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Building a DIY Music Server


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As a point of interest - one thing I forgot to mention above is I recently revamped my entire network - new everything (L2+L3 switching+routing, AP's) all of which was solely for segmenting network into VLANs, isolating IoT, AP's, performance, FW etc...  It was pretty intense exercise. 

 

After I completed that task and getting back to listening to my main rig, I noticed a change almost immediately and it never dawned on me all the changes I made to the network.  I was sitting there thinking, hmm something is different, the sound has changed.  Then the light-bulb went on and just realized or at least considered the fact that "duh" I just changed a whole crap load of network gear and design!! 

 

Setting up and designing this network "version", I don't think I ever once thought about or considered my listening room in the process.  Not sure why, but was hyper focused on learning and completing it since, like many, you have kids/school/work basically everything depending on the network.  Once you cut-over (after hrs on weekend) its pretty hard to go back.

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@Foggie

interesting, I recently stuck my new switched in my ISP router 'isolating' audio from all else and found it nice improvement.

Can you elaborate on how you dissected your network? 

 

 

ISP, cat8.1, Zylix switch, Finisar <1321>Solarflare 8522, AMD 7, Aorus X570 Elite, Corsair AX1200i, 8Gb Apacer Ram, Pink Faun I2S OCXO on LPS, home grown RJ45 I2S cable, Metrum Amethyst (modded to accept I2S), Klangfilm 204a, Klangfilm Trionor (3Tesla 835, JBL2402)

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11 minutes ago, MarcelNL said:

@Foggie

interesting, I recently stuck my new switched in my ISP router 'isolating' audio from all else and found it nice improvement.

Can you elaborate on how you dissected your network? 

 

 

Nice.

 

Well that is a can 'o worms really😀  Basically, I went from a "flat" scheme (everything on the same network) where all traffic/broadcast is flooding the switch.  To then creating a vlan scheme to work with my enviro.  I think I created 5 vlans all with their own DHCP range/server (routing). 

1. wlan secure (AP1)

2. wlan secure (AP2)

3. wlan guest (AP2)

4. wlan insecure IoT (AP2)

5. LAN secure (home wkst/laptops etc..)

6. LAN insecure IoT

 

These vlans are between different switches as well (upstairs, downstairs etc.) in which you need to setup trunk ports to bring these together (I use fiber) and specify the valns within these manged switches.  All this then needs to come together on L3/routing and setup all the FW rules so these sep networks get access / see only what I specify.

 

I'm oversimplifying this and by no means a network guru.  I spent a considerable time creating a pretty intricate diagram for the design/layout as documenting all this is absolutely necessary.  I was also (through a friend's contact) able to provide my diagram/concept past a network guru and he gave me some feedback etc.

 

I'm not sure if that answers your question.  It would be nice to have a network section for this kind of topic as there are plenty of smart network engineers on here.  Although, I would imagine fielding network questions may get old if that is your full time job etc..

 

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Foggie said:

Nice.

 

Well that is a can 'o worms really😀  Basically, I went from a "flat" scheme (everything on the same network) where all traffic/broadcast is flooding the switch.  To then creating a vlan scheme to work with my enviro.  I think I created 5 vlans all with their own DHCP range/server (routing). 

1. wlan secure (AP1)

2. wlan secure (AP2)

3. wlan guest (AP2)

4. wlan insecure IoT (AP2)

5. LAN secure (home wkst/laptops etc..)

6. LAN insecure IoT

 

These vlans are between different switches as well (upstairs, downstairs etc.) in which you need to setup trunk ports to bring these together (I use fiber) and specify the valns within these manged switches.  All this then needs to come together on L3/routing and setup all the FW rules so these sep networks get access / see only what I specify.

 

I'm oversimplifying this and by no means a network guru.  I spent a considerable time creating a pretty intricate diagram for the design/layout as documenting all this is absolutely necessary.  I was also (through a friend's contact) able to provide my diagram/concept past a network guru and he gave me some feedback etc.

 

I'm not sure if that answers your question.  It would be nice to have a network section for this kind of topic as there are plenty of smart network engineers on here.  Although, I would imagine fielding network questions may get old if that is your full time job etc..

 

 

 

Exactly what I done last year. Isolating one side (home network) to other side (audio side) via fiber works well. I have my network layout in my profile on pdf. 

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6 minutes ago, ASRMichael said:

Exactly what I done last year. Isolating one side (home network) to other side (audio side) via fiber works well. I have my network layout in my profile on pdf. 

That's awesome.  Well thought out to say the least. 

