Check out the Antipodes music server. There is a great write up at digital audio review (John Darko). It won't pass your looks test but if he's to be believed, it's probably one of the best out there now for the money, which is about half your budget. It's virtually plug 'n play.
All the best,
I think the Aurender would be about as close to exactly what you're looking for.. S10 would be a super choice.
Or maybe the new Auralic ARIES.. should be out in May, just get on a list since it's gonna be very popular. Except it does not have on board HDD.. but you'll still need to back up stuff even if you get the Aurender...
In the mean time you're going to need to start ripping your music. I'd recommend getting a Synology DS214Play Nas drive, with 2 Western Digital Red 2tb or 4tb drives.
If you're on a PC get DBpoweramp to rip your CD's if your on a Mac get XLD..
I'll second the recommendation for dBPoweramp for ripping. Moreover, check out the Guide to Ripping CDs at computeraudiophile.com. It will tell you how to set it up once, and thereafter you can completely forget about settings. I follow it to a t and works great.
Apple Mac Mini with Amarra. it sound better monthly with free update for less than $1K.
I just learned of a new company called "Bluesound" that has a sound quality focus and an integrated product line that includes a server device as well as network players, amps, speakers etc. One stop shopping it would appear, similar to Sonos. Pricing does not appear too bad but you do still pay a premium for the integration and convenience out of the box as opposed to setting up one's own music server on a home computer themselves.
Consider instead a Linn or NAIM streamer along with purchase of a Synology or QNAP NAS. These are basically plug and play setup,their only gap is they don't do DSD yet and they should have better future resale than a music server.
Some suggestions to check out for single box solution that rips, stores and plays (I, like you, have no interest in building or messing with computers):
No need to understand computers, no need for a separate NAS or ripper, great setup support and ongoing technical support. All have multiple versions/options within, and most much cheaper than, your budget.
Let us know how you progress and what you find out along the way.
I'm kinda puzzled so far since I no nothing about computers and when contacting some of the brands you metioned, everyone tells you that his solution is the best, the most easy to handle and the most flexible etc.
I thought I will wait for some kind of a shootout between the main brands from an unbiased knowledgable guy but since this area changes rapidly and every day there's a new solution, I think the wait is worthless. My gut feeling tells me that the main differences between those names are not in the "audio" side per se but in the "computer" side meaning - ease of use and upgradability. Any input anyone ?
I wouldn't in anyway claim to be all knowledgeable about music servers. I like the general concept but when I investigated them within the past two years what I saw and read within my budget means simply fell short of my needs and interest.
I am the most average of computer users but I was able, with help from several people on several sites, to get a really efficient and good sounding system using a Mac Mini and peripheral software.
I think you have to be sure you know what you want a system to do for you before making any decisions on equipment. Some of the things I wanted were:
1. I wanted to be able to create, update and maintain a music library. You have to rip CDs, download files, update metadata, add artwork.
2. Of course you want high quality audio playback and flexibility in the ability to integrate the system with your audio system.
3. A user interface was important to me. I am no longer satisfied with the simple play tools of a CD like playback experience. I want a graphic user interface that is well thought out and very functional. I want the ability to display artwork and other information on the music being played possibly on an HDTV but as a minimum on an iPad.
There are many other things that can go into the design and implementation of a music server but to me if any of the components of making it a fully functional device are dependent on another device (a computer) to perform any essential function then it's not a complete product.
I bought a good used PC laptop for $300, stripped it down to just Windows 7 and Chrome, bought jRiver for $50, ripped to flac, set it to play from memory and feed a Wireworld USB cable without using Windows Media Player or Mixer, and go into a Benchmark USB DAC. Amazing what jRiver can do with different media sources, and it sounds much better, to me, than my old Wadia 3200 player going to the Benchmark over 75 ohms. So long CD's.
I prefer separates to minimize the cost of technology obsolesence. To me that means the ideal setup is
1. PC for ripping
2. NAS for storage
3. Streamer for playback, control and digital out
A PC is the last device I want to use for 1-3 combined.. its not hardware built to a dedicated purpose.
Icorem, I understand your confusion. I've been looking at this on and off for a year. I absolutely agree that I would love to see a shootout among servers, but I too believe that will not happen anytime soon. That wait is indeed worthless. It seems that every review simply compares these purpose built servers to basic or even modded pc's and mac's.
