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

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Just wanted to share an experience with direct ethernet connection between a modded Mac mini and a mRendu: A+ via Airplay and mRendu Shairport mode sounds (much) better than Roon>RoonReady mode or HQplayer>HQplayer NAA mode via my router. For non-upsampled redbook that is. I always thought this protocol was mediocre SQ wise. Did not yet try to get HQplayer NAA to work with a direct connection.

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Success! On W10 Ent, with 2 USB Anker adapters.

 

The winner is - add an unconnected wifi adapter to the bridge.

 

Just 2 Anker USB didn't do it. But add the unconnected wifi adapter to the bridge and voila!

 

Thanks to whoever suggested this. [emoji1360]

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Computer Audiophile

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Just wanted to share an experience with direct ethernet connection between a modded Mac mini and a mRendu: A+ via Airplay and mRendu Shairport mode sounds (much) better than Roon>RoonReady mode or HQplayer>HQplayer NAA mode via my router. For non-upsampled redbook that is. I always thought this protocol was mediocre SQ wise. Did not yet try to get HQplayer NAA to work with a direct connection.

 

Forgot to mention that in this setup there is no other connection than Uptone JS-2>DC cable>Mac mini>short ethernet cable>mRendu (powered by LPS-1). So no bridged ethernet or whatsoever. Another note: my HUGO does work best keeping everything in original resolution and do all the up-sampling/filtering itself. Like every Chord DAC i've listened to btw (DAVE and TT).

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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.

This is both encouraging and depressing. Depressing because I thought the advent of network endpoints like mR could free us from these horribly complex "optimizers" and futzing with computers. I work with computers for a living. The last thing I want is to futz with them just to relax with some music.

 

OTOH, the fact that more SQ improvements are possible this way is certainly encouraging.

 

Kudos for taking the time and effort to go this route.

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Success! On W10 Ent, with 2 USB Anker adapters.

 

The winner is - add an unconnected wifi adapter to the bridge.

 

Just 2 Anker USB didn't do it. But add the unconnected wifi adapter to the bridge and voila!

 

Thanks to whoever suggested this. [emoji1360]

 

So with this breakthrough, I now had a fully functional bridged machine, in the sense that it not only bridged the network correctly, music servers running on the bridge machine did not suffer the inexplicable slowness I experienced before.

 

So I fired up MinimServer on my W10 bridge, meaning there were now 2 Minim instances on my network - one on the NAS, and one on the W10 bridge.

 

Recall my base path looks like this:

 

router > FMC pair > mR > ... > DAC

 

Then, I sat down to compare 5 scenarios:

  1. mR connected to router, Minim on NAS, music on NAS
  2. mR connected to bridge, Minim on NAS, music on NAS
  3. mR connected to bridge, Minim on bridge, music on local HDD
  4. mR connected to bridge, Minim on bridge, music on NAS
  5. mR connected to bridge, Minim on bridge, music on NAS, no FMCs

 

I had previously reported not hearing a difference between scenarios 1 and 2, with the FMCs in place. This was still true.

 

However 3 - ahhh. Much nicer! It took me a while to put a finger on what exactly made it sound better. The best word I could come up with was focus, or coherence. I recently got the SHM-SACD of Supertramp's Breakfast in America from Japan. What an excellent mastering! On "Gone Hollywood," the beginning 25-30 seconds is a repeating sequence of chords on the keyboard. In scenario 3, the texture and detail of those chords is far more audible. Lovely. I have a strong suspicion that somehow this configuration is reducing jitter. But that makes no sense, given the buffering inherent in the Ethernet interfaces.

 

Scenario 4 sounded the same as 3. So no difference with the music local vs on the NAS. Whew.

 

Scenario 5 is interesting. Essentially, with the direct connection, the FMCs made no difference. Not better, not worse. This one really does surprise me, as my bridge PC is nothing special in terms of PSUs, just a Dell (probably noisy as all get go) box. So I thought for sure the isolation of the FMCs would help. But no difference. Honestly, I just don't understand this.

 

But I have to be honest and report what I heard. Given all this, it sounds like I need to try AO, Fidelizer et al. Sigh.

