Music Server format?

I want to acquire a music server. No experience. What format should I use for storing music? WAV, FLAC, AIFF?
Looking at Sony HAP-Z1ES? Any thoughts?
Do I need to convert CD files to different format to copy to computer?
Web site to learn?


I am afraid this is a personal decision, but there are several things to keep in mind. If you start with a recording and convert it, the most you will get in the conversion is the same quality albeit in a different format. If you are not careful in your conversion, your output will be a lesser copy with less information. I say this because there are several youtube videos of geniuses who convert an MP3 music file into ...FLAC or AIFF and then they review the FLAC format as though it would have magically gotten better. It can’t unless you add musical content that isn’t there...

I am using a couple of different music servers, for casual listening I use iTunes. There are 3rd party add-ons (like bit perfect) that allow you to indirectly link to and play higher-res formats like FLAC. For my high-resolution music I use PLEX which is freeware and runs via a browser on your server (I use a Mac Mini). PLEX is accessed by network-connected devices, such as a computer or Tivo or a network player such as Cambridge Audio’s Azur 851N. In the case of the 851N, it connects to PLEX and gets catalog information from the Plex server. When you select a piece to play, the entire music file is downloaded from Plex to the 851N where it is then played from. I prefer this to a hardware/software product because HW products come and they go, but I can always keep my organized music library with or without Plex. I like this approach because I have a basement full of absolute computer and audio gear... ;-)

WAV and AIFF take the most space, so I tend to avoid it.

FLAC and ALAC however are fairly well compressed, so easier to store and put on a portable as is. :)

Honest to god, if your music player sounds different if it plays WAV or FLAC, change it. :)


AIFF on mac and FLAC on PC make the most sense for most people. That's why high rez downloads are in these two formats usually. WAV loses metadata. ALAC isn't readable on some non-apple hardware so when you bring music elsewhere it creates problems. Most decent hardware expects AIFF and FLAC. Some portables FLAC, but not AIFF. Occasionally, a hardware description won't mention AIFF because they didn't pay off Apple for the rights, but if you try it the files will play on the hardware anyway. 
The Sony is okay for a 1 box option. IMHE, server based solutions storing the music files on disks in another room and connecting server via ethernet are the best route. 
Computeraudiophile is the best site for this topic, where many posters have a far higher level of experience on this topic (but not so much as here regarding amps/analog/speakers, etc. Cheers,
Storage is cheap. always rip in AIFF or WAV format. You can always compress files to FLAC or such from there. The Goodwin website gives great accurate info.
True. Seems like any on line music purchase requires you purchase entire album even if you only want three tracks.

As noted above, AIFF on the MAC and FLAC on the PC will produce the best sound quality such they are both uncompressed.   Yes, these formats take the most space on your storage device but storage is very inexpensive.   In my case, I rip my CD's to an external hard drive using the AIFF format (MAC) and copy them to my music server (Aurender N10).   Another option, of course, is to connect your hard drive to your music server.   Please remember to have all source material backed up.   I backup my ripped CD's to two different hard drives.

If you are unclear what format to use, you could rip some CD's using these different formats and listen.  Please take your time making this decision since you do NOT want to have to do it over again using a different format.   The goal is to maximize sound quality so an uncompressed format is the best.

Please verify your album cover art is included in the ripping process so that the cover art gets displayed on your music server.   
Third the concept that FLAC for PC and AIFF for Mac. 

How do I move files from my CDs to computer storage? Do I need to use ripper and delete ending? Someone said those files have cda at end preventing copy to computer? I've mulled idea of buying decent CD player as computer CD player is likely cheap. Could use my new Oppo 105 though?? Oppo would output an analog file I believe? Internal DAC if I understand correctly? 
I prefer buying a Western Dig 4 Terra byte portable and storing there. My home PC is 5 years old.
How do I discern multiple copies of same song? ie Stones Can't Get No Satisfaction five copies from different venues. Should I just color code or number files?
Just don't know what to do about server? Some of these run $16K. Must be some quality in 2-5K range?
Hey @awoof,

You’re asking good questions and you have good timing. You’ll find plenty of choices in your price range. Take your time. I suggest focussing on getting familiar with building your library by starting to rip some cds using your existing PC. There’s plenty of free software that will give you the basic tools you need for ripping, orgainizing, and playback. I suggest the iTunes download from Apple as a start. If you set up the format to lossless, you can move these files to the server, once you get one.

