High quality music server on the cheap...sort of

I bought a cheapo HP computer with Vista Basic. Ripped all my music with Media Monkey as .wav files. I've got 40,000+ tracks that take up about 1.5 TB on a Glyph professional 2 TB drive. I have dedicated power lines running to my gear so the computer and the hard drive are on their own circuit.

itunes is not up to the task of handling a large library of .wav files and will not let you add album artwork to .wav files. Media monkey is very smooth in handling music but will only work on a PC.

Output of the HP is via USB into a Benchmark DAC then into my ARC Ref 1. I have an old NEC 17" LCD computer monitor sitting on the floor that displays the album art full screen and changes with each song. I use the new apple bluetooth keyboard as my "remote" for the system. It works nicely with my PC.

I am a vinyl guy with a VPI TNT setup and have never found a CD player that I've liked but I can't stop listening to my little "server" setup. On well recorded/mastered CD's there is real music coming out of my computer! The Benchmark has gotten great reviews and it certainly is delivering in my system. I am going to get their ADC to convert some LP's.

So for around 3k you can listen to your entire CD library (I have about 3000+ CD's) as .wav files along with a nice visual display. I did have some issues ripping in MM but managed to get all my music onto the Glyph after a month of heavy lifting.

I also have a Sonos system but prefer the "hardwired" approach in my listening room.
Many ways to setup a harddrive it seems,but once you do,the way/ease of access is just right.I feel the same way about music again just because of that 1 factor,good going,Bob
Well done! I think it's the wave of the future!
Can you describe the issues you had with Media Monkey. I've never used it and would appreciate some insight here.
Also, the Apple website says the Apple bluetooth keyboard requires a Mac and/or Mac OS. Was there anything you had to do to get it to work or did I look at the wrong keyboard?
If you are so inclined, and I sometimes am, it is very nice to be able to easily go from song to song on different albums as the mood strikes.

I didn't see any mention of a backup.

You're going to have another month of heavy lifting in your future without one.

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Nice. Welcome to the club of those enjoying music rather than fiddling with sleeves/jewel cases and feeding the machines like a factory worker.

When I get home I want to relax. From my couch I can select any CD from any of four megachangers and have tracks queued for continuous play. I use a remote keyboard, Mac Mini and an HD TV screen to drive it all. CD changers feed digital to pre amp that does the A to D. All controlled by mouse with distributed IR sensors to send commands to each piece of kit. I've had my setup since 2001 - I'll migrate to a harddrive one of these days - but I really can't be bothered to burn them - as all I do currently is pop in a CD and "inventory" it and I'm ready to go.
VEry nice. Thanks for sharing your music server architecture.

My only question is are the .wav files lossless, in other words are all the bits that can be extracted from the source stored and not compressed in a lossy manner?

If not, and everything is working together as it should, I'd say your golden. I may follow down a similar path sometime soon.

One other thing is to make sure you create a backup of the files on your computer drive periodically to some kind of archivable media in case the disk drive(s) should die unexpectedly. You don't want to have to transfer everything again from scratch in that case, do you?

Also, don't get rid of the source disks used to feed the server. IF all else fails and you lose files, you will still need these, unless you are willing to accept the risk of data file loss otherwise.

The only thing that stops me from going to a server ASAP is that I have a lot of good material on vinyl. I can record these to digital, but the process requires attention to execute and is also time consuming.
Media Monkey would sometimes freeze when I was importing discs. I suspect it is a conflict with my CD-rom drivers but the problem was intermittent so I can't be sure. Considering I loaded about 3000+ discs it wasn't that bad. On playback the program has been rock solid. It does a quick fade out when you change tracks and is very, very smooth in handling songs.

There is no compression if you rip your CD's as .wav files. With storage so cheap there is no reason to degrade the audio by using any kind of compression scheme.

The issue of backing up the music is important however hard drive failures are something that I have seldom experienced.
I do heavy duty uncompressed video editing on FCP that stresses the drives exponentially compared to using them as a music server. Glyph, Caldigit or G-Ray drives are not in the same league as your big box cheapo hard drives just as audiophile gear is not the same as mass market electronics.
Eventually ALL hard drives will fail. It is just a matter of time. I recommend that you put a date on the drive when it is put into service and that after three years you take it out of service. I have backed up my almost 2 TB's of music on another drive and I certainly don't recommend running a server without a backup but the issue of hard drive failures is in my opinion sometimes made out to be a bigger issue than it is. Don't buy cheap drives and don't expect them to run forever and you will be fine.

I listen to a lot of popular music that wasn't recorded very well to begin with. The vinyl version will sound marginal as will the CD but it's all about the music for me. However I was shocked at how good an album like "Jungle Love" by Dr. Lonnie Smith sounded from the "server". It was recorded digitally using recent technology and the Benchmark/computer seemed to wring lots of music out of it. At this point I just can't see investing any serious money into a single disc CD player.
The bluetooth keyboard from Apple will work just fine except of course some of the keys won't function. ie. the volume control. You really don't want to use it anyway since the volume control on MM should be set at maximum. BTW microsoft has solved the nasty K-mixer problem in Vista. It is no longer an issue as it lets the bits pass through without truncating them.
"At this point I just can't see investing any serious money into a single disc CD player. "

Smart move going to the server with Benchmark DAC. I would expect the Benchmark synergizes well with the ARC Ref 1 to produce a musical and nicely detailed sound, no?.

HAven't had time to investigate software for managing music on a server. Will need to check out Media Monkey.
tunes is not up to the task of handling a large library of .wav files and will not let you add album artwork to .wav files.
In what way is it not up to the task?

Regarding uncompressed formats and album artwork, you could go with AIFF.
itunes running on windows constantly crashed and stalled once the library got large. I also don't like their convoluted file system and heaven help you if you have to move your library.
AIFF only works on macs and I don't think you can "tag" the artwork to AIFF files either. Because Apple is in business with the record companies there are many aspects of itunes that are designed to placate them. itunes is a great program for a modest, compressed music collection but it just doesn't hold up when you have tens of thousands of files and hundreds of gigabytes of data.
Thanks for the data point. You are the only person I have ever say that.
Ntscdan I think your situation may be in the minority.

iTunes stores my music in the folder structure Artist - Album - Song so I don't see anything convoluted about that, and I have about 1.5 terabytes of files which it handles with ease. I was up to about 1.3 Terabytes when I switched from a PC to Mac and had no problems with either. If you move your files you can just reload them into a new library.