"Man, things are never as they seem"

I had a fairly lengthy and pleasant exchange (30 some emails back 'n forth) with reader Tom D. that began with Tom asking how he could get iTunes-based music to play through his recently purchased Marantz AV7005 AV Preamp/Processor. But that was only the beginning. While we came to a workable solution for Tom's specific situation (which I believe is rather unique so not worth getting into the details here), I found his comments in one of our most recent emails well worth sharing:
I actually thought when I bought this Marantz I would plug it into my new cat6 cable and I'd be able to see everything on my computer and stereo at the same time. I could access Pandora on my stereo sitting at my computer. I could record(rip) all my cd's onto my computer and easily play them in cd quality on my stereo. I figured there must be a DAC that I could buy some day to make them sound even better. It would connect with cat6 in between my computer and Marantz to make my recorded computer music sound better. It all made sense. It was going to be great. I could even download SACD quality music and play it. No problem. This is even going to make me like computers. Man things are never as they seem.
Tom's best laid plans ran into any number of roadblocks which are common among Network Audio Devices like the Marantz AV7500. File format incompatibilities, resolution restrictions depending on file type and method of connectivity, wireless connectivity sound quality issues, physical connectivity distance restrictions, software incompatibilities, and more. In brief, every seemingly simple step was blocked until Tom learned how to work within the restrictive environment of the Network Audio Device c.2012.

Earlier today I read this article titled, Research Finds Consumers Crave Simplicity" by Aaron Baar for Marketing Daily and I thought, hey! that sounds like Tom. And while this comes as no surprise, lots of people feel like Tom.

According to new research conducted by Ketchum, three-quarters of consumers around the world are still dissatisfied with technology’s ability to make their lives simpler. According to the survey of more than 6,000 consumers in six countries, more than half (54%) said they want technology to be easy to use. Consumers also wanted devices to simplify their lives (46%), provide entertainment (35%) and express who they are (11%).

“The bottom line is people are looking for simplification,” Esty Pujadas, partner and director of Ketchum’s global technology practice, tells Marketing Daily. “That’s not to say that they’re not appreciative of features and functionality, but it’s more that they want to understand better the benefits.”

While I'm certain we'll soon see simpler and less restrictive solutions to Networked Audio, it's important to know what a given device can and cannot do before committing to a purchase. One way to do so, or so I'd hope, is to download and read the User Manual. But as Tom wisely noted, things are never as they seem.

COMMENTS
deckeda's picture

I wonder if the people who sign off on the checkmarked features that get included in modern A/V equipment use the features themselves. I wonder if they do things like count the number of clicks or scrolled-through menu items required to get to a feature.

kavon yarrum's picture

I own this unit and the partnering power amp. I use it strictly for my home theater system. I really don't believe in "all in one" boxes sinice there are ALWAYS compromises. 

As a multichannel processor and premap the 7005 is superb for the money. 

And BTW, what could Tom D possibly be thinking in that he could download "SACD quality" music and play it on this unit?

Michael Lavorgna's picture

And BTW, what could Tom D possibly be thinking in that he could download "SACD quality" music and play it on this unit?

My poor mind-reading skills aside, I’d imagine Tom was creating an ultimate wish list and getting more extravagant near the end…“This is even going to make me like computers” being the largest leap.

That said, seeing as Pioneer just announced two receivers that offer DSD playback, Tom's wish list turns out to be pure prognostication!

MADDOG95's picture

I don't have a soluton for the "three-quarters of consumers around the world are still dissatisfied with technology’s ability to make their lives simpler."  because I became one of them recently.

Long story short, having embraced lossless audio files (.flac), the "one amp per speaker" theory, a system upgrade, server technology & WHS 2011 recently, I had similar expectations as reader Tom D. Apparently, preserving audio quality and implementing a digital strategy requires some compromises. This strategy included a data repository for all my files, not just music.

Michael was kind enough to help me on to the right path, however, the actions of others (Microsoft in particular) created several roadblocks that took some time, research and ingenuity to overcome.

A solution was found and it wasn't a huge compromise but it surely wasn't what I envisioned when I started on my digital journey!

As German Field Marshal Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke is quoted to have said...

