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Please opine about this PC based Music Server Configuration


Edu Carvalho
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Guys,

 

I want to create a Media Center. The idea is to have a PC that would be able to stream hi quality audio to my external DAC and also watch some 1080p movies. Also, I want it to be able to add a PCI/PCIe Lynx AES16 card in the future. For the moment, I will use a Hiface convertor to feed my V-DAC via SPDIF coaxial. As some of you know, I leave in Brazil and we have a hot weather. The idea is to create a machine with a elegant looking and very silent and well colled. I want to have a windows XP minimalistic software necessary for PC audio, having a partition just for 2ch listening. The other partition would have “my other” full operational system. At least for the PCaudio, I want to have a “virtual SSD” to minimize rotating devices.

 

The pieces of the puzzle are listed below.

 

Case :Silverstone GD01 (http://www.silverstonetek.com/products/p_contents.php?pno=gd01)

Mobo: Asus P5Q-EM (http://asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=jR7eO7eY08cBntsR)

Processor: Core 2 Duo E7200 (http://www.intel.com/portugues/products/processor/core2duo/specifications.htm)

Power supply: Corsair 550w (http://www.corsair.com/products/vx/default.aspx)

Memory: 2gb DDR 2 800MHZ Corsair XMS2 probably TWIN2X2048-6400C4 (http://www.corsair.com/products/xms2/default.aspx)

SSD: Kingston SSDNow V-Series 64 GB SATA2 (http://www.amazon.com/Kingston-2-5-Inch-Notebook-SNV125-S2BN-64GB/dp/B002BH3UA2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1260470241&sr=1-1)

External HDD: e-sata connection 2TB WD green

 

 

Could you please opine whether you would change something (or everything) or am I in the right way? Do you see problems fitting the Lynx card in this PC (I decided to get a ATX case with a micro-atx board to allow enough cooling without being a noise PC.

 

Cheers,

Edu

 

 

Pure Music -> Itunes -> Mac mini -> hiFace -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> MBL 7006 -> Dynaudio C1[br]www.computeraudio.com.br

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Olá Edu:

 

Eu espero que você esteja bem. How important is the audio quality? Please describe the rest of the audio system. In Brazil, it is a challenge to protect electronics from the hot, humid and corrosive enviroment from the weather. Also, the electricity in Brazil can be very unstable. What city do you reside?

 

Atenciosamente,

 

Tim Marutani

Emeryville, CA

 

 

 

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Hello,

 

I see you are Brazilian too! Td bem e vc?

 

The system is the one described at my signature. Basically I have a bookshelf Dynaudio Confidence C1, which is a very revealing loudspeaker. I use them together with an integrated amplified BAT VK-300x with tubed pre-amplification stage. I have several discs in different format like APE, FLAC, WAV. I want to build a decent music server system that would allow me to upgrade it with an off-board high-end music card like Linx AES16. For the moment, I will use the USB port to connect a HIFACE convertor, which allows for a 24/192 connection via SPDIF Coaxial.

 

Now I have a Musical Fidelity V-DAC. Maybe in the future I will upgrade it. Hence, a firewire connection is important to me. Since I want to have a majority of the date out of the case, a esata connection is mandatory.

 

As I stated before, I want to have the ability to play 1080p files too. Thus, I would like to have a onboard GPU capable of that, though, the focus is definitely 2ch listening.

 

I live in São Paulo and in the summer gets hot, sometimes my living room gets temperatures like 82-85 degrees. I need, then, a case capable of cooling processor and mobo adequately. I prefer to have a passive heatsink (no fan) for the processor.

 

Well, hope that helps! :-)

 

 

Pure Music -> Itunes -> Mac mini -> hiFace -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> MBL 7006 -> Dynaudio C1[br]www.computeraudio.com.br

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Dear Edu:

 

Eu não sou Brasileiro, em Japonês-Americano. I am 100% familiar with the environment in São Paulo.

 

If your passion is truly 2-ch. audio playback, there are several challenges to overcome:

 

1. First minimizing noise from the electrical grid.

2. Devising a computer system that runs cool without injecting additional noise into the system from processor fans and chassis fans.

3. Minimizing additional noise entering from the video components. Video connections to any DAC create additional noise that degrades audio playback, fyi.

