read reviews in Music mags and then ..... bang..... 95% of the time it's playing on my system..... beautiful..    In the end, wow.... worth it for me.

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A few years back I purchased a Naim Unityserv to rip my CD collection to WAV files and act as my streamer. I’ve now moved to Roon, taken a Tidal subscription and moved my ripped CDs to a NAS drive. I think the user interface is fantastic and it allows me to add albums from tidal that I like to my albums and make it seem like one merged music collection. Information is available on artists, albums, lyrics for songs etc. Search capabilities and the ability to group album by different criteria are brilliant. It also makes some great recommendations on albums you may like based on what you’re listening to.

 

I use Roon 95%+ of the time to play music but I still own a CD and vinyl collections. I still purchase and play records occasionally but rarely CDs.

 

If your happy playing CDs, stick with it.  I changed because I wanted to explore the massive amounts of music available on Tidal.  You should only change if you see a clear benefit in doing so.

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1 hour ago, Hi-Fi Whipped said:

Keep the CD player and the CD’s for when the mood strikes you.

 

Skip the part about ripping files and storing them and backing them up and making sure the file names are correct and making sure the album artwork is in every song and connecting the nas or connecting the hard drive........ (waste of time IME!)

 

Go strait to the decent streamer and a tidal subscription option, press play and enjoy, it’s simply the easiest way to get to the object at hand with pretty high quality which is enjoy the bloody music!.

 

if you think the CD sounds better to Tidal, play the CD.

that is a good move... though i cancelled my tidal only the other day... for 2nd time :D 

 

it just doesnt have the kind of eclectic stuff i listen to i guess :D eg might have 2 albums out of 7 for one of my favourite artists ...

 

but yes its a better move to stream off web if a possibility...

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5 hours ago, Mat-with-one-t said:

Thus, I have concluded that I will get:

- a unit that uses a high quality inbuilt DAC and connects directly to my stereo via RCA’s.  The option to use my own external DAC(s) would be a bonus.

- the unit must have an Ethernet port to connect to my home network via a stable wired connector 

- it needs to happily stream Spotify and Tidal.  Digital radio would also be nice

- it needs to have an inbuilt ripping facility so I can finally get around to that CD collection!  It needs to automatically file and tag and add metadata and all that.  Thus, I just need to insert the disc and nothing else!

- it needs to be able to read of an external drive and/or a NAS so storage can get as big as I want.

- it needs a crazy easy software interface that the entire family can use from any device in the house (wired it wireless).  Software/firmware needs to be easily upgradable and ongoingly supported (I will generally avoid “boutique” computer-based units I reckon, as I worry about longer term support...

- sound quality needs to be top notch, but not top tier

 

So that leaves a few choices, but not THAT many.  I’ve narrowed it to most likely a Bluesound Vault 2i.  I’d be happy to hear from the brains-trust here if other units fit the bill.  

 

In the end, make a priority list.  Sound, convenience, level of tinkering, storage.  That will lead you to an answer!

@Mat-with-one-t  I had most of your points ticked off 18months ago after selling the Bluesound node 2i I had bought to cover some of your points.

 

But I saw this thing at a friends place in Bleak City and was pretty happy with how many points it covered.

I sold my cdp to finance it actually and I'm still a bit sad about that but...we move on don't we. Can always buy another spinner.

This is a review of it.

Music in the Round #92: Digibit Aria Piccolo +

Kalman Rubinson  |  Jun 26, 2018

 

 

 

718mitr.promo__0.jpg

Lovers of high-resolution multichannel sound still don't have it easy. While the two-channel market is replete with snazzy, efficient music servers in stylish boxes, the only multichannel equivalents are Merging Technologies' Merging+Player Multichannel-8, and a handful of stereo devices that are rumored to do multichannel, though no such claims are made in print. To be candid, the latter will play multichannel tracks via USB, Ethernet, or HDMI outputs to suitable DACs (but that's another story), but because they're aimed at the two-channel market, they tend to skimp on the CPU horsepower and RAM needed to handle higher-resolution multichannel files. Even the Merging+Player Multichannel-8 ($13,500), with its Intel i3 CPU running Roon, couldn't entirely keep up with everything in my library.

