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    CAPS v4 Maroubra and Bundoran

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    This is the final installment of the CAPS v4 series! It will cover both the Maroubra and Bundoran servers because they are very closely related. This is the first time a CAPS design has been based on an Intel NUC. Part of me feels bad because there isn’t much to “design” when using the NUC platform, but I am more excited than anything because there is a lot of user demand of NUC based servers. For readers unfamiliar with the Intel NUC, it’s a very small motherboard with the CPU soldered to the board. It’s one of the platforms Intel has decided to keep supporting, unlike its traditional motherboard business. Anyway, the main purpose for NUC based CAPS servers is size. These servers will fit into almost any component rack or fit nicely hidden behind a DAC. There isn’t much hardware experimentation to be done when using a NUC, but I believe I’ve found a couple ways to make these last two designs a bit more audiophile than a standard off-the-shelf server. The Maroubra and Bundoran servers aren’t for everyone, especially those who like to try different things and tweak their systems a bit. These servers are simple solutions that don’t cost an arm and a leg and fit nicely into any existing audio system. I hope readers don’t see this installment of CAPS v4 as anticlimactic but rather something offering two sensible solutions for specific members of the CA Community.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

     

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    CAPS v4 Maroubra

     

    This NUC server is based on the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYKH ($379). The board holds a 1.3 GHz Core i5 processor, four USB 3.0 ports, and a SATA connection to power the custom USB audio card or in the case of the Bundoran server an extra hard drive if needed. The motherboard supports up to 16 GB of 1.35v DDR3L memory. Users must be very careful selecting memory because this board will not support standard 1.5v DDR3 memory. For this build I selected G.Skill Ripjaws Series Laptop Memory F3-1600C9D-16GRSL ($162).

     

    A surprising amount of people have less than one terabyte of music stored on their local hard drive. This is another reason the NUC is a great platform. The board doesn’t have endless SATA HDD ports like many full size boards, but it does support a single mSATA SSD. The mSATA drive I selected for this server is the 1TB SAMSUNG 840 EVO MZ-MTE1T0BW ($450).

     

    The Maroubra server features a custom USB audio card from SOtM, similar to the SOtM cards many members of the CA Community already use. What’s special about this card is it’s powered via internal SATA power connection or an external source. This USB card is also shaped specifically to fit side-by-side with the motherboard in an ML320 fanless case from Logic Supply. However, a custom rear panel is required. Small Green Computer will be handling all the CAPS v4 Maroubra orders for people interested in this custom USB card / case / rear panel. Price to be determined.

     

    The Intel NUC Kit D54250WYKH comes with a very standard switch mode power supply. I haven’t specified a separate power supply for this server, but I am certain many of those already available will work just fine. The server requires 65W / 19V / 3.42A / socket C6 (barrel output connector has 2.5mm internal diameter and 5.5mm external diameter).

     

    There’s not much else to say about this server because there’s not much one can do to customize it. I envision this server for cost-conscious computer audiophiles seeking a small server with clean USB audio output and either a small local library of music or a larger NAS based collection. This isn’t a server for tweak geeks :~)

     

    ml320-haswell-fanless-nuc-case.jpg

     

     

    CAPS v4 Bundoran

     

    This server is almost identical to Maroubra with the exception of an optional hard drive and a different USB audio solution. This server is for computer audiophiles with less than 2TB of music who either A) don’t need USB power to their DACs (i.e. Are QB-9 DSD) or B) want to experiment with different external USB power conditioning rather than the internal SOtM card.

     

    What’s different from Maroubra? In addition to the 1TB mSATA SSD users can select any size 2.5” SSD or HDD. I prefer the Samsung 1TB Evo SSD. This will provide the user with 2TB of space for music. In the Bundoran the SOtM card is replaced with this 2.5” hard drive. Thus, users seeking USB power conditioning must look for an external solution. I’ve been using the Teddy Pardo TeddyUSB PSU for USB powered equipment ($399) with great success. The TeddyUSB accepts USB input from the server and outputs the USB audio stream with a clean linear based 5V signal, stripping away the dirty USB power from the server.

     

    The standard Logic Supply ML320 ($139) case is all that's required for this model. No special rear panel.

     

     

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    Software

     

    Like all CAPS v4 computers, Pipeline runs on Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit. I use the professional version because I connect to the server recently with Windows’ built-in Remote Desktop capability. It works great and doesn’t require an additional third party application for remote control of the actual server. The media management and playback application I use most often on Pipeline is JRiver Media Center because of its all encompassing capabilities and its great integration with JRemote for iOS.

