Best Digital Music Server


I am looking for opinions of the "best" digital music server considering the following:

1) CD ripping capability/available formats
2) User Interface - I am crazy from trying to ID "Unknown Albums", dropped first tracks, missing album art, etc. on my PC.
3) HiRes (is Sony's technology -as an example - audibly different?) capability.
4) Streaming flexibility - not a big part of my listening experience, but getting bigger all the time it seems.
5) Last but not least - SOUND QUALITY.  I have a reasonably nice DAC (DA2) built into my McIntosh MC2700 PreAmp, so would prefer a '"no internal DAC" solution, but open to it if all the other rankings say buy it anyway.

Thank you in advance for your opinions!

Mark
mhwilliford
I have been very happy with all the Wolf Audio streamers/servers/ rippers I have had in my system. Their service is next to none . I finally worked my way up to the Red Wolf 2 and Joe Parvey downloaded all my music files for me and since I am apparently one of the few who still purchases music the ripper gets a workout. I also stream Tidal and the other streaming services are also readily available. The user interface I am using is J. River. I tried Roon but having used J. River for years I am more comfortable with it. 
I agree with lwin in his general recommendations and expand it to include Baetis Audio as well as Wolf Audio as good sources.  You can ask for Joe at either place.  (Different Joes, of course.)   
Thank you Guys - I am not aware of either company but both look intriguing.  Does anyone have experience with Naim?  How would their products measure-up?
i have three NAIM servers across 3 systems, 2 with Linear Power supplys, isolation, damping, etc The sound fantastic. I wish support was better but they are truthfully getting a bit long in tooth.i would not hesitate to buy the newer servers w strong local dealer support.

ask ? You can see my reference system Poverty Bay Sound in virtual systems.
Or just spring for dbPoweramp on your PC.
No unknowns (except for unpublished).
No missing tracks or artwork.
SACD (DSD) does sound better. You can rip them easy except for art.
Of course not on any 'best' server.
What’s your budget?
I use a Naim Uniti Core, I don’t have the patience to rip a couple of thousand CDs with EAC or DBpoweramp, I’ve one disc the Core refused that ripped on EAC but with errors. With the Naim app the Core won’t solve the unknown albums problem but it’s Roon ready so maybe that would help, I’ve stuck with the app and never tried Roon. I tend to play whole albums so editing an unknown album’s title and performer is often enough for me and a search a few months later can turn up the metadata that didn’t make the data bases before I bought the disc. It too often identifies an individual disc as from a boxed set, which is a pain but mostly sortable, I suspect this is down to available databases than anything specifically Naim. Discs of classical music from several composers are tricky to catalogue using the Naim app, it could do with a catalogued/searchable field to add composers present on the disc other than under title or performer.
My wife likes to select tracks and struggles with the app whether setting up a play queue or playlist, hit the wrong item and the track you wanted to add to the end of the queue plays next or worse the whole thing collapses.
The Core has a linear ps with a smps used only when in standby mode, I was impressed with its performance via SPdif feeding a DAC, I found a Belden 4794R (from Bluejeans) outperformed some considerably more expensive cables for that but it’s BNC both ends so needs an adaptor for some poorly equipped DACs. It will serve it’s own rips and music found on your network but Naim use the streamers for accessing Tidal, Qobuz etc. I used Rega-r and Chord 2qute DACs, the Rega needed a BNC to RCA adaptor with that cable but managed to convey a lot of emotion from the music. I found the Chord too clinical so even though it’s more resolving I stuck with the Rega while I waited for Naim to launch the replacement for their NDS and now use an ND555.

Oh and the Core only rips to FLAC or WAV the latter using a proprietary linked database for metadata. You have to choose, WAV has slightly better sound, FLAC is more portable, the Core doesn’t transcode. There have been a few firmware updates since launch and transcoding was meant to be on the cards but there’s been no sign of it.
Any Innuos model: easy setup and squeezebox software, fantastic SQ
My budget is $1000 to $3000 depending on capabilities/performance.  I am not averse to building a silent, purpose-built PC (currently running on an HT PC I built 5+ years ago) IF I can find an excellent UI to go with it.
Ripping and serving are two different things. A third thing is fixing missing metadata -- there are several types of software available for that. You will be better off with best-of-class solutions for each aspect of this. I suggest a little more reading and thought before you spend your $3000.
Understood - I prefer a one-box solution to these specific tasks and a proven UI to go with it.  I have been reading and watching a tone of YouTube vids on this but always value the real experiences of this group.  Please share any specific experiences you might have.
I got the Innuos Zen Mini.  Ticks all of your boxes.  Fantastic product.
I would try and look at a Bryston BDP-2 (audition).  The new 3s are crazy expensive.  But the 2 can be had for budget.  I just got the little Pi unit and cant believe how good the SQ is.  Manic Moose interface is  pretty lame though :(.  Only supports Tidal and Qobuz but can be used with Roon as an endpoint.
Trying to be helpful, but if you’re on a different track, maybe it doesn’t seem that way. But please realize, no piece of hardware that has ripping will give you the ability to fix metadata like JRiver’s software will, or dedicated metadata programs like PerfectTunes. And of course, one of Roon’s main reasons to exist is that it manages all the metadata so you don’ t need to.

