When I was in high school, I spent every dollar I could scrounge either on stereo gear, or records to play on said gear.  I always dreamed of high-end audio gear, but wasn’t willing to, you know, rob a bank. Then life caught up with me and the dollars went to far mundane and practical purchases and investments.
Until last week when I finally treated myself to a long-awaited audio upgrade.
For the gear-heads
I have a Synology two-bay file server. Just one bay is populated, with a 2 TB Western Digital disk. I’m loading it up with 24-bit lossless FLACs I’ve ripped off CDs with dbPowerAmp.  That’s patched through the internal wiring in the house (yes, the builders ran CAT-5 throughout) to a Netgear 8-port switch in the “smart panel” and thence to the Netgear router in the living room.
Attached to the Netgear router is a Sonos Connect box, which feeds via digital coax into a Rotel 1570 amp, and into Revel f208 floor-standing speakers. In short, I can sit with the Sonos controller (on basically any device in the house) and cue up any CD that I’ve ripped onto the file server. And the audio quality is identical to the original CD.
For the music lovers
First movement – Flippen by the Punch Brothers 
Chris Thile is smack in front of me, with Chris Eldridge a bit to his right. Noam Pikelny’s banjo covers the stage and Paul Kowert’s arco bass lines in the middle of the piece growl from immediately behind Chris.
Critter’s guitar solo 2/3 of the way through is absolutely gin clear. You can hear just a touch of string noise.
As he finishes the solo, the entire band jumps in and the front of the living room explodes with acoustic energy (“How”, I think, “can it sound like this when there’s no drum kit?”). I can hear Thile’s maniacal grin and rolled eyes.
I am in the center of an acoustical storm and it’s glorious.
Second movement – Have You Seen the Stars Tonight by Paul Kantner
Paul Kantner is standing on the fireplace hearth. To his left, David Crosby strums happily on a jumbo acoustic guitar. He is wearing a leather jacket with fringes. And lord, Grace Slick’s percussive piano is stage right and grabs attention from the otherwise psychedelic groove. It’s so clear – it’s just 2-3 feet from me. You can tell she learned from Nicky Hopkins. But right now, I just want to hear her play piano and listen to her voice dance and echo over the top of the whole thing.
The twang of the lower guitar strings is unmistakable.
Third movement – Baba O’Riley by the Who
I never get past the first two minutes before I hit rewind. The volume is turned up to levels that we haven’t seen since we found out what it could do to our hearing. But for now… the synthesizer fills the room and my brain; various electronic licks race left to right to left desperately trying to hold my attention. But we all know that’s impossible, because out of nowhere, an 88-key thunderbolt strikes on my left, crashing I-V-IV chords through the living room. The only thing that can compete with that, dominating the space in front of me, is Keith Moon hitting every drum he can find.
I am no longer in Tennessee; I am on-stage on the Isle of Wight, as ten thousand fans scream and wave Union Jacks…
The voice that I was hearing was a million people cheering…
 For D.C. area folks: first Marantz receiver came from Myer-Emco. My turntable came from the stereo store at the southern end of Wildwood Shopping Center (corner of Democracy Blvd and Old Georgetown Rd). My go-to place for records was Discount Book and Record immediately off Dupont Circle or Waxie-Maxies (Montgomery Mall and Congressional Plaza).
 I’m incredibly impressed with this software. As the British say, “It does what it says on the tin.” The interface is straightforward, but it does cool things behind the scenes, such as check 3-4 databases for the track and cover art data of your CD. Then it compares the ripped FLAC file against previous rips it did of the CD and reports if there are any mismatches. You can edit the track tags before or after ripping. I paid for my copy – software this good should earn money for its developer.
 Watch this version live. Paul Kowert’s obligato at the beginning will make you rethink the string bass as an instrument. If you don’t believe me, watch Chris Thile and Noam Pikelny, both of whom are destined to be remembered as legends of their instruments. They are nodding their heads and smiling at Kowert’s playing. The clear thought is, “That, right there, is the shit.”