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The Future...The QLS QA-350 solid state transport

 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3364
Registered: Oct-04
I've been talking about something like this being the next logical step in transportable music playback, and don't you know, someone went out and built it.

http://cgi.ebay.com/QLS-QA350-SD-Card-WAV-HIFI-Music-Player-EMS-Shipping-/260597 635317

http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/496326/review-qls-qa-350-solid-state-transpo rt-amazing-sound-and-versatility
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15268
Registered: May-04
.

Have you considered something like this; http://www.samsontech.com/products/productpage.cfm?prodID=2053

It is meant for a working musician/recordist and therefore offers a different mix of features than the unit you spec'd - some of which might or might not appeal to any one user. The H1 is a new unit which I haven't seen in person, however, the H2 (http://www.samsontech.com/products/productpage.cfm?prodID=1916) that I own has the ability to record in WAV 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz at 16-bit or 24-bit, MP3 to 320kbps and Variable Bit Rate (VBR) data formats, all of which can be accessed in record/playback to/from a SD card for a solid state storage media rather than hard disc storage. As mentioned in the comments pertaining to the unit you referenced a dozen albums (give or take) can be stored on a 8g SD card in WAV format at 44.1kHz. A dozen SD cards can be carried in a package no bigger than a container of TicTacs. The H1 uses microSD cards which would take that storage down to the size of what? a tiny bottle of eydrops?

I haven't become so ambitious as to try the experiment but several on line audio workdesks (including several which come as freeware) have the ability to upsample a 44.1kHz/16 bit input to higher rates. Though I haven't found a freeware system which will perform the upsampling on the fly (I also haven't looked that hard either). This then becomes a but clunky when you are trying to transfer from a CD disc to a SD card with an intervening storage on another system. This does, however, offer the ability to directly download some of the hi-rez, high sampling rate recordings being offered on line from companies such as Reference and Linn. There's also a direct analog line in if you prefer to record directly from a decent stand alone player.

All of the portable recorders have similar features so this is not the only unit available for consideration. Functional operation is from internal batteries (you decide which type), wall wart or outboard power supply - a simple sealed lead acid battery with a floating charger such as I have used on my DIY Italian T amp should provide plenty of playback time and inject nothing nasty into the signal path through the power supply. All of the portables offer both USB and line level outputs. So, while you're limited to the onboard DAC for line out, you could still access something along the lines of the HRT Music Streamer for an outboard DAC which would then offer the ability to upgrade as such items come along.

The plus side here is you have a very good portable recorder should you come across a musician who will give you permission to capture a live session on your player. As a basic recorder, the H2 is only a smidge away from many of the far more expensive professional level units and the difference can easily be made up by taking it up one notch to a recorder which provides phantom power for some external condensor mics. Using external mics many of the differences between the H2 and, say, a Marantz, Fostex or Korg (http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/recording/portable-field-recorders) become those which will be mostly appreciated by a serious recordist and not someone interested primarily in playback.

Since you seem to be in the process of studying this field, CM, what's you impression of using this as a portable player or as a music server via SD cards? It doesn't advertise 1% polymer this, gold plated that or Wolfson DAC's but then it's intended for an audience who doesn't look for such things and that lack of hifi BS sort of appeals to me. No remote though, this is old school get up and change the d@mn thing yourself.


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Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3367
Registered: Oct-04
I don't have much to offer other than that direct, lossless, solid-state recording is no doubt where we're going, and these contraptions are certainly a step in right direction for on-the-fly recording (and more); but as to its ability to perform as a server, your guess is as good as mine, but my initial concern is that it might make for an awkward component, essentially being designed to function as a mic; that's not to say it couldn't do the job, especially if solely serving as a SD Card Transport.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15269
Registered: May-04
.

I've seen ads for this; http://www.head-direct.com/product_detail.php?p=72 & http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=hifiman&type= But it's not even close to my price range for what it appears to be. There's an approving review here; http://www.head-fi.org/forum/thread/424091/hifiman-hm-801-portable-player-dac-review-part-one-of-two


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Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3368
Registered: Oct-04
I've seen that player too, but it is way too expensive.

Are you in the market for a portable player? You usually steer clear of portable-digi talk.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15270
Registered: May-04
.

Not really. I sort of needed/wanted a player to use when I'm away from the house or sitting on the porch at night. Thing is I couldn't find a "high end" portable CD player. Which I find rather strange. There's all kinds of portable headphone amps, DAC's and high end headphones that are advertised but, when I went searching, there weren't any (affordable) portable CD players other than the run of the mill Sony's, JVC's etc. I already have a portable CD so I just settled for that with my Grado phones.

