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A novel way to massively improve the SQ of computer audio streaming

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@Peter_T, are you using Service Tool at all to reset things before going to Core mode from either GUI or Minimal Server mode?

 

Yes : If I am in a AO-optimized mode then I always use the service tool first and after reboot I use the service tool again to switch modes. Can't be done otherwise.

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Yes : If I am in a AO-optimized mode then I always use the service tool first and after reboot I use the service tool again to switch modes. Can't be done otherwise.

 

Ok try this...get your bridge all set up in GUI mode, switch directly to Core mode. Check to make sure the bridge still works. Then run AO.

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Ok try this...get your bridge all set up in GUI mode, switch directly to Core mode. Check to make sure the bridge still works. Then run AO.
through

 

I already did that : 3-way bridge (NIC-NIC-Wifi-adapter) or 2-way bridge (NIC-NIC). Giving the bridge a static IP-address and then directly to core. Same story : one of the NICs can't get through to my router. Or vice-versa : one of the NICs cant see my SOTM200

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My microRendu that I loaned out finally arrived back to me. Just in time as my sMS-200 is out for modification.

 

I installed W2012 R2 Essentials on my Mac Mini via Bootcamp. Pretty straightforward.

 

I was able to bridge my Mac Mini's built-in LAN port and my Thunderbolt LAN port without difficulty thanks to everyone's advice. Fortunately, direct connection with my microRendu went without a hitch. My bridge has been assigned a dynamic IP. I have not tried to assign it a static IP but dynamic IP works just fine. I will install AO tomorrow but thus far, I am very pleased with the outcome. The improvement with my microRendu is very much in line with what I heard from my sMS-200. These are both incredible NAAs!

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@romaz what is being done to the SMS200? Mods?

SOtM is installing their new superclock, the sCLK-EX, into it. I'm not yet sure what to expect except that May Park has suggested the improvement will be "huge." I will be their first guinea pig...we'll see. I'll report what I hear once I get it back. I'm sure Sonore has similar upgrades up their sleeves also. Competition is good and I love where this is all going!

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Perfect romaz! A million thanks! Works almost exactly as you said.

 

Just one note of caution to anyone else doing this on a Mac with an Apple Thunderbolt>Ethernet adapter (as the standard switch/DHCP router connection and the internal port--definitely better--as the one going to the NAA):

When you open Manage Virtual Interfaces, you will see that there is already one called "Thunderbolt Bridge" and its BSD name will be "bridge0". Do not delete this one! Just create a new one--I called it "NAA Bridge" and that will end up being "bridge1"--and as romaz said, edit it to have Thunderbolt Ethernet and Ethernet (the internal one) checked.

 

While I did not make the mistake of deleting "bridge0" (though wondered if I needed too), something did happen that others may or may not need to do:

1) SonicOrbiter.com found the directly connected microRendu (with an IP address auto assigned), but initially when clicking Manage (to actually logon to the mR's web control interface) it did not connect.

2) Thinking that maybe that "bridge0" was preventing it, I edited that (in Manage Virtual Interfaces) and unchecked Thunderbolt 1 and Thunderbolt 2.

That did it! The mR suddenly got assigned a different IP address and I was able to log on.

 

However, going back into "bridge0" (to check info to write this post), I see that Thunderbolt 1 and 2 are checked again; and then even SonicOrbiter.com could not find the microRendu. I opened then closed the edit window for "bridge0" (again, this is NOT the new "NAA Bridge" created--that's "bridge1") and then it refreshed and works fine.

So I think one has to keep a bit of an eye on it. Maybe it will stay stable, we'll see.

 

The other thing that is important before doing any of the above is to turn off Internet Sharing in the Sharing prefs panel. Otherwise it won't work. With my other usual set up--direct line to my tweaked, DAC-connected i7 mini--I often turned on Internet sharing between the Thunderbolt>Ethernet adapter connecting to the switch/web and the direct line. Only do that so if I can stream YouTube, Tiny Desk Concert, or other web audio to my DAC on rare occasion.

