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Upgrading my music server...Recommendations welcome


krelldog
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I'm a long audiophile, and a relatively new computer audiophile. I love the concept of having all of my music at my fingertips, and the ability to play anything without leaving my chair. My music is stored and played on a HP Envy I/7 laptop(Windows 10 )

 

My system consists of : HP Laptop -J River media player > USB A-B >Cambridge Azur 851D (DAC) > Parasound Halo Integrated >Martin Logan Theos.

 

 

My first question is....is my laptop considered a music server? In the threads I read on this forum I often read of people building or modifying their own computers specifically for optimal audio playback. Can you buy modified machines specifically for this ? If so where? I know my system in terms of computer audio is very entry level, but what would you upgrade to get it to the next level, or levels?

 

I was using 320 kps files and have recently began replacing them with FLAC files.....wow what a difference. I would like to continue to elevate my system...any and all suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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There are basic hardware compromises with using a laptop as a "player". Most who want an off the shelf solution prefer Mac laptops and Jriver has a Mac option. However even with a desktop computer its hard without after market improvements to get the best sound out of a PC or Mac because of electrical issues and hardware compromises when you have a 1 box unit doing it all.

 

More certain results can be gotten with a streaming system using a Sonore microRendu network renderer USB connected to your DAC, a NAS, router and optical ethernet connectors setup at a total cost of around $1700 and no aftermarket tweaking; transparency that's hard to beat. If you had box speakers, you would probably be happy with the Mac approach but your Martin Logan electrostatics should allow you to hear the difference between a tweaked Mac USB feed and a microRendu setup for detail resolution. Your laptop would still be used but only as a control point for music playback and to download new music to the NAS. Note that Minimserver media server software is supported with many NAS's and allows you to transcode DSD files to PCM so that you can buy DSD downloads and play them with a NAS supporting Minimserver

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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I'm a long audiophile, and a relatively new computer audiophile. I love the concept of having all of my music at my fingertips, and the ability to play anything without leaving my chair. My music is stored and played on a HP Envy I/7 laptop(Windows 10 )

 

My system consists of : HP Laptop -J River media player > USB A-B >Cambridge Azur 851D (DAC) > Parasound Halo Integrated >Martin Logan Theos.

 

 

My first question is....is my laptop considered a music server? In the threads I read on this forum I often read of people building or modifying their own computers specifically for optimal audio playback. Can you buy modified machines specifically for this ? If so where? I know my system in terms of computer audio is very entry level, but what would you upgrade to get it to the next level, or levels?

 

I was using 320 kps files and have recently began replacing them with FLAC files.....wow what a difference. I would like to continue to elevate my system...any and all suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

 

You've taken the first BIG step with your graduation to lossless music files. Looks like you have the capability to play hires stuff, so please do give that a go and see/hear what you think. No need to spend a bunch of $$ right away. What you have will take you a long way and give you time to determine what YOU really want/need.

 

I can heartily recommend a small investment in JRiver Music Center. Organising your music and putting it at your fingertips will greatly increase your enjoyment.

 

Other than that,,, reading & research.

Enjoy!

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Its used for other things as well. The amazing thing is.....the sound I'm getting with the equipment I listed above is amazing. I can't even imagine what the sound could be like with some of the above mentioned suggestions.

 

Where in the chain would the Sonore MicroRendu go ? BTW- I have an ethernet cable from my router close to my equipment. However I'm wirelessly connected.

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With the server I linked (or equivalent) hard-wired to your wireless router, the microRendu attaches via USB to the digital input of your Cambridge DAC. The mR is your "renderer" and you would use a browser or smartphone/tablet app to control it: select program, control playback, and change volume. I'm pretty sure the mR needs to be hard-wired, so you'd need to use that ethernet cable you mentioned.

 

Anyway, there is absolutely nothing wrong with what you are doing today. If it works for you, then keep doing it. Others may argue the point, but I don't think your sound quality will be dramatically better any new way. What you have now is pretty good!

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Its used for other things as well. The amazing thing is.....the sound I'm getting with the equipment I listed above is amazing. I can't even imagine what the sound could be like with some of the above mentioned suggestions.

 

Where in the chain would the Sonore MicroRendu go ? BTW- I have an ethernet cable from my router close to my equipment. However I'm wirelessly connected.

 

If i were you, i would make a second partition on the laptop, install windows 10, install audiophile optimizer & Fidelizer + the software player of my liking.

 

You will be even more surprised of how good this combination can be...