I tried a MP3 player and found most of them aren't worth the money if you want even mediocre sound quality. But I finally found a Philips GoGear player with expandable memory via microSD cards. It will recognize FLAC files which are not bad. I played around with a few of the headphones that I have laying around and came up with a combination that works for what I need from a truly portable system I can attach to my belt loops. Ten to a dozen albums on a card and I can have about 100 CD's at my disposal. Since FM sucks here in BigD this is about what I need for what I wanted to pay for this sort of system.

I haven't convinced myself I need a computer based system yet and I've been looking around the edges to see when that will become a worthwhile expenditure for something other than slightly better than average background music and not cost a month's house payment. So far I'm not there. I may play around with the Zoom player just to see what I can accomplish. IMO getting rid of the hard disc will be the next noticeable improvement in sound quality. I've used Pandora on my computer but the computer sound system is just there to make sound and not much else. Besides, I've got a few hundred music channels on the satellite dish that offer just about the same quality of sound as Pandora and I haven't said I'll be happy with internet radio at this point. I'm at a point where I woud prefer to simplify rather than add more crap to the stack of boxes.


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Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4013
Registered: May-05
Jan -

Are you looking into music servers? Have you considered the extenders (if that's what they're called) like the Sonos and Squeezebox?

My very simple server is an Apple TV connected to an old Theta DAC. I rip everything as Apple Lossless in iTunes and synch it to the Apple TV's internal hard drive. Keeping all the sound settings off and using the digital output makes for an excellent sounding, inexpensive, and very easy to use package. They're being phased out for a newer model without a hard drove built in, and currently cost about $150. If you have wifi, you can get the cheapest iPod Touch to use as a very cool remote.

Not sure if this is something that interests you at all. I've found it unbeatable for price, performance, and ease of use/fun factor. If it's connected to a TV, there's also the YouTube factor, which you've already found some great stuff on.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3369
Registered: Oct-04
I very much know how you feel Jan, I feel like I've been sitting on the sidelines waiting to see how things shake out, but I'm getting itchy.

I can testify to the very good SQ of Creative's Zen players, several of which accept SD Cards & do FLAC, but the software isn't the slickest out there, and that's a damn shame.

That Apple set-up sound slick Stu, I might need to explore that.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15271
Registered: May-04
"Are you looking into music servers?"

Only in the same way I'm looking into buying a hybrid car. I wish both technologies were about ten years further along in development and stabilization of formats. Right now I can't get past the feeling whatever I buy on a discretionary budget like my own will be similar to when I bought my last computer. The salesman never mentioned it was loaded with Vista "64 bit" and I didn't know there was such a thing as "64 bit". Nothing on the machine advertised "64 bit" until I got it home. I needed a computer that day for my business work so there wasn't time to research - which does make this different than buying a music server I don't really need. Well, this computer has proven to be more of a disaster than a relief; crashing programs constantly, shutting down several times a day and finding very little software I want that is meant for the "64 bit" technology. Great if you're a gamer but I'm not at all. Everytime I mention Vista 64 bit to anyone in the know they roll their eyes like I've mentioned I have my portfolio entirely in AIG's hands and it's being personally managed by Gordon Gekko. IMO it's still too early to swap to Windows 7 for software reasons and I can't justify the price of an Apple for my actual computing needs. So I'm rather stuck in the middle waiting for something to either shake out or for me to finally fall out of the tree.

Should I really feel lucky when I read the average life of a domestic computer is about four to five years at best? That's a tough call when you own a POS like I have. You shouldn't be praying for what you own to go into thermal nuclear meltdown.

I have no "need" for a server to be honest so I have to convince myself it's a toy that I want more than a dozen other things I would like to have or actually do need. I'm still paying for the new HVAC system. My rear screen projection TV finally reached the point where it was not prudent to put money into repairs which prompted the purchase of an internet ready plasma set. It should show up this week. If that spurs other purchases that seem to make sense, then I might progress further with the server idea. Otherwise, I'll continue to read and wait.

I've started intently playing my guitar again which is taking priority and I prefer making music to passively listening to music. My attentive listening time is less than it has been in years and now I'm more involved in other aspects of the music experience than are necessary to owning even a somewhat high end hifi. Over my main system or over my portable system, I'm still trying to figure out just how Lightnin' Hopkins did what he did. Them's amazing fingers! The good thing here is the immense amount of music available for free on the internet. When I first began playing in the '60's there was no such access and Lightnin' Hopkins was an unknown name to a kid in the middle of Illinois. I don't need any more guitars and I really don't need another amp - sold my tube amp to a friend way back in the '80's when I wasn't playing at all . But, honestly, I'm wearing out on hifi as it exists in the high end market today. The market for hifi still apears to think we're in a boom economy where a $800 portable player is just another toy. I've thrown away too many of those sorts of toys over the last decade to care about them today.

