music server

Im very close to taking the plunge to a music server to store and play all of my CD collection for either a main system or dedicated headphone system. I dont want to have to be hooked to my computer per se.. but can make occassional connection as needed for upgrades etc.. i see products from Olive and Cambridge that are priced right and i kinow that some outfits like Red Wine / Reference audio mods provide modification packages. I consider myself an audiophile with the quality of sound being important, though not hard core.. music servers make so much sense .. thoughts / recommendations? I undoubtedly will use the server with my headamp senn 650 to start.. then experiment with my 2 channel system.
To be completely free from a PC and have multi room audio, I would recommend the Sonos system. In my opinion, Sonos is the best solution for multi room audio. If you are only concerned with having digital music in one room, there are more cost effective alternatives. Good luck!
The Sonos is a great recommendation, however it has lot of jitter on the output compared to the Squeezebox3. I use it with my Pace-Car reclocker, which takes jitter to inaudible levels. If you want something inexpensive with very good results stock I would recommend the SB3.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
This abstract explores building a low power music server (50 watts) as opposed to a transport. This is not a one step plug and play solution but it is a great guide to what's available. The PC/Server uses a low consumption power supply/mother board/CPU/Memory combination. Next, reduce the operating speed of the CPU, memory and then disable many Windows features that consume power and create EMI in the computer. This is the total reverse of tweeking a computer to increase it's processing power. Lastly, isolate the PC and DAc from each other by using optical output (not metallic coax).
Couldn't agrred more with your nicely put construct Somec. i'm getting serious performance out of an Apple G5 tower configured as a music server connected optically to an Audio Aero Capitle mk 11. Performance has passed the AA transport and there's still room for improvement/tweaking. As a bonus, the convenience of having muisc on a hard drive and selectable over a network is the icing on the cake. I've tried both the Squuezebox and Airport Express, but this is another level, no, a couple of levels of performance higher. I have a feeling PC Audio is going to change high end audio. There's a new player in town, and it's not something you'lle be hearing at your average audio dealer, but maybe your computer dealer might just be looking at more of a margin product and start really selling into the digital lifestyle.
I use the Yamaha CDR-HD1500 attached to a Benchmark DAC. Sounds pretty good to me. I would at least look into the Yamaha, as you maybe happy with it.
Thanks all. My needs are pretty simple.. be able to load all music on a hard drive, hit shuffle,not have to worry about changing a CD, and not succumb to the awful sound of digititis. I see this as to be used primarily in a stand alone system with a Ray Samuels headphone amp and seen 650s.. with possible later migration to my two channel system with tube gear and Duevel loudspeakers. I want as little time spent hooked up to a computer as possible. That why the Olive, Cambridge or even the Yamaha look most interesting to me. I would consider mods or a DAC to improve over stock sound at some point.. but I want to start with a quality product and go from there. 160-250 GB HD would be enough to get me started. I'd consider adding a additional external USB drive once I grow beyond..
How much are you looking to spend? I think the sonos is very useful for casual listening, but the sound is lackluster. I think if you're willing to do some tech stuff to customize your setup, that a mac through external DAC is a pretty sweet setup. Take a look at using a Keyspan TuneView remote to control iTunes, or if you have a bluetooth phone there's salling clicker and the like. If you get a newer mac with Front Row you can just use the included apple remote. I'm running a 1 TB NAS to a mac Mini to a Benchmark DAC 1 (thinking of switching DACs though) and the sound is pretty stellar.
I have the Cambridge 640 and find the following the best features:

Built-in CDP (and a fairly good one at that)
Does not require computer connection to play from its internal hard drive
Allows for uncompressed music storage on its internal hard drive
Able to burn uncompressed CDs within the unit itself
Good system for playlists

When it is connected to your wireless system, it can also play tunes stored on your computer. Additionally, when connected it automatically finds the CD information (ie. song list, etc. . .) which is nice when you are burning discs to the hard drive.

I have found that it is great when I borrow discs from friends (I record the whole disc to the drive). For my own music (which I already own) I have a tendancy to just record to the HD my prefered songs or cuts from a disc. This process is extremely easy.