 

11 rail PS, wow, didn't know he made that kind of PS.

 

Your H5 server build in the diagram is exactly what I am contemplating, I may hit you up with some questions!

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10 minutes ago, Foggie said:

That's awesome.  Well thought out to say the least. 

 

11 rail PS, wow, didn't know he made that kind of PS.

 

Your H5 server build in the diagram is exactly what I am contemplating, I may hit you up with some questions!

11 rails on 2 PSU’s

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Good evening everyone, and thanks to Nenon for this wonderful Thread. I can't wait to compose the whole project, in the meantime I am recovering the xeon 4114 CPUs and the asus MB. For RAM the Apacer D51.23244S.001 are good? I would like to take 8 from 4G, for a total of 32Gb are enough, can you tell me where to find them? Thanks. I look forward to the case with dissipation and the switching power supply from Taiko, as well as the components to compose the unregulated power supply for DC-DC switching.

my blog: http://tweakvideo.altervista.org

my shop:http://www.avtek.it

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I hope I am not going to hijack this wonderful thread but I've done a little searching and not found an answer.  What is TAS (Taiko Audio Server), is it both hardware and software, or a dedicated OS, or music software to replace or augment HQPlayer/Roon/etc?  I see some folks stating they are beta testing it, but also using HQplayer, etc.  A little confused, sorry for the OT.

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8 minutes ago, ted_b said:

I hope I am not going to hijack this wonderful thread but I've done a little searching and not found an answer.  What is TAS (Taiko Audio Server), is it both hardware and software, or a dedicated OS, or music software to replace or augment HQPlayer/Roon/etc?  I see some folks stating they are beta testing it, but also using HQplayer, etc.  A little confused, sorry for the OT.

Its a custom audio player/library application being developed by Taiko and thus far is proprietary to their platform only.

 

 

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To add to that Ted, TAS allows you to choose your playback engine: the proprietary Taiko one or HQP (in case you want upsampling), similar to what you have with Roon. TAS is tuned and optimized to how Taiko has provisioned and configured the Extreme (and soon, their Evo server).  I'm running the TAS alpha, and using HQP+NAA for the playback engine, so I can take advantage of upsampling for streaming content.

ATT Fiber -> EdgeRouter X SFP -> Sonore opticalModule -> Taiko Audio Extreme -> Chord DAVE -> Voxativ 9.87 speakers w/ 4D drivers

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On 1/27/2021 at 9:20 AM, Nenon said:

P.S. A note to myself - learn what a short reply means! 

 

 A good post though! Thanks.

Innuos Statement and Antipodes K50 - Sablon 2020 USB - MSCALER (Sean Jacobs DC4 power) - WAVE Storm bnc - DAVE (Sean Jacobs external DC4 power)

Pass Labs XA60.8 power amps - Spendor SP200 speakers

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On 1/27/2021 at 10:20 AM, Nenon said:

P.S. A note to myself - learn what a short reply means! 

Please don't do that ;-)

 

Your "long" posts are never long enough. Many thanks for taking the time to write them!

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I have managed to pick up a couple of Intel 4114 on the cheap from eBay, just by being patient. Bit of a result. So will be waiting to see how things develop with this exciting DIY project over the coming months.

 

Whilst this project matures, I have been looking at my network setup and making a few changes, so will see how my dCS Bartok likes them :)

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1 hour ago, JonD said:

I have managed to pick up a couple of Intel 4114 on the cheap from eBay, just by being patient. Bit of a result. So will be waiting to see how things develop with this exciting DIY project over the coming months.

 

Whilst this project matures, I have been looking at my network setup and making a few changes, so will see how my dCS Bartok likes them :)

 

Whar range do you coonsider cheap? I have been looking around but do not yet have a feel for the price range, anything between 360 and 700-800 goes

ISP, cat8.1, Zylix switch, Finisar <1321>Solarflare 8522, AMD 7, Aorus X570 Elite, Corsair AX1200i, 8Gb Apacer Ram, Pink Faun I2S OCXO on LPS, home grown RJ45 I2S cable, Metrum Amethyst (modded to accept I2S), Klangfilm 204a, Klangfilm Trionor (3Tesla 835, JBL2402)

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1 hour ago, MarcelNL said:

 

Whar range do you coonsider cheap? I have been looking around but do not yet have a feel for the price range, anything between 360 and 700-800 goes

 

One processor was 305 and the other was 275... So quite pleased with that.

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wrong subforum..