Among the many multichannel wannabes was DigiBit's elegant Aria music server, which I reviewed in March 2015. At the time, I noted that DigiBit's website made "no mention of the playback of multichannel files," though their representatives told me that all Arias could play multichannel files. Sure they could.

The datasheet for the Aria Piccolo + boldly announces "Multichannel Support via HDMI and USB outputs." This piqued my interest, not only for the overt declaration of multichannel support but also for the mention of HDMI. Given the fact that, currently, there are only three multichannel USB DACs on the consumer market, we should welcome support for HDMI so that we can play multichannel audio through an AVR or preamplifier-processor.

The Piccolo + runs a Celeron CPU and 4GB RAM and comes in three configurations, depending on the internal storage capacity: 1TB SSD, $2999; 2TB SSD, $3299; or 3TB HDD, $3499. It includes a standalone USB DVD drive for ripping CDs, with automatic ripping and tagging features. I opted for the 3TB version, as uncompressed multichannel files are about six times the size of equivalent two-channel files. On the other hand, none of the three configurations is constrained by the internal storage—the Aria can access and play files from a NAS or a directly attached USB drive.

At 17" wide by 2.4" high by 9.8" wide and 13.25 lb, the Piccolo + is somewhat smaller than the original Aria, and though it lacks its predecessor's beautifully sculpted, and no doubt expensive to machine heatsinking, its looks are equally elegant. There are no visible heatsinks—the Piccolo + clearly relies on radiating heat from its sealed and smoothly machined case. Throughout my testing and listening, it never got more than barely warm to the touch.

718mitr.picbac.jpg

The black front panel is empty but for the illuminated On/Off button. A lot more goes on around back. At left are pairs of RCA and XLR analog output jacks that are fed from the internal stereo DACs, and above them is the single HDMI connector. In the middle of the panel are AES/EBU (XLR), S/PDIF (RCA), and USB output jacks, along with a LAN (RJ45) jack and a USB in/out port for local storage devices. To the right are an IEC power inlet, the main power switch, and a connector for a possible future dedicated linear power supply.

The Piccolo + is operated via DigiBit's iAria app, which I downloaded to my iPad from the Apple Store. (There's a version for Android devices.) After I'd connected the Piccolo + to my LAN and powered it up, the app found it, then presented me with a well-designed GUI, with which all setup and playback functions can be controlled. The iAria supports automatic tagging and display of album-cover art via web access to Discogs, FreeDB, GD3, MusicBrainz, and SonataDB (classical). Albums and tracks are accessible by almost any category, and there is full playlist support. In addition, the GUI permits user editing of tags and cover art, as well as library backup.

The setup options offer a degree of user control suitable for a music server. But, consistent with DigiBit's intention of making everything as foolproof as possible, there's no real access to the Aria's operating system. For instance, I could send files from the Piccolo + via the stereo analog outputs of the built-in DAC, or via USB 2.0 if no special driver was required. (The Piccolo + is compatible with Apple AirPlay and DLNA.) But to use my exaSound e38 DAC, I had to e-mail DigiBit, who then magically downloaded and installed the driver in the Aria overnight. Now, I prefer a more hands-on approach, but I have to admit that, with DigiBit's way of doing things, there's no way the user can screw things up.

718mitr.pic2.jpg

After testing the Aria's communication and playback via the exaSound e38 with the provided sample files, I directed the Piccolo + to access my NAS, then told it to add to its library all of the more than 20TB worth of music files stored there. This was not accomplished instantaneously. While the Piccolo + was busy doing all that, I played some of the files. All two-channel formats played well, as did multichannel 24-bit/96kHz PCM and DSD64 files, but to my great disappointment, all higher resolutions played only with frequent interruptions. "Here we go again," I muttered.

But the Piccolo turned out to be much better than that. First, I canceled the comprehensive library process and instead downloaded only about 2TB of music to the Aria's HDD. Listening to those, I found that the Piccolo + played everything, including DXD and DSD256 in multichannel, without a burble or hesitation or interruption. The sound from the e38 and the rest of my Manhattan system was as clean, smooth, and satisfying as ever. From this, I concluded that the frequent interruptions I'd heard earlier were the result of playing hi-rez multichannel files while the Piccolo + was busy transferring my entire library over the network.

