Are you Weiss MAN301 owner? Do you wish to stream Tidal/Quboz with bit-perfect native streaming rather than using legacy Airplay? Do you wish to enjoy Roon experience with great sound quality with native endpoint or even as a Roon core rather than relying on Airplay? Do you wish to try popular highend apps like JPLAY/HQPlayer with MAN301? Do you wish to stream music easily from NAS with uPNP/OpenHome/etc. rather than classic library mapping? Do you wish to try different application to browse and play music easier?
These questions are what I heard from my friends who own Weiss MAN301 and also myself for things I wish MAN301 could improve during past years. It’s been over 5 years since the last firmware update and we have no idea when Weiss will release a new major update adding Tidal/Quboz or support Roon Ready feature at least. So, today I have great news to inspire hope and possibilities to improve Weiss MAN301 and realize those wishful thinking features.
Last week I visited my friend’s audiophile shop who’s interested in my Nimitra server product. We discussed about how great DAC in Weiss MAN301 is especially Golden DAC and I told him MAN301 uses the same board I used to use on my older servers before Nimitra that sells globally. So it’s possible to setup NimitraOS with Weiss MAN301 hardware though I’m not really sure if playback to DAC will work fine as I haven’t tried this it yet. So he lent his unit to me to perform find out it’s possible to setup new platform to support newer technology better.
Since I want to keep original parts as is so I will test this with different storage to install new OS. At first I tried using my spare Western HDD but I later realized I could use SSD from one of my testing server which has the same motherboard as MAN301 too. Maybe mine is newer now. He already upgraded ethernet cable high quality audiophile one so I didn’t change anything else but SSD that I placed on top of original one in case it didn’t work out.
When I was going to setup for developer environment, I noticed one of the biggest issue here. This motherboard only has VGA output and it’s right behind to heat box below fan so I can’t install VGA cable at this position. I thought about removing fan and everything underneath but that’d be too risky to damage unit. After thinking for a while, I noticed PCI slot is for WiFi module so I can remove riser block to lift up some space to install VGA cable. I also placed my shirt below motherboard to avoid short circuit and damaging motherboard circuit.
OK I can boot up it and these old menus it reminded when I setup my first Xeroc server for local clients. They’re still using it with latest update I sent yearly or when someone needs update for new drivers even now. It looks like BIOS is configured with default settings so I optimized some changes in BIOS for better sound quality. If this project fails or need to send back for services, I can always load optimal defaults without worries. My VGA is worn out and rusty now so sorry for yellow screen during this journey in advance.
After finishing up BIOS setup, I tried to load NimitraOS installation media which took forever to boot up to Windows setup screen. I now remember why I didn’t offer Xeroc clients with Nimitra platform upgrade years back. It’s because I couldn’t load past booting screen and though motherboard didn’t support it. It seems I can actually install Windows 10 on Xeroc with more patience to wait until it finally boots up. The installation went smoothly and no issue detected during installation.
After Windows 10 finished installation, I implemented NimitraOS core optimizations and noticed that MAN301 uses firewire interface with Weiss Firewire IO Audio. When I used Weiss INT202, I didn’t see AV/C Audio and AV/C Subunit before so these are probably control modules for DAC and other features in MAN301. My main goal is to audio output working with DAC and chances that other digital inputs and device’s specific features may not work are still acceptable if DAC can function with NimitraOS.
Well, it’d be nice to get them working too so I reinstalled Weiss driver again and it appeared those missing drivers are all gone and ASIO output is added so maybe I can get more features working with Weiss Control application later. However, I came to regret my decision later and almost failed this project due to this decision.
Now let’s check how system performance is like with NimitraOS using Weiss MAN301 hardware. Weiss MAN301 hardware has Intel D510 which is 1.67GHz dual core processor and support 64-bit architecture. It comes with Corsair value grade DDR2 RAM which is the lowest CL RAM in market but only single 2GB RAM. WiFi module is removed right now so you won’t see Wi-Fi in task manager yet. I’ll rename this PC to NIMITRA_SNDEMOW for Weiss testing project for now.