Anybody need a $2000 (in 1996 dollars) LaserDisk player? It was SOTA at the time. I ditched my $700 HiFi VCR when it needed repairs. Didn't really matter, I've got another one laying around here somewhere. The TV was $2k less than a decade ago - today it'll go out the door for free to hopefully gain a second life somewhere (some shops actually charge you to haul it off). Can't tell you how many other pieces of electronics are in the closets around here.

I see Cary is selling(?) a new SACD player for $6500; http://stereophile.com/hirezplayers/cary_audio_design_classic_cd_303t_ professional_sacd_player/index3.html I'd have to look to find any of my SACD discs while my $1k player has sat idle for at least a year. (By the way, have you seen Stereophile recently? Two reviews this month of $18k pre amps and AD is talking about a $12k tonearm. Not bad I guess after the review of the $60k phono pre amp (ad: "If you can look yourself in the eye and spend $60,000 on a phono pre amp, you need ... ") and the $100k amplifiers and speakers of late. Those are a couple of the reasons I dropped my subscription after more than two decades of reading the magazine.)

For now I'll explore what the new TV with internet capabilites has to offer and go from there. I have a couple of spare computers laying around that should do for those needs. Until I feel the actual need/desire for a server I think I'll be on the sidelines with that technology.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3370
Registered: Oct-04
Jan, I couldn't agree more! I've said this before, but I just don't know who "high-end" hi-fi's customers are? Are there that many Saudi Princes & NBA players to prey on? And if someone like yourself can subsist off of a pair of $200 (?) DIY speakers & a DIY T-Amp, what does that mean for all us other schlubs?

People are free to spend their hard-earned money on what they want (for now), but the difference between a well thought out budget set-up, and a multi-thousand dollar one, has narrowed IMO to the point of being trivial, and the uber high-end gear which does widen that gap is simply out of reach for most.

So there!

Jan, I just heard that you can expect to pay about 12% less for a flat-screen TV come Christmas-time due to an industry surplus.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4015
Registered: May-05
I didn't renew my subscription to Stereophile for the same reasons. Add to that I kinda thought "Why am I reading about new gear when what I have is far more than sufficient and I'm perfectly happy with it?" Every few months they'll review an affordable piece so they can claim they review stuff in all price ranges. They rant and rave about stuff like the Musical Fidelity V-DAC. That thing's got zero groove and/or soul to it.

The Apple TV just flat out works for me. Its basically a self contained music server. All my CDs are ripped to an external hard drive, and it's all synched to the Apple TV. Computer doesn't need to be on, no interference, drop outs, or lag like on a Squeezebox. It's very similar to the Wadia iTransport, yet far easier to use.

Not pushing it on anyone. Its just a great product that I really enjoy. Combine that with it's current $150 or so price, and it's a great piece that helps me enjoy my music far more that I probably ever have. I have no idea why someone would buy something like a Sooloos that costs an absurd amount of money to do less than my Apple TV. I only use it for music stuff. I have no desire to rent and watch movies through it. I just wish there was an easy way to rip and store concert DVDs to it.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3371
Registered: Oct-04
Stu (I never know how you want me to address you?), what are your thoughts on the newest generation of Apple TV, it's missing a HD, so I can't see how I might use it as a stand alone server? WTF is "cloud storage"?

Stereophile is pathetic, but I can't bring myself to cancel, the music reviews are still half decent? I enjoy Tone Audio & Affordable Audio, more than I enjoy Stereophile, but webzines are not exactly my thing...yet, I just ordered a Kindle ;)
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3372
Registered: Oct-04
Cute... http://www.boxee.tv/box
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4016
Registered: May-05
Stu's fine, so's JR. I haven't seen or played around with the new Apple TV. I think cloud storage is just marketing speak for streaming. I think they want people to get a time capsule and use the Apple TV in conduction with it. I saw they changed the name of Air Tunes to Air Play, or vice versa or something along those lines.

I've also read that you can steam from an iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad directly to the Apple TV. Not sure if it's a pure digital signal or how it works. I'd say ask the guys in the Apple store, but those guys are pretty clueless about this stuff. It took my a few visits to find a guy who knew what I was trying to do with mine. He was the only one who knew what a DAC, Squeezebox, etc was. He uses his the same way I use mine. A bunch of other guys told me some flat out wrong info, including the day I ran into him. He started laughing and came over and gave them a crash course in it. And that was after it was on the floor for at least a year.

