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Article: Computer Audiophile Pocket Server C.A.P.S. v3 Topanga

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I also would like a mention of "how the Topanga compares, sonically, to the CAPS2"

 

Hopefully Chris will check back in and address some of the questions or in the next article


The Truth Is Out There

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Thanks Ted, I did some more research and it appears that the prior OS has to at least be on the drive and then Win 8 will do a clean install over it. I have XP on disc so i think i will just have to install a dvd-rom in the server and install xp then do the clean install over it (and will wipe the HD hopefully).

It shouldn't be necessary to install a previous Windows O/S onto a new drive, so you can install the Windows 8 upgrade. If you have an install of Windows on another drive, just copy the Windows Folder to the new drive, then install the new Windows 8. It will look for a previous Windows version and happily install without you having to do a full install of an older version of Windows first - should save you some time :)


Tim

 

"Songs are really just very interesting things to be doing with the air." - Tom Waits

 

Main: Custom W10/JRiver/FLAC music server | Rega DAC | Rega Brio-R | MA Bronze2

 

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It shouldn't be necessary to install a previous Windows O/S onto a new drive, so you can install the Windows 8 upgrade. If you have an install of Windows on another drive, just copy the Windows Folder to the new drive, then install the new Windows 8. It will look for a previous Windows version and happily install without you having to do a full install of an older version of Windows first - should save you some time :)

 

Thanks Tim. This is a good point to know for any future builds. For this build, I had an old version of XP that was not installed on any PCs so I was using it for the upgrade. When I went to install it on my system which has the same mobo and a mSata drive as the Caps V3 design, you need to load raid AHCI drivers during the install for XP to see the drive. XP only allows you to add drivers during the install with a floppy drive! it was a pain but I found a cool free program called Nlite that allows you to create a new windows install disk and add drivers to the install disk. After this, it went smoothly. Also, it appears the Windows 8 upgrade promo is only the 64bit version as I didnt have the choice to choose the 32 bit during install. This is fine but the graphics driver on the 64 bit doesnt do 1920x1200 which kind of sucks but I won't be using with a monitor in the end game.


Equipment:

Auralic Vega DAC, Auralic Taurus Preamp, KEF LS50 Speakers, Hypex Ncore400 monoblock amps, CAPs V3, Paul Hynes SR5 (12v and 9v rails), Audioquest King Cobra XLRs, Signal Cable speaker cable, Furutech power and USB cable

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Chris,

 

Any reason why this can't work with OS X 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion)? And do you know if I could connect it directly to a Time Capsule and access it directly via Airport Express>Toslink>Peachtree Nova?


iMac OS X 10.7.1/iTunes/Amarra MINI > Airport Express > Wireworld Supernova 6 TOSLINK > Peachtree Audio Nova/Pro-Ject Debut III > NAD PP2i phono preamp > Audioquest Copperhead RCA > NHT SB3 speakers

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Chris,

 

Any reason why this can't work with OS X 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion)? And do you know if I could connect it directly to a Time Capsule and access it directly via Airport Express>Toslink>Peachtree Nova?

Can I install OS X on my PC? Read this first. may be of help to you. Generally Hackintosh is more difficult with Atom processors though as Apple deliberately compile their kernel NOT to be compatible with the Atom processors.

 

Eloise


Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I also would like a mention of "how the Topanga compares, sonically, to the CAPS2"

 

Hopefully Chris will check back in and address some of the questions or in the next article

 

One advantage Topanga has over previous is that it can be powered by a linear power supply. In this case a Pyramid 12v (13.8v) easily found on Amazon for ~$25 should do the job. Even better diy options are plentiful and with this relatively low power consumption - much cheaper and easier to implement.

 

If I built this server ditching that SMPS would be the very first thing I would do to improve sound quality.

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If I built this server ditching that SMPS would be the very first thing I would do to improve sound quality.

 

Amen! Better yet, never purchase the SMPS in the first place.


Forrest:

Win10 i7 3770k HQPlayer>Win10 NAA

DSD512>Pavel's DSC2.6>Bent Audio TAP>

Parasound JC1>Quad ESL63/Tannoy PS350B subs<100Hz

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One advantage Topanga has over previous is that it can be powered by a linear power supply. In this case a Pyramid 12v (13.8v) easily found on Amazon for ~$25 should do the job. Even better diy options are plentiful and with this relatively low power consumption - much cheaper and easier to implement.

