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Drobo or QNAP, and iTunes server ?


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I'm up close to the question of a NAS. I have a wireless modem router, a Macmini, Airport Express & an iPod touch. I intend to get a 2nd machine (mac) and use my current mac mini headless into the main rig.


In terms of usable storage the Drobo looks a winner, up to 4 bays any size Hardrives and any speed. The catch is, that in order to use it as a NAS it needs, either, the droboshare or an airport extreme. The airport extreme, I presume, would become the router for my entire system if I went that way?


A QNAP, either a 209, or maybe a 409, can't decide how much storage I really need, has many extra functions, the most interesting to me being the iTunes server, and also the fact I can connect the usb 3 in 1 printer I have to it, and make the printer accessible from any device.


Is the iTunes server option truly necessary ? Because, I thought that as long as in my iTunes preferences I had the iTunes music library path then I could access the NAS for the "toons". This doesn't of course guarantee that both machines will have the same Itunes Library, even if they do share the same music file, yes? Or is the iTunes server the way of sharing one library between several machines, and each one will see exactly the same library.


It's a trifle, I know, but the QNAP 209 is very nice looking little machine, and I can get one with 2 x 1Tb for 500€. A similiarly specified Drobo is 950€ (Apple Store).


Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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Decided to bump this, because having spent much of the day researching, I've come around to the idea of the QNAP 209 or The Synology 207+ devices. Both about the same price including drives at about 500€.


The real question I have is about sharing the iTunes library. Looks like I have 2 ways of going about this. I can activate the "look for shared libraries" option, but I presume if I'm using, say a mini headless, and another mac. I would have to set up one or the other as the owner of the library. I would only have update rights on one computer, yes ? That is I could only add and delete from one computer. The other way is the iTunes server option on the NAS devices.


How would I have to set things up to have the mini headless into the main rig and on 24/7 so that the other computer wouldn't have to be on all the time ?


The other question I have is, what about networrk speed, I presume that the Airport extreme in the mini maxes at 54Mbs, so for original transfer of my current USB external drive I would need to do this through a wired connection.


If I attach a NAS to the Modem/Router then its speed is limited to 100Mbs. Looks like to copy 120GBytes of data that would take ... a long time, what 20 minutes or is that 200 minutes, can't work out where to put the zero. Is it possible to use a USB to Gigabit adptor to reduce transfer time ?




Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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Here's a few thoughts re Drobo:


1) You can USB direct into the Mini and control it all with iTouch or remote from a 2nd Mac. This puts Drobo directly USB attached to the Mini (or firewire if new). Works like a champ and Dashboard functions. Some noise, probably want it in a box or drawer. Not terrible, but not silent.


2) You can probably put Drobo in a backroom and attach it to the Extreme router and connect the mini via wireless. You can control with iTouch or 2nd Mac. Might have some dismount issues. No dashboard. Might work, might not.


3) You can put Drobo in the backroom and point both Mini and your new Mac at Drobo to share the library of music. They can both independently read/write simultaneously. When it works. What seems to happen (my guess) is that when one of the two systems goes to sleep it sleeps Drobo and it dismounts from both systems. Drobo dashboard will not work using this setup. Never works long for me.


I'm not a network expert but I've fiddled a lot to get to those user conclusion. I just ordered Droboshare in an attempt to resolve problems. The base Drobo is not meant as a network drive, it's a USB drive. I think this is what Droboshare is meant to fix and some folks are not happy it's an add-on. But I like Drobo because it's stupid simple to operate.


I'm thinking I can then connect Drobo > USB > Droboshare > Ethernet > Extreme ~~ magic wireless ~~ > Mac #1 and Mac #2.


Mac #1 > USB > DAC > USB or analog > amp

Mac #2 sits in the kitchen and looks pretty but should play all iTunes library available on Drobo or rip to Drobo

iPhone controls Mac #1


Another tip - Drobo, near as I can tell can be formatted two ways. 2TB chunks or larger chunks, say 4TB. If I had it to do over I would format to 4TB since I am going to have to figure out how to hold my data and reformat the drives. Or, I can use the 4TB capacity as two 2TB logical drives. If you have the cash, start out with 4 1TB drives.