"No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force."

Once again, my thanks to Michael Lavorgna for his help.

Jon Iverson's picture

I've been using the Marantz AV7005 pre for several Stereophile DAC reviews via the Pure Direct Mode. This turns off all the video circuits, everything else you don't need (including the display) and essentially just runs it through the volume control. I've been impressed with the transparency and have a NAS hooked up as well that I navigate via an iPad. It doens't play DSD, but does decode HD PCM audio of various formats (I use FLAC) and rates.

What I'm getting at is if you set this preamp up with a properly loaded NAS (which is what you need the computer for temporarily as you rip the files) and navigate your collection via the iPad, you really don't need much else. Marantz also has an iPad app to control the thing (not a great one but it works) so you can even ditch the AV7005 remote and go iPad/NAS only.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

This is essentially the solution we arrived at. Tom D. is now the proud owner of a NAS and he’s been ripping his CDs in FLAC format to it and playing back through his Marantz.

Martin_Andersen's picture

Hi I know it's an old thread, but for me the problem is new (-:
What player are you using on the iPad?
When I use the Marantz remote software for iPad it's triples all my tracks, very very irritating

Jon Iverson's picture
That was when I was using Linn's free App to control the NAS on the network - I think you can still download it if you wish. These days I have the NAS connected to a computer running Roon on the network and controlled with the Roon app. So the Marantz is just a preamp now.
Martin_Andersen's picture

Thanks, yes we all move on.

I am waiting for a Raspberry PI + HiFiBerry DAC+ sitting in customs )-: and I am going to try this player first: Moode Audio Player. http://moodeaudio.org

Baygul's picture

This guy's expectations are not unreasonable, and this should be the goal of the Computer Audio Industry.  Network Audio Devices need to be able to see and be seen by each other in a straightforward manner that is easy to manipulate by non technical users, and all network audio devices need to be controllable by an intuitive user interface on any computer in the home network.  When this happens, then computer audio will be a mainstream venue for audio and video, and not a specialty field for a small segment of the high end audio community.

I am a technical user, have been in high end audio as a hobby since 1980, and in computer audio for over 3 years, since the first time I hooked up a DAC to the SPIDF out on my sound card and played FLAC files.  I have also had a professional role in the industry, I was an Electronics Technician for California Audio Labs.  I have also been a computer professional, working as a Desktop Support Technician for several years.  I have built up a system now running J River into my Cambridge DacMagic which I can control from any computer in the house and remotely from my smart phone, but it took some tweaking of the settings to get everything right, which a non tech user would have found hopelessly frustrating.

Computer audio is still in it's initial growth phase where serious hobbyists can do wonderful things, and non tech consumers are started to get interested, but much of it is still beyond the reach of those who neither want nor have the time to become tech experts in the field.  I am not disappointed by where computer audio is right now in it's growth, but I see that the direction we need to head toward is what users like Tom expect.  The serious money to be made in this field is by making the hardware and software accessible to the non tech user like Tom.  Reaching out to Tom is what will keep High End Audio from becoming a moribund pursuit.  Every manufacturer of computer audio hardware and software needs to have Tom's expectations framed and hanging on the wall of there offices and development centers.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Many moons ago, I owned the CAL Icon and the Delta/Alpha combo. I know someone who still uses his Alpha.

And I agree with your main points and the problems as I see them are a few-fold - real restrictions in terms of compatibility as well as manufacturers who misrepresent what their gear can and cannot do. The general marketing approach for Network Players/Streamers appears to be to just suggest they are plug and play and slap the “DLNA” and “UPnP” logos on the page. It’s not until you download and read the manual, if its up-to-date, that you find out what a device is actually capable of.

deckeda's picture

Conceptually, the idea of FLAC files sitting on a NAS (in some unknown folder structure) and played via the Marantz (or similar) is simple and clean.

As I understand it you retain a traditional 2-box setup: one is the source (a NAS full of files) and the other is the amp (well, the "amp" in this case is also the software player/decoder/etc.)

I guess the piece of the puzzle I'm not clear on is how well the Marantz's interface is for navigating and playing networked music, or how well the iPad works in that scenario. I suppose the files being FLAC and being served up from the NAS, which additionally takes care of the DLNA part, is where everything fits together.