 

------

 

Anyway, the best part is that, as you promised, HQ Player/NAA--for the first time ever for me--works with a direct machine to machine (mR in this case) connection. I think this will sound fabulous (too busy this morning to actually listen).

 

Once again, it seems that OS X (okay, its officially called macOS these days) makes complex networking configuration easy for the lay person--once some very kind person explains it! ;)

 

So many thanks to all!

 

--Alex C.

Romez, Alex, thanks so much for this. I spent £29 on a Thunderbolt adapter for my Mac Mini server, followed the instructions and, hey presto, instant upgrade. It's unbelievable! Am sooooo happy!

 

Nikko

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SOtM is installing their new superclock, the sCLK-EX, into it. I'm not yet sure what to expect except that May Park has suggested the improvement will be "huge." I will be their first guinea pig...we'll see. I'll report what I hear once I get it back. I'm sure Sonore has similar upgrades up their sleeves also. Competition is good and I love where this is all going!

 

Well that is really interesting news. I've been thinking about what mods could be done to the MR or SMS200 to make it sound better. I guess I should wait before getting either one to see if any new improvements are made. It would be really cool if existing devices could be upgraded for a fee of course. Looking forward to your thoughts.

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Ok, using my modified Mac Mini, I now have installed Audiophile Optimizer along with W2012R2 Essentials in Minimal Server Mode with RoonServer (Roon not yet possible in Core mode) and it is definitely better than Windows 10 Pro + Fidelizer Pro in my setup. I have not yet tried Windows 10 Pro + AO. I will also be giving Process Lasso a try. I had shelved all of these products as I had assumed they were no longer relevant with the release of the microRendu (and sMS-200) as it had been proclaimed by many that these ethernet NAAs were immune to what is upstream. This is clearly not the case and with this direct connection, these things seem to make an even bigger difference.

 

Compared against El Capitan on my Mac Mini, the comparison is a bit tougher. Many that use a Mac Mini optimized for music playback run the OS off the SD card and this practice is well documented here on CA. This is how I have been using my Mac Mini, with an optimized version of El Capitan running off a 64GB SDXC card and I have personally found it easily superior to running the OS off a SATA SSD or spinning HD. With the OS on the SD card, there is a quieter, more relaxed and effortless quality to the presentation and very much to my liking and this is one key reason why I have preferred a Mac Mini to my small Intel i5 NUC or my sonicTransporter.

 

Unfortunately, you can only boot a Mac OS off an SD card. This is not possible with Windows despite repeated efforts. To be able to run any version of Windows on a Mac Mini, you must use an internal drive via Bootcamp and having tried Windows 10 Pro on a separate partition on a Mac Mini (on both a 500GB spinning HD as well as on a 1TB Samsung SSD), in every instance, El Capitan on SD sounds better than Windows 10 Pro on an internal drive.

 

As one of my good friends has a dual box setup with W2012R2 + AO + JPLAY, I have heard this system many times and compared to a stock Mac Mini (even with the Mac OS on an SD card), his Windows setup easily blows away the Mac Mini. This changed, however, when the microRendu (and sMS-200) came out and when I bought Uptone Audio's MMK to allow me to power the Mac Mini with a 12V LPSU. With either of these NAAs and my Mac Mini powered by my Paul Hynes SR7, both my friend and I now prefer my Mac Mini setup by a rather large margin.

 

I have been frustrated, however, by my inability to further optimize El Captan. Despite my best efforts using the CAD script, I still have about 120 open processes compared to 15-20 open processes in an optimized Windows setup. I thought surely, Windows should sound better.

 

More recently, having recently installed a 128GB PCIE SSED onto my Mac Mini (fairly easy to do, it turns out), I have found that music playback from the PCIE SSD sounds a bit better than music playback from a SATA SSD or USB HD in terms of immediacy and detail. In exploring reasons why this might be the case, the PCIE bus has less latency than both the SATA and USB bus and so this could be a factor (possibly the same concept behind why some prefer music playback from a RAM drive). Of course, this led me to wonder if installing an optimized version of Windows on this PCIE SSD could help offset the SQ advantage that I had thus far found with running an OS off of an SD card.

