Help on Optimizing Dedicated PC as Music Server

Just finished assembling a PC to be used as a dedicated music server with a minimalist approach. Parts include:

intel i7 4470k 3.5Ghz, MSI Z87-G45 motherboard with(build-in S/pdif output), 2 x 4GB DDR Corsair RAM, Antec Mid tower, 120GB SSD HD for OS, 3TB HD for music storage, Corsair CX500 PS.

Window 7 Pro service pack 1, 64 bit. Have not updated after fresh OS installation. Do I need to?
JRiver ver.19. Gizmo & JRiver for Android Tablet

Here are my concerns:

- should i do/or need to do a Windows update
- should I use JPlay with JRiver
- are there settings that I need to change/perform on the PC to make the most for audio
- any "tweaks" that can be done to lower noise, vibration,...etc to improve performance/SQ
- do I need a sound card

My DAC is a the vulnerable Mark Levinson 360, capable to (24/96kHz). For now I plan to connect directly to motherboard output S/pdif. Will entertain USB/S/pdif converter at a later time.

Thank you.
De6aba60 4e4e 4a09 bd22 572dafa08872norm
Norm, a lot of people have had great success running Windows Server or Server Essentials with Audiophile Optimizer. If you want to stick with Win7 I believe there is a free program that will optimize the settings for music. I think the program is called Fidelizer. I used it before switching to Server and thought it did improve the sound quality. Head over to for more info.

As for JPLAY, I use in in conjunction with Jriver. I found the latest version of JPLAY to improve the sound a bit.
I recommend two references to help optimize your Windows 7 PC for use as a dedicated music server: Sweetwater's Optimization Guide and Genesis - Absolute Fidelity Music Server
As stated above, the best way is to use server 12 with audiophile optimizer to avoid having to make all the changes to your OS. Optimizer does it all .
I will comment on your last question. I have almost the identical system that I built. I was fairly happy with it as is but then decided to get rid of realtek on board sound
drivers and installed an ASUS Xonar essentials STX sound card and used the optical and digital RCA instead. The result was a big improvement over the mobo sound. I also found the optical and RCA digital to be better sound than the USB to DAC. The only problems is in the usage of JRiver and Xonar as some settings are duplicates and some don't play well together but once it was all set up it sounds great.
According to jrivers just go to

Jplay is a Hoax
JRiver recommends that you uninstall Jplay. It adds a layer of sound processing that can degrade sound quality, performance, and stability.

You will achieve the best sound quality with JRiver alone.

The author of the foobar player agrees.

For his blog, Mitchco tested JRiver Media Center and Jplay. Both produce measurably identical bitperfect output.

Archimago also found no benefit.

For a more detailed discussion, please visit the HydrogenAudio Forum.

To protect its customers, JRiver will remove forum posts that discuss Jplay. JRiver will not provide support for Media Center if Jplay is used.
I will give Windows Server + Audiophile optimizer a try at a later time. Like to live with the freshly installed Windows 7 for a while before switching over to make a fair comparison between the two OS. Thank you.

Bill K,
I've changed the settings on my PC using Sweetwater's Optimization Guide. Thank you.

I have an ASUS Xonar STX sound card on hand. I will give that a try. BTW, what USB/Spdif converter(s) have you tried? Thank you.

I will post my findings as I run through all the different parameters and configurations as suggested. Thank you all for your inputs!
Norm, understood. Try out Fidelizer as it also optimizes your OS for better sound quality. I used it for my Win 7 install as well and thought it made some improvements. Not bad for free.
Hi Norm, USB straight out the computer has always been pretty horrid for me.

First, I'd recommend an interface to isolate the USB and reduce USB noise - the iFi iUSB and Schiit Wyrd do similar jobs.

In terms of USB-S/PDIF converters, there are so many out there at the moment, you could take your pick at any price level. A lot may depend on what your ML sounds best with. For USB-RCA, I'd recommend the iFi iLink, for USB-BNC, I'd recommend the Audiophileo, and for USB-AES, I'd recommend the Yellowtec PUC2 Lite, which I currently use with my NAD M51.
Here's something I am working on.