If you're interested in using an Apple TV as a streamer without storage, the new one may be worth looking into. There's a lot of other options too, so I'm not sure it's really the best option. If you want everything stored on to use it like I do, the version I have is a very good choice.

Only things I don't like is that it won't do Pandora and it won't do high res. It'll store high res, but it'll down mix it to redbook when playing back.

If you want to know more, give me a pm or call. Still got my cell number? Typing stuff here is effective, but things get lost in translation somehow.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4017
Registered: May-05
In fairness to the Apple store guys, they sell very few Apple TVs. They can't know everything and how to use every product in every way. They know far more about iPods, iPhones, iMacs, etc.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3373
Registered: Oct-04
Thanks JR, I'll reach out to you if I have any more questions. Did you have a chance to look at that Boxee Box? I like that it has an SD slot & USB input.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 3206
Registered: Jun-07
Jan- Sorry to hear you have Windows Vista 64 bit. It is truly horrific. Your confidence in Windows 7 should be very high, although you havn't used it. Its a totally different operating system. I would recommend you rid of Vista as soon as possible.lol. Retail PC's last no longer than 5 years due to the fact they are built with very cheap parts.


When it comes to finding a cheap solution to digital Music the Apple TV is very good one. There is better extenders out there but for nowhere near the 150 mark. A full Music Server will do much more but again nowhere near the 150 mark. I am putting together a dedicated A/V server and my cost of integrating the latest Burr Brown DAC alone cost more than 150 dollars. The good thing about starting off with an extender like the Apple TV is that if there were ever a time you upgraded to a full system server that you can use the Apple TV to pull from the server in another room. Basically setting up multi room/source audio. You can then pull a proper movie management as well to the Apple TV if you ever desire.
http://www.sourceavtech.com/images/ss_movies.jpg

Then again, I don't see anyone on this forum caring about movie management anytime soon. I have found 99.9 percent of the market only cares about movie management. Pity.

Regarding your Vista 64 bit machine. On a positive note, you can upgrade to Win 7 Home for about 84 dollars. Don't by it retail or you will pay a fortune. Check out online retailers like Tiger Direct.
You will then have a music interface. As Windows 7 music database is slick. :
http://www.sourceavtech.com/images/ss_music.jpg

Then bypass the Windows codecs and install a few of your own (free) to fully bypass Windows doing anything with the output of the file. Us fine folk of Ecoustics can help you with that. This will also allow high res files to be played, and DAC to be clocked from the machine. Then add a cheap DAC like the HRT or a used Theta or MSB and your singing.

For the portable players, the SD card players will eventually come. The ones on the market now are kind of neat, but cost up near the price of a full server. It better wash my floor and cook me breakfast in the morning for 799.99. For the current market, finding a good portable player is hard. I agree with Chris that the current Creative Zen players are up there for best sounding, but software is horrible. Problem is, the software for ALL of them is horrible. Use the portable player as an storage device on your PC and just add the FLAC files manually and you will be fine.

Stereophile is insane. 60,000 dollar Phono amp? No wonder only like 1 percent of the market are two channel audiophiles. What a joke. And for the V-DAC made by Musical Fidelity? Stu hit it dead on when he said its got no soul. That is being pretty polite actually.lol
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15416
Registered: Dec-04
I don't see Stereophile reviewing a slew of sub $500 DAC's anytime soon...
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3382
Registered: Oct-04
Neither do I, just as I don't see NAD or Marantz running an ad during The Super Bowl, American Idol (a pretty logical choice IMO), or even a gadget show like Attack of the Show on G4. I'd like to see McIntosh Labs arrange for a strategic product-placement in an episode of MAD MEN (the best show on TV). It's like these companies dropped out of Advertising: 101. I would love to know in real numbers how many units some of these companies sell, is hundreds or thousands, because I can't imagine it being more than that?

The VAST majority of Hi-Fi gear sold is in the sub-$1K range, but you can go months without seeing a single Stereophile review of anything near that price range.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15273
Registered: May-04
.

"Jan, I just heard that you can expect to pay about 12% less for a flat-screen TV come Christmas-time due to an industry surplus."

I read that about three days after I made the purchase. Que cera, I had to make a decision, the TV I have is becoming unwatchable as the problem components continue to deteriorate. Why, the other night it looked as though Michael Bolton actually was unconcerned about being kicked off Dancing With the Stars. That can't be right?! I must need a new TV.