4. Determining a standard file format(s) for music playback.

5. Determining what sample rate(s), (44.1k-96k or > 96k) you wish to develop your server.

6. How much data storage you require.

 

Again, items 1-4 are suggestions to consider for far better than average music playback. I would like to believe these standards are high and the suggestions are valid. Only time will tell.

 

Perhaps you may wish to begin separating music playback from video playback. I understand this will be a bit more expensive but will allow you to optimize audio playback. Perhaps the suggestion will also allow you to build a simpler computer for audio. There are passive chassis that provide ample passive cooling. These devices will last much longer in Brazil and sound much better. Also, cooling fans will only draw more moisture from the air into the computer. In Barra do Una, a computer will salt out within a year from the fans drawing in the moist salt air. São Paulo does not have as much salt and moisture but as you mention is very warm.

 

There is much information on this site about passive chassis cooling computer cases and mother boards to consider. Perhaps others on the site may wish to help you.

 

Espero que seja útil,

 

Tim Marutani

Emeryville, CA USA

 

 

 

 

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my 2 cents from having built one recently for myself. I like the idea of dual boot and some of the asus boards will let you do this with the press of a key at boot. One small 2.5" 60-80GB for music and one small 2.5" 60-80GB for video. With the lynx card I like xp and for 1080 bluray you will need vista (no simple way around it). I like the asus board p5n7a with the nvidia video gpu better than the intell chipset. I use cyberlink ultra with bluray rom only player to save some cash. I would put a small fan on the nvidia heat sink! I would use 4GB of ram its only a few more bucks. I would use no less than a 250 watt ps. I would also just install the storage drives in the case and call it a day. You can always share them if you need the data some place else.

 

Chao

 

Jesus R

www.sonore.us

 

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Jesus and Tim, Thanks a lot for the explanation. Indeed, I wanted something as close as possible from a fanless/silent computer. I do not know if the hot weather in Brazil would allow me to have a fanless power supply and a case that is cool enough without case fans. I mailed HD-Plex (http://www.hd-plex.com/) with some inquires about their cases. I am interested about the H10.ODD case because it seems that I would be able to put a lynx card without too much problem.

 

Initially my intention was to create a multi-purpose PC where I could have both 2ch and multichannel entertainment. I would build a pure music server if I could understand better the cons of having a GPU in the computer. Tim, mind explaining the reasons of post some links where I can learn that subject?

 

Thanks a lot for helping!

 

Cheers,

Edu

 

 

Pure Music -> Itunes -> Mac mini -> hiFace -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> MBL 7006 -> Dynaudio C1[br]www.computeraudio.com.br

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Dear Edu:

 

Está tudo bem?

 

One of many enemies interfering with excellent audio playback is noise. More powerful graphics cards may create additional noise into the computer environment. Another enemy may be the additional heat. Subjectively, I'm beginning to identify the sound characteristics of Lynx cards installed in various different computer environments.

 

Also, connecting the computer/server to a video surround decoder provides another pathway for additional noise to enter into the system. Noise is an enemy for all DACs as it begins to crepe into the analogue domain. Perhaps this is the reason why so many compare DACs and get different results.

 

The ambient temperature found in most São Paulo homes is not too hot for passive cooling methods, including power supplies. Sometimes I use 4 Class A operating power amplifiers in my room during the west coast of California summer. The room reaches temperatures as found in São Paulo but the sound is relatively ok.

 

Anything moving within the computer also generates additional noise and crepes into audio playback. Thus, this is the reason why all computers/servers used for R&D do not even have spinning drives in them. Hopefully, as history has shown us, the cost of solid state drives will go down, this is why I inquired how much storage to you need for the next year?

 

Btw, connecting the server to the internet really interferes with the sound quality. When critically listening or undergo testing, the internet is disconnected from the servers being tested. This is audible and measurable, btw.

 

Trimming the Windows OS helps make the sound less aggressive and provides a more stable music playback platform. Comparisons are made using high speed 1/2 track tape playback, (1/4" and 1/2"), to identity what my treasured colleagues call "digital halo".

 

As for links, these are observations run across during day to day and month to month audio testing and listening. Perhaps there are others that may know of links to forward to you.

 

Best regards,

 

Tim Marutani

Emeryville, CA USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tim, tudo bem e você?