Here’s a good resource to start learning some basics:.

There’s a lot of good info and wisdom on the forum but finding it and sifting through a ton of opinions can be overwhelming at first. It is a great forum so I suggest you become familiar with it.

Ripping is a chore so you will want to avoid having to do it more than once to your collection. ( I am on my second pass. Ugh).

I use a MacMini with a 2TB USB harddrive to hold my 2500 albums or so. I started with iTunes for listening but now I use Roon. I still manage my library using iTunes, XLD, and TagEditor. I rip to AIFF because I am not concerned with storage size and the format is as universal as any I know. Back that library up!

You will enjoy finding the forgotten gems in your library as you rip. I have plenty of "What was I thinking when I bought this?" albums in my collection. But there’s many more that I find and wonder how I could have forgotten how much I liked them.

Good luck.

Thanks. Seems daunting. I did check into computersudiophile but hard to sift.
trying to move to full music file and avoid MP3/MP4 formats or anything that compresses original recorded music.
Like you say, don't want to do process over and over.
So hard to find expertise locally. Relying on on line forum help from those that learned as they go.

thank you again for taking time to reply.

Use Exact Audio copy to rip your CDs to individual tracks. Each song will be a track. EAC is free and will make a bit perfect rip. Verify your rip with the Accurip database to make sure it is error free. Rip your CDs to either wav or Flac. I prefer Flac, They are still lossless but take up less space. Also you can use tags. Since Flac is lossless you can always convert back to wav if you wanted. It is important to get things right the first time. You don’t want to end up ripping twice.

I like to use QuickSFV to make a sfv file. SFV is simple file verification. A track can become corrupt on occasion. It is nice to have a way to check the rip for errors.

Another handy free program is cuetools. You can use cuetools to verify rips in accurip, convert files from one format to another and a lot more.

Back up your rips! If a drive fails and it will, you don’t want to re-rip your CDs. I have copies of all my music files on both my server and another drive.

Good luck. Ripping is a lot of work but it is worth it in the end.

Thanks for the ideas!
What is this software Roon I keep hearing about? Not familiar at all.


By the way, you can build your own linux music server (minus DAC) for around $650 for a 2TB system.  Using Logitech Media Server and Squeezelite you can get iPad/Android support as well.

I use it with a DSD capable DAC and play PCM and DSD just fine. Here's my instructions if you want to roll up your sleeves:
Roon is software subscription ($120 yr) that combines your library with a rich grphics and music database.  It is a player that handles virtually every music file format including high resolution files.  it has powerful yet easy to use features that allow for whole house music systems where different music could be playing ineach room (endpoint) or the same music in every room. Or it could be as simple as running on your laptop with headphones. It can be integrated with a Tidal subscription (10 or 20 mth depending on service). You have hyperlinks between artists, albums, composers with bios and reviews. for more info.

Roon is definitely a high fidelity product meant for listeners who want to get the best out of their hifi investment. But, though sophisticated, it is easy to use.  Very powerful features.  

Roon can help manage your library but youll still need to use another piece of software to rip cds.  The Roon community forum is another excellent resource for help from people who are doing or have done what you want to do. I recommend it and if your pc is ready, give the Roon free two week trial a go. At the very least, join the Roon community and start asking questions there.  Start by describing the size of your collection and what you want your server to do. Looking for a multiroom setup or just a great way to listen to your cds sitting in your listening chair and controlling playback with your phone or pad? See you there.
dBpoweramp has a setting for "uncompressed" flac, which is basically wav with really good metadata. I've used this since it was released for Mac. Highly recommended.
......Seems like any on line music purchase requires you purchase entire album even if you only want three tracks.

Try Chandos and Linn.
They allow purchase of individual tracks in an album. :)
Thanks to all of you for replies. Never knew how helpful these blogs could be. Light years of information.
Still lost but at least some really interesting avenues to try.

