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Ideas for music server


extracampine
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I'm planning to have a PC-based music server in my system. I decided against a MAC because the majority of my music is in FLAC format, and iTunes doesn't support FLAC.

 

I was wondering if people recommended any particular manufacturers of music server PCs or just PCs which would be suitable. It would be in the listening room so needs to be 100% silent.

 

Cheers

D

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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Hi D - Since your requirement is totally silent I highly recommend looking at the two servers I wrote about in the following articles.

 

 

1. http://www.computeraudiophile.com/mCubed-hFX-Silent-Fanless-Music-Server-Review

 

 

 

2. http://www.computeraudiophile.com/Absolutely-Silent-Audiophile-Music-Server

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Consider how you "listen" to music in the sense of what you do while listening.

 

For example, I am interested in some lyrics, perhaps album art work, etc. I also like to jump around the library depending on what I just heard. Thus if I liked a certain musical piece I might scan the library for "same song different artist" or "all songs of current artist". This requires easy access to computer, ie not across the room. This, in my opinion, is one of the major advantages of a computer based system (the ability to dice and slice quickly).

 

Accordingly I needed quiet but close-by device. Space and clutter issue become problematic if you have a DAC, etc.

 

In my experience of usual PC's (ie not fanless, expensive, specialized devices), noise is always intrusive. Laptops are better but can be noisy. If the laptop is placed in front of you, then you have jumbles of wires going to the DAC, etc. If the PC is near the stereo and perhaps not close enough to be "noisy", then you have to do some up/down to get to it.

 

My solution was a small quite laptop to remote control a stout PC in another room and then to wirelessly stream music to the DAC and stereo.

 

 

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It is very straightforward to convert FLAC to AIFF with no loss of quality. On a MAC a program called XLD will batch your whole library. So FLAC support shouldn't enter into your decision.

 

I do this with all of my HD recordings that I buy which are distributed in FLAC format.

 

/Paul

 

Serious Listening:[br]Intel Mac Pro 6G (SSD) -> Amarra ->Alpha USB ->Alpha I Dac -> Ayre KX-R -> Tom Evans Linear Class A -> Avantgarde Mezzo Horns (107db) + Basshorns-> Engineered Room (Power, Traps, Helmholtz Resonators, Ceiling Diffusers)[br]Computer Listening:Intel Mac Pro 6G -> Lavry DA10 -> Adams S3A Active Monitors

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Interesting replies so far. To address the one above:

 

I have about 1.5 terabytes in FLAC format.

 

1. To convert this to AIFF would take a very long time.

2. I have spent a lot of time embedding ID3 tags, album art information etc into the tags. If I did the conversion I fear that some details may be lost, e.g. assignments of the various album art items (front, boolet 1, 2, 3, cd, rear, etc) and the order in which they are displayed.

3. I feel that on principle I should not have to convert my library from one of the most widely used non-proprietary lossless formats (FLAC) to a format developed by Apple in 1988 so that I can play them back on an Apply machine.

 

In terms of convenience, yes something controllable from the couch would be ideal. As the user above pointed out, a laptop on the sofa would mean untidy cabling. I was wondering about some kind of tablet PC, or a touchscreen remote control/control for a desktop PC that did not have a monitor.

 

D

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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How about the Linn DS range ... basically UPnP devices with high end DAC built in. You can ether run the UPnP server for it on your existing computer, or on a NAS device. Worth a look/listen for a "no computer in the listening room" solution.

 

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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Looked at the Linn DS range....basically the interface is not good enough. I like to use the interface of Mediamonkey. Similar goes for the Squeezebox, though I haven't seen that one in real life.

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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Looked at the Linn DS range....basically the interface is not good enough. I like to use the interface of Mediamonkey. Similar goes for the Squeezebox, though I haven't seen that one in real life.

Fair enough ... think then you're looking at a PC with a laptop via Remote Desktop or VNC. You could have the desktop/tower PC separate from DAC and use a long AES3 cable, or need a silent PC. The laptop for control purposes can be via WiFi.

 

The other alternative (which I've not tried) is that FooBar can be used as a UPnP control point for a UPnP renderer such as the Linn DS which would give you another alternative. Also I think there are plugins for J.River Media Centre to work as UPnP control point.

