Products

Why should I buy a COMPUTER, and which Baetis™ media computer should I buy?

Our website has a lot of material to digest because the field of digital playback itself is so complex. Here are some guidelines we recommend. Nothing, however, substitutes for actually TALKING with us about your current system and your plans for upgrades (888-357-0035 or e-mail Joe at baetisjoe@gmail.com ).

Basically there are two major questions you need to ask yourself – A) Why buy a Baetis computer versus one of many "music servers", "media servers", or "media streamers"? And B) which Baetis should I buy? The answer to the first question -- why not one of the many other servers or streamers out there – is that the Baetis computer provides MORE features and better audio and video. In particular, most of the other "servers" do not rip CDs, let alone DVDs or Blu-rays. You still need a separate computer for that, and that separate computer may not be running the best ripping software, nor will you be given instruction on how best to use that ripping software, nor will its optical drive be the quality of a Baetis optical drive. To be precise, ordinary CDs ripped by ordinary software on an ordinary computer do NOT sound as good as CDs ripped by dBPoweramp™ software on a Baetis computer

Then there is the matter of the quality of audio and whether the other server even does multi-channel audio or video. Only a very few of the other servers even provide good 2-channel audio via SPDIF or AES outputs – most concentrate on USB output or sending a file from a storage drive directly via Ethernet to the DAC. Why is spdif or AES so good? That’s complicated, but just look at which DAC inputs are used by those audiophiles who own DACs over, say, $15k – the answer is always AES (which is balanced SPDIF at a much higher voltage). And our computer is the only one that provides AES via a proprietary daughterboard rather than via an add-on 3rd party PCI audio card – all such PCI-based cards suffer from significant common mode noise. Remember, common mode noise does not have to be actually heard (as a "hum") to reduce audio quality. Any reduction in common -mode-noise improves audio quality even when no "hum" can be heard.

Finally, any "server" or "streamer" that is NOT based on a real computer can stream media from only a few websites. The media server that advertises that it now streams Tidal™ or Pandora™ is just scratching the surface. Maybe it will add Spotify™, or Amazon™ movies, or the Berlin Philharmonic™ later on, maybe not. But these streamers or servers are inherently always out of date because they do not run a real browser to connect to ANY media website. Therefore, you will always have to be running a regular computer in conjunction with your "server" or "streamer" and these factory computers are simply not very good at presenting the very best in media quality. If you think your Apple MacBook Pro™ generates a high-quality USB audio output, you are missing the point of our work and you really do need to engage in a proper audition with one of our dealers or demonstrators. Or just call us for your own demo process.

top

OK, so which Baetis media computer should I buy once I’ve decided to buy a real audiophile computer?

There are three main questions you need to ask yourself – 1) Is most of your listening time in a two-channel stereo system? 2) What is the brand and model of the DAC you are using or considering buying? 3) What is your budget? If the answers to these questions are YES (stereo mainly); a great DAC costing in excess of $2k; and, yes, I can afford $5k or more, then you should be looking at a Baetis brand rather than our online-only Prodigy brand. This is because only the Baetis brand has our best engineered daughterboard that creates an AES (or SPDIF) signal straight from the motherboard without using the common-mode-noise-plagued PCI-bus. The components on the daughterboard for our Baetis models are simply better-sounding than those in the daughterboard for our Prodigy models. It is this daughterboard that has gotten us the great reviews. But paying up for this particular daughterboard does not make sense if your DAC is run-of-the-mill. And the least expensive Baetis model is now $3,995 – before taking into account the price of a quality digital AES or SPDIF cable running between our media server and your DAC. Please talk to us about these choices. It always comes down to budget, quality, and future flexibility.

So, what is a good DAC in our opinion? In the $2-$3k range, the Bel Canto and Schiit Yggdrasil models are very good because they have a great AES input (AES is now standard on all our Baetis models and it generates somewhat higher output voltages than SPDIF). In the context of our proprietary daughterboard, not every DAC has a worthwhile AES input; and it is this daughterboard that makes all the difference between an ordinary music server and a Baetis. Some DACs don’t even have an AES input – OK, this tells you something about your DAC’s quality and also tells you that unless you are upgrading your AES-less DAC, or going to a really good pre/pro, you don’t need a Baetis media server. For you, one of our Prodigy models might be more than enough.

There are some DACs that do have an AES input but it was designed under the assumption that it would be used only by a CD transport – not the best way to listen to CD music if you have been reading the rest of our website. Talk with us about your DAC and we’ll give you an honest opinion based on our own experience or that of our Baetis customers. We only want to sell you a music server that will definitely improve the quality of the sound coming out of your current DAC or the one you expect to purchase. Also, if you have an interest in DSD (which you should, in our opinion), then please read our discussion of why you should play MOST DSD files via transcoding to PCM – because most DSD files were mastered in PCM (link to our DSD paper on our White Papers page).