 

If I built this server ditching that SMPS would be the very first thing I would do to improve sound quality.

 

Yeah, my Hynes SR7 is a huge improvement over a cheap Parts Express one I tried on my Caps V2+ (same mobo), as I waited for a dc plug adapter in the mail.

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I’ve been reviewing “Topanga” and it looks to me that it’s just an NM20 chipset with a N2800 atom. The only special magic I can see is the considering you’re assuming that your music is on a server, an unnecessary SSD. The motherboard is nothing special. The Atom is slow. The IO on the chipset is slow, and the disk is used twice: to boot the os and then to load the recommended jRiver. That’s not much computer for 500 bucks. How about this as an alternative: a Foxconn nT-i1200. It’s a fraction of the size, it’s got USB3 and WiFI and it costs less than 200 bucks.

 

Foxconn PRODUCT : NanoPC Barebones: Details

 

Not really a fair comparison. The price you quote does not include a hard drive, memory or an operating system.


Jeff

 


Main system: MPaD -> Fanless VortexBox -> Emotiva XDA-1 -> Adcom GFA-555II -> Working on the rest

Desktop System: J.River Media Jukebox -> WIN7 -> HRT Music Streamer II -> Virtue Audio One.2 -> DIY Martello speakers

 


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I’ve been reviewing “Topanga” and it looks to me that it’s just an NM20 chipset with a N2800 atom. The only special magic I can see is the considering you’re assuming that your music is on a server, an unnecessary SSD. The motherboard is nothing special. The Atom is slow. The IO on the chipset is slow, and the disk is used twice: to boot the os and then to load the recommended jRiver. That’s not much computer for 500 bucks. How about this as an alternative: a Foxconn nT-i1200. It’s a fraction of the size, it’s got USB3 and WiFI and it costs less than 200 bucks.

 

Foxconn PRODUCT : NanoPC Barebones: Details

 

Not really a fair comparison. The price you quote does not include a hard drive, memory, OS or playback software.

So to compare apple to apples the Topanga comes out to $200.00 (Case $65.00, motherboard $110.00, Power Supply$25.00).


Jeff

 


Main system: MPaD -> Fanless VortexBox -> Emotiva XDA-1 -> Adcom GFA-555II -> Working on the rest

Desktop System: J.River Media Jukebox -> WIN7 -> HRT Music Streamer II -> Virtue Audio One.2 -> DIY Martello speakers

 


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I’ve been reviewing “Topanga” and it looks to me that it’s just an NM20 chipset with a N2800 atom. The only special magic I can see is the considering you’re assuming that your music is on a server, an unnecessary SSD. The motherboard is nothing special. The Atom is slow. The IO on the chipset is slow, and the disk is used twice: to boot the os and then to load the recommended jRiver. That’s not much computer for 500 bucks. How about this as an alternative: a Foxconn nT-i1200. It’s a fraction of the size, it’s got USB3 and WiFI and it costs less than 200 bucks.

 

Foxconn PRODUCT : NanoPC Barebones: Details

 

Really? You come on here and put down Chris's design without hearing it? What aspects of the NanoPC Barebones (price for fully ready system?) sonics do you like better than the Topanga? Chris designed for sonics, so I'd need to know specifics Diogenes? Bass control? Soundstage? Midrange tone and timbre? Holographic imaging? What type of music have you played on it? What does it connect to, what type of DAC? Have you had any issues with the Barebones-to-DAC interface? I'm surprised the wifi doesn't cause some EMI issues..and USB3? Have you gotten it to do better music than USB2? If so, would like to know...I haven't heard many USB3 DACs.

 

The reason I ask all these questions is because they are EXACTLY what Chris is doing back at Connaker Labs..making sure the CAPS design produces amazing music without hiccups. I'd need to know you've done the same. Thanks

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In this case a Pyramid 12v (13.8v) easily found on Amazon for ~$25 should do the job. Even better diy options are plentiful and with this relatively low power consumption - much cheaper and easier to implement.

 

I'm using a pico-80, the manufacturer says it not to use more than 13 v. Can you recommend a 12 v supply or a link to a DIY solution? Thanks.