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Hi user34 - In my opinion the iTunes server function is often misunderstood and overrated. When enabled on a NAS the iTunes server appears as a shared library. The only benefit is you don't have to leave a server on to access the music. I'm not a fan of shared libraries because, as you said, only one computer has write capability. Those accessing the shared library can only read.


"How would I have to set things up to have the mini headless into the main rig and on 24/7 so that the other computer wouldn't have to be on all the time ?"


I'm not following you on this one.


Yes, the initial transfer should be done wired if you want to save yourself many hours :-)


It will take you about 2 hours to transfer your files at 100 Mbps according to this calculator.


I'm sure I missed half of your questions. Let me know what I missed if you still need help.



Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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Chris & Innertube,


Thanks for your thoughts. It looks like if I transfer my 120Gb of music files to a NAS via a network it will take about 3 hrs. I can live with that. OTOH, if I use a USB2/Gigabit network adaptor, in thery I could divide that time by 4, at least. My router is not a gigabit router so max speed is 100Mbs, and max speed with USB2 is 480Mbs. With a Drobo, there's no ethernet connection, so it's USB2 or firewire, I'd go with firewire 400, since that port is not being used on my macmini.


Given that I don't have the 2nd computer, yet, there's no real requirement to have the Storage accesible when the macmini is off. So I'm back to the Drobo soultion, which is more expensive, but looks more future proof.


now, assuming I had 2 macs, a mini headless into the main rig and another for "normal" use. I would want to play all the available tunes on the audio system, but sync iPods etc via the other. How would I configure this ?






Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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Yah Drobo is FW or USB


Somewhere I thought that Droboshare has ethernet to router


Maybe that was a fantasy


Edit - yup, me go technical!



Interface: 10/100/1000 ethernet

Number of Ports: 1

Network topology: Shares data on a single subnet


Interface: Type A, USB 2.0

Number of Ports: 2 (shares 1 or 2 Drobos)


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Yes, the Droboshare is the accesory that turns the drobo into a NAS, but I expect that it would be possible for a headless macmini run 24/7 as a way to have the drobo accesible to a home network. I just stumped up the cash, well credit card, to buy a drobo. Now I have to buy some discs for it.


At first glance it's annoying to pay extra for the NAS capability, but as I get used to the idea, I think it's not so bad. The drobo is a great forward thinking solution for me, who doesn't actually need a NAS, at least not yet. The Droboshare adds the "front end" that the QNAP, Synology and other solutions include in the box, but may not be required. A FW or USB connection is going to be quicker for many who, like me, do not have gigabit routers.


I'm not keen to add a separate router to the cable modem, because of box count in the spare, tiny, room.






Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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I'm in France, I've found a good price for the drives at www.macway.com - 99€ for Samsung Drives. Not so bad when you consider that there's 19.6% VAT included. I looked at Newegg, I felt macway was pretty decent, all things considered.




Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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  • 3 weeks later...

The first Drobo is usb only and the gen2 Drobo is firewire 800 however it has a lot of problems. I wouldn't get a Drobo but a Qnap 409 or 509 and save the Mac Mini from serving data and acting as a NAS head but put it into the listening room (running iTunes) together with a nice Weiss DAC2 or Trends UD-10.1 (in case you have an existing highend DAC) and connect it to your system. Use an iPod touch or iPhone running Remote for the best two-way remote experience you only (might) know from systems like AMX and Crestron. Thats the ultimate server system, much better than anything else. You may also get an AMX panel running a Netlinx module and (two way) control a Slimdevices Transporter with a Qnap NAS, thats also fine but not better than #1 which is even better than a Linn DS (particularly because of their stupid remote control). Enjoy. I am talking only 2-way (wifi) remote control where you get all the info and covers on the remote control and not IR simple play/stop remotes.


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Hi starcat - I agree the QNAP units are pretty nice. In fact I reviewed the 409 a little while back. But, I think the ease of the Drobo units cannot be underestimated. Audiophiles traditionally don't have skills to setup a RAID5 array and many of them don't want to learn the skills. This is where the Drobo becomes indispensable.