 

The most fair way off assessing the differences between running an OS off an SD card vs PCIE SSD would be to compare El Capitan on both and that is what I did. As I previously stated, El Capitan off of the SD card has this quiet, relaxed and effortless quality to it. With El Capitan off the PCIE SSD, the musical presentation is definitely more "in your face." The presentation is more detailed with both a more extended bass and treble and on first listen, it is more exciting but with prolonged listening, it can be fatiguing as there seems to also be a slight harshness present.

 

Well, on a separate partition on this PCIE SSD, I went ahead and installed W2012R2 Essentials + AO + RoonServer and compared against El Capitan on SD, this optimized version of Windows has nicely regained some of that calm and quiet. Perhaps, the biggest improvement was the improvement in imaging. Focus has snapped into place much better than I have previously experienced with the microRendu. One of the advantages of the sMS-200 over the microRendu that I immediately noticed was better detail clarity. This is now the clearest I have found the microRendu to sound and this clarity is all the more enhanced by this direct connection.

 

In my listening evaluations over the weekend, I have had a chance to compare my Mac Mini with W2012R2 Essentials + AO + RoonServer with the microRendu in both the standard configuration and with this "direct" connection and while the qualities of W2012R2 + AO are noticeable with the microRendu via the standard configuration, the improvements are much greater realized with this direct connection. I do not currently have my sMS-200 on hand as it is still out for modification and so I won't know how this Windows setup will affect it but this is now my reference setup with my microRendu. This is easily the best that I have heard my microRendu sound and it will be interesting to hear if Fidelizer Pro or Process Lasso adds to further improvement.

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Romez, Alex, thanks so much for this. I spent £29 on a Thunderbolt adapter for my Mac Mini server, followed the instructions and, hey presto, instant upgrade. It's unbelievable! Am sooooo happy!

 

Nikko

It would appear that those with Macs running a Mac OS have had much less trouble with bridging than those running Windows.

 

Having finally tried bridging in Windows over the past few days, I obviously benefited from the efforts of many but I did discover one thing that could help those who have continued to struggle.

 

Upon initially bridging my Mac Mini's native ethernet port to the ethernet port on my Thunderbolt hub under Windows Server 2012R2 Essentials, the bridging went smoothly but I noticed that my microRendu wasn't showing up meaning the bridge was operational but under sonicorbiter.com, the microRendu wasn't showing up and Roon failed see it also. I then tried something that has reliably worked each time and hopefully will be a solution for some of you.

 

If I temporarily connect my microRendu via conventional means (meaning connecting it to my Mac Mini with my router/switch in between), as expected, my router successfully assigns it a dynamic IP address and when you open up sonicorbiter, it shows up. From here, I then "direct connect" it to my Mac Mini again and my Mac Mini continues to see it and everything goes well. Even upon repeated reboots, the direct connection is maintained and everything has gone well.

 

Just to be sure, I have tried breaking up my bridge and upon recreating the bridge, just as before, my microRendu cannot be seen but as soon as I temporarily reconnect the microRendu via conventional means (via direct connection to my router) and then apply the direct connection again after that, all is good again.

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Hi @romaz,

 

Fascinating stuff! You are certainly blazing new trails here. Thanks for your wonderful findings.

 

<snip>

 

In my listening evaluations over the weekend, I have had a chance to compare my Mac Mini with W2012R2 Essentials + AO + RoonServer with the microRendu in both the standard configuration and with this "direct" connection and while the qualities of W2012R2 + AO are noticeable with the microRendu via the standard configuration, the improvements are much greater realized with this direct connection.

 

<snip>

 

I think I lost the connection at some point. When you say "standard" here, are you referring to the switched case - i.e. the server and mR connected through a switch or router?

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Just to be sure, I have tried breaking up my bridge and upon recreating the bridge, just as before, my microRendu cannot be seen but as soon as I temporarily reconnect the microRendu via conventional means (via direct connection to my router) and then apply the direct connection again after that, all is good again.

 

My issue has not been connectivity, but speed. For some reason, in the direct mode, a music server running on the bridged box delivers music to the NAA/renderer at such a slow speed as to cause poor or no playback.