Roon ROCK (Roon 1.6; NUC7i3) > Ayre QB-9 DSD > Ayre AX-5 Twenty > Thiel CS2.4SE (crossovers rebuilt with Clarity CSA and Multicap RTX caps, Mills MRA-12 resistors; ERSE and Jantzen coils; Cardas binding posts and hookup wire); Cardas and OEM power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables

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In this case a Pyramid 12v (13.8v) easily found on Amazon for ~$25 should do the job. Even better diy options are plentiful and with this relatively low power consumption - much cheaper and easier to implement.

 

DC conversion for my MOBO is a pico-80 powered by a wall wart. The manufacturer says not to use more than ~13 v. Can you recommend a 12 v PS? Or maybe a link to a DIY recipe? THanks


Roon ROCK (Roon 1.6; NUC7i3) > Ayre QB-9 DSD > Ayre AX-5 Twenty > Thiel CS2.4SE (crossovers rebuilt with Clarity CSA and Multicap RTX caps, Mills MRA-12 resistors; ERSE and Jantzen coils; Cardas binding posts and hookup wire); Cardas and OEM power cables, interconnects, and speaker cables

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The Foxconn nT-i1200 is a great little system but it has no memory, SSD or OS. Once you add all of those you up to around $400. Also the Foxconn nT-i1200 has a small fan. One of the biggest advantages of the CAPS design is it's completely noiseless. This is a great advantage in a quiet listening room. You do pay for this feature. If you don't mind a little fan noise there are a lot of small Atom boxes that are dirt cheap.


agillis

Small Green Computer

http://www.smallgreencomputer.com/

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Correct me if I am wrong, but this Topanga version could be easily upgraded by addition of the SoTM USB card and, perhaps, a firewire controller card for library storage - something definitely not avaliable on the Foxconn NanoPC.

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Correct me if I am wrong, but this Topanga version could be easily upgraded by addition of the SoTM USB card and, perhaps, a firewire controller card for library storage - something definitely not avaliable on the Foxconn NanoPC.

 

Yes, but you'd need a case that can hold the vertical PCIe cards. As the CAPSV2 progressed I "designed" a later version called the CAPS v2+ which uses the Wesena case (SOtM card, also uses same mobo, same mSATA SSD, etc but uses 64 bit Windows). Chris had a lot to do with its design, as he started looking at the DN2800 mobo and the mSATA card, and told me about it. There might be other cases that could use a PCie adapter so the cards were horizontal, etc but dunno.

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As for Chris’s evaluation lab: I don’t know his selection or evaluation process. I know about them because our tech group had this dream of stringing a couple of thousand of the Foxconns as an mpi based HFT engine. The initial evaluation included comparing a half dozen alternatives including stuffing motherboards into boxes. Nothing in Chris’s discussions mentioned he took that approach. My personal experience with the Foxconn is that the dream failed so we all had a chance to pick up a few before the rest were thrown out. Mine now sits as a gateway to watch Hulu+ and Amazon Prime movies. Its HDMI port pumps out perfect 1080p, which takes much more bandwidth and cpu processing than audio.

 

I understand, but again I ask the question: how does the Foxconn Barebones sound for audiophile audio? It is that aspect that is kinda important, and one where it seems you have not explored, yet dismiss Chris's design. I am confused as to your stance. i realize there are other more powerful less expensive boards out there, and yours looks nice for what you are doing, but you've yet to explain why it's a better audiophile music producing setup than Chris's., albeit a few bucks cheaper I'm really not trying to be pedantic, just trying to understand what you are saying the Barebones will do for hi-quality silent background hirez 2 channel audio. Those are table stakes.

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Yes, except it sounds pretty awful, for whatever reason. The one here is also kinda noisy. The comparison is an Apple TV, which costs way less ($99), is dead silent, and does perfect 1080P video streaming, as well as a few other things. (Netflix, Hulu+, a couple dozen other services, and iTunes.) It also sounds better than the Foxconn unit.