When you get the ripping, formats and playback software sorted there's also the computer's operating system to consider. Windows, for one, does hundreds of things in the background that have nothing to do with music playing. "Stripping out" a Windows install can noticeably improve playback sound quality. You can either do this yourself (daunting at the least) or there are commercial products that will do it. Windows Server 2012 R2 seem to be the preferred OS for this.
You can get a dedicated music server that will your CDs and take the PC out of the equation.  Then you will not have to worry about mastering a playback software program such as Roon, J River, etc.
. I use the Bluesound Vault 2.  It costs around $1100.  Pop the CD in, get it ripped to FLAC, stored in it's 2 TB hard drive, and use the App to control from your phone or tablet. It spupports numerous streaming services, has Tune In for Internet Radio, and if you run out of space you can add extra storage.  It has a decent DAC but you can use its digital outputs to connect to the Oppo or another DAC.  It plays high Res files.
Some of the Crutchfield user reviews not terribly complimentary. Not much in guidance for use/setup. No way to delete unwanted rips? Tech support weak?
Will look further into this option though as it sounds promising.

You might also consider the Auralic Altair.  It's a wireless streaming dac, and if you add the optional  hard drive or SSD it becomes a server also.   Auralic uses their own software interface, however it is also Roon ready if you prefer.  With the optional hard drive, it's probably around $2100 to $2200; a little more than the Sony, but more flexible.  I was also thinking about one of the Sony HAPS, but they don't have the ability to stream music.  The one major drawback of the Auralic is at the present time Android devices are not supported for their software, only Apple IOS devices.  Good luck in your search.

Just read the Crutchfield reviews about Bluesound.  I only saw 1 bad one and am guessing that person received a defective unit.  Nothing is perfect but I think it is a high quality product that takes the PC out of the picture 
Spoke with Neal at Sound Science today. Very impressed w

A Bluesound Node 2 replaced my well-appointed Mac mini back in April. I don't miss it one bit (pun?) in my audio system. 
DB power amp IMO is thd best for burning yo a HD and allows a very high quality uncompressed #8 flac file. Very close to wav without all the space .
This is several years old, but I think the advice is still valid.

The TL;DR is use dBpoweramp or some other ripper with AccurateRIP support and rip to FLAC for your archive copy. Feel free to convert to other formats (like MP3, DSD, etc.) in another directory as needed to support your various playback devices.
not daunting if you buy a mac mini, which makes a dandy music server & use iTunes to control everything - it is dirt simple

use a Lossless compression scheme like Apple Lossless, etc.

mp3 is lossy, which means that some of the bits are thrown away -- these are things that are supposedly inaudible, tho many people disagree, so stick with lossless compression for all CDs

you need an external drive to stick the CDs in and you're there
How savvy are you with computers? I have the Sony, and I couldn't be happier. Very easy to use, simple set up, sounds awesome. As for not streaming, it does stream Spotify, which is the best streaming service, in my opinion. 
In my experience, supported by most audiophile gurus I KNOW is very simple and straightforward. Here is all you need to know. Get a Mac Mini as your music server to install via a quality USB cable to a quality DAC. IMHO the best DAC is DirecStream by PS Audio. Best in the world and a fraction the cost of others. Be sure your Mac is flash with no drive (nothing that spins) and use an external drive to store your files. Download AIFF from high res sites or rip CD's to AIFF in iTunes. Most importantly , download Pure Music as your music player. It attaches itself to iTunes and takes over as the default music player without  in anyway disturbing the content North organization of your iTunes library.   
I can't tell you what's "best," but I can tell you what works for me.  First, I have a Netgear 516 NAS, currently with 8 terabytes in RAID for redundancy. The NAS is important, both for expansion and for processor strength.  Most NAS have pitifully underpowered processors.  Shell out the extra cash to have a decent intel processor.  This is important (for me, at least), because I also store my movies on there, and I have Plex Media Server installed, which will transcode the media  to match what you are using. So it will transcode an MKV if you want to play it on your iPad, for example.  It might also transcode a FLAC to play on an Apple product, since Apple does not support FLAC.  You want Plex on the server rather than on a separate computer so that if you are away, you can access the Plex server without having a computer hooked up to it, running Plex and turned on.  All of my music is in FLAC.  It is lossless, and more efficient, size-wise. It does not natively play on iPads, iPhones and through iTunes, if that is an issue.  If it is, use Apple Lossless, which is close to but not identical to the results of FLAC.

