Audio: Listen to this article.
As I wrote in the forum yesterday, my ten year old Synology DS1812+ died on Sunday. I accidentally flipped off the circuit breaker in my storage room, where much of my IT related equipment is housed. This usually isn't an issue for 99.9% of my gear. Power outages happen. However, the DS1812+ didn't come back to life and I wasn't able to resuscitate it.
A power outage taking out a NAS isn't new to me. Like the DS1812+, my QNAP TVS-872XT also died a couple years ago in a similar way. I have friends in the industry who've experienced the same issue, multiple times. On the plus side, QNAP support was great to me and repaired my TVS-872XT, which has been my main NAS for years.
The DS1812+ was my backup NAS. It's death isn't the end of the world, doesn't really change my daily listening habits, and I haven't lost any data because it all exists on the QNAP TVS-872XT. I could easily just replace the Synology with a cheap backup NAS and call it a day. I could also reevaluate my music storage needs, research the current music storage landscape, and plot my path forward. As someone who always looks for improvements and educational opportunities, it's a no brainer for me. It's time to reevaluate how I store my music.
I have 16 terabytes of music on a QNAP TVS-872XT running the QuTS hero h5.01.2248 operating system and ZFS pools for storage. I'm using about 75% of the storage capacity, which could be expanded with more disks. I don't depend on many of the QNAP apps, but I like the ease of remote access and the fact that I can install MinimServer directly on the NAS and it runs very well. QNAP's Helpdesk app was handy last year when troubleshooting and fixing a memory leak, but I usually leave it disabled.
My Windows and Mac computers connect to the QNAP TVS-872XT, as does my Roon ROCK. My Aurender N20 and ACS10 have local storage, and don't connect to the NAS at all (although they could). Roon isn't really a concern because I've listened to Roon for exactly 0 minutes over the last four weeks according to Roon's stats, and running Roon directly on the QNAP lead to much frustration, resulting in me removing it.
Lately I've been playing really large 12 channel DXD files and have been forced to move them to local storage on my Mac (1TB internal NVMe) and Windows (2TB internal NVMe) computers. When I click play on a 6GB file, I want it to start immediately. Pulling these files over the network each time I wanted to play them, resulted in a less than desirable experience. In addition, my collection of 12 channel files is growing much faster than my two channel collection, resulting in my library growing nearly two terabytes las year.
That's the current lay of the land.
I have many thoughts about my music storage and how best to improve upon my current situation. Thanks to members of this community, I have some additional ideas that are great. I spent several hours yesterday researching paths forward and ended the day with more questions than answers. Not questions about the technology, but questions for myself about which path I want to pursue and which path is the best. Those two may be the same, but also can be very different. For example, a QNAP NAS is easy and used by tons of people in this community. An esoteric solution may work better, but also may be a bit over the top and uninteresting to everyone but me. Finding the balance is key.
A drop-in replacement for the DS1812+ backup NAS is simple, but not the path I want to go down. I think rotating my QNAP TVS-872XT into the position of backup, and replacing it, is a better route, but to be honest I really don't know. It's also hard to say if QNAP, or even Synology, hardware is as reliable as other potential solutions. The internet is riddled with horror stories about hardware failures, but I don't think they are based on a longitudinal study. It's more likely angry people with loud voices. That said, I've experienced failures that I consider premature.
If I rotate the TVS-872XT to backup and replace it with a new NAS as my main music storage location, I'd like to improve upon speed and reliability. Playing two channel high resolution files is a piece of cake. The 12 channel DXD albums are another story. Reliability will be nearly impossible to judge objectively.
One option is a NAS such as the QNAP TS-h1290FX. It has all U.2 NVMe storage and up through 25Gbe connectivity. A fast AMD EPYC processor and tons of RAM, could also enable me to run Roon on it, if I want to in the future. One item I'd love to see on this unit is dual power supplies because I know people who've had QNAP PSUs fail. It would be nice to have a backup and units with dual PSUs usually enable hot swapping of those PSUs. I don't need it to be hot swappable, but the capability means replacement is as simple as it gets, without opening the unit and fighting with the case and tiny internal space.
I hesitate going this route mainly because of cost. The cost of a TS-h1290FX base unit with 64GB of RAM is $4,899. Not the end of the world, but also not inexpensive. Drives for this unit can be either U.2 NVMe or M.2 NVMe in the QNAP QDA-UMP4 converter. If I loaded the unit up with 12 4TB NVMe drives and converters, the price would be north of $7,000 for the drives alone and give me around 40TB of usable storage.