Maybe that's why I haven't tried it yet with my SR5006. I don't have a NAS and don't have a DLNA service the Marantz plays with.

realhifi123's picture

The Marantz networking products feel like a good but incomplete experiment in getting a simple interface to the public for daily use.  It is however a start and I applaud them for moving in this direction.  I find that they easily find any UPnP severs that are on my network (including the built in one on a NAS drive - Twonky) and play files with no problem at all and it sounds great on all the Marantz products I have tried.

 

Where the Marantz is let down is the access of the music.  It is a slow and cumbersome interface which to me is nearly a kiss of death for many.  If they could get their library access and exploration to be more like say...Logitech Media Server on a the fantastic Squeezebox family they would be off to the races.  That said, the app to use for the Denon, Marantz networked products is DeRemote which is MILES better than the free app for the Marantz.  With this app it makes navigation and control of these very good and the speed that it connects to your network and the units themselves makes the Denon and Marantz apps look like a bad experiment.

So, it's coming.  Once they get the little bugs out this will be a great way to access ones music from your computer and also from Pandora, internet radio, etc.

If all else fails, use AirPlay straight into the Marantz....easy as pie.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Is a very important piece of the puzzle.

Thanks for the DeRemote tip!

deckeda's picture

I'll try that $8 splurge. You're right, the official app is tedious, when it works.

Tom D's picture

Tom D here.  Well, thanks to Michael I now have my NAS up and running and I have a much better understanding of this computer music stuff.  I bought this Marantz really to add hdmi to my theater with the bonus of this NAS stuff.  Because I share the theater room with 3 children I actually set up some new Golden Ear Triton twos in another room so I can listen when I want.  So I'm actually using my remote zone more then anything and am only attached to the computer by cat6 not usb as my computer is not near the stereo.  This created a few extra problems but right now I'm happy to have ripped (and still ripping) my cd collection to the NAS and enjoying my music without changing cd's over and over.  I'm actually using twonky which came with the NAS and playing through my Oppo which runs through a Proceed DAP and it sounds pretty good.  For now this will serve well until I set up another system near the computer and try the usb thing.  I actually used to own the Cal Audio Alpha and wish I still did.  Lost it to my home being robbed.  Couldn't replace it because it didn't exist anymore so I ended up with the Proceed. 

Michael Lavorgna's picture

Damn. An audiophile thief?

(I don’t mean to make light of being robbed and know how horrible that experience can be. But they stole your DAC? Damn)

Tom D's picture

No kidding, some dumb kid probably stole it and never knew what to do with it.  Since you commeneted you get the story.  I live in a fairly rural town in Ct.-   Not a place you would expect to get robbed.  When I closed on my house, the closing ended  and I said, ok how about giving me a key to my new house?  The old homeowner said , "Geez I'm not sure I even have one I never locked the door the whole time I lived there."    Well not too long after, with my locked doors, I was robbed.  As for my stereo, they took the Alpha, a Fosgate model 3a, and a pioneer laser disc player.  Luckily, they left all my amps,  and funny thing is, everything they did take was no longer made, so insurance bought me new, comparably priced but  better stuff.  I had bought the Fosgate used from a salesmen at my stereo store and I thought he had another one so I called him at home.  Turns out he had changed stores to a more highend store and long story short, that's how I got the Proceed DAP and AVP which I later traded in for a Lexicon MC-8 which, 3 kids later, I now have down graded to this Marantz from my original stereo store.    That's the good part of the story.  Sadly I did lose some personal stuff that could never be replaced and it took quite a while before I could get home and not expect to see my door kicked in.

newby11's picture

I suspect I will soon end my house search with building a new one from scratch, with a new music/HT system assembled from scratch as well. I, too, had assumed that after (inexpensively) wiring the house with the latest Cat 6 wire and adding the fastest cable modem service, I'd be on network music Easy Street--which shows how computer illiterate I really am, I guess!