Second, you need some way to get it to your music system.  I have a Marantz 8801 which conveniently has an ethernet port to connect it to the network and it will play music directly from the server (but not video).  However, I use a Naim NDX DAC/Streamer, which is a far superior DAC to the Marantz and run the Ethernet cable to the NDX, and analog outputs to the Marantz. FYI, for movies etc., I use a KDLinks 720, which is a great little unit for accessing video (and 5.1 music FYI).  The KDLinks will also play music too, but will allow you to play on the TV screen whatever album art or booklets you have stored with the album.

Third, you need some software to organize your collection. Naim has a free iPhone app that allows you to access your music, and displays album art and information when using a Naim streamer.  Very nice.  I typically use the Naim when listening to music at home, for highest quality.  I also have Plex installed on the server, which is free and works great. Its ability to display album art is relatively limited to one cover at a time, although you can load multiple covers and switch between them.  But it also organizes your video files, tv shows, pictures, whatever else you want it to, so as a media server, it works great.  Plus, accessing your collection from anywhere with an internet connection is simple with the Plex app, so you can take your collection with you anywhere.

There are a lot of different solutions, but mine takes care of everything!
Sony hap-1zes=$2000
macmini+psaudio direcstream=$8000

I second lostebars on using EAC to rip and FLAC as format
Use Exact Audio copy to rip your CDs to individual tracks. Each song will be a track. EAC is free and will make a bit perfect rip. Verify your rip with the Accurip database to make sure it is error free. Rip your CDs to either wav or Flac. I prefer Flac, They are still lossless but take up less space. Also you can use tags. Since Flac is lossless you can always convert back to wav if you wanted. It is important to get things right the first time. 

Can a WAV file from an existing CD be converted to FLAC or is that pointless? Consensus seems to be FLAC is best for PC based music format. I understand that new acquisitions can be FLAC but what about ripping existing CDs?

Thanks a bunch to all the helper that have posted.

Sure, conversion is quite easy. FLAC files are smaller, so more files in same disk space.



+1 dbPoweramp and it has a file converter feature to convert WAV to FLAC or any other conversion you care to do, works great, super easy and great sounding copies.
Let me add something about the player for your "liquid" music.
You can find something pretty much for every budget.
A few options you could look at:

1) <200$
raspberry pi3 plus i2s dac (IQaudIO, HiFiBerry, Audiophonics I-Sabre..) using Moode or Rune or Volumio as software.
You can get a very good quality player for about 110-160$ (depending on the dac you choose)

2) Around 500-550$
Auralic Aries Mini
BlueSound Node 2

3) Around 1000$
Auralic Aries


Congratulations on taking the steps to having a music server. This has the potential to open up your collection to entirely new ways of enjoyment, and allows for the discovery of hidden gems you forgot about. In addition, it might make carrying your collection with you (on a smartphone) a reality.

I agree with the response from a prior poster that you should look at a general-purpose computer rather than a purpose-built music server. It is less expensive to use off-the-shelf computer hardware and software, and allows for maximum flexibility and future-proofing (and not to mention well-established mechanisms for making backups).

I’ve been evolving my media server over the past 15 years, and now have an “entry level” commercial-grade server running Linux. I use FLAC as my lossless format, and I wrote a simple program to automatically create 128k MP3 equivalents of all FLAC music files for use in iTunes, and subsequently for syncing with my iPhone. The lossless data is served using both Logitech Media Server and Plex Media Server, which allows arbitrarily streaming music to virtually anywhere in my house. I back up the data on locally-attached backup volumes, other computers in my home network, and remote offsite locations (Crashplan Central). (Yes – the data is backed up to at least 3 different locations.) It’s slick and works great, but it’s taken years to achieve this.

While Linux represents an excellent bang for the buck (it’s infinitely flexible, very stable, and completely free), it’s not the choice for everyone. I used to work in computers, so I have the necessary background to do this. For most other people, however, I recommend a Windows- or Mac OS – based solution. They will work fine, and most people will be much more familiar with using it.

Here are some of my takes on things you should think about up front to save you some hassle later:

 1)    Music file format. 12 years ago, I switched from WAV to FLAC. I have never looked back. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made, as FLAC files are lossless yet more compact than WAV. Importantly, however, they fully support tagging, so you know what that particular song actually is, and how it fits into your collection, and therefore allows it to be played when you so desire. It’s also the most universal of the tagable lossless formats, supported on a wide variety of computers and devices (with the sole exception of iTunes) FLAC also supports high-resolution files, and many sites, such as Bandcamp and Magnatune, allow downloading music files in FLAC format.