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At the start of this thread about a month ago Scan80269 proposed to make a configuration in which a PC-server with 2 NIC's would be connected with NIC1 to the normal network (with NAS) and with NIC2 to the renderer (SOTM/mR). NIC2 should then be made to function as a DHCP server for the renderer.

 

Scan80269 mentioned a software package "Tiny PXE Server" to be able to do this in Windows. Theobetley and I had a look at this software and could not really understand how to use it. Still I wondered if this setup would also lead to an increase in SQ compared to the "plain vanilla" setup where both PC and renderer are attached to a switch.

 

However, there is a freeware software package that is much easier to use. It has a step-by-step instruction page. Download it at www.dhcpserver.de

It works under W10 and W2012R2 (with or without AO optimization) as I found out.

 

Soundwise I found it certainly better than the "plain vanilla" setup. About comparable to the bridge solution, maybe a touch more laid-back? I will have to listen longer and compare it later to the "bridge sound" again. A quick comparison is not really possible with such complicated setup's.

 

Advantages : no extra Wifi-USB adapter in the bridge to prevent stuttering. Disadvantages : You can only see the control webpage of your renderer when your are in W10 or W2012-GUI and then only on your server-PC. So If you go to W2012-minimal-server-mode or core then you can longer switch renderer modes.

 

A few tips :

 

Start the wizard as admin. Otherwise you will have to switch to admin during the installation procedure, which can be confusing.

 

Not mentioned as such in the DHCPserver manual. Before you start to use it go to the properties of your NIC2 and give it a fancy static IP-address like 1.0.0.1 plus a mask of 255.255.255.0. Then the DHCPserver wizard will see that for NIC2 DHCP is disabled (the DHCP server of the router that is). If asked for a DNS, give 8.8.8.8

 

The resultiing IP-address of your renderer will then be 1.0.0.2. You may need to reboot your renderer in order to let it make a DHCP request to NIC2. Check the IP-address of your renderer by pinging it or (if browser is functional) copy that address in your browser.

 

The proposed tray app that will show the DHCP status of NIC2 needs a browser and did work in W2012R2-GUI, but not in vanilla W10 (don't know why).

 

I had to wait sometimes a while (5 min?) before JRiver MC20 recognized the SOTM. Rebooting the SOTM helped in this case.

 

If you try it : let us know what you think about this setup

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At the start of this thread about a month ago Scan80269 proposed to make a configuration in which a PC-server with 2 NIC's would be connected with NIC1 to the normal network (with NAS) and with NIC2 to the renderer (SOTM/mR). NIC2 should then be made to function as a DHCP server for the renderer.

 

Scan80269 mentioned a software package "Tiny PXE Server" to be able to do this in Windows. Theobetley and I had a look at this software and could not really understand how to use it. Still I wondered if this setup would also lead to an increase in SQ compared to the "plain vanilla" setup where both PC and renderer are attached to a switch.

 

However, there is a freeware software package that is much easier to use. It has a step-by-step instruction page. Download it at www.dhcpserver.de

It works under W10 and W2012R2 (with or without AO optimization) as I found out.

 

Soundwise I found it certainly better than the "plain vanilla" setup. About comparable to the bridge solution, maybe a touch more laid-back? I will have to listen longer and compare it later to the "bridge sound" again. A quick comparison is not really possible with such complicated setup's.

 

Advantages : no extra Wifi-USB adapter in the bridge to prevent stuttering. Disadvantages : You can only see the control webpage of your renderer when your are in W10 or W2012-GUI and then only on your server-PC. So If you go to W2012-minimal-server-mode or core then you can longer switch renderer modes.

 

A few tips :

 

Start the wizard as admin. Otherwise you will have to switch to admin during the installation procedure, which can be confusing.

 

Not mentioned as such in the DHCPserver manual. Before you start to use it go to the properties of your NIC2 and give it a fancy static IP-address like 1.0.0.1 plus a mask of 255.255.255.0. Then the DHCPserver wizard will see that for NIC2 DHCP is disabled (the DHCP server of the router that is). If asked for a DNS, give 8.8.8.8

 

The resultiing IP-address of your renderer will then be 1.0.0.2. You may need to reboot your renderer in order to let it make a DHCP request to NIC2. Check the IP-address of your renderer by pinging it or (if browser is functional) copy that address in your browser.