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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1. Drobo uses a proprietary format, if something goes wrong you throw everything away - Qnap is linux ext3 based, you take out the disks put in any computer running any Linux distribution and get your data back.

2. Drobo doesn't have a buildin filer head which makes a second device or computer necessary for sharing data over the network and this one has to be setup and administered too. I think that no audiophile agrees having harddrives in his listening room.

3. new fw800 Drobo has a lots of problems and there a lot of returns.

4. Drobo is 4 disk solution only (Qnap 509 is 5 saving from losing space on RAID)

5. Drobo is US only

6. Qnap is LCD-setup only. You don't have to bother with all other functuonality you don't need :-)

7. Qnap has eSata for even more speed while transfering data


I am not affiliated with Qnap nor with Drobo either, speaking just from my humble experience.


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Hi starcat - Very good points indeed, but I still think the Drobo is the easiest solution for those not learned in this topic.


1. If something goes wrong I think sending the Drobo back to Data Robotics is better than throwing it away :-) Also, No too many audiophiles understand how to put the drives into a Linux box and recover the data. Certainly viable for you and I, but not the vast majority of people.

2. The DroboShare gets this job done, but as you mention it is a second device and has added cost.

3. Do you know if the FW800 version has a higher rate of return than the FW400 version or the Qnap products? It's easy to read about the bad experiences without having the comparison data available. I am very interested in this one.



Have you tried any of the Thecus products? I use the 5200B Pro and love it!


Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems

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I have a Drobo with DroboShare and it works great as my iTunes Library host. If you're using the DroboShare, I believe the Firewire 800 is a non-issue because the Drobo hooks to the DroboShare via USB.


When you first setup your Drobo, I recommend setting the size to 16TB (max size) so that you will not have to reconfigure the unit later. This does not mean that you need 16TB worth of drives; it means that your max volume size is 16TB. I made the mistake of setting mine up with the default volume size of 2TB and quickly outgrew that (I have my video files as well as music on the Drobo.). I then had to copy everything off of the Drobo, reconfigure it, and then copy everything back on.


Another piece of my setup is an AppleTV which I love! I can browse my iTunes music and video files from my TV and pipe the files easily through my stereo. The Drobo sits in another room where it won't interfere with my listening pleasure .


As far as drives go, I highly recommend the Western Digital GreenPower drives. They seem to run cooler and quieter than other drives I've used. I had some Seagate drives in my Drobo and they ran hot and triggered the Drobo's fan far more often than these Western Digital drives.


- Barron


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Barron, you may try the iPod touch with Remote loaded for controling iTunes and AppleTV, it's great. Regarding growing the volume on a Drobo - an ext3 linux filesystem you can grew on the fly also the underlying volume. You can of course also online add drives to the RAID set. Same with Qnap or any other Linux based file server.


Seagate drives have 5 years of warranty where WD drives only have 3.


Btw, which generation Drobo do you have?


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I have the app Remote loaded on my iPhone and it is pretty cool!


I have no doubt that a RAID set on Linux is more flexible in it's configuration and I use RAID at work. However, if not monitored, RAID can bite you hard. I've seen people lose data because they were sloppy with their RAID setup. The Drobo, though not perfect, offers a simple solution for a large quantity of redundant storage.


My comments about Seagate drives were regarding sound and heat generation. I have not lost any data using them. A 5 year warranty is better than 3 but to be honest, I tend to outgrow drives and replace them long before the warranty expires.


I have 2 non-firewire Drobos that I've had for over six months.


- Barron


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I bought my drobo here: www.misco.fr it's available in the uk via www.amazon.co.uk . It's only become available in the last couple of months. If you google around you can find the 1st Gen drobos discounted.


I use the WD greenpower drives, I can't hear them. The fan kicks in more.


The thing that bothers me most about the drobo is the bright lights.






Asus Netbook -> Fidelity DA-150 > Chevron Audio Paradox > Avondale S-100 > Audium Comp 5

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