Why via USB? Why via Network? Opinions welcome

Hello to all.
Sorry if the topic has been covered ad nauseam, but I’d like to bring some clarity (and be helped to, if anything for myself) about a fundamental question regarding computer audio. Namely, USB/DAC use vs domestic Network use. Sorry if the thing will take space.

As far as I know, there are two basic systems to bring music from the storage unit (an internal or external HD, an internal or external SSD, a NetworkAttachedStorage) to your loudspeakers, taking an amp for granted: via the Mac/Pc’s USB port and an external DAC, or via a LAN/WAN connection and an Ethernet cable through a domestic network to a media player, usually called ‘streamer’.

My question (which has a tail in the end) was triggered by the fact that my MacBook Pro 13", early 2011, which I have implemented with a 500 Gb SSD and 4 Gb of RAM more, bringing it to 8 Gb, yesterday started to behave in a crazy way: it didn’t turn on, it did but then turned off by itself and on again and again, the monitor started to show random color strips, until it settled first on asking for help (a code of 9 beeps meaning SOS in Morse), then on sets of three beeps every 5 seconds.
Instead of letting myself fall into ‘here we are, everything as failed miserably as it was expected to do sooner or later’, I decided to read, study and get informed to solve the problem. As my therapist says, to fix something is to fix oneself.
Eventually, after digesting the grammar of a number of articles and forums’ exchange of posts, it all seemed to come down to RAM. I opened the Mac and removed the upper bank of 4G; the machine started smoothly and worked smoothly. Then I removed the lower bank and replaced it with the upper one I had previously removed: the Mac started smoothly and worked smoothly. Then I positioned both banks (Crucial, probably still in warranty) back in position and the Mac went crazy again. Since the Mac seemed to do its music server job smoothly with just one bank of 4G memory, and the problem was likely to be the interaction of the two banks and the Mac, I simply resumed the two original 2Gb banks that came with the Mac: smooth operation, no apparent reduction of any function.

Since I have a Bricasti M3 DAC with an extra streaming board, I use the Network/LAN system. This, to my non-technical eyes, has a number of advantages: the files (stored in a plain folder by themselves) are taken via the Ethernet Port directly (actually, through an Apple Airport Router to ‘isolate’ the process from the modem’s one) to the M3; I have proof that this doesn’t involve USB functions and that iTunes is left out of the equation because I keep all the volumes down in the Mac and it works anyway. I can set the volume only on the amp. I use XLD to rip, and if I accepted to use XLD’s own metadata setting section instead of temporarily import the music into iTunes when I need to optimize metadata and artwork (more user-friendly), I could remove iTunes from the Mac and it wouldn’t change a iota as far as my needs are concerned.
Again, I have proof that iTunes doesn’t actually move files but only ‘imports’ them virtually because when I re-move the metadata-optimized album back to its plain folder, and I take the alias that’s still visible in iTunes to the empty dustbin, the dustbin stays empty: no actual file has been moved back and forth to/from iTunes.

Now the question(s): who does it the USB way, implying - we all know that - an upgrade path for the USB cable and one for the DAC, why has chosen this mode? It seems to use more PSU, takes USB connection into play with the 5V current which exits from the USB port, and in general seems to use more computer than the Network way.

Of course, Naim has thought all his streaming ecosystem chiefly for Network use, but may I know a few reasons from Mac/PC based systems’ users for their choice? And, what do they think about the amount of RAM really necessary for a smoothly, simply working PC-based system? I am doing perfectly well with 4Giga.


Richard, no need to wait two whole months: this is the last reply and you can close the topic.
I’ve answered my questions, fixed (and bettered) my Mac and have definitively proved that iTunes is totally useless.

“I’ve answered my questions,… and have definitively proved that iTunes is totally useless.”

Perhaps I may add that while iTunes may have caused you some aggravation it is a very mature piece of software with many attributes. I’ve used it since the beginning (2001), no longer to play music but for curating a large music library. I store the entire iTunes folder and contents on a NAS. The server software (MinimServer) is pointed to the ‘Music’ folder which is 2 folder levels below top level iTunes folder, with playback controlled by the dCS Mosaic app. I curate the library by running iTunes on an iMac: this includes ripping CDs and editing metadata to match a custom layout. The only drawback I’ve found is that completed rips and edits are not stored instantaneously as the library of 105k tracks has to be updated. I intend to replace my Synology DS 412+ NAS with one having a more powerful processor to improve response. Used in this way I’ve found iTunes (now the ‘Music’ app) is excellent.

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