Ask the Expert: November 2010

Question: I’m in the market for a Blu-ray player and A/V receiver, but I’d like the system to play 96-kHz/24-bit high-rez music downloads as well. The info I’ve found on manufacturer Web sites simply indicates whether or not the equipment supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, but not if the DACs support 96/24 decoding. Since many players and AVRs have a USB port, can this be used as an input for sending 96/24 files from my PC?
Joe Massey, Exeter, NH

Answer: Not from your PC — at least not via the player or receiver’s USB port. Most recent-model A/V receivers can play uncompressed 96/24 files in the PCM and DTS/Dolby Digital formats. Several network-capable models from companies like Onkyo, Denon, Pioneer, and Yamaha can also decode the 96/24 FLAC files widely used by high-rez music download sites like HDTracks.com and others. But while the USB ports on these receivers should be able to play FLAC files copied to a memory stick or high-capacity drive, they don’t support a direct USB connection from a PC.

To move FLAC files, along with digital music in other formats like MP3, AAC, and WAV, from your PC to a network-capable receiver, you’ll need to connect both to your home network either via wired-Ethernet or wireless adapters. (A few receivers also have built-in Wi-Fi.) Next, you’ll need to run some type of DLNA/UPnP (Universal Plug-and-Play) or compatible media-server software on your computer to stream files over the network to the receiver. (The current version of Windows Media Player incorporates this capability, but there are many public-domain software alternatives.) Several recent-model Blu-ray players are DLNA-compatible models that can also link into a home network and accept music files from a computer for playback. I don’t know of any current Blu-ray player that handles FLAC, but I’d be surprised if one were not forthcoming.

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