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Meanwhile streaming audio came on strong and iTunes initially seemed like a clever way to store, maintain and play back digital files. Simultaneously we'd gotten fed up with the analog part of CD playback. Despite slow-burnt EAC copies, photon cannons like the Nespa, Furutech demagnetizers, various potions and lotions—and let's not forget memory-enhanced CD transports—the sound of CD was not to our liking. There had to be another way to truly release all the goodies embedded in digital recordings. As these feelings grew we revived our old love for vinyl and with better equipment available started to build up a nice collection of licorice discs again.

Whilst iTunes looked clever, we were shy of transferring all digital recordings to it. The fact that ripping CDs to iTunes was less precise than EAC and that iTunes then did not support WAV made us reluctant to commence the time-consuming process of ripping piles of CDs. Twice bitten and all. 'twas time to look for other software players. There were ready-to-serve options from Sooloos, Naim, Linn and the option to hook up our PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC to a NAS with the addition of a forthcoming network bridge expansion board. We reviewed certain options and despite the integrated convenience of ripping, storing and playing—boy did Sooloos ever tick off all those boxes—the sound quality still wasn't equal to what our lucid dreams promised.

We still were shy of true speed, drive and realistic dynamics. Cables, power-related ancillaries and sundry tweaks did make differences and many for the better yet the feeling of listening to a miniaturized version of the real thing stayed put. Something vital got removed in this shrinking process. Maybe the easiest analogy to illustrate this sensation is a tilt-shift photo scene. By using selective focus and defocusing for the top and bottom parts of a scene we are fooled to think that we are looking at a miniature like a model railway scene. It's our conditioned brain of course which performs this trick. Look here for some stunning examples if you don't believe it.

Simply put, when this deliberate lens blurring is removed, the effect of looking at a miniature should be removed and real proportions be restored. It sounds simply but how to really do that with a CD? At this point a web search had us stumble across Peter Stordiau. Peter is a computer programmer who like many got his start during the prehistoric times of information technology in his boy's room. He lived with he first micro computers available and grew up around advancing technology to become what's currently known as a software engineer.

However Peter is not your average software engineer who is solely focused on the fine art of programming. Music is his second passion and combined with advanced programming skills it didn’t take long before a music library system for his personal music collection and that of friends became his DIY project. Not just artist and track names but every more or less relevant piece of information was to be included in this system which would catalogue DAT tapes, LPs, cassettes and whatever else there was to hold music.

After many years of listening, tweaking and other audiophile-sanctioned behavior, Peter bought a networked music player. This was in 2005 and the network thus was Ethernet. This player was able to eliminate the analog part of digital playback, i.e. spinning a CD with its encoded eye pattern. Managing playback from a hard disk somewhere in his network was somewhat tiresome but even so the sound quality had improved substantially. It wasn't yet up to Peter’s expectations but the seed for high-quality PC audio had been sown. The systems programmer in Peter strongly believed that it ought to be feasible to get the very best audio quality from a computer. At that time the magic words became hard-wired into his neural synapses: sound quality.

The next step was the acquisition of an RME Firewire 800 professional soundcard for his PC. With this S/PDIF could send a reclocked audio signal to his Audio Note DAC. The only thing needed was a worthy software player for his PC. Various options were tested and discarded, with Xmplayer and Foobar just a few which failed to satisfy a quest that now had kicked off in earnest for the very best and most importantly consistent replay from a computer.

Spinning CDs has them sound slightly different each time you play them. It appeared to Peter that software players had the same aberrations as well as their own unique sonic identities. Through an acquaintance Peter learnt much about jitter and its devastating influence not only on sound quality. That's because this acquaintance suffers from a severe disorder where one symptom is physical pain once exposed to jitter. With the help of his human jitter sensor and hundreds of e-mail exchanges, Peter gathered vast knowledge about what and how funny little things influence the final sound quality.