 

I've had this problem with both MinimServer, and more recently, HQPlayer.

 

The problem goes away if I use the bridge purely for network connectivity of the endpoint, but have the server is on a different machine on the network! Very peculiar. This is on W10 Enterprise.

 

For me, I found that the improvement of the direct connection could be realized by having FMCs (with LPS-1 on downstream) between the router and the endpoint. I know your findings were not the same, but for my setup, this has enabled me to shelf the bridged approach for now, without feeling that I'm leaving some unrealized SQ gains on the table!

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....I now have installed Audiophile Optimizer along with W2012R2 Essentials in Minimal Server Mode with RoonServer (Roon not yet possible in Core mode) and it is definitely better than Windows 10 Pro + Fidelizer Pro in my setup.....

I do not currently have my sMS-200 on hand as it is still out for modification and so I won't know how this Windows setup will affect it but this is now my reference setup with my microRendu.

 

I did the same experiments with my SOTM200 and I completely agree with your description of the increase in SQ using W2012R2. I could go as far as Minimal Server Mode optimized by AO's script. But I couldn't get it to work in Core Mode. I just posted my problem in AO's thread here. Maybe he can suggest a solution, because Core Mode should even be better in SQ!

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My issue has not been connectivity, but speed. For some reason, in the direct mode, a music server running on the bridged box delivers music to the NAA/renderer at such a slow speed as to cause poor or no playback.

 

I've had this problem with both MinimServer, and more recently, HQPlayer.

 

The problem goes away if I use the bridge purely for network connectivity of the endpoint, but have the server is on a different machine on the network! Very peculiar. This is on W10 Enterprise.

 

I still have the speed issue with the bridge leading in my case to severe stuttering or no sound. (W10-prof and W2012R2) A network expert measured my network and showed that everything looks fine until you start a audio producing program : then the network bandwidth is suddenly severely reduced. As yet no explanation.

 

The stuttering will vanish when including a Wifi-USB adapter (without connection to my Wifi-modem) in the bridge. And I can confirm your findings : The speed (or stuttering) issue goes away if I use a Jriver DLNA server on a different machine than the one in the bridge. But SQ suffers I.M.O. (less dynamic)

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The stuttering will vanish when including a Wifi-USB adapter (without connection to my Wifi-modem) in the bridge. And I can confirm your findings : The speed (or stuttering) issue goes away if I use a Jriver DLNA server on a different machine than the one in the bridge. But SQ suffers I.M.O. (less dynamic)

 

Wow - hmm, I'll try that tonight when I get back to my setup. So you're saying the problem goes away if you add a wi-fi adapter to the bridge (for a total of 3 adapters in the bridge - 2 Ethernet, and 1 wi-fi)? And the Wi-fi adapter just sits there - i.e. with no connectivity?

 

Hmm - this makes me wonder if our issue is one related to MTU. I'll poke around and see.

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My issue has not been connectivity, but speed. For some reason, in the direct mode, a music server running on the bridged box delivers music to the NAA/renderer at such a slow speed as to cause poor or no playback.

 

I've had this problem with both MinimServer, and more recently, HQPlayer.

 

The problem goes away if I use the bridge purely for network connectivity of the endpoint, but have the server is on a different machine on the network! Very peculiar. This is on W10 Enterprise.

 

For me, I found that the improvement of the direct connection could be realized by having FMCs (with LPS-1 on downstream) between the router and the endpoint. I know your findings were not the same, but for my setup, this has enabled me to shelf the bridged approach for now, without feeling that I'm leaving some unrealized SQ gains on the table!

This sounds like a routing problem. Ping your uRendu from the HQplayer machine. You may find you are routing through your router despite the bridge.

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Wow - hmm, I'll try that tonight when I get back to my setup. So you're saying the problem goes away if you add a wi-fi adapter to the bridge (for a total of 3 adapters in the bridge - 2 Ethernet, and 1 wi-fi)? And the Wi-fi adapter just sits there - i.e. with no connectivity?