If I'm understanding the computer music SOTA right now, it's NOT a simple matter of plugging into the Ethernet a BD player (movies), NAS, computer, PrePro processor and/or DAC, and controlling everything with an iOS/Android device. My (naive) assumption was that as long as everything was DLNA- and/or UPnP-compatible everything would just work.

Specifically, because of the reports of the excellent analog preamp music capabilitiy of the AV7005, I was thinking I'd use the Marantz as the networked hub for both music and movies. Then I figured I'd add an Oppo 95, plugged into the Ethernet as well, for BD movies, surround music, SACDs (if I ever buy any), and as a networked DAC. I also blithely figured I would control everything with an iOS or Android device. My question (or longing plea):  Is this scenario actually possible? If not, are there similar products where this could work as smoothly/simply as in my imagination?

A more general plea to ML and those readers on the front lines:  For people like me, after descrbing the sonic character of a component, it is vitally important to explain  in layman's terms how one might integrate this into a networked system. (For example, I have only recently realized that most USB DACs can't be plugged into Ethernet at all, and so are not networked DACs.) Please make clear how difficult or simple it is to do so, as that will be a MAJOR purchase criterion. Thanks for the diaglogue--it is helpful.

Michael Lavorgna's picture

But to answer your questions...

Specifically, because of the reports of the excellent analog preamp music capabilitiy of the AV7005, I was thinking I'd use the Marantz as the networked hub for both music and movies. Then I figured I'd add an Oppo 95, plugged into the Ethernet as well, for BD movies, surround music, SACDs (if I ever buy any), and as a networked DAC. I also blithely figured I would control everything with an iOS or Android device. My question (or longing plea): Is this scenario actually possible? If not, are there similar products where this could work as smoothly/simply as in my imagination?

If you plan to use the Oppo 95 as your digital music source (for both streaming and disc-based), you are not going to be using the Marantz’s networking capabilities. So your question becomes - can I control music playback through the Oppo with an iOS or Android device and the answer as far as I know is – no. There currently isn’t a control app for the Oppo. But according to Hi Fi News, “While not yet officially announced, HFN was exclusively informed that an Oppo BDP-95EU control App for Apple iOS and Android will be launched this summer.”

A more general plea to ML and those readers on the front lines: For people like me, after descrbing the sonic character of a component, it is vitally important to explain in layman's terms how one might integrate this into a networked system.

This is a great suggestion and I will keep it in mind when reviewing networking products.

(For example, I have only recently realized that most USB DACs can't be plugged into Ethernet at all, and so are not networked DACs.)

In my opinion, any device with networking capabilities should not be referred to as a DAC since it’s doing more than D/A conversion. In other words, a DAC does not have an Ethernet input.

realhifi123's picture

A Marantz AV7005 is a major purchase and you should find a dealer that has one, ask them if it does all you need it to do and then if it does you should buy it from them and have them help you set this network thing up with you. 

 

There is a lot less mystery in networked music than I keep reading so think of USB dacs and networking as almost two different ways to go about having digital music.  One lashes you onto a computer with a USB cable and that usually (though not always) means that the computer is nearby your A/V setup whereas in a networked situation the computer (or NAS drive) can and usually is somewhere in another room far from your hifi, A/V setup.  If you are wiring Cat6 from a location to all your rooms and will have access to high speed internet then to be honest, you probably will be on "network music Easy Street" as you put it.  There is a lot of ways to skin the proverbial cat when you are ready to dive into the waters but the fact that you will have this backbone of communication throughout your house is a great place to start so don't despair, you are right on track.  Even if all you do is control your A/V7005 over the network and use some other way of getting music from your computer (or NAS) you still need the wiring you are putting in so keep thinking along those lines and when you actually are ready to start wiring you can think about all the ways that this can work for you.

 

Your comments here: "If I'm understanding the computer music SOTA right now, it's NOT a simple matter of plugging into the Ethernet a BD player (movies), NAS, computer, PrePro processor and/or DAC, and controlling everything with an iOS/Android device. My (naive) assumption was that as long as everything was DLNA- and/or UPnP-compatible everything would just work."

Actually it is pretty close to that.  Again, with the help of a good A/V shop you can sort this out with out much fuss and be up and listening (and watching) in no time once you have a solid network.

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