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I would suggest you consider keeping your music files on an external hard drive and backing up your files on another drive. Although this sounds cumbersome drives are not expensive and it's nice to have the comfort of knowing that all the work you put into ripping and downloading files is secure. If you have a wifi router as part of a home network and it has a USB input you could connect a USB hard drive to your router which then makes your music available on your network. I recently purchased a Chromecast Audio ( $35 ) and have been listening to internet music and streaming from my hard drive. I'm quite impressed with the sound quality as compared to my Mac Mini connected via USB to my integrated amp ( Devialet 120 ). There are some limitations in terms of file types i.e. Chromecast won't play AIFF files ) and it's limited to 24/96 resolution but for the money it's a nice way to try playing music files on the cheap. There are many apps available for Chromecast. I use Tunein Radio which is free and offers many stations to listen to.

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If you have a wifi router as part of a home network and it has a USB input you could connect a USB hard drive to your router which then makes your music available on your network. I recently purchased a Chromecast Audio ( $35 ) and have been listening to internet music and streaming from my hard drive.

 

This is a nice approach. Is playback from the hard drive via Chromecast Audio gapless?

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This is a nice approach. Is playback from the hard drive via Chromecast Audio gapless?
Unfortunately, the Chomecast Audio doesn't support gapless playback of contiguous music file tracks.

 

Incidentally, the CCA can't actually play the music files directly from the hard drive itself. It can only stream the files indirectly via http, usually from a media server that does have access to the files on the hard drive. This also requires the CCA to be used with a Chromecast supporting controller app to tell it which music files to stream from the media server.

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I'm in the same boat!

I use an old laptop with a spare external hard drive (no cost) where I store my music collection in FLAC format. The dedicated laptop is connected with $100 USB DAC (Shiit Audio) and the signal goes to a Marantz receiver + Anthem amp + Martin Logan ESL speakers.

Besides the DAC I wonder if there's anything else I can do to upgrade the system without spending $K.

Some member here suggested a Ras Pi3 without explaining how it should be connected to the existing system.

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^ If you wanted to get rid of the laptop you could substitute a RPi for it. Advantage might be lower energy consumption and no fan noise if you believe these to be issues you need to solve. The RPi can do everything currently done by your old laptop. It is not likely there would be any difference in sound quality.

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I'm in the same boat!

I use an old laptop with a spare external hard drive (no cost) where I store my music collection in FLAC format. The dedicated laptop is connected with $100 USB DAC (Shiit Audio) and the signal goes to a Marantz receiver + Anthem amp + Martin Logan ESL speakers.

Besides the DAC I wonder if there's anything else I can do to upgrade the system without spending $K.

Some member here suggested a Ras Pi3 without explaining how it should be connected to the existing system.

If you use the Digi+ board for the Pi for coax out and run Minimserver on the laptop to use it as a NAS that would be a step forward. If you stay USB direct you should buy an Uptone Audio REGEN (it's built into a MicroRendu). The built in USB ports on the Pi are awful for audio, I could only enjoy it after I added a Digi+ board

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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It is highly likely, from what I have experienced

That's fine. Easy enough for the poster if he's so inclined to find out for himself.

 

The other use for a RPi is as a "client" in a client/server networked audio system. With your files on a central music server (which can also be a RPi) other RPi units can be spread among your rooms where they provide analog or digital output to your hifi, portable speaker, headphones, etc. Each independent "zone" is controlled remotely via web browser or smartphone/tablet app.

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Previously I used a "small and green" Pc as the music server/player: fanless, mobo fed by a LPSU, OS SSD powered separately by another LPSU, an Audioquest Jitterbug and a Schiit Wyrd plugged in, OS tweaked immensely, music storage (a 5Tb 3.5 inch external HDD) powered by a LPSU. Then my PI3 powered by a LPSU took shape and it easily won the "music playing contest" with the above Pc. So now the Pc has become a full -of- LPSU, low noise NAS to feed music to PI3. I also install a USB interface (Singxer SU1) to overcome PI3's USB related problem, which does magic.

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^ If you wanted to get rid of the laptop you could substitute a RPi for it. Advantage might be lower energy consumption and no fan noise if you believe these to be issues you need to solve. The RPi can do everything currently done by your old laptop. It is not likely there would be any difference in sound quality.

 

I probably stay with my laptop for now. I think my next step is to replace the DAC with the new version Moni 2 Uber, and then, maybe, the Wyrd (Shiit Audio) or Uptone Audio GEN to improve the USB port.

 

I've read some good reviews about Ras Pi3 but I guess in this case I also need a case and some interface?

 

Thanks for the inputs from all of you. I'm new in this area (computer audiophile) even though I've been interested in the fields of computer and audiophile for 30 years.

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