 

Yes : I install the Wifi-USB adapter; it should be enabled, but you don't need to connect it to the Wifi-modem. You will see a red cross on the Wifi-adapter (network : show adapters). Then select Nic1 Nic2 and the Wifi-adapter and make a bridge. If you are using W2012, you will need AO's service tool to install the Wifi drivers (absent in standard W2012).

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This sounds like a routing problem. Ping your uRendu from the HQplayer machine. You may find you are routing through your router despite the bridge.

I was thinking the same thing. Here is a test I did...started to play a music file saved on the PC running HQP and making sure music is playing through the NAA. Then unplug the ethernet cable from the HQP machine bridged port. If music stops then you know music is being sent through the router.

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Hi @romaz,

 

Fascinating stuff! You are certainly blazing new trails here. Thanks for your wonderful findings.

 

 

 

I think I lost the connection at some point. When you say "standard" here, are you referring to the switched case - i.e. the server and mR connected through a switch or router?

Yes, when I say "standard", I mean having the microRendu directly connected to a switch or router.

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My issue has not been connectivity, but speed. For some reason, in the direct mode, a music server running on the bridged box delivers music to the NAA/renderer at such a slow speed as to cause poor or no playback.

 

I've had this problem with both MinimServer, and more recently, HQPlayer.

 

The problem goes away if I use the bridge purely for network connectivity of the endpoint, but have the server is on a different machine on the network! Very peculiar. This is on W10 Enterprise.

 

For me, I found that the improvement of the direct connection could be realized by having FMCs (with LPS-1 on downstream) between the router and the endpoint. I know your findings were not the same, but for my setup, this has enabled me to shelf the bridged approach for now, without feeling that I'm leaving some unrealized SQ gains on the table!

Yes, I still struggle to understand some of these issues. It is obviously system dependent. John Swenson has now weighed in on some of his theories on all of this:

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f10-music-servers/sms-200-and-microrendu-direct-connection-why-does-improve-sound-quality-31476/#post629959

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I did the same experiments with my SOTM200 and I completely agree with your description of the increase in SQ using W2012R2. I could go as far as Minimal Server Mode optimized by AO's script. But I couldn't get it to work in Core Mode. I just posted my problem in AO's thread here. Maybe he can suggest a solution, because Core Mode should even be better in SQ!

Hopefully so. Phil has suggested that minimal server mode is more than 95% as good as core mode so the difference doesn't sound like it will be huge but any further improvement is very much welcome.

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I was thinking the same thing. Here is a test I did...started to play a music file saved on the PC running HQP and making sure music is playing through the NAA. Then unplug the ethernet cable from the HQP machine bridged port. If music stops then you know music is being sent through the router.

I did that yesterday : playing a local track (from my NUC SSD with Jriver DLNA server) in bridged mode and then pulling out the ethernet cable that connects the NUC to my router. Playing via the SOTM200 went on uninterrupted showing that the traffic is certainly local. Playing from my network NAS and pulling out the same cable gave a few minutes music (buffered somewhere) and then stop, as expected.

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Just got into this thread and have begun some testing. My partial chain began with MacMini (fastest late 2014) wired to Cisco switch. The switch also connects to microRendu and Eero wifi access point. Then, I created and enabled the bridged MacMini network connecting the Ethernet output directly to the microRendu while the Thunderbolt-Ethenet dongle out to the switch. Will see how much better this sounds. I've kept the switch in play to isolate traffic and possible other gremlins from the wifi access point. I eventually will try taking the switch out of the picture to see if it actually does have a positive impact.

 

Initial impression is not much difference. However, I'll do extensive critical listening over the next few weeks.

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I eventually will try taking the switch out of the picture to see if it actually does have a positive impact.

I recently took my fiber switch out of the chain and have my server pc wired via fiber directly to my wifi bridge and I liked the music much more. Everything seemed to tighten up especially the bass.

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Given that all of my devices that play in the network are within a few feet of one another, I didn't see any value in using fiber for any link in the chain. And it would appear that many find the use of fiber doing more damage than good.

 

Putting a switch in play was done to isolate the WiFi Access Point from the MacMini - microRendu connection. Having the direct computer to microRendu connection may go that much farther, it seems, in keeping another device from adversely affecting SQ.

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