Building a Music server

Hi All,

I am building a music server. My first one. So I need your experienced help in correcting my obvious and not so obvious mistakes.

I see a lot of advantages for using a computer as an input device to my receiver. Suddenly we are protected from format changes, Technology expiry etc.

My Design Objectives are:

Store, CD Ripped and downloaded music with minimal losses.
Expandable Disk based storage with initial space of 120GB (I have a spare IDE)

Download and store music and video. So the machine should be connected.

A clean, small preferably touch pad screen for controlling the UI. Also a wireless control for the Keyboard and mouse.

CD Qualuity, Music output to my receiver.

Play CDs and DVDs (Music and Video to be channeled to my receiver.)

Fairly fast (Not for gaming). Tuned for good sound and video.

Sleek looking, so that it can fit into my music system.

Under $500

I am planning on an used P-IV machine with 512 MB RAM. Upgrade the sound and video cards. Add an USB card if required. Run a good flavor of Linux. An LCD screen (12").
An external sound processor of the likes of,

Stereo-Link 1200
Waveterminal U24
Edirol UA-1X
M-Audio Sonica
Yamaha DP-U50 CAVIT External Audio Soundboard

These are my initial thoughts. I am waiting for your comments. So please pen your thoughts.

After having played with external processors, I would suggest that you get an internal card with toslink or coax digital outputs and run that into a nice audiophile quality DAC. The sound out of my m-audio can't even get close to the sound out of a used audio alchemy that you can get for $200. Also, I really didn't care for the software that ran the m-audio. It was designed for 2.1/5.1 computer speakers, not full range home audio.
Hi Elevick,

Can you please describe your system in detail. I would like to know your components, and their performance. Also it will be great if you can pen two lines on your experiences with external processors.

My Receiver is HK3840, This does not have any digital inputs. So I am talking all RCA here.

My only recommendation, if you use Linux, is to dual boot with a Microsoft OS. That way you can use EAC which is by far the best digital audio extraction program (an EAC version does not exist for Linux).

There's a PC audio forum at AA that you might want to check out.
I'd observe that "CD quality" can mean a number of different things... I'd say all of my three computer music systems are "CD quality", but one is head and shoulders above the others...

Anyway, the route I chose was the Waveterminal U24. I chose it because:

1. If you are serious about music, you should really think about an external DAC anyway. This allows up that flexibility. I started with a Stereolink box, but the sound I got from a Sonica and a cheap DAC was better. Way better. I personally think the U24 sounds better than the Sonica/Theatre or my prior standard, the Edirol UA-1D. The reason might be that those devices purportedly resample to 48 kHz rather than the native 44.1. Who knows, and others have gotten good results with modded Sonicas/Transits.

2. Inside a computer box strikes me as a seriously poor environment do to DAC processing or reclocking; very noisy, lots of RF.

3. The U24 is USB, so I can use a long USB run (I use a repeater cable in one application) without introducing lots of jitter. I tried long coax or toslink runs, but the sound was... well, *smeared*. Muted. Ugly.

I have yet to have any driver issues with the U24, and it works flawlessly in both my Mac and XP Pro environments. I have *not* used the U24's DAC section. But, that might be a cheap way to go for you that would avoid the expense of an outboard DAC.

Because its USB, you can skip the upgraded sound card. Frankly, given the resolution of most handheld/touchscreen devices, you can probably forego the upgraded video card as well. On that side, I'll give you a couple options...

The music server part of my main rig is a mac Mini--has a built in DVI output that interfaces nicely with my Pioneer plasma. Also bought it with bluetooth, so I can run the whole shebang from the couch with a wireless keyboard/mouse (I really wish someone made a halfway decent bluetooth trackball). You can (although I haven't) also get a range of IR remotes that can be used to control iTunes.

In a prior incarnation of my system, I was running everything off a 10" Viewsonic touchpanel. The touchpanel acted as a remote desktop for a remote server, connecting via 802.11b. I then hooked up a serial port server by Moxi to the LAN near my rig, which allowed me to hook up a Slink-E IR controller to all my gear. I ran Mario Cascio's Cinemar software on the server, which made creating buttons/etc very easy. Given the problems with Slink-E programming, however, I'm not sure I'd advise going that particular route. Expensive and non-standardized.

Last thought I'd leave you with... If you are serious about the tunes and the investment of time to rip your CDs, don't use lossy compression like mp3. My files are all native .wav files. I started with "high grade" mp3s, but ultimately re-ripped everyone because I was dissatisfied. Trust me on this one... Do it once and do it right. Disk space is cheap.

Also, goes without saying, but back up your drives. I've had bad luck with external drives destroying themselves.

I'd also second the vote for EAC.
I have not done a server, but have used the U24. It's excellent. I can highly recommend it for any computer based audio application.
Hi All,

I can see that my plans are getting good clarity. Thanks to Edesilva for the time you have taken to write all these details. Very informative. I am not very conversant with Mac. I live in Linux and Windows world of Intel processors. I will do some reasearch and cost comparisons to understand it better. For the meantime, My plan is leaning towards the following setup

P4 512MB RAM, Linux (I have another machine which can be used for EAC ripping)

I will definitely have an internal HD (Something like 120Gig), But I think an external IDE Array will be a good expandable option for the future.