 

The proposed tray app that will show the DHCP status of NIC2 needs a browser and did work in W2012R2-GUI, but not in vanilla W10 (don't know why).

 

I had to wait sometimes a while (5 min?) before JRiver MC20 recognized the SOTM. Rebooting the SOTM helped in this case.

 

If you try it : let us know what you think about this setup

 

I tried something similar (putting 2 NICs on 2 different subnets, running Open DHCP Server, binding the DHCP server to the NIC directly connected to a microRendu, and having the software assign IP information to the microRendu).

 

It worked. Meaning, the microRendu received IP address info on a subnet different than my regular network, and I could reach it. However, I couldn't get HQPlayer to work. Specifically, I couldn't get HQPlayer to recognize the microRendu as NAA. I tried different things to try to "bind" HQPlayer to the NIC connected to the microRendu, but I couldn't get it to work.

 

When I switched the microRendu to Roon Ready mode (as a test), Roon Server running on the computer with 2 NICs sent music perfectly to the microRendu.

 

So I went back to bridging.

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At the start of this thread about a month ago Scan80269 proposed to make a configuration in which a PC-server with 2 NIC's would be connected with NIC1 to the normal network (with NAS) and with NIC2 to the renderer (SOTM/mR). NIC2 should then be made to function as a DHCP server for the renderer.

 

Scan80269 mentioned a software package "Tiny PXE Server" to be able to do this in Windows. Theobetley and I had a look at this software and could not really understand how to use it. Still I wondered if this setup would also lead to an increase in SQ compared to the "plain vanilla" setup where both PC and renderer are attached to a switch.

 

However, there is a freeware software package that is much easier to use. It has a step-by-step instruction page. Download it at www.dhcpserver.de

It works under W10 and W2012R2 (with or without AO optimization) as I found out.

 

Soundwise I found it certainly better than the "plain vanilla" setup. About comparable to the bridge solution, maybe a touch more laid-back? I will have to listen longer and compare it later to the "bridge sound" again. A quick comparison is not really possible with such complicated setup's.

 

Advantages : no extra Wifi-USB adapter in the bridge to prevent stuttering. Disadvantages : You can only see the control webpage of your renderer when your are in W10 or W2012-GUI and then only on your server-PC. So If you go to W2012-minimal-server-mode or core then you can longer switch renderer modes.

 

A few tips :

 

Start the wizard as admin. Otherwise you will have to switch to admin during the installation procedure, which can be confusing.

 

Not mentioned as such in the DHCPserver manual. Before you start to use it go to the properties of your NIC2 and give it a fancy static IP-address like 1.0.0.1 plus a mask of 255.255.255.0. Then the DHCPserver wizard will see that for NIC2 DHCP is disabled (the DHCP server of the router that is). If asked for a DNS, give 8.8.8.8

 

The resultiing IP-address of your renderer will then be 1.0.0.2. You may need to reboot your renderer in order to let it make a DHCP request to NIC2. Check the IP-address of your renderer by pinging it or (if browser is functional) copy that address in your browser.

 

The proposed tray app that will show the DHCP status of NIC2 needs a browser and did work in W2012R2-GUI, but not in vanilla W10 (don't know why).

 

I had to wait sometimes a while (5 min?) before JRiver MC20 recognized the SOTM. Rebooting the SOTM helped in this case.

 

If you try it : let us know what you think about this setup

Very interesting. I will give it a try. Thanks!

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A big thanks to Clipper for his tireless assistance in getting me to the promised land on this tweak. Also thanks to Baconbrain for his suggestion to try wifi for the internet connector and then hooking up the Rendu to the mobo on my pc. A big thanks to Romaz for discovering this in the 1st place. Am evaluating now but initially soundstage is huge, bass is strong (may have to adjust my midbass, subwoofer levels down a bit). So far so good.

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I should mention that I have worked on this for 3 weeks before I got it to work. Everything fell into place with wifi internet connection. No promiscuous mode needed, no putting in static ip4 addresses. It just worked. But as Baconbrain said after you hook it up make sure you reboot your pc.