An Intel Celeron NUC with 8GB of RAM and 120GB SSD.

An HD-Plex Linear Power Supply

I'll see if there's enough juice to run my usual DSD2x up sampling. I suspect it might. My old Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz Mini ran that fine and I think the Haswell gen Celeron might even beat that.
Excellent comments by the others. And a nicely chosen build, Norm. (I believe, though, that there is a typo in the CPU part number you indicated; you probably meant i7-4770k).

Regarding whether or not to perform the Windows Updates, assuming you are accessing the internet with the computer at times, if only to download and install the software that has been referred to, I would not do that with an unpatched computer. Windows 7 SP1 is more than 3 years out of date with respect to security patches, and I've seen multiple instances of attempted installations of malicious software from the web pages of even via major and highly reputable sites, in those cases from infected third-party ad servers providing ads on the pages.

Regarding eventual installation of Windows Server, you may want to consider eventually doing that as a dual boot with Windows 7, so you can select and run either one at start-up. Since not much data will be stored on the SSD, I suspect that 120gB should be adequate for both. I would strongly recommend against using Windows built-in multiboot manager, however, for various reasons relating to the fact that it doesn't keep the two installations truly independent. I use Terabyte Unlimited's BootIt BM for multibooting, with excellent results. Also, it includes a partition manager that can resize a Windows partition (among many other features), and it can be purchased as a package with an excellent and inexpensive disk imaging program. No affiliation, other than as a happy customer.

Finally, given that you are using an SSD make sure that scheduled defragmentation is turned off for that drive. On several occasions when I've installed W7 onto an SSD I've found that Windows has by default scheduled a periodic defragmentation, which should not be done for an SSD.

Enjoy! Regards,
-- Al
I dumped jplay as well.
Very good posts above.

I have a similar setup with the following differences: fanless, linear power supply, Paul Pang USB card, Audiophilleo, Windows Server 2012 with Audiophile Optimizer and JRiver only.

I agree with Al those are good parts. The only thing about i7 "k" processors is they dissipate a bit too much power for passive cooling, I believe, unless you drop their Hz down from the Bios. Anyway, for the setup at hand it will work perfectly well. One improvement path, though, is to get rid of rotating parts (motors), such as the fan, and then passive cooling is important. But you could overcome this by using a separate power supply to the fan.

Same thing for the music HDD, as it has a motor too. BTW, it is electrical noise you are after, not the noise you can hear by getting your ear close to the HDD.
FWIW, I connect the HDD thru SATA, but have the HDD outside the PC case, and inside a granite box. Can't tell if it makes a sonic difference, but my fanless case was rather crowded inside and it felt good to have the rotating device with the associated vibrations outside the PC case, which has no moving parts.

Powering the SSD from a battery, such as an Anker E4 has worked great for some. In my case the battery was shutting down because the power my SSD was taking was under the detection threshold for the E4 and it kept shutting down.

A linear power supply is also important. Doesn't need to be super expensive for the improvement to be audible. Mine is just a lab LPS with low ripple. A Hynes would surely be better, but this is good enough for me.

Getting the data from PC to DAC. Most of us use USB, but some prefer other options. Cerrot, who posted here, has been very vocal about his preference of SPDIF out from his [email protected] card. I have not tried it so can't comment. I would venture a general guideline would be not to use your mobo output, be it USB or SPDIF. Aftermarket cards tend to perform better, and I tend to belive powering them independently from the mobo makes a difference. Again, you can use an Anker-type battery. Jitter introduced by the power supply is an issue, and also is the clock precission. You can imagine a $100 mobo is not going to have a super clock...
And then there is the cable...I'm not saying you focus on that now, but keep it in mind for later. If you decide for USB, USB cables make a difference. And so do SPDIF (coax) cables; you'll find significant info about their length. That was a reason I chose an Audiophilleo: it's asynch USB out of the PC and doesn't require an SPDIF cable as it hooks directly to coax-in.