Normally it’s not recommended to install Windows 10 on very old hardware like Intel Atom D510MO with only 2GB RAM. But since this is NimitraOS with tiniest footprints for audiophile, OS itself uses only 600MB and it’ll be only around 1GB with other apps running. So even with only 2GB RAM, NimitraOS is capable of performing all features presented in Nimitra server. This project should be a good example to show how robust NimitraOS can be in extreme condition.
I’d like to remind you that once I put board down to its place and close the lid, I can only control Weiss MAN301 from remote access only so I shall test everything I can and setup Teamviewer remote access before finalizing system physically. It’d take a bit of effort to setup VGA output to screen again if I miss something here. I also need to setup WiFi from USB adapter in case Ethernet cable fails too.
JRiver platform worked fine and HQPlayer recognizes NAA and also Airplay and OpenHome services that I added too. Roon Ready feature is working and recognized from my PC running Roon core. I can install Roon core on MAN301 and it runs without any error report. However, I can’t run Roon software so I cannot access Roon inside remote access and need to setup from my PC instead. I tried installing latest available graphic driver though it’s older than Windows 10 but that didn’t work out due to being too old without WGL functions.
OK. Wi-Fi network worked and I can access via Teamviewer remote. Since it wasn’t connected to audio system yet so I couldn’t confirm if playback works properly but it seems to play somehow. ASIO output failed in JRiver so maybe there’s some restriction? Teac drive in MAN301 worked fine for both playback and ripping as you can see.
There’s one tricky part about CD feature though. This Teac drive is slotin and has no eject button. MAN301 doesn’t have eject button implemented too. So, I can setup program to play or rip automatically but I can’t eject CD myself physically. I looked for workaround and it appeared I can use paid version of Unified Remote app ($5) to sync with MAN301 and tap eject button on app.
CD playback with JRiver can work but JRemote doesn’t provide CD playback control and you can only press back/forward without track number to control CD playback. I wish Roon will implement CD playback feature soon so audiophiles can enjoy their CD collection in computer audio server better. I’m still looking for good apps to recommend about CD playback too.
After testing most features I can, I moved MAN301 to my main system and tried to play something. It was dead quiet. I didn’t mean very low noise floor but no signal at all. My worries became reality now. It could be that Weiss Firewire IO Audio may receive playback signal from PC but input receiver may not select audio source from PC nor even function. Though it’s possible to access new features for server but having non-usable DAC isn’t worth it at all.
Maybe I tinkered around audio configuration too much? I tried to uninstall and setup again with default settings but no luck. I changed from ASIO to WASAPI but still no luck though I can see playback is working. It felt like I watch Playback Designs remote that has PC function but that remote is broken. I tried everything I could think of including older driver version but all failed to make sound.
When I was about to give up, I decided to try what I saw first again. I removed all installed drivers and installed driver again on main audio one leaving two other drivers uninstalled. I used manual driver installation to do this and miracle happened. I heard music and it sounded so good. It reminded me when my friend first brought MAN301 to my home and I told him I’d buy MAN301 if I prefer this over my own server. I definitely would bought it if I had heard MAN301 like this. Original OS also sound great but it’s a bit too analytical to my taste.
Next day morning I informed my friends about this great news. He was overjoyed and told me now he could finally appreciate music with Roon and MAN301 using full performance. Although using CD function is a bit tricky and you can’t switch digital input anymore, having NimitraOS platform on MAN301 with its Golden DAC is like dream come true for many audiophiles in Thailand. I tried to convince every MAN301 owner here to try this project but none decided to give it a shot until now.
I’m going to bring this MAN301 with NimitraOS platform to his store this afternoon after finishing this article. If he decides to keep NimitraOS on MAN301, I’ll proceed to next levels while trying to keep original parts intact. I’ll buy Samsung 860 Pro drive and 2x2GB RAM for matching dual channel 4GB. I’ll also upgrade USB and SATA cables too. Cables used inside MAN301 is like industrial standard version so some little more upgrade won’t hurt.
I hope this project will help you guys about trying to make better use of MAN301. I always admire and respect Mr. Daniel Weiss who’s truly the first pioneer and most passionate about computer audio. I’m proud to be the first Thai customer who purchased his Weiss Minerva DAC too. I hope this project will help keeping one of his best legacy to live on through this decade and feel free to ask me if you need advice about setting up MAN301 with 3rd-party OS. Happy listening.