I then asked the Piccolo + to add another 2TB of files to its library, but without downloading them to the Piccolo's internal HD. Only after that process was completed did I try to play any of them over my LAN, and again, it was everything I'd hoped for. The logical conclusion: The Piccolo + could play every music format I had on hand, either from internal or network storage. That it couldn't play the highest-density files while simultaneously adding files to its library over a network was no big deal. As my mother said, "First, finish your homework; then you can go out and play."

718mitr.pic3.jpg

What about HDMI? I toted the Aria Piccolo + up to our place in Connecticut, intending to plug it into one of the HDMI inputs on my Marantz AV8802a preamplifier-processor, but there was another wrinkle: HDMI output is not enabled on the Piccolo + by default, but requires an e-mail request to DigiBit to activate it via the Internet.

Playing files on the Piccolo + and sending them via HDMI to the Marantz was completely successful, with two small limitations and one convenient advantage. The first limitation is a common one: HDMI output from the Aria's Intel motherboard doesn't support DSD, but converts DSD to hi-rez PCM on the fly. The second limitation is the Marantz's inability to accept any input resolution higher than 24/192. If your pre-pro can handle more, the Piccolo + will do it, as I proved by using it in my Manhattan system. The advantage: You can apply to the feed from the Piccolo + all of your AVR's audio-processing facilities, including room EQ, bass management, or whatever else it has onboard.

Given the closed structure of the Piccolo +'s GUI and its not-ready-for-gaming CPU, there's no easy way to implement bass management or equalization. For the same reason, massive library operations should not be performed while listening. Normal operations, such as adding a few albums, are not problems.

 

I'm happy to say that DigiBit's Aria Piccolo + is a well-integrated music server that's delightfully capable and easy to use. With suitable attached devices it will play uncompressed (AIFF, WAV) and lossless (ALAC, FLAC) formats up to 32/384 PCM, as well as DXD (32/352.8), DSD64, DSD128, and DSD256 files in glorious multichannel. It was a pleasure to use, and will suit the needs of almost any aficionado of music and multichannel-sound.

 

@Ratbob

Ignore the prices mentioned.

 

This is a review of the model  before this but it's basically the same. The app that runs it is very good.

 

 

 

The CD may be sliding slowly away into a silvery grave, but what of the collections we have amassed since its arrival 30 years ago — all that music, all those discs in the attic, their pits slowly rotting, is it all to be lost? Of course not. Music fans the world over have spent the last decade ripping those discs into computers for playing direct from file, and loading onto smartphones. With music downloads also spiralling southward as people switch to subscription music services, these files and discs may the last bastion of actual music ownership, short of the black stuff.    
 
But how best to rip CDs? And how best to store the files? The Aria Piccolo, from Spanish company Digibit, aims to offer a neat solution, and it turns out to be positively festooned with clever abilities.
 
Equipment
The is an attractive box, clearly high-end, yet adorned with just a single button, which turns it on. Inside is a hard drive, available in two storage configurations — with either a 2TB HDD or a 1TB SSD — but additional capacity can be added with an external HDD or a NAS. You fill the hard drive with your music, then you play it, controlling the Piccolo using its tablet-sized app for iOS or Android. 
 
Sounds simple? Ah, it always does, but such networked servers often turn out to be bewilderingly complicated. The Piccolo could have been especially so — it doesn’t only play music in one room, it can send music out through the home network to several zones at once. So what impressed us initially with the Piccolo was that everything just worked — we were playing, loading, ripping and even DLNA-pushing tunes around the house without even picking up the manual (which turned out to be excellent, with two versions for iOS and Android). And the app proved not only effective and attractive, but highly versatile. This is, believe us, most unusual.
 
As the price indicates, this is also a unit designed using high-quality construction and audio tech. For a start the casework is luxuriously all-aluminium, and fan-less, so where a NAS drive often has to be kept away from the music room lest it wheeze all over your music, the Aria is entirely silent. The Intel Celeron motherboard inside is labelled “industrial grade”, while the optional DAC section is capable to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256, outputting through analogue RCA sockets. 
 
