Just shut up and listen! That’s the message that a lot of reviewers, audiophiles, and equipment vendors resort to when science and engineering get in the way. It’s almost as if the measurement of noise levels, distortion specs, or anything else that can be objectively measured runs counter to the whole idea of enjoying recorded music. To make extravagant claims about the quality of a music server based around JRiver software and a modern PC motherboard connected to a high-end external DAC isn’t an endorsement for the host PC…it means you have a great application in JRiver and a terrific DAC…none of which are part of the Baetis system. And I hope you have some great sounding files to play.
Their latest product is the Baetis Reference Media Server. It lists for $13,995…can we call it $14K? And just what do you get for all that money? You get a very attractive box with the latest generation of CPU, a silent hybrid cooling system plus a slew of digital output connectors and formats (AES-EBU, S/PDIF, HDMI, TOSLink and USB 3.0 ports)…but no analog outputs (there are no DACs on board). It brags that it is the only media server with an AES-EBU professional digital output. Quoting the website, “The Baetis Reference is the ONLY media computer on the planet that has an AES/EBU 110 ohm XLR digital output that is dedicated, galvanically isolated, and fully shielded, straight from the motherboard, without using a PCI card!!” Like this makes all the difference. Other servers use AES-EBU outputs but the signals come from some sort of sound card…just like in my professional DAW system. Sound cards are not bad things.
If I get the same digital information from the S/PDIF output as the AES-EBU output…will they sound different? Obviously not, this is once again the persistence of the empirical crowd that digital operates the same way as analog and is subjected to the same science. I would happily test all of the digital outputs with a variety of cables and see if the same digital data is output from all of them…regardless of cable type.
My aging HTPC with it’s Lynx sound card running Amarra (which does in fact has AES-EBU connections) connected to my Benchmark DAC2 will produce exactly the same audio fidelity equal to the Baetis box running JRiver and another DAC…and you get to save $12,000! Been there and done that. Anyone ever heard of Niveus?