And I doubt that many hardware boxes with ripping will give the same kind of quality control of the rips as JRiver, dBPoweramp, or Exact AudioCopy. All have systems to ensure that your rip has no errors. Another advantage of dBpoweramp is that it draws from five online tag databases, so you can get the metadata right and as you want it from the beginning.

Another issue with one-box systems is that a CD that won’t rip error-free in one optical drive sometimes will in another. It is nice to use a method that allows you to try more than one drive.

Unfortunately, a lot of the language around computer-based audio is very loosely used by audiophiles, reviewers, magazines, and manufacturers, leading to confusion, or at least lack of clarity. I’m not sure what you mean by "server." A file-storage box with GUI to put on the audio rack and connect via USB to a DAC (or analog cables to a preamp)? Or something connected over the home network? Or something else? (To me, a "server" is software running on a storage device. Something that gives USB out is a "streamer" or more accurately, a "stream renderer." But I know not everyone uses the terms that way.)

Either way, I can recommend the Auralic Aries G1, which is in your price range. It will stream files from various sources, including an attached USB drive, and provides USB output (and others). I get outstanding audio quality from it. Auralic's new firmware, lets you attach an inexpensive CD drive to it via USB and rip or play CDs. It even has DSP that you can use (or disable) to resample or add EQ to control bass nodes, for example. I have an Aries G1 and like it a lot, despite my preference to rip the files another way. You can find many reviews on the Web.

Or just spring for dbPoweramp on your PC.
No unknowns (except for unpublished).
No missing tracks or artwork.
SACD (DSD) does sound better. You can rip them easy except for art.
Of course not on any 'best' server.
Of course?  Baetis includes dBPoeramp as well as JRiver.
A lot of good suggestions here.  I do recommend you get something that is Roon compatible, it is just too useful a database to skip that feature.    Even if you don't plan to use it now, you can get a free trial and you might prefer it.   

Exact Copy is software you can buy for your PC, a lifetime license is dirt cheap, and it makes a bit perfect copy in either WAV, FLAC, or some lossy formats.   It is pretty good about finding the Metadata too.   It is more manual than the Bluesound Vault 2 I bought but I didn't find the BS Vault to be any better, other than being more convenient.  SQ is the same once you are in a WAV format.   

FLAC is not lossy but the streamer must uncompress the file on the fly and with a slower processor, it might make a mistake now and then.   I do believe that is the reason some folks believe WAV is better than FLAC but both are not lossy formats, so they should sound the same if the decompression is correct.    
I would agree with @mike_in_nc . I also own an Auralic G1 (as well as the DCS Network Bridge) and have previously used their Aries streamer. The wifi capability makes it very convenient for me and it has all the streaming options I want. Their Lightning App is very nice and you can also use their Lightning Server, although I use Minim Server running on a Synology NAS instead. As for ripping, for years I have been using a Mac Mini with XLD or dBPoweramp, FLAC files only, and for editing the metadata I use Metadatics. I am sure there are some very good one box solutions out there, but I like having the flexibility of separates.
For me, life’s too short to try to cobble together various hardware and software bits hoping to God it somehow works in the end, which we all know it won’t and then will require even more painful and time-consuming troubleshooting.  Some people love wallowing around in that stuff for days on end.  Not me.  I’m dumb and perfectly willing to admit my shortcomings.  So if someone like Innuos will do all that crap work for me and put it in a box for 2600 bucks, call it the Zen Mk3, offer great customer support just in case, and have me up and running successfully and painlessly in a matter of minutes I’m happily (and completely ignorantly) all in.  But again, that’s me.  Best of luck. 
This is the same conclusion I am coming to after several years of experimenting with an "HTPC" set-up and several different software options including JRiver (which seems fantastic but also has a clunky look and requires a night school class to master) and lately Music Bee (which I have also appreciated in many ways, but am realizing operating it in itself becomes a hobby alongside the music I am trying to appreciate).  It's not that I mind these tasks, I think it just tries to put our brains in two different places at one time that are not "same sided"..."Damn I truly love this tune...WTF - why is it showing-up as being from THIS album???"  This information exchange has been truly helpful.  Thanks to all who have participated (so far! :))  Lots of product mentions that I need to check into, and now I see that Roon has their own hardware, I need to check into that as well.  I previously felt that Roon was more than I wanted to spend on a service, but I am going to reevaluate now.
@mhwilliford : Best of luck! Here's hoping you'll find something just right for you!
In your price range Small Green Computer servers and Sonore Renderers work very well.  Get ROON.  It is great.  Stretch your budget as much as possible.  You can get a server with a built in ripper or use an external drive.   You can get onboard storage up to 8 TB SSD or just 2 TB.   If you have questions, Andrew at SGC can guide you.  I am presently using their top of the line which cost me about $8K.  They have great set-ups for $2500.   Innouous and Wolf are also great choices.   Use optical isolation to reduce noise......See their websites