There is, however, an option to have no DAC inside, with the Piccolo serving music digitally either through your network or from its digital outputs into an external DAC — there are USB, optical and HDMI digital outputs. So with the different drive options, that’s four variations in all.
 
Aria Piccolo
 
Performance
As noted, we were up and running in no time. We gave the Piccolo an Ethernet connection to our home network, which required no setting up at all, along with maximum reliability. Distributor Absolute Hi End had kindly pre-loaded a nice selection of FLAC, high-res PCM and DSD albums, and it was delightfully easy to add our own, via a variety of methods. The Piccolo’s drive popped up on our Mac via the network — we dragged in a high-res copy of David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’, refreshed the app display, and there it was, ready to play. We also used the app to add music, navigating to a NAS drive, selecting albums and watching them copy over the network — again, immediately ready to play. There’s also the choice to link to the music, but not copy it over.
 
Finally we attached the supplied CD drive, a slimline ASUS model, to the rear USB sockets and shoved in a CD. We went through the app looking for a ‘rip’ button — you could choose the format (we chose Apple Lossless), but the app could see no music on the drive. Just as we were pondering this, the CD ejected — it had done all the ripping automatically. There’s helpful. You can also set it to rip to somewhere other than the internal storage.
 
Notably, everything arrived impeccably named, with artwork showing, and a host more information too, including artist bios. One of Aria’s strengths is that it not only uses AccurateRip, which promises 100% error-free rips by adjusting CD offsets for each specific drive model, it then accesses multiple premium music databases including AMG, GD3, SonataDB, Freedb and Musicbrainz, and merges metadata results from each of them, thereby promising “the best metadata results in the industry”. 
 
Aria Piccolo
 
ImageResizer.ashx?n=http%3a%2f%2fi.nextmedia.com.au%2fReviews%2fScreenShot04878.jpg&c=0The app. That metadata, of course, feeds directly into the versatility of the app here, which is called iAria. It is up with the very best of its breed, having some lovely functionality such as the ability to pinch and zoom to change the size of album artwork (and therefore number of albums showing per screen), but most particularly in terms of information. Thanks to all that metadata, you can filter not only by artist and album but by genre, period (right), instrument, composer, conductor, soloists, even sampling rate — anything, in fact, for which there is a metadata field. And by going to an album and pressing the ‘i’ button, you can edit the metadata, even adding your own fields, apparently without limit. Geek heaven, then, and of particular value for classical music lovers — to rip a CD and have all this information instantly at your fingertips is a joy.
 
You add music to a queue (Aria calls it a playlist) by track or album — and again here, unusual versatility. You set your usual preference (e.g. ‘play next’, or ‘add to playlist’) so a quick tap on a song or album will do that, but press and hold brings up a longer menu, including the crucial ‘clear playlist’ option, and a Play Doctor, which has a crack at picking a connected playlist from your mass of metadated music. Playlists can be edited, saved and reloaded later.
 
Aria PiccoloNote that the app has an iPad version, Android tablet and phone versions, but none yet for iPhone — the free MConnect app for iPhone will control the Aria and even push from it to other devices, but MConnect is not a patch on the the quality of iAria (and it tried to sell us window shutters). 
 
Output 
We could go on about the app, but enough — it’s great. How does the Piccolo sound? Excellent. It proved highly friendly across filetypes from low-level MP3s and AACs up to CD quality and beyond in WAV, FLAC, Ogg, Apple Lossless, AIFF and DSD to DSD256. We began listening through its analogue outputs from the Piccolo’s optional DAC stage. Remembering this DAC stage adds around $750 to the cost of the digital-only Piccolo, it presented a good powerful and well rendered image, but things were definitely lifted a level when we exited digitally via optical into our regular standalone DAC (around three times that $750). What joy of exploration to have such easy access to high-resolution files so superbly rendered. Our high-res collection tends to sit on a NAS drive left for special occasions; the Piccolo brought it all to our fingertips and had us hunting through these acquired delights, from the 24/96 Zeppelin FLACs that came with the recent boxsets to the rapid-fire dynamics of the Blue Man Group, endless high-res audio jazz and (Aria’s great strength via that metadata) classical selections. But information aside, it really had no genre weakness, it just served the data precisely as required.
 