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Theo, that is great. I have yet to be succesful, but am back from all my travels, etc and want to try again. To summarize my Win 10 AO HQPlayer machine:

Current setup

Mellanox fiber NIC to Diablo switch to Trendnet TFC-1000MGA FMC to microRendu

Mobo ethernet port empty

 

Planned setup

Mellanox NIC fiber direct to Trendnet TFC-1000MGA FMC to microRendu

Mobo ethernet port to Diablo switch (RJ45 port) for ethernet purposes (as router goes there too).

 

Not sure what I f'up but I do.

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Ted, I used to have a similar setup. AO may be the culprit here.

 

My recollection is that to get things working I had to do a clean install, then establish the bridge, and then run AO. That was about about a year and a half ago so the details are foggy. I'm not sure if you can reverse the impact of AO on an installed Windows 10 machine, then establish the bridge, and then run AO.

 

FWIW,

 

Larry

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Ted, I used to have a similar setup. AO may be the culprit here.

 

My recollection is that to get things working I had to do a clean install, then establish the bridge, and then run AO. That was about about a year and a half ago so the details are foggy. I'm not sure if you can reverse the impact of AO on an installed Windows 10 machine, then establish the bridge, and then run AO.

 

FWIW,

 

Larry

 

I have AO installed (on a Win 10 machine), and can establish a network bridge between Ethernet NICs without any problem.

 

I can also modify the bridge (by adding or deleting additional Ethernet NICs to/from it) or kill it altogether and then reestablish it, all without issues.

 

And I did choose to have AO "strip down" Windows 10 (using ServiceTool).

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I have AO installed (on a Win 10 machine), and can establish a network bridge between Ethernet NICs without any problem.

 

I can also modify the bridge (by adding or deleting additional Ethernet NICs to/from it) or kill it altogether and then reestablish it, all without issues.

 

And I did choose to have AO "strip down" Windows 10 (using ServiceTool).

Thanks, good to hear. The last time I tried this was many versions of AO ago.

 

My current bridge setup is on a Linux box, so I don't have the environment needed to recreate Ted's configuration.

 

FWIW, this is why I don't run an NAA. With my music on the NAS, and HQplayer upsampling machine directly connected via USB to the DAC, the configuration is really simplified. Less moving parts makes full 360 isolation simpler for all components.

 

Next week I run an experiment that may result in retirement of the NAS box as well. A one machine solution for everything would be great.

Edited by lmitche

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Theo, that is great. I have yet to be succesful, but am back from all my travels, etc and want to try again. To summarize my Win 10 AO HQPlayer machine:

Current setup

Mellanox fiber NIC to Diablo switch to Trendnet TFC-1000MGA FMC to microRendu

Mobo ethernet port empty

 

Planned setup

Mellanox NIC fiber direct to Trendnet TFC-1000MGA FMC to microRendu

Mobo ethernet port to Diablo switch (RJ45 port) for ethernet purposes (as router goes there too).

 

Not sure what I f'up but I do.

 

Though it does sound counterintuitive (sort of), the bridging/direct connection sounds much better to me when the FMCs are removed.

 

Is there any way you can try this with 2 Ethernet adapters (your motherboard's onboard adapter and maybe a USB Ethernet adapter, if you can't or don't want to install a network card)?

 

I'm running with my motherboard's onboard adapter connected to my regular network (with switch and router sitting behind it) and 2 Intel PCI-E adapters, each connected to a different network player. But I did try a bridge using an inexpensive USB Ethernet adapter (just to test), and everything sounded great.

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Planned setup

Mellanox NIC fiber direct to Trendnet TFC-1000MGA FMC to microRendu

Mobo ethernet port to Diablo switch (RJ45 port) for ethernet purposes (as router goes there too).

 

Not sure what I f'up but I do.

 

ted, not sure if you can but try removing the Diablo switch and connecting the mobo ethernet directly to your router. I removed my Cisco SG300 fiber switch and felt things sounded better. I however have a dual fiber nic in my HQP pc so I use an FMC after the wireless bridge.

 

Good luck!

