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Building the ideal(ish) Music Server


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Please forgive my ignorance, why the both Banana Pro AND the atom boards?

That's only the tip of the iceberg........

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Following on from our escapades with Mac Mini, Windows laptop, Rasperry and Banana Pi, I was still looking for something better to match the output from my Accuphase DP-700 feeding the DC-37 DAC v

I’ve read this thread with much interest, and although I’m severely technically challenged when it comes to all computer and technology related matters, I embarked on a CA server project.  This wa

My new build server is progressing well today. An all in one unit as concept. All credit to @Doncentric with what it was a prelim-concept meeting, and within hours, he had 85% of its done! The remai

Please forgive my ignorance, why the both Banana Pro AND the atom boards?

My server consists of both Banana Pro and Atom single core 1.6GHz board.

As for your question, it is fun doing and good to carry around to gtg. ;)

Banana Pro vs Atom or any other PC are;

1. Affordability, only $80 for the complete hardware.

2. All in one Server with built-in wifi, no external AP requires for mobile device to remotely control.

3. Low power, low noise, low jitter, and can power by a 5VDC battery.

4. Embedded hardware, so no unnessary addons, those not relavent in audio World.

Edited by Chanh
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Apple has thunderbolt which allows people to run their PCI-e cards externally... Wish there's a commercial solution available for the PC world...

 

There is.... thunderbolt

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@@Chanh Ahhhhh, now I understand, I was trying to figure out why you needed both boards to get a music server to work. Would be interesting to hear the difference, if any, between the two boards.

Sonic difference was obvious! Which is better is purely subjective and pending on personal taste, setup synergy. Therefore I have both boards, each will have 4 different players for us to play with at gtg. MPD, Squeezelite, Vorterbox, Dalphile, and JRiver. All are Linux base. Have enough of Windows, that journey is now dusted and not worths pursuing.
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There is.... thunderbolt

That's why I said Apple Thunderbolt. But you're right, actually forgotten Thunderbolt is slowly releasing PC m/bs with Thunderbolt support (Thought it's an Apple only thing, thank goodness it's not :thumb: )... 

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Sonic difference was obvious! Which is better is purely subjective and pending on personal taste, setup synergy. Therefore I have both boards, each will have 4 different players for us to play with at gtg. MPD, Squeezelite, Vorterbox, Dalphile, and JRiver. All are Linux base. Have enough of Windows, that journey is now dusted and not worths pursuing.

 

Would you say each sw has a flavour that somewhat depends of the dac used?

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Is this the thread to read for those who can't afford the Antipodes $6000+ price tag?

 

I'm looking to separate out my audio source and make a dedicated audio server. It's currently on a N40L with x4 HDDs in it + an SSD for the OS.

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Sonic difference was obvious! Which is better is purely subjective and pending on personal taste, setup synergy. Therefore I have both boards, each will have 4 different players for us to play with at gtg. MPD, Squeezelite, Vorterbox, Dalphile, and JRiver. All are Linux base. Have enough of Windows, that journey is now dusted and not worths pursuing.

Really interesting thread, I'm fairly new to this forum and HiFi in general.

I never been to a gtg but I'm really keen on building my own server and would love some help from the local experts.

I didn't like MPD, really liked Daphile (isn't this squeezelite) wasn't keen on JRiver (on windows or Mac), never tried Vorterbox.

I've also been messing around with roon but sonically running it on a windows nuc with ssd sounds bright and not very good, they might bring out a Linux version, love the idea of the radio function and Tidal integration but I love the squeeze software and plugins on my SBT.

I ordered an updated regen USB on a whim....I think because of who designed it not sure if I'll end up using it.

Building something yourself is definitely more fun than buying say an auralic mini and would allow you to customise what software you want. I'd be very happy to build something based on squeezelite but it would have to sound a lot better than my SBT with EDO.

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Building something yourself is definitely more fun than buying say an auralic mini and would allow you to customise what software you want. I'd be very happy to build something based on squeezelite but it would have to sound a lot better than my SBT with EDO.