Distributor Absolute High End also offers a performance upgrade via a $519 high-end power supply unit from SBooster.
 
Aria PiccoloMultiroom
Indeed it is quite the whizz at data serving — the other huge ability here is that the Piccolo doesn’t just play music in one zone, it can easily send it beyond. Bottom left of the app you select either ‘Analog Dac’ or ‘Optical’ or ‘HDMI’ to indicate which output you are using. But you can use all of them, either linked or playing independent playlists (running concurrent playlists can get confusing, however). That’s potentially three zones going at once from the back panel alone. 
 
But it’ll also serve over the network. Also listed under this panel of the app were two other networked devices we had under review at the time — a little $250 Bush radio streamer, and a Moon Neo Ace. Both of these are DNLA capable (Aria should also see AirPlay devices, and vice versa), and could not only see the Aria as an available server, the iAria app could actually push music to them. The Moon seemed rather taken aback to have AC/DC suddenly thrust upon it from the network, but out came Angus, rich and raw, as if directly connected. If a rendering device can’t handle certain file types, the Aria can transcode files over the network to a lower stream rate. 
 
And one final trick. Know how you can’t listen to FLACs and other high-res stuff on your iPad? The Piccolo will stream over the network to your tablet, and you can listen on headphones. Even without transcoding turned on, our iPad apparently rendered high-res FLACs, presumably with the iAria app’s help. Sit in bed with iPad and headphones, streaming from the Aria. Nice.  
 
Aria PiccoloAnd, importantly, there’s an easy back-up procedure available, detailed in the manuals.
 
We ended up with a single niggle. App control is excellent, but there’s no alternative here. A small play/pause remote control, or a pause button on the unit itself, would be helpful when the phone rings. PC/Mac software would be reassuring for the longterm — will an app always be available for every device you might own in the future, for decades to come? PC control or browser-based software is more likely to work forever.
 
Conclusion
Flawless and intuitive operation, highly intelligent networking, a solution for high-res storage, ripping CDs, and serving all that music in a great many ways, simultaneously if necessary. 
 
And if you already have a good DAC, standalone or in an amp, then the DAC-less Aria Piccolo looks a particularly attractive option. We shall miss it when it’s gone.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Luc
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I've gone the same route as @DSD_Fan and also have Tidal linked into Roon which allowed me to discover more new music I like over the course of a week than the past 10 years.

 

That said I still have a turntable in one system and CD player in another.  I do prefer physical media when doing active listening and regularly spin both CD's and LP's even though all my CD's have been ripped to FLAC.

Edited by MattyW
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4 hours ago, muon* said:

When I was using a PC with files on it i found myself skipping tracks all the time, i likely spent about 20% of my time skipping tracks.

I can relate to that, and I have found myself hunting around for tracks like that. However, as with anything in life, it just takes a little self control to take the sting out of this great new innovation and opportunity.

 

At present, I control my computer audio playback via iPad remote from my listening chair, and (being wary of the problem above) I usually make myself choose an album, tap play, fold up the iPad and close my eyes.

 

I do enjoy the upside, too, like listening to a 3 hour opera in one sitting, without being interrupted every 20 minutes to flip over records ;) 

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I grew up where you had to get off ya' ass to change a channel on the TV or adjust the volume, or to make a phone call...often walking a block or two to do so hoping it hasn't been vandalised.

 

But, the future is convenience, we are nearly there 🤣

 

280823183_Wall-Eobesehumans-cropped.jpg.d60ce289b614d90cf5be8aa3e8506526.jpg

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19 minutes ago, muon* said:

I grew up where you had to get off ya' ass to change a channel on the TV or adjust the volume, or to make a phone call...

 

When I grew up we had to bang rocks together... No. Strike that...

 

I mean, so did we, but I didn’t care for that at all. Among the favourite electronics projects of my generation were TV remote controls (usually cabled, sometimes *gasp* ultrasonic).

 

That said, if the music draws me in I sometimes find myself pacing up and down the room, arguing with the conductor or whoever else got me fired up, until I realise I should sit back down and just listen 🤔

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Luc I think I recall reading up on the Digibit Aria Piccolo.  Looks to be a very nice approach, although I worry a little about some of the points I made, particularly pertaining to ongoing support and longevity....

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