Help create my Mac Music Server

• I've just installed a PCI card from M-Audio (Audiophile 2496) that inputs and outputs 24/96 analog data & coax S/PDIF input/output . I have it in my Dual 1.42 GHz PowerPC G4 Deskside (dedicated to this application), running OS-10.5.7. As yet I haven't used it. I intend to insert 2 internal 1 GB drives in a RAID configuration - it will hold up to 4 internal drives (ATA/EIDE). My intention is to build up a HiDef digital library. I intend to transfer my thousands of records by sampling them at 24/96 from a very good vinyl playback system. I intend to sample the output from my $30,000 Audio Note DAC 5, rather than rip them from the CD - I'm hoping this will produce better sound thru the 24/96 DAC than I would get thru a cheaper CD-DAC when I sell my DAC 5. For CD quality (that I would get from ripping my CD's) - I plan on to output the data thru the S/PDIF output on the Audiophile 2496.
I don't know what music library management system to use. iTunes won't hold the 24/96 audio. I also plan to purchase all future music from HD Tracks ( in 24/96 format (FLAC because of it's error correction capabilities for downloads & lossless compression on my HD). I don't know what s/w will convert the FLAC to 24/96 on the fly as I play the music. If I can't find such an on the fly converter, I may have to store them on my HD in the full 24/96 format, which will take up substantially more space.
I don't know for sure yet, but I think my 24/96 M-Audio card will also playback 24 bit/88 kHz as well as 44 & 48 kHz and iPod music. I may be able to come in on the S/PDIF input and go out the 24/96 and have it upsampled as part of the Audiophile 24/96. It may upsample from CD quality on my HD - all unknown as of today.
Any thoughts on any of the above would be appreciated.
Music library/playback server s/w - FLAC convertor - Audiophile 2496 capabilities - ... - all for a Mac - PC is not an option
iTunes does hold 24/96 AIFF files or Apple lossless files ;) A friend of mine used a Alesis to record his vinyl and to create 24/96 files which he plays back on a Mac using iTunes. If you have a Mac I don't see a reason to go for FLAC (unless you want to be able to use them on a PC system as well).For the high-rez files you might want to avoid on the fly conversion as that just created too much additional noise in the Computer.

Also, why not 24/192? Some new DACs like the Weiss DACs can process 24/192 via Firewire.
Some random thoughts about RAID:

Since you are installing two HDs, I assume you are trying to use a RAID-1 mirror set for high availability. RAID is designed for mission critical applications which require zero down time. In order to achieve that, some compromises must be made elsewhere. It is my view that, for music server, internal RAID is not only over killed but also a wrong solution. You might be wondering why, there are many reasons:

1). Unless you have a hardware RAID card built-in, software RAID configured using the Disk Utility is very slow, particularly in write speed which will be cut in half in a RAID-1. You might be thinking that music server will be mostly reading, not writing and therefor write speed is unimportant. That is true, but using RAID doesn't mean you can forgo backup. In the unlikely event that you need to perform a restore, it will take twice as long; not to mention the initial copying of your existing library, which will take twice as long as well.

2). If you have a HD failure, you need to replace the failed HD and let the software to rebuild the mirror set which could take a whole day for a 1T drive. Although you can still access the good HD during rebuild, but for all practical purposes, its performance will be so sluggish that it is virtually unusable until the rebuild is done.

3). The most problematic area in your configuration is that it is not future proofed. G4 is a very old system. ATA/EIDE drive it uses is phasing out. Suppose one of the drive failed a year later, it will be difficult to find a replacement.

4). Also, if the G4 itself failed and you need to replace it with a new model; the only models which accept multiple internal HDs today are either a Mac Pro or a Xserve, neither one accepts ATA/EIDE HD. You will have to buy a ATA/EIDE enclosure and turn an internal HD into an USB external drive in other to move the music library off the EIDE drive. It is doable but cumbersome.

What I am saying is, using software RAID with internal HD in a system as old as a G4 is not a good idea. In case of system or disk failure, you will have to jump through hoops to get the system restored which defeats the purpose of having a RAID, doesn't it?

IMHO, the best solution today is to buy a pair of external HDs, either USB or dual firewire/USB, use one as the primary drive and the second one as spare, put your entire music library on the primary, and replicate the contents of the primary to the spare at the end of everyday or whenever you make a change. You can use a build-in command called rsync to do the replication, no additional software required.

That is exactly what I am using for my iTunes library. I have two 1T MyBook Studio connected to a Mac Mini. In the event my primary drive failed, I simply reconfigure the spare to be the primary and I am back in business. It takes about 5 minutes. If my Mac Mini failed, I can move my HD to any Mac and I will be back in business again in about 5 minutes.
Some random thoughts about playing 24/96 FLAC.

ITunes doesn't play FLAC but it has the best user interface by far. It can be remotely controlled by an iPhone/iPod Touch, that makes it ideal for a headless (no monitor, no keyboard or mouse) media server.

You can convert 24/96 FLAC into any iTunes supported formats (AIFF, WAV, Apple Lossless) using a program called Max. It is very easy to use and it is free.