Your SBT combined with a good linear PSU will most likely have better SQ than the average PC being used as a music source. I understand , from others who have done the comparisons, that the optimised SBT with Linear PSU will give some purpose built servers a good run for their money. If you haven't got a linear PSU for the SBT, then that will give you a nice upgrade.

However if you want to go further, PC builds also have the ability to use SOTM USB cards which contain extensive power filtering and an ultra low jitter clock. They also have the ability to access internal SSD via sata and optimise memory choice and configuration, all of which contribute to performance.

Vortexbox has a bit different sound to Daphile, generally smoother and more expansive sounding in my comparisons. But it depends on preference and system response which is " better"

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Your SBT combined with a good linear PSU will most likely have better SQ than the average PC being used as a music source. I understand , from others who have done the comparisons, that the optimised SBT with Linear PSU will give some purpose built servers a good run for their money. If you haven't got a linear PSU for the SBT, then that will give you a nice upgrade.

However if you want to go further, PC builds also have the ability to use SOTM USB cards which contain extensive power filtering and an ultra low jitter clock. They also have the ability to access internal SSD via sata and optimise memory choice and configuration, all of which contribute to performance.

Vortexbox has a bit different sound to Daphile, generally smoother and more expansive sounding in my comparisons. But it depends on preference and system response which is " better"

I need to sort something out!

@@Tasso how would a Vortexbox compare to a Antipodes - significant price difference if I'm not mistaken? Compare those to say a Consonance Ref 8?

 

Any words of wisdom?

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The Opera Consonance Reference 8 contains a DAC as well as a server. It uses audio grade linear PSU and a designed for purpose motherboard. In terms of the server side of things, it would be right up there with the best but it should really be considered only if you want a complete DAC/Server solution . I have heard the Ref 8 machine and was impressed - DSD performance is excellent too. In terms of a new purchase, I can't imagine a better value server/ DAC combo in terms of performance level per dollar.

However, if you want to choose between different DACs, the Ref 8 only has spdif out ( as far as I am aware) and it would be more useful to have USB output for music server only duties.

I haven't directly compared my build to the Antipodes but have referenced both against the DP-700 feeding into the same DAC. The Antipodes sets a very high standard indeed but I can't say for sure how exactly mine compares because they both performed so close to the SACD player that any differences that remained didn't really matter.

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I need to sort something out!

@@Tasso how would a Vortexbox compare to a Antipodes - significant price difference if I'm not mistaken? Compare those to say a Consonance Ref 8?

Any words of wisdom?

It's important to distinguish between a Vortexbox appliance and the software. The appliance is sold by accredited outlets and the Vortexbox software is freeware that can be used by anyone. The differences in sound will depend on the hardware configuration

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Thanks @@Tasso

 

I'm in two minds, one - move across to the all in one Ref 8 and leave it at that. Simple straight forward should partner well with my Osborns (sell my Octave and Audiophilleo)

 

or two... follow your footsteps and build one that competes with an Antipodes at a quarter of the price. (just waiting for you to finalise all the testing ;) )

Edited by roh008
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Your SBT combined with a good linear PSU will most likely have better SQ than the average PC being used as a music source. I understand , from others who have done the comparisons, that the optimised SBT with Linear PSU will give some purpose built servers a good run for their money. If you haven't got a linear PSU for the SBT, then that will give you a nice upgrade.

However if you want to go further, PC builds also have the ability to use SOTM USB cards which contain extensive power filtering and an ultra low jitter clock. They also have the ability to access internal SSD via sata and optimise memory choice and configuration, all of which contribute to performance.

Vortexbox has a bit different sound to Daphile, generally smoother and more expansive sounding in my comparisons. But it depends on preference and system response which is " better"

I was under the impression that the LPS had a greater effect if using the analogue output and not so much the digital USB but I'm not sure where I got this impression lol.

In that case I'll need to keep an eye out for a couple of linear PSU's on the second hand market or maybe just one in the first place to try.

I'm hoping adding the regen into the mix may be good but as I said it was an impulse buy.

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Hey Tasso, nice work!     Can I ask why you decided to use Pauls LPSU over the HDplex? Have you powered Pauls V3 card with the HDplex using the 2800 mini ITX board?