Having talked about all of the above, the biggest impact in sound for me was using Windows Server 2012 in core mode with Audiophile Optimizer. This was not subtle!
You could do a double boot like Al said and try WS2012 for free. Get in touch with AudioPhil, maker of the Optimizer. I think I recall he has a trial version/period or something. In any case, go to his website and download his guide and give it a careful read. He has plenty of good info besides his Optimizer.

I also run JRiver and thought about JPlay. Generally people who use a dual PC setup with JPlay say it sounds a lot better, but I didn't find that consensus on singlePC setups. Plus AudioPhil thought the incremental benefit I would get was marginal, so I decided to focus elsewhere.

It's not the time for me to get into a dual PC setup; setup is complicated enough for me now! And I have the hunch there is more to be gained from digital room correction software than from extracting more with a dual setup.

From my limited experience I would suggest the following pecking order:
1) decide on a way to get your data from PC to DAC, and execute it. This includes aftermarket card, converter (if needed), and cable. This way you will know an opaque interface is not filtering improvements upstream.
2) Try WS2012 and Optimizer
3) get a linear power supply

I believe these will yield the biggest improvement on sound.
Take a peak at Jplaya JCAT. Its a PCI USB 3.0 soundcard thats not crippled by the mobo.
Hi Goulsonc,

The Asus Xonar STX card was installed but wasn't able to get it working properly. Will try again later.

Hi Loftarasa,

Late last night I briefly audition the KingRex UD384 & PSU combo borrowed from a friend. From initial listening, I can't say the UD384 is better or worse compared with connected directly to motherboard. With UD384 sound-stage is more expansive. Floor noise seems higher. My impressions may change with further auditioning.

Hi Doggiehowser,

IMO, the power supply is perhaps the PC's Achilles heel. I don't know much about the HD-Plex Linear PS. Please keep us posted on your progress. I've just ordered a NoFan Cu-180 cooler for the CPU. Expensive, but may be a worthy tweak. Vibration and fan noise emitting off the stock intel fan & cooler can't be good for sound. Further, I can hear the PC fan from my listening position which is annoying. Thank you for your input, Doggiehowser.

Hi Al,

Always a pleasure to read your post. Thanks for catching the typo error.

This PC will not be on line. Other than the internal network to operated Gizmo/JRiver by remote using Android tablet. Great suggestion on the duel boot. Thank you.

Hi Pkoegz & Cerrot,

I really like how JRiver manages my music files. If JRiver will not support M. Center with JPlay, that is a problem for me. Thank you for the heads-up.

you can download the trial version for free and decide for yourself whether it's worth it or not. I do agree with Cerrot regarding using a pci usb soundcard. Paul Pang makes a nice one for $129, which is what I use. It is powered by an Acopian AC/DC linear power supply (5v/1a)
Jriver's announcement of not supporting Jplay is basically meaningless. IOW, JPlay already plugs into Jriver without needing any special Jriver support. Go to jplay's website see how simple it is to install the jplay/jriver interface.I myself don't use JPLay although I've used it with Jriver in the past.

I recommend you visit for other perspectives on using jriver with jplay.
I've read all the disclaimers made by the good folks of jriver regarding jPlay.

Several friend and I have listened critically to jRiver with and without the use of jPlay. The results did not take any magic or audiophile ears to discern. jPlay made an audible improvement in playback that was not subtle at all.

I've heard the difference with a variety of computer setups and DACs. The DACs include the PS Audio PWD, PWD II, Direct Stream, Theta Gen 5a, and Lampizator 5. Computer setups ranged from i3 to i7 with from 4-16gb of RAM, various USB implementations, Asus Audio Essence STX SPDIF out into the above DACs, and the Lampizator USB Transport USB/SPDIF converter, and using Fidelizer or not. All the above used in a variety of high end systems.