     

     

     

    Wrap-up

     

    Due to the simplicity of these servers, I'm sure I missed a thing or two in the explanation. Please let me know what questions you have in the comments below.

     

    Note: The newer 5th generation NUC servers are available, but I don't believe there are any fanless cases available for them just yet. Thus, the 4th generation specified here is still recommended.

     

     

     

     

     

    A Note About Sponsorship

     

    Before going further I'd like to thank JRiver for sponsoring the entire CAPS v4 project. Researching and purchasing all the parts for CAPS servers takes time and money. In the past I spent over $10,000 just trying different motherboards, memory, SSDs, cases, etc… This time around I thought it would be prudent and a win-win for everybody if I obtained sponsorship for CAPS v4. I sought sponsorship from a handful of companies and before the "ink" on the email was dry JRiver stepped up to sponsor the whole project. This sponsorship enabled me to take the CAPS project further in a shorter period of time than I would have been able to on my own. The bottom line is that members of the CA Community benefitted from this sponsorship. Without this benefit to the entire Community I wouldn't have sought sponsorship. Period. Also, JRiver had no input on the design of the servers' hardware or software. Prior to contacting JRiver I had already decided what playback applications would be used for the CAPS v4 project. I also didn't let JRiver know this software decision, thus avoiding any semblance of impropriety. Again, thanks to JRiver for supporting CAPS v4 and the CA Community.

    Edited by The Computer Audiophile

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    Maroubra does not have a CD drive due to its tiny size but you could use a USB connected portable CD/DVD drive for ripping. That may not be a good idea however as ideally the music server does not have an Internet connection which you'd need for pulling down metadata for the disc in the drive. Likewise not a good choice for everyday computing, as for best sound you will disable firewall, windows update service and avoid using antivirus software. All a gamble if connected to the net.

     

    So are you saying that it is not possible to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi with Maroubra? Or simply not recommended as a music server, but nevertheless possible?

     

    I could turn on the Wi-Fi when ripping CD's to pull down metadata, and turn off Wi-Fi and all other features and optimize system while listening to music, couldn't I?

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    USB audio power supply, galvanical isolated, audiophile USB Power supply, isolated USB low noise transformer, USB DAC power supply, audiophile power supply

     

    If you want a lower cost outboard USB power supply, try this one. Another advantage is that it requires only one USB cable as the power injector is a USB-B female to USB- B male end.

     

    I currently use it with my Bel Canto U-Link with excellent results.

    Thanks for that, I was looking at the iFi iUSB but this Aqvox unit may be better value.

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    I could turn on the Wi-Fi when ripping CD's to pull down metadata, and turn off Wi-Fi and all other features and optimize system while listening to music, couldn't I?

    Not sure if this has wifi capability out of the box. It's assumed you will be using a wired LAN.

    If you did want to switch between audio-optimised and General use mode, something like Fidelizer could be the way to go. Recently reviewed here Fidelizer Pro 6.5 | AudioStream

    I have used the freeware version with no problems and may pony up for the 'pro' version.

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    Also, it may be worth waiting for the Intel NUCs with the Broadwell chips as it likely the dimensions will be similar to the ones in the review.

    These are now on the market but three things holding me back:

    1. No fanless cases available yet (plenty for haswell)

    2. No SATA connectors, cannot add a second drive or that trick SOtM card

    3. Uses a new generation SSD (mSATA replacement), not that widely available just yet in all capacities.

    Edited by stuarth
    Undo autocorrect

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    These are now on the market but three things holding me back:

    1. No fanless cases available yet (plenty for haswell)

    2. No SATA connectors, cannot add a second drive or that trick SOtM card

    3. Uses a new generation SSD (mSATA replacement), not that widely available just yet in all capacities.

     

    After reading this (and all the previous ones over time), I decided to upgrade that very front end of my sound system. Right now I have an i7 Win7 machine running JRiver that I built as a media only player, and I use it to connect to HDTracks for downloads, to rip the occasional CD when necessary, to serve up music (via USB to USB to coax converter) to my DAC, and to serve up music to a number of units (Logitech Touches and Transporters) located in other parts of my house and studio. Right now the music files are on a spinning disk in the computer. We also have done the occasional movie or video via HDMI to the video system. I get that my mixed use is probably degrading sound quality. I looked at building out a Haswell based system and 1,2,3 all are true.

     

    Looking at this, I kind of have to figure out what the best sound source approach might be without making an audio Rube Goldberg setup. As of right now, I'm thinking about external NAS disks connected via Ethernet to a small size, sound only computer with an SSD of some sort for hosting the OS and JRiver, and have a "front end" system for ripping and downloading that connects to the same NAS, and use that for serving up wireless music, and the occasional HDMI video source.