It looks like Pauls V3 card fits fits the 2800 board ok but how neat is it to fit to the case? (looks like face-plate is 90 deg to mobo) 

Have you tried playing Pauls V3 card (5volt) into a ps audio direct stream dac?

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I was under the impression that the LPS had a greater effect if using the analogue output and not so much the digital USB but I'm not sure where I got this impression lol.

In that case I'll need to keep an eye out for a couple of linear PSU's on the second hand market or maybe just one in the first place to try.

I'm hoping adding the regen into the mix may be good but as I said it was an impulse buy.

 

That was the popular view for a while but it is not the case. The "digital" signal is not 1's and 0's  travelling down the wire but in fact an electrical signal with variations in voltage that represent the digital information. SMPS generate RFI  measured in mhz , and as the name suggests it is transmitted through the air as well as down the wires so there is very little that can be done to stop it completely upon entering the DAC, particularly with cheap SMPS's.

 

It may well be the case that  electrical noise affects digital circuits less  than analog and isolation circuits help somewhat, but  it still affects it to some degree which  when eliminated, can make an audible improvement to the sound. 

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Hey Tasso, nice work!     Can I ask why you decided to use Pauls LPSU over the HDplex? Have you powered Pauls V3 card with the HDplex using the 2800 mini ITX board?

It looks like Pauls V3 card fits fits the 2800 board ok but how neat is it to fit to the case? (looks like face-plate is 90 deg to mobo) 

Have you tried playing Pauls V3 card (5volt) into a ps audio direct stream dac?

 

I   haven't  chosen  PPA PSU over HD PLEX,  I haven't  got a final PSU sorted yet.    I am running a couple of builds at any point in time and at the moment the one I have posted pictures of uses a Sotm PCI card which can only accept a 12V voltage. With the motherboard also requiring 12V, I need 2 x12V feeds. So I am using the PPA and the HD  Plex together until I sort out a final solution.  At this stage it is likely to be a custom built 2 X 12V  PSU by HD Plex ( who do take orders for custom builds)  but I may also dabble in a DIY style of PSU.

 

All builds utilising  12V  motherboard and a PCI-e card ( Not PCI)  require 12V  and  9V (Sotm) or 5v (PPA).  Only HDPlex can do all of these  with high quality off the shelf power and I would therefore recommend HDPlex  as the first option.  They are versatile and well built PSU's  which  have separate outputs for 5V, 9V, 12V and 19V  and come with a variety of connectors for a range of applications including SBT.

 

Regarding PPA vs Sotm cards I have had time to revisit the comparison.  This time it was a more critical session with SNA member @@Chanh . It was immediately apparent that the PPA card  (V2) gives great dynamics - more so than Sotm  ( which is no slouch at all). The Sotm card  revealed a lot more micro detail that was missing from the PPA and upon reflection I think it is better  balanced proposition for my system.   Others could have different preferences. I haven't tried  PPA V3.

 

Sotm have seemingly gone to greater lengths with their design. Sotm cards are designed  and built specifically for Computer audio application, while the PPA card is a modified standard USB 3 PCI-e card.  I'm not drawing any conclusions from that because it is only the performance that matters, but thought it worth mentioning.

Edited by Tasso
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Sooo, gents, what I am interested to know is whether the balls out cost no object (mostly) exploration that Tasso is undertaking, offers significantly more fidelity than the Chann's budget build? Or is it more a) flavour of the sw :cool: last 5% stuff c) different as opposed to better/worse.

 

I've always favoured MPD (Voyager MPD or CuMPD) when I was building on small Alix boards or similiar. Cheap and good, lightwight and very transparent to the recording. Downside is that it can be a little brutal.

 

I can see a Vortexbox build on a NUC also offering attraction. Bung on a suitable LSU and you may have a very cost effective solution.

 

The only problem with the Alix & NUC boards is they typically have a mSata memory & a half-size mini PCIe, which I doubt you could get a USB card on.

 

For a budget LSU, I came across this shop on ebay - http://stores.ebay.com.au/av100hk?_trksid=p2047675.l2563 might be worth a look.