In each case jPlay teamed with jRiver was always a significant improvement throughout the audio spectrum.

In my opinion the guys at jRiver either can't hear or they have some how been offended by the guys at jPlay or they somehow think jPlay competes with them (I don't see how since one uses jPlay with jRiver or other playback software. jPlay doesn't replace jRiver at all.) Or maybe because they use the lower case j in their name.

In my experience it's been pretty easy to achieve great sound with computer audio. A PC or Mac can easily rival most ordinary CD players, transports, and turntable setups when paired with a good DAC.
With a few tweaks and a few more dollars spent the PC or Mac system can easily rival the most expensive of the above designs when paired with a DAC equivalent in SQ to a Lampiizator 4 or PS Audio DS.

And then when your entire music collection can be accessed from an iPad or other tablet via great software like jRemote the musical experience becomes even more special!

If one thinks I'm just a digital junkie, I've set up more than my share of Oracles, SOTAs, Linns, Dynavectors, Koetsus, etc. and loved the sound of all of them.
Oh yes. Consult CA. I like those guys but it seems they are good friends of the jRiver folks and pretty much stick to the party line. . .. . JPlay is a waste of time and money.

It is amazing to me that the jRiver people swear there can be no sonic differences in versions of their software yet they apparently work hard to improve the SQ of jRiver itself as it seems to improve quite a bit sonically between versions 17, 18, and 19. But don't say that on the jRiver forum. It will be deleted. Very strange.

Then there is the guy that goes crazy on the CA site and other places comparing bits to bits (not limited to jPlay) and always proves that all digital sounds alike, and that there can't be any sonic differences between players, power cords, PSUs, CPUs, you name it. He really goes out of his way to magnificently prove his point. He just doesn't take the time to listen.

But do download the free jPlay install. If one has listening skills at all and a decent system it is not difficult to hear the improvement. Really all jPlay and the Audio Optimizer, Fidelizer, cPlay, etc, do is shut down various windows services, adjusting how the files are played back via Ram, etc. Nothing magical or hocus pocus. But unlike me and most of us they do know what they are doing and have confirmed their results through their own listening and beta testing teams.

Of course jPlay, does pay may $100 for everyone I get to buy their software . . . . NOT!

I'm in no way affiliated with any of the above companies or any other entity besides myself.

But I have been stumbling through the computer audio world for at least 5 years and have found with really very little effort one can get superb SQ from a PC or MAC that rivals the best transports I've ever had in my system or at heard other friend's homes.

I've owned some very well regarded transports including the ML 31.5, 37, 39, Theta, PWT to name a few. I wouldn't go back to any of them.
So by reading up on this, I'm not sure whether jPlay is a viable option when streaming over ethernet to the PerfectWave bridge?
Jplay doesn't work if you connect ethernet to PerfectWave bridge.

I've had a chance to try some of those great suggestions given above. I like to share my findings. My comments will be based on the highly modified ML No. 37 transport as my point of reference.

My ML No. 360 DAC does not accept USB input, thus the MSI Z87-G45 MOBO was chosen for its S/pdif output connector. Using a Nordost 1.0m 75 ohm Valhalla V1 digital cable connected between the PC and No.360 DAC the SQ was very acceptable with this minimalist setup.

Next, the KingRex UD384 & PSU comb was connected to the USB port via standard computer cable. I thought this setup was worse sounding than the setup above. Floor noise increased and there was more digital sound. I didn't like the sound.

Swapping out the .99cent standard USB cable with the KingRex Unanimous UART USB Y-cable improved SQ by a wide margin. By adding this Y cable, the SQ was better compared with the MOBO S/pdif output by a small margin.

Next, the ASUS Xonar Essence STX sound card was installed. Using the S/pdif output on the Xonar, and connected directly into the No.360 DAC, via Nordost V1 digital cable, the SQ was superb. The soundstage is expansive, dynamics is the best I’ve heard in my system, the music is clear and detailed, and most importantly it has weight. I like the sound.