Another hesitation I have is the 25Gbe speed. I'd absolutely love to take advantage of this incredibly fast Ethernet, but I could only do it on my CAPS Twenty Windows PC. I could easily add a 25Gbe card in CAPS and it would fly, I have no doubt. However, my MacBook Pro is limited to either 1 Gbe or 10 Gbe, with the 1 Gbe being the only Ravenna certified speed. I've used 10 Gbe on CAPS Twenty for Ravenna, but I haven't done so on macOS.
I'd be well north of $10k for a great NAS, but I'm unsure if the cost is worth it, given my reliance on a MacBook Pro. I suppose I could add a Thunderbolt PCIe card to the MacBook Pro and a 25Gbe card etc..., but now I'm closer to a kludge than I want to be, and I've added more cost to the already very expensive solution.
Another NAS I've looked at for many years is TrueNAS. I built my own based on FreeNAS back in the day, and I really liked it. I switched to QNAP as more people in HiFi started using QNAP and I wanted to be able to test, talk, and educate about all the QNAP possibilities. The TrueNAS Mini series is fairly affordable and is rock solid. I like the TrueNAS Mini XL+ because it has eight drives and 10GB SFP+ slots. The SFP+ slots would enable me to place the unit in my basement because I have fiber running in my house from top to bottom. That said, I could save $600 by using copper 10Gbe and placing the unit behind the wall in my listening room.
The Mini XL+ uses spinning drives, just like my QNAP and dead Synology. 6Tb drives are a sweet spot right now price-wise, enabling me to fill up the Mini XL+, with SFP+, and 64GB of RAM for roughly $3,800. That's a pretty attractive price for around 40TB of usable space. In addition, this would get me into the TrueNAS ecosystem running the new Scale (Linux) operating system and open some different possibilities. The TrueNAS community is very active and support direct from the company appears to be good.
I could spend $3,800 and use the TrueNAS Mini XL+ as my main music storage device, but I wouldn't gain any speed over my QNAP TVS-872XT, in my estimation. It would be a nice project and serve a purpose, but I'm hesitant. If I was starting over from NAS ground zero, this is likely the route I'd take.
After studying "canned" NAS options and building my own NAS using a custom operating system, I started looking at a solution that seems like a step or two backward, local storage. I could use local storage on my music servers, and use the QNAP as a backup, or I could use a hybrid approach with an additional backup drive attached to my QNAP. Let me explain.
I'm getting a new MacBook Pro in the next couple of months. Given that Apple released the new models today, things are looking good. I currently can't play 12 channel DXD files with 65,000 tap convolution filters on my 2017 MacBoo Pro. I just don't have the horsepower. I could purchase a new MacBook Pro and max out the internal storage at 8TB. Apple charges a ridiculous $2,200 for the 8TB internal drive upgrade, but there are no other internal options because the hardware is locked down. 8Tb of space would enable me to store my 6TB music library, and keep the 10TB "archive" on the NAS. The archive is music that I almost never listen to, but I just can't delete. The 6TB collection would be on the MacBoo Pro and backed up on the existing QNAP TVS-872XT. The remaining 10Tb is all stereo, so I could play it directly from the NAS using Audirvana, and back it up to a USB drive attached to the TVS-872XT.
I also thought about getting a 4Tb drive in a new MacBook Pro, and storing only the 12 channel albums locally. Apple's price for a 4Tb upgrade is $1,000, which is easier to swallow. Still, everyone talking about how cheap storage is today, hasn't looked at NVMe drives. The prices are crazy. The cost of a new 14" MacBook Pro is $1,999, but the cost of 8Tb of storage is $2,200. Have high end audio manufacturers started producing NVMe storage in small batches!
The most attractive parts about local storage are speed and simplicity. While I complain about the cost, it would also be less expensive than getting a new NAS.
If I go this route, my MacBook Pro would be OK, but my CAPS Twenty Windows PC would be in the same position as it is today. I could technically place the huge 12 channel DXD content on the local CAPS NVMe drive, and use the 10Gbe Ethernet card to pull music from the NAS, or stick with the JCAT 1Gbe card because the huge files would be local.
That's where I'm at, as of Noon Central US time today. The more I research, the more paralysis takes hold. I really don't know which option I want to go with, or if another will pop up this afternoon. As I think through the options I. Come up with reasons why a specific solution will/won't work, or why one is better or worse than another. There is no clearcut solution that checks all the boxes. This sounds very similar to DACs and high end audio :~)
All of this research makes solutions like Aurender seem so dang easy.