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Building the ideal(ish) Music Server


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Been trying to get info about changing the OS to 2012 server but not much info on this device around as yet.

 

I'm trying to do a configuration with Windows Server 2012 as a basis for comparison. Having installed server 2012  on an quad core Atom/Celeron board , I found that there are no drivers for the Lan controller to suit Windows server. so Ill have to get a  compatible add-in card ( Some guys hack the .inf file).  It does seem more finicky  in terms of compatibility so perhaps it may be better to ensure that  suitable drivers are available before trying it out.

Edited by Tasso
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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

Now thinking about going with this motherboard/processor combo : http://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/Q1900DC-ITX/.

Already have the case and SSD so that only leaves memory and psu.

http://www.newegg.com/global/au/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157495

That would be a great platform. The CPU has a TDP of 10 watts which I think should still be within the low noise category with linear. PSU, etc. The great thing about these low power consumption mini-ITX boards ( apart from SQ) is that they are silent fanless designs with hard wired processors and are easy to power with their 12V input jacks. With SSD, overall power consumption will be low. Great price too.

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Instead of shipping in a linear psu has anyone looked at using a laboratory / bench psu like these ?

http://www.jaycar.com.au/Power-Products-Electrical/Power-Supply/Laboratory-Bench/c/402A

You have to be careful with lab PSU for audio. I bought a Linear, Lab PSU from eBay and although it works, SQ is not very good

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I managed to get Windows Server 2012 running with a Quad core Celeron board with JRiver

cc46b7dc27abd0cd8f393edd97e59465.jpg

Installing Fidelizer definitely helped. It sounds pretty good actually - a full, expansive sound with great tonality . The sound is different again to the other players I have heard and I really think which one is "best" will come down to personal preferences.

However, at this stage it does not have the same level of resolution as the Linux based players - a situation that could probably be addressed with different player software and further o/s tweaking. But then the last word in resolution is not for everyone either..

I have seen dual PC setups being advocated , some using Intel Xeon processors, - all to shift just 1.5 MB/s - but then a dual PC setup can add benefits to any CA Operating system, not just Windows .

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So I have the Naim UnitiServe I bought out of the classified's up and running and I have to say, I am impressed. Sounds very smooth and vinyl like.

 

Very nice.

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Tasso try audiophile optimiser there's a free trial it's night and day on my pc

I thought you had to pay upfront for AO with a refund if you were not satisfied. Is this correct?

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I have also been playing with Audiophile Linux . This is a bare bones distribution built purely for audio - just as well because there are no other services capable of running. The screen shots show all the processes running on the server at any given time. Even with music playing with Deadbeef player ( MPD ) CPU use is very low indeed.

2b7fd7c7432ea44a8adf8befbe6aa5b0.jpg

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The sound, as you would expect, is highly resolving with rock solid imaging.

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@@Tasso can the Audiophile Linux be run headless or do I need a screen for that.

There has been alot of talk about HQ player which I was interested to try out, but couldn't find a good solution to run it headless.

http://www.signalyst.com/consumer.html

There is a " how to " guide to run AP- Linux headless which I haven't done yet.

I would be interested in HQ player too but it seems that the "best" software player is simply the one you like the sound of the best. I think we'll see a few more crop up to cater to different tastes in future too.

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Audiophile Linux is now up and running as a stand alone, headless music server using MPAd as the interface. The MPD sound is always accurate and focussed but A-P Linux goes a step further. It's definitely worth a try.

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Hi Tasso,

Hey how does Audiophile Linux compare to Daphile?

I particularly like Daphile as is so easy to set up, sounds good & works with most USB DAC's

Anyway just curious if you have compared the two.

Thanks

Clay

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Hi Tasso,

Hey how does Audiophile Linux compare to Daphile?

I particularly like Daphile as is so easy to set up, sounds good & works with most USB DAC's

Anyway just curious if you have compared the two.