There is much discrepancy with JPlay. As one poster said, it’s free to try. So I did. I thought in my system JRiver on its own sounds best. To be fair, I didn't fiddle with the setting within JPlay. Whether this makes a difference or not, I don’t know.

Next, I’m waiting to install Window Server 2012 and Audiophile Optimizer.

Thank you all for your inputs & comments.
Great input. Would you say the Xonar SPDIF output sounded better than the mobo USB output? You may want to try some of the audiophile USB cards by Paul Pang (PPA), SoTM, and JCAT. There has been great feedback on all three products. I am going to try the JCAT one shortly.
First impressions of the Celeron NUC + HD Plex Linear PSU is that it improves the sound a fair bit.

I am testing it in one of the demo rooms we have at work now - it's not fully treated so I've found comparisons are usually harder to do in that room. That said, the bass is more prominent with the NUC/HD Plex combo vs the Mac Mini in the same room. NUC is running Win7/JRiver19. Mac is a 2010 Mini running OS X 10.9.4 and JRiver 19. The Mac is capable of converting PCM/DSD to 2xDSD without stuttering but the Celeron isn't (despite being 2 years newer)

The main demo room now has an Atom based music server with a linear power supply internally. So it would be interesting to see how the 2 PC based servers stack against each other. The Atom board IIRC doesn't have multiple DC-DC converters so it should have a better PSU vs the NUC which does require DC-DC conversion.
Tbooo's suggestion to try those USB cards is a good one. However you don't have an USB input in your DAC, so I'd encourage you to try a good SPDIF-to-USB converter. Might you be able to borrow one?

FWIW my DAC doesn't have a USB input either, and I use an Audiophilleo converter and a PPA card. In my setup, the Audiophilleo madea much bigger difference than the PPA card. Not that the latter made a small difference, but the converter made a very large difference. Also FWIW, mine has the PurePower option which makes it an expensive experiment.
Lewinskih01, interesting feedback about the USB converter making the bigger difference. Right now I have the MF Vlink which I know is a weak link in my system. Ive been toying with the idea of upgrading that or just skipping it and getting a new DAC that supports USB. Aside from not having a USB input I have no complaints about my DAC (Luxman D-06 cdp with digital inputs). My DAC does also does not do DSD or supports sample rates above 96khz which I why I am leaning towards replacing the DAC. That being said, even if I do get a USB DAC there is no guarantee its USB input will sound better than its SPDIF input. Decisions decisions....
I added a maple shades 4" platform with the isopads and brass footers under my PC and it actually gave me more air, and allowed me listen deeper into the soundstage. Shortly thereafer, I added a UPS between the power conditioner and computer (APC 1050 VA) an it is giving me more air. Can't under estimate isolation and line conditioning for the computer. The UPS makes sense and is easily a noticable upgrade. The maplshade platform was WELL worth the cost. That one is still making me shake my head. I expected an imprevement but not what I experienced.

I don't know that I can provide a recommendation as I have not heard that many systems/components. But I can engage in discussing. I know that helps me think, so hopefully it helps you too.

Luxman is a big name. I'm not familiar with your CDP, so have no idea how good it sounds. Luxman DA-06 is a top current DAC, but I suspect the "06" denomination doesn't correlate with their "currentness". Right? Otherwise it would seem you want to keep the DAC.

I myself am torn about DSD. My DAC doesn't do it, so don't know what I'm missing. And the answer could well be "not much"!

Then there is the budget aspect. My Audiophilleo with PurePower retailed for $1k. Not insignificant to some, while pocket change for others. But then for $2.3k you can get a Chord Hugo, that is making so many waves in the fora.
One option would be to get a converter and a DAC on trial and listen side by side. Easier said than done. I know that's not an option for me. But is it for you?
Hi Tboooe,

The addition of the ASUS Xonar STX sound card made a huge upgrade over the MOBO Realtek. Unfortunately, the Xonar doesn't offer a USB output, so a direct comparison is not possible. I’m quite happy with what I’m hearing with just the PC + Xonar. Until I get a USB/ Spdif converter, an audiophile USB cards, SOtM, and JCat will not be beneficial at this time.