Edited by andrew_stenhouse
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The way it goes, I will soon implant one of these thing in my brain so the cells can have their deserved holiday year round without the need of exercising too much..! :D

Thanks Gordon for the heads up. ;)

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The way it goes, I will soon implant one of these thing in my brain so the cells can have their deserved holiday year round without the need of exercising too much..! :D

Thanks Gordon for the heads up. ;)

Been trying to get info about changing the OS to 2012 server but not much info on this device around as yet.
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I've been trying to stay away from CA and concentrate on getting my golden ratio listening room finished, but I'm sorely tempted to get into Linux CA, would this device be able to use the Linux distro's?

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I've been trying to stay away from CA and concentrate on getting my golden ratio listening room finished, but I'm sorely tempted to get into Linux CA, would this device be able to use the Linux distro's?

The specs say 1.3 ghz base frequency with 1.86 ghz burst freq so it should easily run most Linux distros. We have had excellent results with single core @ 1.6 ghz. There are one or two distros built only for 64 bit architecture like "Audiophile-Linux" but if the unit supports 64 bit then it should work well with that too.

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Audiophil of AO fame recommends powering the SSD on which the OS resides with an LPS in addition to the mobo.

He also recommends ECC memory.

Any thoughts on this Tasso?

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The specs say 1.3 ghz base frequency with 1.86 ghz burst freq so it should easily run most Linux distros. We have had excellent results with single core @ 1.6 ghz. There are one or two distros built only for 64 bit architecture like "Audiophile-Linux" but if the unit supports 64 bit then it should work well with that too.

Yes, audiophile Linux v3 is what I'm looking at, will see if little computer supports 64 bit, thanks for that.

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Amazon wouldnt deliver it to OZ, so I bought an Anoil with 3537F  64 bit processor from ebay- cost me $130 , Audiophile-Linux is free , so will be interesting to compare this to my expensive audio optimised PC running 2012.

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I have been experimenting with more components:

Single sided memory - this also outperforms the regular memory in my setup(s). These sticks are 4GB each

8a5828c975ad9eb6fabf63ec3bcebca2.jpg

A different power supply - this one by PPA studios

be1cea17928662184c4c72b66b6d2663.jpg

And a USB Pcie card from Paul Pang of PPA. Paul makes a big deal about using an TXCO clock to re-clock the signal to the DAC.

5512a025bdf989021609e3d99632ae10.jpg

I have to say that the PPA usb card is pretty special. In my setup it outperformed the SOTM card through revealing more detail and imaging. Not night and day differences however

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Very nice one, Tasso.

 

I bought a USB3.0 PCI card which Paul uses to modify from from eBay here in Australia for 12$. It uses D720202 USB host controller chip made in China which requires 24Mhz Crystal to work with.  I planned to do the same as Paul is doing on it just for enjoying the DIY feeling (knowing Paul one at 129 USD is good price). Of course I cannot make the hand-made isolation transformer (which sits between the clock output and D720202 Xtal input) using silver wires like Paul makes.

For  5V-3.3V regulator with filter to feed power to TXCO oscillator, I can grasp one from eBay or make one.

 

The problem is I cannot find anywhere which has TXCO or VXCO oscillator for 24 Mhz. Do anyone know where I can get one?

 

Tasso, if your motherboard has a spare PCI or PCIe slot, I think this PCI power noise filter below will help further at good price. It cleans out common-mode noise from PCI bus

 

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Elfidelity-PC-HI-FI-Power-Filter-card-PCI-PCI-E-HiFi-PC-audio-power-purification-/271869855380?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f4cb4c694

Edited by Tam Nguyen
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Audiophil of AO fame recommends powering the SSD on which the OS resides with an LPS in addition to the mobo.

He also recommends ECC memory.

Any thoughts on this Tasso?

I thought that the motherboard needed to support ECC memory and most consumer grade boards do not. I also understand that ECC memory does data correction but at a penalty of slightly more latency. I'd be interested in anyone else's experience on this.

In terms of single sided or genuine single rank (1R) memory however, the differences are clear an unmistakeable over the standard memory that only seems available locally.