ISP, cat8.1, Zylix switch, Finisar <1321>Solarflare 8522, AMD 7, Aorus X570 Elite, Corsair AX1200i, 8Gb Apacer Ram, Pink Faun I2S OCXO on LPS, home grown RJ45 I2S cable, Metrum Amethyst (modded to accept I2S), Klangfilm 204a, Klangfilm Trionor (3Tesla 835, JBL2402)

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On 1/27/2021 at 9:20 AM, Nenon said:

P.S. A note to myself - learn what a short reply means! 

 

I reckon a lot of people, like myself, are learning an awful lot from people like you @Nenon who have the time and patience to write down their thoughts about topics that they really enjoy and find interesting...

 

Don't apologise for educating so many of us 🙂

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On 1/27/2021 at 4:20 AM, Nenon said:

The ideal endpoint would be one that does not have a network connection at all.

 

Doesn't the ASUS WS C621E SAGE motherboard used in your Taiko Audio Extreme clone with it's two sets of ram and two processors connected with the Intel Ultra Path Interconnect (UPI) match your description of an ideal endpoint and server? 

 

Pareto Audio aka nuckleheadaudio

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On 1/27/2021 at 9:20 AM, Nenon said:

 

 

P.S. A note to myself - learn what a short reply means! 

As others have said we very much appreciate your considered and illuminating essays 😀

 

have you ever experimented with using an usb converter to AES/ spdif at all - such as the mutec M3+usb. I have been looking at these devices and wondered if they can reduce noise.

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On 1/27/2021 at 3:20 AM, Nenon said:

 

No, not at all. 

 

First, I don't really buy into the whole concept of a well isolated endpoint from the server. The idea sounds really good and logical but never worked well for me in practice. It's just like the concept that DAC manufacturers have been trying to convince us for years - the USB input is galvanically isolated and reclocked, so the quality of the server does not matter. No need to explain to the people following this thread that a well-designed source (server/endpoint/whatever you want to call it) makes a big difference. There is a really good reason servers like Innuos, Taiko, PinkFaun, Antipodes, etc. exist and cost so much. Arguably, they could make as much difference as a DAC (yes, even when connected to that same DAC with galvanically isolated USB input and reclocked signal). Anyone with a resolving enough system who has switched from a Mac MINI or a laptop to one of these well designed servers has experienced that. 

 

So, if a galvanically isolated USB input with a reclocker does not work, why do we think that we can "isolate" a server from the endpoint and make the endpoint immune to the server quality? From all my experiments, the conclusion has always been the same: "we can't". I've tried everything I could think of - fiber ethernet, fiber ethernet with state of the art clocks, fiber ethernet with state of the art clocks and state of art power supplies... and state of the art switches... and network cards.... and cables... and power conditioners... and state of the art motherboard clocks, powered by state of the art power supplies and cables... and different transceivers... and so on and so on. 

 

I don't know exactly why ethernet isolation does not work, just like I don't know exactly why a galvanically isolated and reclocked USB input on a DAC does not work as expected. But here are some examples that may give us a hint. Let's talk about an endpoint for a second - the last computer that is connected to the DAC. It may be receiving a data stream from the network (i.e. from a Roon Core) or playing music locally. 

1. In many cases, my experience with local music playback has been that disconnecting the network cable leads to a sound quality improvement shortly after the disconnect. That suggests that some noise is getting into the server from the network.

2. I have noticed that unnecessary network activity while playing music deteriorates the sound quality.

  2a. Euphony / Stylus caches the track you are playing and minimizes the network activity to a minimum. During some of my tests I noticed that opening multiple web browsers pointing to the Euphony page would degrade the sound quality. That was a very interesting experiment. The more web browser windows you open (pointing to Euphony), the easier it is to hear that. At some point I remember opening 50 windows on multiple computers. It turned out Euphony was using Ajax to update the time lapse interval display every second or so. That extra network traffic was enough to cause some sound quality degradation. BTW, I reported this to Euphony and they added an option to disable that traffic. 

  2b. When I isolated my endpoint to its own VLAN, I heard an improvement. Isolating to its own VLAN means that any broadcast traffic from my home network would not make it to my endpoint. I have a very small home network and have used a sniffer to see how much broadcast there is. It's very little, but yet enough to have an impact. 

  2c. I have tweaked how the NIC interacts with the CPU. You can configure the CPU interrupts and resources the NIC driver is utilizing, essentially how the NIC interacts with the OS. It's an interesting test. You configure it to use more resources and you get lower latency, but that comes with some side effects (i.e. your server becomes even more sensitive to any extra network traffic, thus making the network chatty Roon even worse). You make it use less resources, and you are more immune to all the network activity going on, but you increase the latency and that has other side effects. i will be writing more about this in the Windows LTSC guide later this year.

