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Another possibility for geeks and computer-savvy audiophiles is Sony's first-generation Playstation 3 where a particular software modification (hack) of this BluRay player and gaming console enables ripping of SACD in DSD format by anyone with a sufficient background in audio computing. As the first machine designed by Sony (i.e. the Playstation One) became an unexpected audiophile toy, the Playstation 3 keeps haunting audiophiles as the only possible option to rip SACD! Many novelists could not have imagined a more salacious hifi story.

The SACD ripping process via hacked PS3 has been become widely detailed on the net and works with a reverse-engineered PS3 application. SACD includes various copy protection measures of which the most prominent is pit signal processing. The ISO image of an SACD is ripped to individual stereo or multichannel DFF or DSF files for later conversion and playback. Foobar can also convert these DFF files to PCM on the fly whilst specific tools like Saracon can generate high-resolution PCM equivalents like 24/352.8 DXD files which require a compatible DAC for playback. But this remains a barely legal game of very restricted access considering the sum of prerequisites: use of an early still operational PS3 (only the first two generations of Sony's Playstation 3 game console are capable of reading SACD ScarletBook and bypass the copy protection if their firmware doesn't exceed 3.55!); ownership of a DSD player; and a DSD or 24bit/352 kHz-capable DAC. Is there a real market for such a hacker's hobby?*

* Reader Olav Håland informed us that he owns the Sony SCD-XE800 which can play back DSF files. "I have that very budget-friendly SACD player which cost around $300 when available here in Norway. I download DSF files from downloadnet or other places. Then I make a folder on the PC with each song inside that folder. Then I burn it to a DVD. When I play it it back it really sounds superb. I have no way of knowing whether it plays as DSD or converted to PCM but regardless it is a very convenient way of enjoying DSF files."

Returning to formal DSD downloads, many may consider it strange to be asked to pay more for current DSD file downloads than they ever did for the physical SACD disc containing the same files when manufacturing a SACD, printing its liner notes and marketing it through conventional retail channels had to be costlier than now putting DSD files up for download. According to record companies however these DSD containers are the master tapes or more exactly mother files as a kind of family jewel not really comparable with any tangible physical disc.

Another technical consideration in the field of audio computing is the choice between all-in-one solutions and separates. A further concern is requisite storage capacity. The first dilemma is a question of versatility versus integration. The choice of separates—DACs and players—give the user maximum versatility and the largest evolutionary options like use of the type of high-end D/A converter which is rarely if ever installed in an integrated device. Versatility also concerns the player itself as a computer will never limit its overall functionality to just simple audio streaming.

Unfortunately even if the results I personally achieved with many decent computers and player software was far from unsatisfactory, jitter always seemed to remain a true limitation compared to results obtained with a high-end CD transport. Managing digital flow in my opinion remains a very important issue. A second issue is relative stability. A dedicated server or streamer undoubtedly offers a more stable environment and operations than a multi-function computer. Pointing at a streamer rather than a dedicated server becomes a personal matter of choice. The server may create specific technical issues related to its internal hard disk: noise, vibrations, capacity. Streamer issues are more about network complexity and communication between NAS, streamer and iPad remote. These technical features generally impact cover art display and search capabilities but sometime also recognition of certain audio file formats. For instance when using the Aurender S10 via external HDD storage, I lost most of the capabilities of its stunning remote iPad app. Nothing yet is perfect in this computer audio environment and everyone must make personal choices according to key priorities.

The design of today's Lumin streamer becomes an interesting compromise for my personal goals. The Lumin puts no limitations on storage capacity, is completely silent and fast due to external NAS storage, compatible with other UpnP apps like Kinsky (Linn app) and should avoid traumatic jitter issues considering its high-quality internal DAC. It comes with a more than decent and proprietary iPad app, allows for very high-resolution files and thus keeps the door open to the market’s future. Another personal motivation to investigate this machine was the fact that the Lumin is an industrial solution from a company with good knowledge of digital processing. It is not the typical kind of audio company which merely recently started dabbling in computers.

Lumin Music in fact is a subsidiary of Pixel Magic Systems Ltd. which was founded in May 2003 as a privately held video technology equipment manufacturer for home theater and professional A/V markets. With offices in Hong Kong and San Jose/California, Pixel Magic has dealer/distributor networks for its own brand of products in over 25 countries and ODM/OEM customers in Europe and USA. Pixel Magic was the world's first developer to produce a Linux-based video processor under the Crystalio brand. Their core business is being focused on the development of innovative technologies for home-theater video processing/scaling products and high-definition TV-related products with advanced software programming features and design. Last year Pixel Magic decided to enter the audio market with a technically advanced streamer through a newly launched company - Lumin Music. Was this newcomer poised to change the status quo of this still developing market segment?