 

BTW, it seems really odd to me that people are having so many issues creating this bridge with Win10. Using Server 2012, it was very easy and worked the first time I tried it. My HQP pc uses AO in minimal server mode. Note that the current stable release of Service Tool will break the bridge if you do a reset. The latest Beta of AO fixes this.

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Yeah, but the install of fiber to my music room (not just microRendu but NAS, etc are connected to Diablo and FMCs) was an sq bonanza, so in many ways maybe I;m already there.

 

Larry may be onto something when mentioning the Win10 AO (I have Win10 stripped down to bare necessities via AO).

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I have had a day to listen to my system bridged. Sonically it was a mixed bag at first. Bass and soundstaging were overwhelming. Had to tame my midbass, subwoofer levels. Then it sounded a bit laid back and dry. So I converted from upsampling to no upsampling, better. Then upon a suggestion from Clipper I took out my FMC boxes and fiber cables, better yet. Then once again I took out my Baaske filter and it was Holy Crap is this good! So I recommend if you try this, adjust some of your parameters. There is reward at the end of that effort. Outstanding Sonics!

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I have had a day to listen to my system bridged. Sonically it was a mixed bag at first. Bass and soundstaging were overwhelming. Had to tame my midbass, subwoofer levels. Then it sounded a bit laid back and dry. So I converted from upsampling to no upsampling, better. Then upon a suggestion from Clipper I took out my FMC boxes and fiber cables, better yet. Then once again I took out my Baaske filter and it was Holy Crap is this good! So I recommend if you try this, adjust some of your parameters. There is reward at the end of that effort. Outstanding Sonics!

Thanks for sharing your findings. It seems the less things in this direct path, the better. It would appear that RF doesn't play much role in this "direct" pathway as none of my RF fighting devices (FMCs, isolation transformer) no longer result in any favorable impact and can result in worse SQ for some systems. Is it because these extra devices are adding some form of impedance to the path?

 

To add to the confusion, as I have mentioned before, I have a Paul Pang switch with TXCO clock and this "reclocking" switch resulted in a very small improvement in my previous configuration (between router and Mac Mini) but when placed in the direct connection path (between Mac Mini and sMS-200/mR), the improvement is considerable, enough so that I have ordered another switch with a much better clock just to see where it leads me.

 

Without a doubt, this direct connection is much more transparent to upstream changes. This direct connection is essentially the same thing as a dual box JPLAY/AO setup where you have a control PC and an audio PC (mR or sMS-200) although in this configuration, JPLAY has been replaced by "bridging." But with previous dual box setups I've heard, you always threw everything you had into the audio PC (ie AO in core mode, Fidelizer Pro, Control Lasso, etc) whereas you could get away with AO in GUI mode alone in the control PC as it didn't seem to matter so much.

 

In my setup, with my control PC (Mac Mini), the difference between AO in GUI mode and AO in minimal server mode is significant enough that I would never recommend GUI mode if given the choice (unfortunately, core mode is not an option for me as a Roon user). Moreover, as I switch from one sonic signature and digital filter to another within AO, it's amazing how clear the differences are (my current preference with the mR as the playback unit is 1C) and yet when I revert back from direct connection to standard connection (with mR connected directly to my router), I can barely tell the difference between any of the sound signature modes and digital filters. Just yesterday, I added Process Lasso to the mix and it would appear the focus has improved even further (the improvement is smaller and so I will have to blind test to see if I am imagining this difference). Tomorrow, I will add Fidelizer Pro to the mix and will see what happens. Because I already own these things, it makes sense to try them but in no way are they absolutely necessary. The SQ I am currently getting is just fantastic.

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I have QNap NAS HS-251+ with two ethernet ports. an I use the second ethernet port (one is connected to the DSL modem) for the SMS200?

Regards,

Giuseppe

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I have QNap NAS HS-251+ with two ethernet ports. an I use the second ethernet port (one is connected to the DSL modem) for the SMS200?

Regards,

Giuseppe

Yes, I used to own a hs-251+ and bridging is supported in the virtual switch section of the Qnap network setup web GUI.

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Thanks!

Can you please post the required configuration? I have tried this but without success. Each time I wasn't able to see the SMS200 in the network.

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