I have a good idea how much the TV cost the shop and I bought from a friend still willing to take the abuse of the AV industry. I got a good deal and I'm happy with what I paid. I find it a waste of time to consider what might have been in such instances.

A larger issue though is the manipulation of the market by outside forces. Many (and mostly one) of the up and coming third world countries responsible for electronics and such are not shutting down their manufacturing processes. Instead they are subsidizing the work to keep their economies afloat. With the rest of the world in an economic downturn and the damaged US consumer still being the largest target audience for anything you care to mention inventories are piling up and prices must drop to unload the product so new can take its place and workers don't turn on their politicians. So, if you're the lender in chief to the rest of the world and you're borrowing from yourself to support your currency while at the same time manipulating the currency of your major market player, what's to happen next? Humpty Dumpty comes to mind and 3D TV ain't the glue that sticks it all back together.


"Regarding your Vista 64 bit machine. On a positive note, you can upgrade to Win 7 Home for about 84 dollars."

That sounds like a far better idea than what I've heard from the retailers, Nick. Eighty four bucks, eh? OK, Windows Seven or that new guitar pedal? Geez, Nick! Why'd you have to make this so hard?


"you can go months without seeing a single Stereophile review of anything near that price range."

ST (originally writing as "The Audio Cheapskate" way back in the '80's when he joined Stereophile) usually gets the less expensive gear though he has been married to the Music Hall products for years. And I swear there have been too many times to count where I have read his column and still at the end didn't have a clue how the component or speaker actually performed just where he and his wife went on a trip. And after reading his stuff for twenty years I don't have any idea just what he finds important in sound reproduction.

The market is what the market is. Estimates are the "audiophile" market is about 2% of the entire population so high dollar advertising and product placement is still mostly a pipe dream for most companies. The on line press reviews multi-thousand dollar products from companies I've never heard of and I have to wonder who in the world will ever actually see.




Back somewhat to the original topic of the thread though, Stereophile's cover review is of the Sqeezebox Touch which is fairly cheap and has been getting good reviews everywhere I look; http://www.maximumpc.com/article/reviews/squeezebox_touch_review It too operates with SD cards as a possible storage device.


.
 

Gold Member
Username: Exerciseguy

Fort Hamilton, NY United States

Post Number: 3384
Registered: Oct-04
With the Squeezebox Touch on the cover, maybe this was a bad month to bring that up, but I think it's still largely true.

Jan, the Squeezebox Duet is the Squeezebox product which intrigues me most, but the Apple TV (previous gen)/iPod Touch combo might be the best server option suggested, particularly given its going price? Both put your catalog handily in the palm of your hand rather on a screen on a component affixed to your system
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4019
Registered: May-05
If you're not concerned about streaming and everything that comes with it, the Squeezebox may be a better option. I think the newer ones do high res (if you have any), and may do stuff like Pandora, Rhapsody, etc. Not sure about those though.

I really like the Sonos stuff. It does pretty much everything and sets up it's own wireless network, so your not using up bandwidth. It's a good bit more expensive than the others and needs at least one unit wired to a router.

The Apple TV does pretty much everything I want. The only thing missing is Pandora access. But that would be more of a nicety for background music than anything else.

Changing gears a bit but staying on the Internet music stuff...

Have you guys heard of Spotify? The UK guys are all over it. Sadly, it's not available here yet. It's a service where you can stream any song from any artist they have at any time. You can make a playlist and hear anything. I think it's a $10 or so per month thing for a premium subscription, and a free version that has some ads. Kinda like Pandora has their two levels.
Music is streamed in 320kbps mp3, and there's an option to buy any music, much like iTunes. Not sure about bit rates or format for purchases though.

It's been planned to be launched here a few times but keeps getting pushed back. If it becomes available, I'll probably buy something that'll support it. Knowing Sonos and Squeezebox, they'll most likely have access to it. Knowing Apple, they'll most likely not.

That may very well change the whole music game as we know it. In a lot of ways for the better.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 3207
Registered: Jun-07
Here is a unit I just ordered today to play with. Guys at work are telling me it is amazing. I will be the judge of that. Based on specs alone, it does much more than any extender I have used yet. Has SD and CF card and supports every file type, and audio codec known to human kind. Asus is making some very nice products of late. Here is the link.

http://ca.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=aLsLIiFYl0Jw0H9Q
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 3208
Registered: Jun-07
One I received yesterday but have not taken out of the box yet.

Also suppose to be top notch in the 150-250 price range.

http://www.playonhd.com/en/#info
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 3211
Registered: Jun-07
Spotify looks real neat Stu.

http://www.spotify.com/int/new-user/
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