2)   Filesystem structure. Are you going to create directories, etc, to organize your music files, or put them into an application to automatically organize them? (There are pro’s and con’s to each.) Does your software know to avoid putting special characters (such as a slash) in filenames that are disallowed by the particular operating system?

3)   Tagging.

a.     You’ll need to be consistent here. Are you going to make a differentiation between Pop and Rock, for instance? Newgrass vs Bluegrass? Subtypes of Jazz? (Smooth Jazz, vocals, instrumental, etc). Rap vs Hip Hop? Ambient vs electronica?

b.     Cover art. I’ve come to standardize on 600x600 pixel jpg files. iTunes (at least versions in the past) sometimes had a problem with large image files, so I scale all of those images down to 600x600 in Photoshop before adding the image to a music file. I feel that jpg is probably the most universal image format, and 99% of the cover art images you download form the Internet are already in that format.

c.     Unicode support for accented characters, etc. Although my Linux-based programs had no problems using characters outside of American English, importing them into iTunes was always problematic. So now I tend to omit accented and special characters.

d.     Compilation albums. Are you going to tag each music file with the actual artist, and then set the Album Artist to something like “Various Artists”? (That’s my recommendation, actually.)

e.     Classical music. Oh goodness, where do I even begin here? Are you going to assign the composer to the Artist tag (since it’s more universally supported than the Composer tag), and then the soloist and/or orchestra to the Album Artist tag? Or put the soloist in the Artist tag and hope for the best with the Composer tag being recognized? Do you organize the different movements in a piece in a consistent fashion? Do you spell it Rachmaninov or Rachmaninoff? Do you just lump everything into the catch-all genre “Classical” or do you sub-divide them into “Chamber”, “Concerto”, etc? And how do you handle classical complilation albums? (One of the real challenges when it comes to tagging.)

4)   Ripping CD’s. Software like EAC, dbPoweramp, and MediaMonkey can check rips against a database of known rips to assess whether it was successful or whether any of the tracks had errors. (This is especially important when buying used CD’s that have not been well taken care of.) I suggest using them. Do you have a “staging area” where you take newly-ripped music files, and then go over all of their tags to ensure they are consistent with your standards, and then add them to the collection?

5)   High-resolution files. If you download a 24/96 FLAC file, are you able to use it on all of your devices? Do you also have a non-24/96 version (ie, straight Redbook CD) that you want to also keep? If so, how do you tell the difference? (Perhaps adding something like “24/96” to the album name?)

6)   Data integrity. What are you plans for backups? You will need automated backups, as users can’t be trusted to reliably and consistently do this. It needs to be set-and-forget to make it really work, and you should have both local and online (offsite) backups, as they guard against different things. (Local backups defend against accidental deletion, hard drive crash, etc, while offsite backups defend against equipment theft or destruction from a fire, for instance.)

7)   Future upgradeability. This is where using a general-purpose computer will greatly make your life easier. You can probably just add a newer/bigger hard drive, or upgrade the computer in several years to a faster/more capable machine, and have it be a straightforward upgrade.

I know, I know, that sounds like a lot. But the key to this process is consistency and appropriate planning. Ask yourself how you might want to utilize this. Do you want to have it play U2’s Joshua Tree album? Any random country music? Beethoven’s 5th conduced by Leonard Bernstein? Any cello music? Smooth jazz recorded before 1980? All music available in high-resolution format?

Once you delineate how you anticipate using your music collection, this will largely dictate how you tag and lay out your music for your media server.

Don’t fret, however. Having a functional media server loaded with your own music is one of the more rewarding experiences in audio. You can listen to your music anywhere, anytime, however you like. And don’t forget to occasionally tell it to just “have fun” (ie, randomly select any songs without any restrictions). You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.



Thank you Michael for the response. Plenty to think about.
Leaning towards an all-in-one until for simplicity sake but still puzzled by WAV, FLAC, AIFF etc. options? No interest in compressing data. Storage not an issue.
Am concerned that 3-5 years down road will system meet my needs if upgrading needed? Just want to add and subtract not total do over.

read a wiki on WAV, FLAC, AIFF if you don't want to get into sampling theory