FYI - I had this system up and running in one hour. I have tried another music server system (cheap, but all computer based) and after a couple of weeks spending time on the support forums for that system, I gave up and sold it.

If you are not the most computer adept person, I recommend the Cambridge.

Sound quality is quite good, better when digital out to a DAC or digital out to my Audio Aero Capitole (which has digital inputs).

Other equipment:

Mark Levinson power amp (summer time)
BAT VK 60 monoblock amps (fall thru spring)
BAT VK 5i pre-amp with bat amps
Cary SLP 2002 pre-amp with ML amp
Audio Aero Capitole CDP normally (using a Prima as a spare while I have the Cap. in for tube changes)
Wilson Duette Speakers
DAC - Kora Hermes (sold recently, already regretting since my Cap. is in the shop the Cambridge sounds better through a DAC)
I think the Sqeezebox 3 would be a good item for you check out based on how you've said you'll be using it. You can have your CDs, etc., on an existing computer and still use the computer for normal computer duties. The SB can be either wireless or wired. I'm using it wirelessly with no problem. It's a very well thought out design - very easy to set up and use. I mostly use it to listen to Sirius and other streaming audio. The only weakness is the D/A but it does have an optical and digtial coax output. The D/A is Burr-Brown which has a reputation for being good. It's average or a little above average for a consumer device D/A. If you wanted it to really sound good and demodulate uncompressed digital from your hard drive, pick up a good DAC to run with it. I think you'd like it. The SB is a well-done device.

regards, David
thanks to all.
I can a refurb Yamaha unit for under 400.00/ I thik regardless I will obtain a good quality DAC to use with whatever I by. I was thinking the mod route, but I think Id like to keep the unit stock and I will get more mileage from a DAC. So Im still looking at Olive, Cambridge or Yamaha unit.. though for price I may start Yamaha. I am fairly computer and audio literate.. just want to do something the easy way for a change :) and keep quality.
I like the Olive solution as it's a single unit, can rip if needed (although a PC is best), can easily transfer files from a PC, is a good transport with digital output. Of course, I will use it with a DAC.

I've been waiting for Olive to get its act together in one respect: a user replaceable hard drive. Now, I realize there is info on the web on doing this yourself but it defeats any warranty, obviously.

Considering that ridiculous capacity (~ 750GB) can be had for ridiculously low money I see no need for a NAS system. A simple one drive USB backup, either connected to the Olive or a PC is all one needs.

Also, consider that you also have all your files already backed up (or in original form, for that matter) on your PC - or at least I do: FLAC on the PC, copy in FLAC or whatever to the Olive and MP3 to an iRiver player. Yes, I do use RAID where it's important: in my PC system, and RAID6 at that as I am rather paranoid here.

When you consider the MTBF of even USB drives, and how long you listen daily to music, there is little chance of failure. If it happens just pop in a backup for cheap money. Yes, I realize you need to reinstall the OS - that's whereyour "computer savvy" comes in.

Finally, Olive also needs a better remote with an LCD display. Their solution is to use a Nokia PDA. Sure, that'll work if you can stand a 3-hour battery life! Considering you're paying $1000+ for a glorified CD player/PC a proper remote is mandatory.
Mimberman - Like I said, dont let the poor sound of the Sonos stop you. With the Pace-Car reclocker it is world-class, inaudible jitter. Best combo of user interface and quality.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Again, I think the Cambridge is a great unit for those that are not highly computer savvy. I also looked at the Olive units (did not listen though) and from what I recall reading, they too, are quite simple to use without requiring too much computer savvy. I cannot comment any more than what I have read on the Olive systems in terms of sound quality (good, bad or otherwise).

I can tell you that my Cambridge is used by everybody in the family, from my wife, my 11 year old son and with his help, my 7 year old daughter. Which may not say much as kids now days are more computer savvy than most of us.
Music Servers for me are the only way to go!

I am using a Red Wine Modded Olive with a Headroom Home Maxed Amp, Northstar M192 Dac and Edition 9 headphones...pure audio bliss for a head-fi.

I will never buy a dedicated CDP. The Modded Olive is a wonderful player and anyone that is thinking of a computer for source should consider this server.