 

TKs for your reply. It does make sense indeed what you said. I am wondering here why we see some music servers like the ones created by Goodwin have boards with powerfull embedded GPUs?

 

Well, I contacted HD-Plex and they confirmed that would be possible to have a fanless PC with Micro-atx motherboard. I am geting excited about it because not only because of the sound quality but also because I always dreamed about a silent computer!

 

With regards to browsing the musics, I would have to connect the music server to an external decice (would be a TV probably). Would no that cause also interferience, even if in is an integrated GPU?

 

Many thanks again,

Edu

 

Pure Music -> Itunes -> Mac mini -> hiFace -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> MBL 7006 -> Dynaudio C1[br]www.computeraudio.com.br

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Tim- you say "Trimming the Windows OS helps make the sound less aggressive and provides a more stable music playback platform." What do you mean by trimming the Windows OS? Cutting down on unnecessary background processes?

 

Completely aside, the expertise and diversity of people on this site always amazes me.

 

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Boa tarde Edu:

 

Please remember to disconnect the TV from the system for critical listening. Televisions and video electronics create a tremendous amount of noise and the connecting wires are pathways for the noise to migrate back into the 2-ch system.

 

By now means am I an expert with computers. Perhaps you can ask Chris Connaker, the founder of this site, a motherboard of choice.

 

Best regards,

 

Tim Marutani

Emeryville, CA USA

 

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Tim,

 

Tks again for your help. I am starting to get excited in building a completely fanless system with a Mini-itx platform. I was thinking about a Zotac Ion 330 motherboard and a fanless case (http://www.mini-box.com/Zotac-ION-A-U-mini-ITX-Dual-Atom-N330) with a H3.S from HD-Plex (http://www.hd-plex.com/).

 

Do you know or does anyone here know if it is possible to build a complete fanless music server with a Lynx AES16(PCI or PCI-e) in a mini-itx form? I know i would have to use card risers, but my concern is about the heat that needs to be dissipated (I would use a 2.5'' HDD initially and when prices go down, SSD). I would not use a CD or any similar drive.

 

The fact that I wold not have 1394 connection is somehow compensated by having a Lynx AES16 card?

 

Cheers,

Edu

 

 

 

Pure Music -> Itunes -> Mac mini -> hiFace -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> MBL 7006 -> Dynaudio C1[br]www.computeraudio.com.br

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Hi Edu - I'll jump in here. The board you linked to has a fan and doesn't appear to have a full size PCI or PCI-e slot. I highly recommend the Intel D945GSEJT Johnstown Mainboard -> http://www.logicsupply.com/products/d945gsejt

 

It's fanless, has a PCI slot, externally powered, holds 2GB of memory, etc...

 

The HD-Plex cases look nice, but I have never used one.

 

I have built a few silent servers over the years, including two with Lynx AES16 cards. I don't see heat as being a showstopper for you. No need for a 1394 connection if you're not using anything that's FireWire like a hard drive, converter, or DAC.

 

Let me know if I can help further.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Thanks Chris!

 

Indeed, the mobo I was looking at demands a fan! Thanks for pointing out a mobo of your preference.

 

I do not have a firewire DAC now but the more I read the more I realize that the firewire connection is the most desired for high-end applications. Would you not be keen in having when you create your own music servers?

 

I have reading a lot of very good reports about the Hiface USB/BNC (or SPDIF coax) converter. Do you think the Lynx AES16 would still be "a lot better" than this solution? I ask you that because the mobo of choice (and also the case) depend on this question.

 

Maybe as a background, cases, Mini-ITX mobos, Lynx and Hiface gear are difficult to buy. I would have to ask a friend to bring one when coming down to Brazil. Importing these deviced might make the price be equal to 2.5x times the original value.

 

Thanks a lot for helping again

 

Cheers,

Edu

 

Pure Music -> Itunes -> Mac mini -> hiFace -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> MBL 7006 -> Dynaudio C1[br]www.computeraudio.com.br

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Hey all, I would appreciated if any one can comment about the sonic differences of the Hiface and the Lynx AES16. I wanted to know regardless of the price, which one sounds better

 

TKs,

Eduardo

 

Pure Music -> Itunes -> Mac mini -> hiFace -> Berkeley Alpha DAC -> MBL 7006 -> Dynaudio C1[br]www.computeraudio.com.br

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