Also, while you are correct that each server maker thinks his way is the best way, how is that different from every other audio product, lol? Unfortunately, for guys like you and I, we are simply going to have to pull the trigger based on whatever pitch makes the most sense to us. I know I want a single box solution that rips, stores, and plays back with high convenience, low hassle, and good sound quality. I think that each of these servers can do the job to varying degrees, and the sound quality is probably similar, even if they take different roads to get there. I have various threads on Computer Audiophile, Audio Shark, etc on the topic of these servers, and have followed, read and/or commented on dozens of other threads regarding one or more of these servers. I am no closer to fully understanding which is best than I was last year, so I will make the best decision I can based on my criteria, with the assumption that the sound quality will be reasonably close.
Now, to throw one last wrench into things, there are some variables that may make the server's sound quality less of an issue. First, the BADA USB to SPDIF converter supposedly works like magic, and may take the SQ issue (noise, jitter) off the server's back, requiring less money be spent on a server just to improve SQ (although you WILL be paying 1800 for the BADA). Second, some new dacs, like the Chord dacs and the new PS Audio Direct Stream, supposedly use FPGA chips that again take the SQ onus off the server. I realize you have the DCS, so the latter option is not valid for you, but just sayin...
Once again, unfortunately, unless you or a magazine or a wealthy audiophile decide to test/compare all these servers and variables, we will never know the absolute best path.
Finally, for me, I think I'm down to the Antipodes or the Musica Pristina. Hey, gotta make a decision sometime?
As you know from the above posts, you have many choices.
I like using the MAC computer since it enables me to play my albums and also supports music streaming using Safari. I sometime listen to Pandora, Calm Radio and iTunes Radio in addition to my CDs stored on the LaCie hard drive. Safari provides other streaming options such as Paradise Radio, TuneIn and many more. I decided on the computer route because I wanted the maximum amount of flexibility in my music source selection. The MAC Computer has a very small foot print and disappears when not in use. I looked at single box server solutions and discovered that many of them required an external monitor. For me, I thought the MAC computer was a better choice because of it small size and ease of use. If you are not familiar with MAC, you can attend a free one hour MAC computer class at your Apple Store for your orientation.
I find the MAC computer easy to use and you can also ask another MAC user for help if you needed. This is a big plus if you need help. Another option is your local Apple Store.
I am using the Apple MAC Book Pro Computer 13" with the following configuration:
2.9GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM 2x4GB
128GB Solid State Drive
My MAC is connected to the Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC using the Synergistic Research Active SE USB Cable connected to the Luxman L-590-ax connected to Sonus Faber Olympica II Speakers. All files are in AIFF format (uncompressed) and stored on my external LaCie 3TB d2 USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series Hard Drive.
I am using iTunes for ripping my CD's and everything is working fine. iTunes does a good job of managing my CD library and provides various options for alum selection.
Jriver is nice EXCEPT its database for tagging is limited. They won't even think about using a scraper on freedb.org. SO, if you have unlimited time to fiddle with completing the tagging operation and want to add to the database, have fun. For the money you should be able to use whatever scraper you want. But I won't pay for inflexibility.
Red October is nothing more than Madvr incorporated into the video playback. You can use that with several other front ends. Besides, its free. Several other Audio apps are just as good as Jriver, depending on your needs and tastes.
You can skip the computer. Look at a NAD Masters series vault or something like that which stores files and you can use your Vivaldi dac to play them. No actual computer to mess with to play music. You don't have to know anything about computers or playback software etc. NAD may not do it for for decor though. But their are others out there.
But part of the appeal of integrating a computer with your audio system is to surf around and discover new music. If you're satisfied with your Famous Blue Raincoat and Jazz at the Pawnshop and stuck in that rut then maybe a dedicated server sans computer is the way to go but not for me.
Do yourself a favor, google endpcnoise. Give them a call. I am not computer savvy. No issues. I have the HFX Monster, pretty loaded cost $3400. I use jrivers for my media center software. Takes a little effort but once done easiest set up you can have. If you want a music server you need to use a computer, period. Most flexible system there is. Just make sure you back up all your music on to a separate external drive, easy to do. A little effort goes a LONG way. I see you are in Israel. One of the tech capitals of the world. I would think there is an equivalent there but I do not know. Lots of info on endpcnoise's web site. Part of the fun is the learning.