10" touch screen monitor
RF or Bluetooth Keyboard and mouse

USB 2, connection to Waveterminal U24

Can any one put a critical finger on this setup please.


I'm on the same quest.

Please follow this link:

However my soundcard alone will shot past your $500.00 budget.

However, I am getting very wonderful results!!!
I am a miser :-), So my budget is very very tight. Bursting at its seams..
Any thoughts about

This can receive Music streams. The documentation is biased towards receiving MP3 streams. But I feel it should be able to receive any streams from PC software (Since it is not a File Pull).

Can the audio quality of this device be improved with a Waveterminal U24 ?

An update from my side. Just Placed a order for Waveterminal U24 for $159. :-)

$340 left for remaning setp :-(

Thinking on Edesilva's comments, How is Mac Mini any way ?. I mean, its display out. Will I be able to use it as a good quality DVD Player ?

I haven't spent too much time using the Mac as a DVD player. This is an obsession for a group of folks over at AVS Forum, including topics like using the Mac Mini as an HD recorder...

Try this link:
Hi EDesilva,

Could you please explain, as you would to a complete iddiot :-), Thats Me, How I can connect my Laptop, Waveterminal U24 and my Harmon Kardon 3840. HK3840 does not have any digital inputs. It has only RCA inputs.

I saw somewhere that Waveterminal does not have RCA out. So I am a little nervous. Also, I read the U24 documentation, to get confused even more. It is talking about a lot of techy stuff !!.

Well, I had to read quiet a lot of webpages to finally confirm that Waveterminal U24 does not have RCA out. It has standards 1/4" outs. So I bought a conversion cable, HOSA CPR202
( )

I hope it does the trick.

From All I read about Waveterminal's capabilities I am fairly convinced that it will do the trick without an external DAC.

Keeping my fingers crossed :-)

Sorry, haven't logged on for a little while. Conversion cable or a 1/4" mic to RCA adapter from radio shack will work...
Hi Edesilva,

THanks for clarifying that. I have bought that cable from J&R. They had free shipping. Miser as I am !!..Well I really don't know why I did not walk up to Radioshack next street :-)

By the way, do you think, I forgetting this DAC, and connecting directly to Receiver will work for a Waveterminal ?

Hi Got my Waveterminal U24. I am currently using it with my PC Laptop. I am using the nalog out to feed the spekers through HK3480. It sounds very impressive. Thanks to Desilva for suggesting U24.

I could not find a great difference for FLAC output. But Bad quality MP3s do sound very good through U24. Is it a known observation or, Did I mess up anything with my Settings ?

Also, I bought the motherboard for my server. After all I decided to build it. Its a Micro ATX Form Factor P4, 478 Pin board.

My PC Case is going to be, Aspire X-QPack

Will Keep you Posted.
This is the latest update from me. Llooks like folks here has obviously lost interest in the cheapostuff I am building. Any way,

My Final build is complete now, Sparkling. The PC is cased inside a silver and black Aspire X-QPack, With an ASUS Micro ATX Motherboard. I used a P IV 2.8E Processor, and a good quality Heat Sink from Zalman (Copper). I chose to limit to 512MB of RAM, and a cheap $50 ASUS AGP Card, with composite video out. I opened my external HDD to take out the IDE to be used in my machine. My sound Card is USB connected Waveterminal U24. I installed a 802.11g PCI card, since I do not have plans for wiring my living room now. May be in a month's time I will run an ethernet cable. I bought a 15" LCD monitor for diaplay. But currently not using that since I can get away without it by running VNC server on the box. I control the computer from my Laptop. That works perfectly.

I just finished building it, and connected up to my receiver yesterday. I am very satisfied with the initial results. I went a little over budget with the monitor purchase. With the monitor System cost is $600. Without the system came for $499.

Thank you

How's the background noise from your machine? I take it with the heatsink there is no fan, or am I misinterpreting? Are you getting any audible drive noise?
Thank you Edesilva,

Well, System is not a quietest. It makes ome noice, which gets drowned in the music :-). Not disturbing to my ears. It makes noice from two fans. The System Fan and the CPU Fan. No Heat Sink, I don't have much experience with heat sinks, do they work well ?, Zalman is a Heat Sink + Fan. It is very quiet for the, Kind of colling it does. CPU runs at close to 36C.
I have a minimac and am looking into adding digital sound output. Main objective is listening to high quality audio on home stereo (HK surround reciever with coax and TOslink in). I do not have a separate DVD/player at the moment, so getting dolby + dts out would be nice. I was planning on getting a m-audio transit, but having second thoughts thanks to youguys.

If I knew the sound quality was good enough, I'd get this:
- looks good, but more important: will it sound good?

Bonigv: where did U get the u24 for 159?
You might want to check over at in the Mac part of the HTPC forum, but I seem to recall folks have had issues with getting Mac devices to pass 5.1. The Waveterminal does not--2CH only. The difusi looks like a nice box... Wondering when someone was going to do that. Never heard one tho'.

Current Price is $145

I remember you telling something about extending the USB cable. I am thinking of shifting my machine to another room and run an USB cable to the U24. Do you have any syggestion for this ?

I used something like this:

without noticeable degradation...
If you really have to go distance, consider Squeezebox or Soundbridge with wired Ethernet or WiFi connection. In addition to going distance, you can remotely control and browse your music selection on their built-in display.