All that tells me that that network activity on the endpoint impacts the sound quality. Even if you have the perfect server streaming the perfect stream over the perfect network to your endpoint, the fact that the endpoint is receiving and processing network packets (while playing) is not ideal and degrades the sound quality of the stream going to your DAC. 

 

The ideal endpoint would be one that does not have a network connection at all. And this is where attention to detail in software that is designed with sound quality as top priority matters. I do expect to see some breakthrough innovations in the software in the near future. 

But if that is the case, why so many people buy into the server/streamer concept and after trying many solutions including a single server/endpoint device, they prefer it (in many cases by a big margin)? I think the answer is twofold. One part has to do with upsampling and the other with the quality of the server. Let's cover those two:

 

Upsampling:

Many DACs work better when they are fed by an upsampled signal. Those are typically DACs that upsample internally. By feeding them with an upsampled signal they have to do less processing. That results in less processing inside the DAC, which results in less noise, which ultimately means better sound quality. Sparing the noise that tha DAC is producing during its internal upsampling in some cases is much bigger improvement than upgrading servers/endpoints upstream of the DAC. That is of course DAC-dependant and not always the case. But for these DACs it makes perfect sense to use software like HQPlayer that does the heavy lifting and offloads the DACs extra processing (and noise).

What happens when you start doing heavy upsampling on your server that is directly connected to the DAC? Well, I mentioned above what the impact of the network/ethernet processing is, but that is nothing compared to the impact of the heavy processing that HQPlayer does. The noise generated from the upsampling process on the server is in orders of magnitude bigger than the negative effect of the network/ethernet processing. It's much better to isolate the upsampling noise from the endpoint and accept the network/ethernet noise / sound quality degradation. The net result is a big improvement in this case. And this is why many people prefer a two box solution - a server and a streamer. Sounds like a good compromise... but there are people like me who just can't settle with such a big compromise and kept looking. More on that later. 

 

Quality of the server (in a single box solution):

This is another aspect that we should not forget. When you have a single device that handles the server and the streamer part, it is directly connected to the DAC and its quality is crucial. Computers are noisy devices that were not designed for audio. But with a careful implementation and the right choice of software, hardware, power supply, etc. you can make a single box solution work better than anything else. You cache the tracks before playing, minimize the network activity, and take care of every detail, and you would be rewarded. 

 

There is a saying that your system is only as good as the weakest link in the system. The same applies to the digital source. I look at it as a complex chain of components that interact in a very complex way.  There are different solutions for different people. For some people the benefit of the upsampling is so big, that they can live with the negatives of a server and a streamer solution. Other people have DACs that don't benefit from upsampling and settle for the best single box solution they can get. There are also people who like the small / low powered endpoints and can't understand why we do all that instead of buying a *Rendu for example - from my experience those are people with small systems, typically with bookshelf speakers who don't need the massive scale, dynamics, and everything else a server like the Taiko Extreme can do but like the low noise, dark background, small but holographic soundstage of these devices (and I completely understand their point of view as well). There is no universal solution that works best for everyone. 

Here is what I do:

I currently use the Chord DAVE DAC powered by a Sean Jacobs DC4 LPS. This DAC benefits from upsampling. It specifically benefits from being fed by 705.6/768kHz PCM. It also benefits from more taps, but that's outside of the scope of this post. As mentioned above a two server solution does not work for me. So I upsample my local music offline and store it locally. There are programs like HQP Pro and some others that can do that. I store the music locally on my NVME storage. Then I use HQP and NAA on the same server. I assign affinities for those processes on different physical CPUs (which also means they use different RAM modules). I have a CPU that is only responsible for the music processes (i.e. NAA in this case). The USB output is directly attached to that CPU. The other CPU handles all the network activity, OS activity, HQP part, etc. In a way, I get the best of both worlds and the net result is amazing. 

 

Going back to the question about Roon. Roon does a lot of things that harm the sound quality. It performs constant network activity while you are playing, it has constant disk I/O activity, it does some processing that swings the CPU utilization, which causes noise that is audible in a resolving system. And the list goes on... Depending on whether you use a two box (a server and a streamer) solution or a single box solution like me it has different impact. But in any case, it would not be my choice for critical listening. Having said that Roon/Qobuz is the best tool for discovering new music for me. I so use it for that. 