Thanks

Clay

A-P Linux has more precise imaging than Daphile ( and probably most other software ) with very high resolution. Daphile also has very good resolution and it presents a more expansive sound than AP-Linux. Usability wise it's no contest - Daphile is ahead in that area. A-P Linux renders slightly better tonality and timbre than Daphile which is no mean feat given the level of resolution. In one setup I tried Daphile had what sounded like phase issues which didn't affect the others. Remember also that A-P Linux will only operate on 64 bit architecture.

Have you tried Vortexbox? It sounds different again in that it also has that big inviting sound like Daphile ( but more so), great resolution and with a more pleasing overall timbre.

JRiver on both Linux and Windows renders music with a pleasing tonal balance - more than most other players I have tried. It also presents a big soundstage and I can see why it has such large following. However, the Linux distros mentioned above have noticeably better resolution and more accurate 3D imaging in the setups I have used .

Which is best depends entirely on taste and system synergy. I have heard software sounding great on one system only to sound dreadful in another. So I would recommend trying a number of software players to select which one you like best.

Edited by Tasso
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Thanks Tasso for the detailed answer. Yes I have tried Vortexbox & it sounds good but I far prefer Daphile's features & setup via the network login. Say if I want variable output level on one particular DAC I just log into Daphile via a PC or tablet, select the audio device (DAC) & change it to variable output with a preset start volume - simple! Also Vortex box takes about two hours (older pc's) to install where as Daphile is all finished in five minutes. My setup at work is a NUC Celeron, USB into a Klein DAC & then straight into a big T&A power amp. Sounds much better without a preamp inbetween. Hey I like your case for the quad core server, is that a SOtM PCI USB card? I built a very similar sever (for home) & added a internal linear psu, How are you powering the USB card?

I'm keen to design a Music Server DAC combo all in one box. In your opinion what micro board would it be good to base it on?

The concept would be a DAC(similar to my AKM Klein)/ Motherboard on which a small arm core board would plug directly into,

I2S straight from the arm board into the AK4490 chip. Nice low noise individual regulated supplies on the motherboard to power the arm core board & SSD drive. sorry for all the questions, what do you think?

Cheers Clay

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I really wanted Daphile to be the "one" for me too  because I think it would have to be a contender for the best thought out operating system/audio player going.  I will be looking to see if i can change the squeezelite version to tweak SQ. 

 

If you take i2s direct from  a board  I assume you will have a clock  between that point and the DAC for a synchronous setup- is this correct?  In that case power supply to the clock becomes critical too.  

 

In terms of which boards to use for i2s, guys like @@Chanh have extensive experience so hopefully they will chime in but a couple of things to consider are:

 

1. Beaglebone Black which has I2s output pins.  I have used Raspberry Pi-2 with USB only but its SQ is a definite step backwards from Pi-1  and other small boards so I'd be cautious about using it  in this application.  

 

2.  Some innovative folk  have adapted i2s from a Juli@  PCI sound card.  What I like about this concept , apart from low cost i2s, is that you can use it with a mini-itx board which will give you a lot more grunt and options than the micro boards and will be able to run more user friendly software.  In my experience ( with my DAC)  there is no gain to be had in terms of lower noise etc using a micro board over a well designed Intel atom board using linear PSU.  An excellent board for this purpose  would be: 

 

http://www.mini-box.com.au/Jetway%20JNF9C-2600%20Mini-ITX%20Motherboard.html

 

There is more information about the @@juli approach from here:

 

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digital-line-level/102851-i2s-juli-pci-sound-card.html

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Thanks for reminding me about the Juli@ card, after reading up on them I actually brought two s/h ones on EBay but have not actually played around with them yet. Thanks also for the DIY Audio info/mod link too, very handy info. I thought they would be a good sound card to use for a PC audio test/measurement system.

I first saw them in a Auraliti PK90 music sever which used a Jetway mini itx Atom M/B. Bill Hobber brought one & lent it to me to play around with. All I did was add a good beefy linear psu which definately helped. Yes I agree the software you can use with a mini itx M/B is far more friendly. OK so let's get serious now, for an ideal music server we base it on a mini itx m/b, add a Juli@ PCI sound card modified with I2s extraction & then into a good DAC. Do you think with the DAC & m/b in the one case radiated noise from the m/b would be a problem?