With powering the SSD from an external LPSU, I have little doubt that incremental improvements in SQ could be detected but I have drawn the line at direct LPSU power to Motherboard and to PCI/PCI-e output card as a sustainable long term solution ( aka plug and play convenience)

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Amazon wouldnt deliver it to OZ, so I bought an Anoil with 3537F 64 bit processor from ebay- cost me $130 , Audiophile-Linux is free , so will be interesting to compare this to my expensive audio optimised PC running 2012.

Looking forward to your findings.

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Very nice one, Tasso.

I bought a USB3.0 PCI card which Paul uses to modify from from eBay here in Australia for 12$. It uses D720202 USB host controller chip made in China which requires 24Mhz Crystal to work with. I planned to do the same as Paul is doing on it just for enjoying the DIY feeling (knowing Paul one at 129 USD is good price). Of course I cannot make the hand-made isolation transformer (which sits between the clock output and D720202 Xtal input) using silver wires like Paul makes.

For 5V-3.3V regulator with filter to feed power to TXCO oscillator, I can grasp one from eBay or make one.

The problem is I cannot find anywhere which has TXCO or VXCO oscillator for 24 Mhz. Do anyone know where I can get one?

Tasso, if your motherboard has a spare PCI or PCIe slot, I think this PCI power noise filter below will help further at good price. It cleans out common-mode noise from PCI bus

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Elfidelity-PC-HI-FI-Power-Filter-card-PCI-PCI-E-HiFi-PC-audio-power-purification-/271869855380?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f4cb4c694

I have tried the in line SATA power filters and thought they did help with spinning drives but not so much with SSD. Perhaps the mobo based filter is a better solution.

Keep us posted on your progress.

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Sooo, gents, what I am interested to know is whether the balls out cost no object (mostly) exploration that Tasso is undertaking, offers significantly more fidelity than the Chann's budget build? Or is it more a) flavour of the sw :cool: last 5% stuff c) different as opposed to better/worse.

I've always favoured MPD (Voyager MPD or CuMPD) when I was building on small Alix boards or similiar. Cheap and good, lightwight and very transparent to the recording. Downside is that it can be a little brutal.

I can see a Vortexbox build on a NUC also offering attraction. Bung on a suitable LSU and you may have a very cost effective solution.

The only problem with the Alix & NUC boards is they typically have a mSata memory & a half-size mini PCIe, which I doubt you could get a USB card on.

For a budget LSU, I came across this shop on ebay - http://stores.ebay.com.au/av100hk?_trksid=p2047675.l2563 might be worth a look.

You can get a mini-PCIe to PCIe X1 adaptor from eBay but then the NUC enclosure might not be suitable.

The build I have been discussing outperforms any Banana, Raspberry Pi type build for a USB DAC, with a lot more usability. IMO, the Pi's do have negligible noise compared to traditional PC audio but the mini-ITX based server with SOTM USB output also has negligible noise but with better timing, lower jitter etc.

For synchronous i2S implementation, I think the smaller boards like Beaglebone Black would be ideal with their ability to output i2S directly.

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Thanks mate. Very helpful . 

 

I'm going to let the dust settle and then get onto a build. Mind you, I really need something that browses by folder structure, my tag are dreadful. I have been attempting that little mission of late. Yuk.

Edited by andrew_stenhouse
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Thanks mate. Very helpful .

I'm going to let the dust settle and then get onto a build. Mind you, I really need something that browses by folder structure, my tag are dreadful. I have been attempting that little mission of late. Yuk.

It depends on the software you use. Interfaces for vortexbox, daphile and MPD all have a feature where you can select music direct from the music folder. I'm not too sure about others though.

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Looking forward to your findings.

Yes I'll let you know, but I may have jumped too early , after doing some googling today I found some mini computers designed solely for Linux , and with better options, amazing how much stuff is out there.

There an Australian company that specialises in mini computers and Linux, I will talk to them.

Jeez it's hard to keep up.

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Yes, I am familiar of course with mpd. And Vortexbox having owned an Antipodes. Daphile I have never tried and doubt I would.

Andy,

how did you find MPD and Vorterbox and which synergies well in your setup?

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I can't comment yet Chan, I have yet to build another server with either. My own view is that what you don't have you don't miss, and depending on the dac you are using the implementation of the sw and hardware may assume some or no importance. 

 

Edit; surplus.

Edited by andrew_stenhouse
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