 

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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The Zalman case is a very effective, but quite expensive route to silencing. An alternative might be to use another Zalman product - the Reservator. This is a radiator/reservoir water cooler that passively cools the CPU and optionally the graphics card, removing the need for fans in either of these areas. You may still need case fans, and ideally these would be thermoregulated.I use this myself in my own system and the thing is completely silent unless you're putting heavy demand on the processor for 3d gaming etc. It's also suitable for retrofitting to (some!) existing PC's. Very much recommended.

 

http://www.zalman.co.kr/ENG/product/Product_Read.asp?idx=183

 

 

 

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In my opinion, based on a fairly extensive review about 18 months ago, of PC products, MediaMonkey is best re:

user interface

ease of use

functionality

add ons available - numerous, powerful and free

robustness and stability (100,000 files are no problem)

support forum (very helpful)

 

In addition, there is a 25.00 product called Remotespeaker output that lets one stream MediaMonkey to 1-> multiple Airport Express(es).

 

Thus you could have what you describe you want configured as follows:

 

Tower PC elsewhere (with drives, etc out of the music room) - no noise

MediaMonkey interface

FLAC

Airport express with DAC at stereo - no wires at listening position

An inexpensive laptop/netbook at listening position to control tower PC via VNC - no wires depending on battery life

 

The downsides are:

CD resolution only (although who knows if next Airport express will be higher rez)

 

There are those denigrate the Airport express sound quality - this is or is not an issue with a DAC. Your mileage may vary depending on your psyche.

 

VNC wirelessly is slightly sluggish BUT really not an issue as you are looking at screen data, not a video.

 

A small laptop may not show your entire tower PC screen and thus some reconfiguration, scrolling is required depending on needs/wants

 

 

my 2c

 

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One of the best players is JRiver Media Center 14. If you have a TV viewable from your listening position and can connect it to the PC, use the new JRiver remote or something like a Harmony One remote. Theater View in JRiver is designed for just this application on low rez TV's. If you have a Hi Def TV you may be able to view as high as 1280 x 1024, and could show the full detail of all screens in JRiver.

 

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Wow,

 

I agree MediaMonkey has by far the best interface and is the best tagger I've seen as well.

 

However, I get lots of hiccups and "not responding" notices from it with only 60,000 tracks. That is true even on a Corei7 with 6gb of RAM.

 

And since the most recent itunes/quicktime update, it doesn't even work for long before it crashes.

http://www.mediamonkey.com/news/2009/09/15/itunes-9-0-iphone-3-1-support-update/

 

 

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@Dan - great you know what you want: if you want a full featured client then a box and screen are the way to go. I've built several dead silent music servers. My current main one has one 120mm case fan and that is it. Been going for 4 years now. But you still hear the data HDD spinning up occasionally. I also had an Alix 2d2 that I recently sold running puppy linux and mpd headless. That was totally silent but required a NAS.

 

FWIW I hate distraction when I'm listening so have always liked simple interfaces eg SB's, Linux Micro Servers etc. Even Apple with the iTouch. For me it's just a way of easily getting the album to play. Couldn't care less about Album Art etc. Although that may change with the iTablet. Or CrunchPad (if it ever gets released).

 

The SB Touch interests me for several reasons- 1) it is a Linux computer so you can easily mod it if you want (to eg run a USB Dac) 2) it supports 24/96 3) it can operate stand alone with a USB External Drive eg a WD passport or Seagate Free Agent 4) it supports just about every format under the sun 5) it has a vastly upgraded spdif out (it needed it - I modded my SB3 digital) 6) a decent reclocker makes jitter more or less irrelevant in any event and lastly 7) it has a cute small form factor, is cheap ($300) and best of all you can organise/ view your music as you want to. Tops. Did I mention all this was $300?

 

I imagine for a under 1k a SB Touch plus the new Antelope Zodiac DA converter will take quite some beating.

 

happy hi fi

 

Best Wishes

Andrew

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Some thoughts:

 

1.5Tbytes is not a lot - about 8hrs to convert - its an overnight batch task. Id's are preserved. However I fully respect your not wanting to do that.