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You should ideally use separate power supplies for digital and audio with RFI shielding in between the different sections of the streamer/DAC . That would need a decent case and custom made shields/ dividers. Cases like Streacom FC10 and FC 12 should be able to accommodate the lot. If you are going to have PSU separate then smaller cases would do.

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Wrt I2S vs USB, i think if it is done right they should not be any differential in sonic performance. Personally, I found it is more economical to implement is2 then USB in term of sonic performance. Not only we are removed another layer of USB to I2S complication, we are also doing so with much lessor components, and those sensitive audio signals I2S would least likely influenced by surrounding EMF/RFI influential environment in the noisy CA world. I saw audiophile spent ten of thousands to reach to USB Sota CA and yet I also see people spend less than $1k for Sota I2S. Both will sound close but the investment isn't. :)

Any Raspberry Pi from B to RPi2 does i2s direct, for optimal sonic performance, you will need a good isolation and reclocking mechanism in place. Something from Acko S03 will significant improved sound, though direct i2s to DAC still sounds obviously better than any standard USB-input. Happy to be proven wrong here! :)

My setup consist of a BeagleBone Black with Twister Pear Reclocking sync to DAC, was using Acko S03. The BBB cost $65 from Element14. TP reclocking setup with extreme low phase noise costs $200 and a good linear PS is another $300, max. ;)

Hope it helps.

post-141218-0-48063800-1434330670_thumb.

Edited by Chanh
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@@Chanh  point about re-clocking  is critical where i2s  direct will replace a USB to I2s converter.   At the point of USB input , the card/dac combo behaves as an Asynchronous USB input with clock being on the interface. But removal of the interface will create a synchronous i2s  connection where timing will be determined by the source.    A decent clock and very short connection leads would therefore be appropriate.

 

I2s with dacs like PS audio are asynchronous because the on board clock still calls the shots, so it can be confusing ( for people like me anyway) 

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This may be opening another can of worms, but does anyone know anything about Ethernet transmission, and the optimal way to transfer the 0's and 1's via Ethernet - or doesn't it matter?

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I wouldn't worry much about Ethernet transmission as long as you have a decent switch and Cat6 or Cat7 cables. That's more than enough for music transmission anyway.

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May or may not be idealish.. But for $39 (+$10 shipp), it's ideal on the budget..

https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/198612

Only problem is it seems to run off the 24 pin ATX rather than 12 V (DC or 4 pin) most people are using..

Well ,I bought one so I will let you know how it goes. :)

Will use  a pico psu and external linear psu.

Edited by Ozcall
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  • 2 weeks later...

Trying out a choke input PSU courtesy of @@Chanh was a revelation in terms of SQ improvements. This will have to be the way forward.

5b17bcc42733900672fa6c9c33ba50b3.jpg

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Trying out a choke input PSU courtesy of @@Chanh was a revelation in terms of SQ improvements. This will have to be the way forward. 5b17bcc42733900672fa6c9c33ba50b3.jpg

Wow that looks safe! ;)

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I didn't say there was anything wrong with it....

Just looks a bit naked :)

That's the sexy of DIY! :D Edited by Chanh
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Wow that looks safe! ;)

 

 The PSU is now at the final testing stage where any remaining issues will be addressed before it is transferred inside the server case.   Transformer will need to be housed separately once an appropriate trafo is settled upon.

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Awesome Tasso, good idea to have it all inside one box.

Just need to work on getting the dac in there too!

Nice and neat :thumb:

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There is no way I will be putting this inside another box

 

 

Accuphase_DC-37_front3-1.jpg

Edited by Tasso
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Thats understandable Tasso, you could always give it to me to look after! :lol:

I have a dac that will fit in your box...

 

post-112711-0-42904700-1435729582_thumb.

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Interesting thread. Hope to make some contributions soon. Will try some PPA ram based on your single rank comments, must say I'm intruiged!

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