     

    Does that sound like a reasonable way to divide the labor? So that I can get rid of a ton of processes that connect to wireless, etc on my music player system? Because it's downstream of the front end system I wouldn't need much in the way of security or firewall processes either, as the front end system is where the network exposure lives. Having the music on a wired SAN would keep disk noise out of the playback, too. But how would I control the "playback only" system, though, if I don't have it on wireless network? The only approaches I know of require that.

     

    Trying to figure this out soon, going to be housebound for a couple weeks after getting a bionic knee, so I'll have time to build and set up a new system...

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    Easy. Connect the setup hardwired to a switch or to the router, use an ipad with JRemote. Can't be beaten in my opinion. Alternatively go for Windows Remote Desktop (you'll need a Win 8.1 Pro or Server 2012 R2) or use VNC software like tightvnc.

     

    I have a similar build as Chris suggested and am very happy! D54250 board, Streacom NC2 fanless case, 16 GB crucial memory and a 256 mSATA for OS only, music on a NAS omni-accessible. External linear supply currently being shipped.

     

    Enjoy building!

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    I kind of have to figure out what the best sound source approach might be without making an audio Rube Goldberg setup. As of right now, I'm thinking about external NAS disks connected via Ethernet to a small size, sound only computer with an SSD of some sort for hosting the OS and JRiver, and have a "front end" system for ripping and downloading that connects to the same NAS, and use that for serving up wireless music, and the occasional HDMI video source.

     

    Does that sound like a reasonable way to divide the labor?

     

    Sounds like a good plan. Your i7 machine can act as a NAS at the back end, and a (headless) NUC up front to connect to the DAC. You will want a wireless network so you can control playback remotely using a phone or tablet though?

     

    Just to clarify my post, the Haswell system as described by Chris would work fine. My comments were on the new Broadwell NUCs and are not necessarily show-stoppers. The fanless case may not be necessary for example.

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    Just to clarify my post, the Haswell system as described by Chris would work fine. My comments were on the new Broadwell NUCs and are not necessarily show-stoppers. The fanless case may not be necessary for example.

     

    Until I realized I could - probably should - separate the HDMI video serving and ripping from the music playback, into two boxes, I was trying to spec a system build that was able to do all of it. As I go back through the article and the good feedback from a few people here, I realized that four cores of i7 probably won't make a jot of difference to the quality of music serving. I was also thinking about Broadwell, thinking that'd add a couple years to the system. Probably not to much value.

     

    So, I think I'll go for a NUC in a very small fanless package, SSD, ethernet to the music storage system. If I need wireless for control, then I will need to be concerned about firewall. I work in the IT biz, and I've heard of some exploits now that are trying to infect wireless routers then any computers that connect. I may try a test with an old laptop downstream of my server on ethernet and see if I can find a way to controlling it through the server. Most of the NUC boards I've seen use the PCI for the wireless board, and that means I can't do the SoTM USB board if I want wireless. Or I'll just clean it up by going USB to coax, since I don't have (or intend to have) any DSD.

     

    My current setup has a long-ish USB run to the USB to coax converter, and then a longish coax run. By splitting the workload to hardwired music on one box, everything else on another, I can put the hardwired music box on the audio rack, and a 15 foot ethernet run to the NAS system will be less of an issue than the current long USB run.

     

    I think it's time to order parts....

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    ...

    I have a similar build as Chris suggested and am very happy! D54250 board, Streacom NC2 fanless case, 16 GB crucial memory and a 256 mSATA for OS only, music on a NAS omni-accessible. External linear supply currently being shipped.

     

    Enjoy building!

     

     

    For those of us who just want to assemble a device and be done:

    1) Can anyone (like dr.mike) who built one of these units give the J. River benchmark score?

    2) Does one merely buy a NUC unit, take out the guts and place the guts in a fanless case?

    3) Are special techniques like heat conducting paste (as an example) necessary?

    4) Anything else to be aware of for those of us who can follow directions but don't do this routinely and are unaware of the subtleties of the artform?

     

    Thanks

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    hi iamimdoc,

     

    ad 1/ JRMark 1571 on D54250 NUC

    ad 2/ Yes.

    ad 3/ Yes. Paste comes with the Streacom case. getting the fan off needs a little force to break the old paste, the just wipe off with cotton swab & a little alcohol or lighter fluid or similar. Apply a thin and steady layer of new paste and make sure it sits well. don't touch white the pad on the GPU! The case / heat pipe will fit perfectly. I get idle temperatures of approx. 44 Celsius in 25 environment. Goes up to pretty hot 62-63 at 7-8% constant load while playing.

    ad 4/ Not much. RAM flips right in, same for mSATA SSD and WiFi if you buy it. NUC WiFi Antennas can be reused. Just make sure you're not static, touch a heater or anything grounded often.