 

P.S. A note to myself - learn what a short reply means! 

 

Hi Nenon, just catching up on the thread.  Your system has changed quite a bit since we last spoke in detail.  But I suppose mine has too.  When you told me you liked HQP NAA with the dual processors, for some reason I wasn't aware you were upsampling for the DAVE.  I and the MSB owners I've asked prefer not to upsample, and I haven't found HQP without upsampling to supplant Roon.  TAS probably will (esp. when you read all the tweak raves on WBF).  But I'm more interested right now about your networking noise statements.  In your many experiments over the past year or so, did you try a fiber NIC on a single endpoint/server with USB to DAC?

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On 1/22/2021 at 6:13 PM, Zauurx said:

Thanks for taking the time to read and find a solution.
I did a fresh install. It was a little better at the start but as the optimizations go on, it deteriorates.
The bios is badly done and for example it is not possible to cut the BT ... which I do with the device manager under Win.
I suspect the M2 SSD, which is 2 years old, is not at its best. A new generation NVME costs only 55 €... for a Crucial P5
I continue .. but the sound is already very good and without interruption.
I am in the search of the maxi .. the normal should already be enough.

 

In the end, I found the culprit: HPET, activated via AO and useless with my processor (invariant TSC compatible).
I kept AO and I don't need Fidelizer (with the right methods and SetTimerResolution).

This is what it looks like (process with Roon / off, 39 with Roon / on, HQP ASDM7EC x DSD256)

 

HDPlex-1.jpg

 

image.png

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I appreciate all the feedback on how Roon reacts with your server/endpoint and how the added ethernet traffic affects sound quality, Thank you very much. 


I have still have the burning question, what method is Roon using when it speaks to HQplayer, which it believes Roon sees as an internal process.  

There are two instances when Roon talks to HQ player

1 when Roon core communicates with HQP on a separate device

2 when Roon communicates with HQP in the same device.

 

Is it delivering a stream or is it delivering an address.

 

I am guessing that it is delivering an address.  
 

Can I get others to make an educated guess along with me, please

 

Better yet, would be if someone here knows how to look at the data stream/flow and can actually see what is going on.

 

Although the use of Roon and it’s mere presence is not best for sound quality, it has its uses.

 

Thank you for your help,

Will

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On 1/29/2021 at 1:17 PM, lmitche said:

Doesn't the ASUS WS C621E SAGE motherboard used in your Taiko Audio Extreme clone with it's two sets of ram and two processors connected with the Intel Ultra Path Interconnect (UPI) match your description of an ideal endpoint and server? 

It's pretty good already, but the way the software interacts with the hardware can be improved. That's what TAS is doing. 

 

16 hours ago, Darryl R said:

When you told me you liked HQP NAA with the dual processors, for some reason I wasn't aware you were upsampling for the DAVE.  I and the MSB owners I've asked prefer not to upsample, and I haven't found HQP without upsampling to supplant Roon. 

I don't upsample with HQP. I use it is a bit perfect player. And it sounds a lot better than Roon in my system. But this might be system dependent - I've done a lot of optimisations to take advantage of the dual CPU architecture. 

 

16 hours ago, Darryl R said:

But I'm more interested right now about your networking noise statements.  In your many experiments over the past year or so, did you try a fiber NIC on a single endpoint/server with USB to DAC?

Yes, I did. It had a different noise signature. Some may prefer it, some may not. The more important factor in my system is to separate the USB card and the NIC on different CPUs and to optimise the interaction between the OS and NIC

 

13 hours ago, drjimwillie said:

I appreciate all the feedback on how Roon reacts with your server/endpoint and how the added ethernet traffic affects sound quality, Thank you very much. 


I have still have the burning question, what method is Roon using when it speaks to HQplayer, which it believes Roon sees as an internal process.  

There are two instances when Roon talks to HQ player

1 when Roon core communicates with HQP on a separate device

2 when Roon communicates with HQP in the same device.

 

Is it delivering a stream or is it delivering an address.

 

I am guessing that it is delivering an address.  
 

Can I get others to make an educated guess along with me, please

 

Better yet, would be if someone here knows how to look at the data stream/flow and can actually see what is going on.

 

Although the use of Roon and it’s mere presence is not best for sound quality, it has its uses.

 

Thank you for your help,

Will

 

As I said before:

On 1/24/2021 at 11:35 PM, Nenon said:

Roon does not just serve the URL to an external program.

Roon is in full control of the stream from start to finish. You may find more details in the HQP thread. 

Affiliated with Sean Jacobs

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