Hi Doggiehowser,

Today I removed all the fans inside the PC (except the one inside the PS). I installed the NoFan Cr-95c cooler. I also incorporated the Acopian 51212T9 5v/12v linear power supply to the PC. So far, just the Xonar STX sound card is being powered by the Acopian. The improvement is incremental but I like what I hear. Next to get linear power supply VDC are SSD & HHD.


Hi Lewinskih01,

Your Audiophilleo is very well regarded. Going down this path will not be inexpensive. As Tbooose pointed out, installing SOtM, and Jcat will more than likely improve the SQ when using a USB converter. I am undecided whether to retire the ML DAC & Transport combo and get a new DAC with USB and Is2 inputs or keep the ML No. 360 DAC + PC + USB converter.


Hi Cerrot,

Recently I placed a pair of Star Sound Apprentice Platforms under my JL subs, and it made a HUGe difference to SQ. I suspect PC will be no exception. Currently, 4 Michael Green spikes are under the PC.


Next I like to install WS 2012 and do more power supply work inside the PC.
Norm, I'm liking the Acopian power supply's. How many Acopian units do you foresee having to use in the PC (or have you built umbilacles?)? any direction (or experience) there would be appreciated.
Hi Cerrot,

Sorry for the delay response. The Acopian 51212T9 was chosen because of its dual voltages and cost. Here are the specs; output current at 5vdc – 6a, and 2 x 12vdc - 1.2a. I'm using the Corsair PS harness to make my connections to the Acopian PS (only on 5v & 12v rails and just to ASUS sound card for starters). Eventually, I will use Neotech 18awg solid core UP-OCC Cu hook-up wire to make-up some umbilical cords to power the SSD, HHD, and sound card. ClarityCaps 100uf/160v PWA is on order and will migrate there way in to the PC PS. I have absolutely no previous experience in modding PC power supplies or anything that is PC related. I will post my progress and findings.

You might want to take a look at PLEX for server and playback as well. Server and access via web browser is free. Android and Apple player apps are $5 each. Sound quality is top notch, lots of useful features and the "10 foot" user interface design is very appealing and functional. Its a media server capable of delivering hi res files and streaming, so it does video and image libraries as well as audio quite well!
Very cool, Norm. Sounds like a fun project. I actually spoke with the engineer at acpian as I was concerned with voltage drops if I took the PS outside of the puter and introduced an umbilical. Power supply is definitely one of the keys. I also found that keeping away from external hard drives is a big plus. Thanks,
All things mentioned so far improve sound by reduction of
the jitter. you could get reclocker instead and forget
about special computers, playback programs, footers,
platforms etc.

Interesting product Kijanki. I may have to give it try right after my USB converter. Have you used this before?
Tboooe, No, my Benchmark DAC1 has built in reclocker (asynchronous rate converter). External reclocker, on the other hand, allows to use any DAC.

Jitter shows as noise proportional to level of the sound and undetectable without music. There is nothing else that affect DAC's sound, assuming that playback program doesn't modify original file (like upsampling).
Doesn't this device work like a regular asynch USB-to-SPDIF converter? If so, I have an Audiophilleo and there was a definte (and BIG) improvement in sound when I had it sourced from a laptop with USB HDD with music vs. my current fanless server with PPA USB card, linear power supply, etc.
I don't think so - it is just converter. In addition to eliminating jitter coming from computer it also eliminates jitter created by the cable. Reclocker should be placed in very close proximity to DAC and connected to DAC by very short (<1ft) coax to avoid jitter creation in cable between reclocker and the DAC.

My DAC and my source (Airport Express) are both plugged into power conditioner filtered outputs to avoid jitter creation by the noise in system.