    Happy building!

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    hi iamimdoc,

     

    ad 3/ don't touch white the pad on the GPU!

     

    I recently tried to put together a NUC and I put paste on the GPU. I take it that was a bad thing to do! In fact, I have been getting quite a few BSODs. Could that be the problem?

     

    Thanks.

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    I can speak only of the Streacom NC2, which I used. The heatsink is recessed about one or two mm to perfectly fit with the original pad. It may not have any contact to the sink without it.

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    I run a old wrt54 router connected to my music PC solely for remote access. Totally separate network from the House LAN. Music is stored locally. No worry of icking bugs getting into the important stuff through a basically open music box. Disk Drive is cloned regularly for backup.

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    I wonder if a Jriver Id would be viable alternative. Seems like they've got the software worked out. Don't know much about the board they use. Alternatively Jriver could offer a CAPS-lite version of the id. Just a thought. Also wonder if Chris tried a Linux version of Jriver on this nuc.

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    Yes, that is confusing. I think the chassis *is* the heat sink, that's certainly the description elsewhere. But that language muddies the issue.

     

    Yes correct the case is made of aluminium and the CPU touches it. The heat is dispersed from the small fins on the top of the case.

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    I have a newbie question.

     

    I currently use an Apple iMac running Audirvana+ 2.0 as my source, but I'm interested in replacing it with a C.A.P.S, particularly the Maroubra due to its price and form factor.

     

    Could the Maroubra be used as a dedicated music server only, or also as a personal computer? In other words, if I have a PC monitor, keyboard, mouse and printer, could I use it as a full-fledged desktop PC running Windows that I can not only listen to music with, but also use the Internet via Wi-Fi, watch videos, perform word processor task (such as MS Word) and stuff?

     

    Also, does the Maroubra have a CD drive? Or do I need to purchase a separate drive and connect it to the PC? If the above is possible, I would like to use dBpoweramp to rip CD's.

     

    You you could use the CAPS for a general purpose PC but as Stuarth says you don't want to be running a firewall, or antivirus on a music server so you would need to be very careful when you connect to the internet.

     

    You could rip CDs but you would need a USB CD drive.

     

    There is no Wi-Fi available on any of the CAPS because Wi-Fi is not a good idea on a music server. You need a hard Ethernet connection or HomePlug.

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    Can you run Windows Server 2012 with Audiophile Optimizer on CAPS v4 Maroubra?

     

    No you can't. Intel does not make a WS2012 driver for the NIC card that is in the CAPS v4 Maroubra. For customers that want to run WS2012 I recommend the micro ZUMA.

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    I'd like to revisit a section of the CAPS v3 build's write up as it pertains to this build:

     

    mSATA drives are much more like computer memory in size and appearance. These drives are solid state and fit directly into the motherboard without any cables. Even though the DN2800MT board has mSATA capability the Carbon design doesn't use this slot. The server is still very easy to build but absolute simplicity was outweighed by the desire for a lower power SSD that requires internal power and SATA cables.

     

    I guess my question is, why not use a mSata drive in v3 when it's the only way to go in v4? Is the technology better now? Is it because it's a means to an end in v4? Is it a power thing? Just curious.

    Edited by AjCrisci

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    I am also happy with my NUC 4250 as a music streamer using JRMC. For those looking for a NUC 4250, you could either buy the entire kit including an (ugly red?) case that has a fan, or do some tweaking yourself.

     

    The streacom NC1 Fanless case in the attached pictures retains the small package, is easy to mount and relatively affordable. The NUC is attached to a (mytek) DAC/preamp via USB. I installed a smaller hard drive than in the CAPS model, and have a NAS where all the music is stored. Just leave the NUC on day and night as it produces relatively little heat and controle your music with JRemote.

    image(2).jpeg

    image(1).jpeg

    image(3).jpeg

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    No you can't. Intel does not make a WS2012 driver for the NIC card that is in the CAPS v4 Maroubra. For customers that want to run WS2012 I recommend the micro ZUMA.

     

    Actually yes you can. Here is a link to the work around. :)

    +1 to Bob, as I did the same thing with my 54250 with just a small driver hack. Running 2012R2 + AO + Fidelizer Pro

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