without claiming to be any kind of computer audio whiz, here's my take on what you're asking:
you need a laptop (or mac mini or some other computer...), loaded with software (e.g. pure music) that piggybacks on (for example) your itunes, and a quiet external HD. you'll have to set preferences, like what format to rip to, automatic backup onto a second HD (if you want to be safe), etc.
the single box idea has problems: 1. HD failure results in loss of all your files. 2. you may get better sound if you use the laptop/computer for the playback software and the HD for storage, thus avoiding having the computer getting 'fought over' by two different actions: file retrieval and file playing. you could conceivably skip the second HD, using the computer's HD (if it's big enough - you'll need about 1.5 terabytes for 2K uncompressed CDs) for file storage and the external HD as backup - but some people say you'll sacrifice sound quality.
there are lots of resources on the web like computer audio tutorials and discussion forums. it's a fast-evolving area, with no agreed-upon standards in place yet (e.g. USB, firewire, ethernet - which is 'best' between your HD and your DAC?)
what you want won't cost an arm and a leg (storage is cheap now!) but it won't come in one box.
the Vortexbox has a fan, but its quiet. i've used one for about a year, it does everything on your list. the one caveat for me is the backup function via usb to external hd is slow, but it is incremental.
I use my IMac for the same purpose.
AND it connects wirelessly to my stereo thru and AirPort Express, though if I were doing it today, I'd use an Apple TV.
Then, from the AE to a nice DAC and use an Ipod Touch as the remote.
What could be easier?
Back up to an external HD or online and there 'ya go.
Magfan is right -- You've just described the Mac Mini in your question -- which I use exactly as you have described -- with output via both a USB connection and Airport Express with a TOSlink connection. It does have a fan, but I've never been able to hear it from more than a foot away. And you can use Time Machine to automatically back up your music collection.
Rdavwhitaker....how much $$$ would this set up cost?
A mac mini fits this bill perfectly.
Yes, but why would you want to waste your time doing the conversions. Best to hang on to the cd's, catalog them and spend your time listening to the music.
I did my initial conversion in the background while surfing the net and reading this forum. It was mostly painless and easy. Two stacks and just pop them in and it does its thing. Now that it is done, I listen to more music than I ever did. More varied to, as it is all at your fingertips. Spin vinyl, your bet! Spin CDs, never again if I can help it...
Yes...check out music servers from Olive (look at the 04HD) and Sooloos.
A computer and exteranl hard drive. About $500 spent and your done. Can you hear the computer? Not if it is in the next room and just the cables for the monitor and keyboard are in the listening room. Heck, you can even put the computer inside a box or cabinet and keep it silent.
You are describing a Qsonix or a Sooloos. The problem is that you are stuck with that software ripping/playback and that hardware.
The Qsonix did a good job fortunately, so I recommend it:
Yes and No. There are tons of options that do what you want, but there is not one that is IT. There are trade offs on all the solutions.
You are looking for Qsonix, Sooloos, Olive, or mac mini (check out mach2music).
The biggest problem is ripping the cds. A couple thousand cds at 6min a cd = 200hr if you rip constantly
This is honestly holding me back a little bit on the whole server idea and I don't really want to add another source. If I'm going server I want to go all the way.
The only thing I have seen to help with ripping are the service offered with the high dollar servers (think olive and Sooloos offer it) or buying a robo ripper and then trying to sell it used when I'm done.
Take a look at the ripstation 7601xdp
Rips to various formats and also does look ups for filenames. Windows only but not hard to borrow a PC just to run your rips and then move to another system.
Consider the Music Vault Diamond. It is exactly as you describe, plus automatically backs up on a seperate drive. Uses an iPad as interface, so you are also provided with something that has a use outside of the audio room.
sounds like a mac mini commercial
On your question about cost -- a Mac Mini new is $695.00, but the internal hard drive in that configuration isn't big enough for your collection. So you're probably looking at a two terabyte external hard drive for your collection, and another one for the Time Machine Backup, adding about $400.00 to the cost, for a total of about $1100.00. If you don't already have a monitor, mouse and keyboard you would have to pick those up as well -- how much that costs depends, of course, on what you buy. If you already have them, great. How much you spend on the USB cable to connect to your DAC could, of course, run from very little, if you get it from a place like Best Buy or Amazon, or a great deal, if you simply must have a cable with the AudioQuest or Shunyata name on it.
If you wanted to go the Airport Express route, I assume you already have a wireless network. An Airport Express is $100.00, and the TOSlink cable, like the USB cable, depends on whether you are okay with a generic cable, which won't exceed $30 to $40, depending on length, or you want something exotic, which can run a couple hundred and up. Bear in mind that you need a mini-TOSlink adapter for one end of the cable to use with the Airport Express.
I would not mess with a used Mac Mini, for all sorts of reasons, and forgive me, fellow A'goners, but I also wouldn't mess with a "souped up" Mac Mini from one of the specialty providers -- don't have anything against them, but just personally I have a hard time believing it is worth the money. But that's just my opinion.
Cambridge Audio Azur 640 H. Everything that you have stated is offered. It doesn't need to be connected to the internet - but it can be. Storage amounts can vary (be changed) and expanded. SPDIF digital output. Can be operated with a computer or TV monitor for onscreen or just via the little window built into the device. Used, about $500 I think. I actually have one, though have moved to a computer based server system.
"The biggest problem is ripping the cds. A couple thousand cds at 6min a cd = 200hr if you rip constantly "
One can do this as they listen to them as well. In either event, they would need to be ripped regardless of what type of server. The cataloging is worth the effort alone.
Thanks to all for the helpful responses. Looks like I'm wandering into a territory that's still being explored -- many possibilities. Thanks again.