Yes, it was over 75 years ago when this journey started. I’ll be 87 soon and in a lifetime have experience reproduced music from Edison cylinders (yes, as a lad I listened to them in the attic), 78 rpm shellacs, mono, then stereo microgrooves (I still remember the delight at first hearing the extended frequencies through the rice bubble snap crackle and pop on the bad surface LP) , CDs and finally have landed with Roon and music on hard drive. It has been a long and expensive journey.
And it was far more expensive than it needed to be because many of the “upgrades”, although yielding different sound, were not moves forward but moves sideways. Different does not necessarily mean better.
The vinyl years were full of frustration in attempts to achieve Nirvana against a backdrop of challenging arm geometry and a host of other complications with Ortofon, Koetsu and other cartridges while discs spun on wobbly Linn-Sondek tables. It was an absorbing hobby but one I have no wish to revisit. And of course there were seductions into head amps, preamps, amps and speakers. Been there, done that but it was pursued for decades as I hated the harsh sound of digital via CDs.
The change in attitude to digital was inspired by laserdiscs, a medium I was seduced into when a concert I had attended appeared on disc. That started the road onto improved DACs and it soon became obvious there was nothing inherently wrong with digital recordings, it was the reverse process to converting those bits back to nice analog that was at fault. That was my mantra then and in now. To this old brain the DAC is the most fundamentally important link in the audio chain but thankfully some really successful efforts are now on the market at reasonable prices from US maker Schiit and many Chinese sources.
Over 30 years ago I designed this house, and having my priorities sensibly in mind, set it up around a pentagonaly shaped lounge/audiophile home theater room with vaulted ceiling with absorbent tiles and no two opposing surfaces generating acoustic nasties and. It worked a treat and I’ve ended up with impressive Sound Labs Majestic electrostic speakers left right and centre, in a 7.1 system. But this suround sound lounge system is now left for video fare, although that does includes some music DVD/BD genre.
Audio only is now only fully appreciated via headphones for a number of reasons with the only real downside being lack of sub woofer vibes generation by woofers with organ music in the other system. With headphones I feel I am more immersed in the music and hear what has been recorded more clearly. And having finally put together a few top notch systems I’m surprised at how few classical music recordings are really bad. Albums I had branded as inferior years ago do not sound that way now, all of which has me pleased at the progress technology has made. Frustrating it took so long but we appear to be there now and it does not have to cost an arm and a leg. BUT, be careful about your choice of DAC!!! And a corollary of that is high end headphones reveal all nasties in a system so that should be one of the last upgrades.
I’ve been using ROON for 5 years now having migrated from an expensive Sooloos system and am generally more than happy. My biggest frustration is using Apple iPads as remote controls as at times I find them completely unresponsive so have to end up deleting and re-inserting the APP. The latest annoyance has been Apple’s attempt at getting me to pay a monthly fee for their cloud services, something I do not need as the iPads have little use besides ROON. The M/S Notebook is far more useful but not as convenient to use as a remote.
In this large music, mainly classical, library, I’ve have made a rod for my own back by using a special set of concocted tags and these have to be inserted on every new album entered. I’ve also altered headers so all albums featuring works by a single composer has his surname first in the header. If more than one composer, then “Various” is the lead word. It works for me and makes sorting of genre easy. Further than that I’ve also concocted PDF files to add in to Windows Explorer so they are accessible in ROON. Many albums have no ROON notes or digital booklet so I have fun making my own, usually using WORD essays converted to PDF. Another great time waster has been to rehash some album cover graphics, particularly for sets of albums so not all have the same boring appearance. Publisher is helpful here with files saved in jpg format and induced into Room editing. So yes, all this is a hobby in itself with listening the glorious music the beautiful reward!
I’ll attach a few pictures to explain more fully what is going on here but should add that the latest Epson projector shown in a schematic has not arrived yet but is set to replace the current TW9300… Yes, “Absolute Sound” is a myth as there is no such animal, but I do believe I’ve gone about as far as is possible down this murky road and still retained a semblance of sanity. And the result, made so convenient with ROON and technology. yields very nice sounding music thank you!
Vetry early laserdiscs did only have analog sound but later ones switched to also having digital. I have a few of those “analog only” LDs but most here have digital sound, even some with surround if you use an adaptor, The video quality on most is not great and downright terrible on many so they are rarely watched these days. I transcribed most classical music, opera and ballet fare onto DVD some time ago.
Maybe wise words Jazzfan but I’m not optimistic they will necessarily be heeded as the urge to “improve” the audio quality is just so ingrained. What finally has cured me was the purchase of the superb Audio-gd R8 DAC. I set it up with an A/B comparison with my modded (by guru Schultz) LKS DA004 DAC. Frustratingly the sound coming via either DAC sounded identical. A post reporting this on another forum was nit picked by some because they just did not believe my findings and suggested all sorts of errors I had made in my set up. I’m confident that what I reported was spot on BUT on reflection, wonder if the Aurilac G1 had done such a good job of stripping away the jitter that the later DACs really had an easy job. And of the course the corollary to that thought is I could be achieving the same high quality sound with much less sophisticated and less expensive DACs. That I’ll never know because I’m at the end of the upgrade road, I really am and have done enough messing around with audio toys for a lifetime. Playing with Roon is now keeping me occupied!!
Considering that most DAC are using off the shelf chips to do the conversion and all the fancy filters and profiles are built into said chips, the only place for there to be real differences in the sound is at the analog output. Like you I have a very nicely built Chinese DAC (SMSL VMV D1 DAC) in my main audio system as well as several other DAC in other systems with none of them being super expensive, including two Benchmark DAC 3 HGC. All of them sound wonderful so I don’t believe that the DAC is the weak link. But that is a discussion for another topic.
Glad (?) to hear that fiddling with Roon is keeping you busy. As always, continue to enjoy the music.
Thanks for the share. The takeaways from your posts are superb. I hadn’t thought about making a pdf jacket for my albums not populated by Roon and the tip on sideways moves vs focus on DAC and then headphones. I was lucky. I stumbled onto that path by accident when I decided I needed hardware that could deliver enough resolution to decide on anything else. But to the validation of experience…thanks.
Maybe I will get the same enjoyment in a shorter journey. That is, once I figure out how to build one of those pentagon shaped rooms…
Thanks for sharing your audio journey in this wonderful hobby. After many years and formats, I too have arrived at roon, and have enjoyed every minute. Roon is a great digital organizer for everything audio. I built several roon end-points using RPis and numerous 3rd party DAC HATs. It’s easy to do and - as you say - can realize some very nice sounding music for very little coin. My current DAC I’m listening to is the FiiO K9 Pro running through a Schiit Freya S preamp driving two active Elac Navis AB-51 speakers. Wonderful sounding and engaging speakers - at least to my ears!
BTW, that’s one beautiful and open listening space. I’m sure it sounds great too. Something to proud of for sure. Wishing you many more years enjoying the music.
Thank you for your thoughts and great you enjoyed the first half of your fantastic journey Now, up for the second part of the journey, young man! Plenty of new things waiting for you again Sure, we experiment in audio (technology) a lot. But that is part of the fun, you know prob. better than most of us here Anyway expensive But at the end any of our experiences is worth it imo
Fantastic review of a lifetimes obsession.
Thank you for sharing this, it is a salient warning to me to remain grounded & not get too carried away with an obsessive desire to improve my sound.
A lovely read.