 

Neither of which sound as good as the C.A.P.S. servers or a Mac. :)

 

-Paul

 

 

The price I mentioned for the Foxconn unit was assuming you’ve added a small disk and memory. The barebones price is actually in the $125 to $150 range. It’s one of many so called “nettops” that in fact are designed to provide the same media pc functionality as the “Topanga”. The difference is that they are smaller and cheaper and look better and have more features. Both acer and asus provide similar units that save you even more money because it includes a pre loaded operating system that Microsoft charges. If the “Topanga” was something other than a collection of commodity components, I’d think differently.

 

L | Product Series

ASUS - Eee Families- ASUS EeeBox PC EB1033

 

As for Chris’s evaluation lab: I don’t know his selection or evaluation process. I know about them because our tech group had this dream of stringing a couple of thousand of the Foxconns as an mpi based HFT engine. The initial evaluation included comparing a half dozen alternatives including stuffing motherboards into boxes. Nothing in Chris’s discussions mentioned he took that approach. My personal experience with the Foxconn is that the dream failed so we all had a chance to pick up a few before the rest were thrown out. Mine now sits as a gateway to watch Hulu+ and Amazon Prime movies. Its HDMI port pumps out perfect 1080p, which takes much more bandwidth and cpu processing than audio.


Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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How could i use an original apple IR remote with the topanga ? havent found IR pcie cards so far.

 

i want to use a bel canto reflink with the topanga - is the power supply for the caps still a factor when usb-spdif converters have galavanical isolation ?


AIFF - LINN Klimax DS/1 Renew - Grimm TPA XLR - Neumann KH120AW Studio Monitors

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Yes, but you'd need a case that can hold the vertical PCIe cards. As the CAPSV2 progressed I "designed" a later version called the CAPS v2+ which uses the Wesena case (SOtM card, also uses same mobo, same mSATA SSD, etc but uses 64 bit Windows). Chris had a lot to do with its design, as he started looking at the DN2800 mobo and the mSATA card, and told me about it. There might be other cases that could use a PCie adapter so the cards were horizontal, etc but dunno.

Some folks sell a right angle adapter plus backplate so a pcie card could fit into the wesena case.

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Agillis: Once again, the barebones price is in the $125 to $150 range. Add disk and memory, you’re up to about 200, and Windows it hits 300 or so. Compare that to the $645 that small green is quoting. The Foxconn unit is also fanless.

 

ted_b This is a simple Occam’s razor issue. The simple answer is almost always the correct one. Both have the exact same CPU. Both have the exact same motherboard. Both are mass production commodity products. The only difference is that the “Topanga” is a general purpose motherboard, the Foxconn is tailored to CAPS like applications. There’s no reason to believe that they perform any differently in any respect, including computer audiophile audio. They both use the same chipset based USB and they both use the same chipset S/PDIF if that’s your pleasure.

 

$150 + 20 for memory + 86 for and ssd + 140 for windows = 396 or almost $400. You could use a cheaper SSD or a Windows 8 standard instead of pro. I was keeping the same components that Chris used in his spec.

 

What makes you think that this units is fanless? I don't have one so maybe I'm wrong here but I read this review and it clearly shows a fan

 

Foxconn nT-i1200 nanoPC review - Printer Friendly version

 

Do you have one of these units? Did they change the design after this review?

 

When you use a plastic case (plastic is a heat insulator) you almost always need a fan.

 

The biggest different between the two units is the processor. The D2800 is a much lower power processor then the D2500 that the Foxconn uses.


agillis

Small Green Computer

http://www.smallgreencomputer.com/

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Hi Andrew -

 

I have one of these I picked up from the local Frys early last summer. It is billed as fanless, but something in there whirs up a storm.

Your pricing is about right too.

 

-Paul

 

 

$150 + 20 for memory + 86 for and ssd + 140 for windows = 396 or almost $400. You could use a cheaper SSD or a Windows 8 standard instead of pro. I was keeping the same components that Chris used in his spec.

 

What makes you think that this units is fanless? I don't have one so maybe I'm wrong here but I read this review and it clearly shows a fan

 

Foxconn nT-i1200 nanoPC review - Printer Friendly version

 

Do you have one of these units? Did they change the design after this review?

 

When you use a plastic case (plastic is a heat insulator) you almost always need a fan.

 

The biggest different between the two units is the processor. The D2800 is a much lower power processor then the D2500 that the Foxconn uses.


Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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