If you are a candidate for a Baetis server, then it is fairly simple to choose among our current models. As price goes up, several hardware features will improve. And the better your DAC, the more obvious will be the audio improvement generated by our higher priced models. All Baetis models are priced based on cost of materials, labor, cost of overhead, and return to capital. This determines the Wholesale price, which is then increased by the standard mark-up to arrive at Retail. This is the way the Dealer market works and you get what you are paying for – a) the better two-channel audio associated with a Baetis versus a Prodigy, and b) the hands-on benefits of working with a local dealer or audio/video integrator. [We will arrange for a local integrator to work with you if you wish, in a region where we do not have a local dealer. But our dealers will always travel to you for set-up purposes, if needed. Moreover, the majority of our customers can do set-up themselves, with our Joe guiding you via an internet connection and talking with you on the phone]. All our audiophile computers come with a 15-day trial period.

Just remember, all Baetis and Prodigy models do the same things – from ripping CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays, to playing professionally ripped SACDs, to any kind of music or video in 2 or more channels, streaming any kind of media from any website, downloading anything, and providing any kind of digital signal processing including Digital Room Correction software of any brand. It is the hardware and labor costs that raise prices across our models. For example, an internal cable that costs less than $10 in a Baetis Revolution, might cost $200 in a Reference 2. You can’t believe that the internal cabling might make that much of a difference? Fine. Go with that less expensive server -- but ALL Baetis models have AES; most have the Neutrik DC connector to use the best 3rd party power supplies; and ALL have the Baetis daughterboard that makes for the very best AES or SPDIF digital output to your DAC. ALL our servers are built in, and supported from, North America.

top

What if the answers to the questions above suggest the purchase of a Prodigy model? For example, your listening is all in a MCh home theater and your left/right speakers are modest. Most of your time is spent listening to MCh music such as professionally-ripped SACDs or self-ripped Blu-ray concerts or movies. Or you simply can’t afford $5k or more for a media server right now.

Then, the same design philosophies come into play. First, all Prodigy models have a version of the Baetis daughterboard that is great at generating high quality 2-channel audio via AES or SPDIF [but the Baetis models do this even better]. No other competing media servers have, at each price level, as good two-channel audio as a Prodigy model. Second, all Prodigy models run all the same software as the Baetis models, therefore have all the same capabilities. It is just that, for two channel audio, the audio will not quite reach the level of the Baetis server. For multi-channel audio and video, however, the Prodigy models produce virtually identical audio quality and video quality as a Baetis (again, at each price level, the hardware improves as price goes up). Finally, and perhaps most importantly for some customers, the Prodigy models do NOT come with physical assistance from a dealer (nor do prices entail the necessary dealer mark-up). Always there is the same issue – other "music servers" or "music streamers" or whatever term of art is applied to any other "player of computer files" – typically do NOT have any multi-channel or video capabilities, nor do they provide unlimited access to any type of media (because they are not full-fledged computers onto which better sounding audio circuitry is added).

Yes, there are other media computers (real computers) besides Baetis – but these models tend to concentrate either on 2-channel audio via USB or 2-channel via a separate 3rd party PCI-based AES card. These two channel outputs are simply NOT as good sounding, with the same DAC, as our Prodigy or Baetis models. It is ALWAYS best to audition a new component such a Baetis server in your own system with your own speakers and DAC, and with your own ears. A good dealer will always permit such an audition. Our motto is READ, LEARN, QUESTION, and, above all, AUDITION.

Importantly, don’t listen to high-end audio dealers who say – you DON’T want to mess with a real computer because a) all computers sound the same, and b) computers always break down and become malware infected and are too tough to learn. This is actually what these people believe and it is a reason why we have fewer dealers than other high-end audiophile brands. This is also why we provide education and support directly to all Baetis owners – we do NOT rely on any dealer for this support (because the dealer’s own personal history is simply too clouded with mis-understanding about things such as what is the best software, how do you properly update this software, how do you get the best quality sound or video from this software, etc.). Once you go through our 90-minute training and set-up session, then one or two more ad hoc sessions via remote desktop control, you will ask yourself – why did I think this was going to be so tough?

Remember, when someone says – "oh, the world is moving away from real computers" -- he has it exactly backwards. Time after time, we gain new customers who already owned a Non-Computer player of computer files. The proprietary music-playing software of these specialized "servers" can’t compare to JRiver, and the proprietary operating system can’t compare to, you guessed it, Windows. So, don’t let your own poor experience with Windows (which almost never includes real training) be a guide. Go Baetis, get your training, then have fun that others are too timid to try.

top

Comparison Chart for Baetis Models Link

Comparison Chart for Prodigy Models versus other "music servers" Link

Note: We make claims of relative audio quality based on two VERY expensive audition rooms in our facility, each of which uses Berkeley Audio™ Reference series 2 DACs and Wilson Audio™ Sasha or Wilson Audio™ Maxx speakers. Only you can decide on what’s best for your own room, via a live audition.

top