 

Given the constraints - the following system would be excellent (I have tested it).

 

Computer - any type, in any room in the house.

 

Wired Ethernet network (wireless is possible but not as good).

 

Sonos box (Ethernet Connected) in your listening room - silent, no fans, supports FLAC.

 

Feed it into a 'good DAC'; lots of info here on CA.

 

Use your ipod/iphone (free Sonos App) /sonos controller to control the music (need a wireless network).

 

If you wanted to improve this system the following is recommended in order;

 

Put $ into your DAC

 

Then reclock the Sonos through an Antelope DA (I have tested this on your behalf and it really kicks up the Sonos quality).

 

Alternatively (better) reclock through the PACE car and have 'Emperical' modify your Sonos.

 

The only downside is that you would be limited to music 48Khz and below.

 

Importantly - have fun with it ;)

 

/Paul

 

Serious Listening:[br]Intel Mac Pro 6G (SSD) -> Amarra ->Alpha USB ->Alpha I Dac -> Ayre KX-R -> Tom Evans Linear Class A -> Avantgarde Mezzo Horns (107db) + Basshorns-> Engineered Room (Power, Traps, Helmholtz Resonators, Ceiling Diffusers)[br]Computer Listening:Intel Mac Pro 6G -> Lavry DA10 -> Adams S3A Active Monitors

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Thanks again for all the useful comments. To address some of the above points:

 

I'm considering the Weiss DAC2. I've done a lot of reading around, and for my budget and setup this seems like one of the most obvious choices. It would connect via a firewire cable to the PC.

 

A couple of people have mentioned limitations on sample rate, such as with the Airport Express or the Sonos; I'm keen to be able to play up to 192 kHz at up to 24 bits.

 

In terms of controlling the music, an app on the iPhone might be handy as a remote, but not as the main way to browse (too small). As per the Sonos - I prefer the Mediamonkey interface, functionality, features and flexibility to a closed-source product like the Sonos. Maybe some kind of tablet PC-based remote, such as the upcoming iTablet might be an option?

 

Cheers

D

 

 

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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we have been looking into remotes for the players. Like you said the iphone and itouch are a start. We also found some sony and a few generic ones that work with j river. Not sure it will work with media monkey, but j river is actually pretty similar to media monkey. Anyway we one on order for my vp that does not like the mouse or the iphone. If interested I can post the pros and cons as he informs me.

 

Regards

 

Jesus R

www.sonore.us

 

ps the weiss dac should be very nice....

 

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There is an ipod/itouch APP for MediaMonkey but it only allows forward, back, next item etc. I do not think you can search or add to queue.

 

The Sonos device is nice in that you can control all, perform queue additions and management, etc BUT you cannot see lyrics, notes on album etc.

If one wants the "full CD listening/viewing experience (the equivalent of holding the album cover while listening) " with album art, view lyrics and perhaps info on album/back cover - MediaMonkey is the only program that makes it all available and even this requires a PC to view it all, whether native or linked over VNC.

 

Itunes can actually show most of the same info BUT the notes section was so small as to be unusable and required item->view->about menu movements. Lyrics have be to exported to itunes. MedaiMonkey has an automated batch lyrics and info finder - very quick and painless.

 

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Agreed, that's why I'm keen to remain with Mediamonkey. Not keen on iTunes because of the retriction in the file formats that it supports (i.e. no FLAC). I use the iPhone app to control Mediamonkey, though at present it is extremely limited - it cannot browse your whole library; it relies on playlists, which I generally don't tend to use.

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

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Dan - Cullen Circuits does a custom mod on the Sonos. you can go to www.cullencircuits.com and check it out. They can do the mod for 24/96 or 24/192. It can also be modded to use the Empirical Audio Pace Car Reclocker.

 

Steve

 

Custom Music Server, i7-3770T with Core Audio Filtered ATX Cables, Win 8, J River Media 17 with JPLAY, USB 1TB, Nuforce IA7 V2 Upgrade Co Signature modified, TimePortal Interconnects, MIT Magnum powercord, Wireworld Silver Starlight USB, Northstar DAC32, upgraded by the Upgrade Company, RSL 3600 Studio Monitors

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