If you want to play FLAC natively, you can use a free software called Songbird. Songbird is very similar to iTunes but not as polished. It also has a remote control iPhone app but its capability is rather limited when compare with Remote for iTunes. The strength of Songbird is its openness. You can download add-ons to customize it and extend it anyway you like. It also supports and SHOUTcast.

Songbird is supposed to be interoperable with iTunes, meaning that it can import iTunes library and monitor its changes. If a change is made to the iTunes library, Songbird can pick up the change and update its own library. However, I have not been able to get this feature to work.

There is another free program called Play, written by the same developer who wrote Max. Play's user interface is rather primitive and it doesn't have a remote app for iPhone. But it is by far the best sounding player to play 24/96 FLAC. If sound quality is more important than usability to you, make sure you give it a try.

I use iTunes most of the time but when I want to impress my friends, I use Play.
I agree completely with Sidssp's assessment of the G4/RAID plan, as well as his suggestion to use external HD's.

I would add to Sid's excellent post the thought that even if you were to install a hardware RAID card, which might help a bit in some of the areas he mentioned, it would introduce another substantial potential downside. If in the future the RAID card were to fail, and if an identical or similar replacement were no longer available, your music and everything else on the drives would be irretrievable.

-- Al
I have raid on my main computer which is where I either convert or download flac files. Raid it built into the motherboard. It's a Dell box but I wouldn't buy Dell again. They have cut so many corners that everything is cheap (low quality). I would build one.

I built a music server for my Slim Device. I debated long and hard about making it Raid. Since it's running all the time I wanted to save as much power as possible and built this except I used a KPC48 with dual-core. I used a 1 TB WD green drive. The whole thing is supposed to only pull about 40 watts at maximum load. There's a free program called syncback that lets you configure backups however you'd like. It works very well. So in essense I'm mirroring my raid drive on the server in the closet. I decided it was unlikely for all three drives to fail. I'm finding this works very well. I have three computers that are networked with the server. All computers except one are using XP and the other is using Vista. I'm pretty happy with this setup and don't have to worry whether it backed up or not. I access the servier with remote desktop from any of my office computers. Once you set it up it doesn't even ask for your password if you set it up that way.

I know you asked for mac but this is another way of doing it in case anyone is interested.
I am using a Mac Mini with 4gb of RAM using a Firewire 800 cable to an Icy Dock 2 bay RAID enclosure with hardware RAID. It is set up for RAID 1 for mirrored operation. I realize that there are some risks of both drives failing or slow rebuild time but I felt it would be easier to deal with than having to back up on an ongoing basis. The computer sees it as one drive and you never have to deal with it once it is set up. I went with two 1TB WD green enterprise level drives. Not the fastest but plenty fast enough for music with less vibration and very quiet.
Dmailer, I think it's important to realize that RAID 1 doesn't eliminate the need for backups. It protects you only from a hard drive failure. That's it. There is no protection from accidentally deleting files, the filesystem becoming corrupted for some reason, or damage from a virus. You still need backups, even with the RAID, in order to be safe.

If you only have the money for 2 drives, I would advocate using one to backup the other, rather than in RAID. Of course, the best solution is to have 2 in RAID 1, and another one for use as the backup drive.

Michael, your points are well taken. I imagine that I am taking on more risk than going with normal backup. My thoughts were that this is a music only system with no email and minimal internet usage lowering the risk of virus infection. Of course accidently deleting files will have its consequences. I will probably end up getting a 1TB drive to back up as some point.
How about using two 500 or 1 TB drives with acronic digital imaging software to not have problem when you replace down drive.Software costs $50 and would be cheaper than NAS with Raid.?
Thanks for all the valuable input. I've been out of the loop for awhile - foreclosure & stuff like that.
Back to Mac Music Server: As a result of your input, my plans are now:
Mac Mini - 2 USB/Firewire HDs - one being used to backup the other.
Using iTunes for music organizer.

I was planning on playing music from the library through the PCI card which up-samples to 96/24 - but this only runs on my dual PPC desktop with a PCI slot. Is there any way to use this PCI card with the Mac Mini - like a PCI chassis that plugs into the Mini?

What are some of the other options of playing 96/24 (and other sample rates [up-sampled]) using the Mini?

At 96 khz sample rates - I would expect the USB jitter to be a problem - what has been your experience when coming out the USB port?
What are the other options of coming off the Mini?

I don't see anything wrong with using CD drive for ripping as long as it is bit perfect copy (use MAX in CDParanoia "do not allow to skip" mode). I would also store bit perfect copy on the server and allow DAC to upsample instead (if necessary). DACs and formats might change but initial info will stay intact (and will occupy less disk space). My Benchmark DAC1, for instance, upsamples everything and it would not matter if data is already upsampled or not.

Raid doesn't offer full protection - better choice would be extrenal Firewire drive for music (I use ALAC) with another Firewire drive set-up as Time Machine taking snapshots of system and server drive (best incremental backup). Turn this drive ON only for incremental snapshots (that will happen automatically after turning drive on). Unpowered drive cannot fail or catch the virus. It is also easy to recover everything from Time Machine drive in case of main drive or system failure (standard MAC format).