Music Server now bane of my existence

After years of waiting and rendering the landscape of servers as too complex, confusing and basically useless for my purposes, I've delved into the world of a Mojo Audio music server. The Biggest Dog they sell. Now, I've determined I'm technically in over my head and run out of invectives.

I need a "Music Server for Dummies" lexicon and flow chart. Yes, I will contact them this week also.

To my surprise, there is no drive with the new Mini Mac. So I need that. And how will I burn discs for friends? And do I just use the USB out from the server to my USB DAC for optimal playback? Which USB? Or should it be a USB conversion to coaxial? I researched and purchased a 3TB Western Digital hard drive for dedicated backup. Will that suffice for this?

I purchased the Apple wireless keyboard and outboard trac-pad to navigate.

I'm at a crossroads as to continue with predictable brain damage assembling all of the parts or return this and wait again for this industry to collectively simplify the process. I've gone with the MAC so I can easily interface with my iPod pieces. Thank you to all for insight into this gnarly subject.
I try not to use the same interface (eg USB, Firewire, etc) for the connection to the DAC as well as the HDD storage.

For the new Mini, I've had good results with a Thunderbolt GoFlex adaptor with the Seagate GoFlex drive. You do need a TB cable separately.

For the connection to the DAC, use the best one you can. Some older DACs don't have a good USB implementation so an external USB-SPDIF (Berkeley, Bel Canto, Wavelength all make very good ones) would improve the SQ.

If you have a new DAC like the Playback which supports up to 24/384 and DSD over USB, that would be my preferred choice so I'd skip an external USB-SPDIF/coax box.

What this means is USB for audio connection and either Firewire or Thunderbolt for music storage. I expect Mojo would configure the Mac to run on SSD so that is optimized for performance but does mean the HDD will be a bit small for a large library. I currently have over 1.47TB of music in a 3TB drive.

Apple sells an external SuperDrive which is USB powered and does DVD+/-R/RW as well. But you can also get Toshiba/Samsung PC based USB DVD drives that does the same thing for probably less money. I just prefer a USB powered one to minimize the wire count.

That said, I do use a good external DVD drive (a Sony one from a while back) that also has its own power supply when I do ripping. Call me paranoid, I guess. I know others who swear by ripping only with Plextor drives.

Hope this helps.
Doggie, I'm assuming you meant well, but seriously, what the heck does any of that mean? ;)
Celtic66's comments resonated with me -- I was just thinking this evening, as I tracked down a glitch in my music server setup, that the whole music server "thing" is still way too glitch-laden, complicated, unstable, and involves way too much fiddling around. I use a Mac Mini with an outboard CD drive and a USB connection to an outboard DAC, and I have to troubleshoot SOMETHING about once every two days. I have tried all the major music server software packages for the Mac, including both those that integrate with iTunes and those that don't. I have used hard-wired Ethermet connections, the aforesaid USB, coax, toslink and wi-fi. I have downloaded music In a variety of formats and resolutions. And still the damn thing isn't truly stable and reliable. Sooner or later someone, somewhere, is going to come up with an elegant and reliable solution, but it hasn't happened yet. Or at least I haven't encountered it. And heaven knows I've been looking.
I've found Audirvana to be the most stable of the lot. I also try not to update itunes until I am sure the developer of (Audirvana or Puremusic or Amarra) has fixed any possible issues/tested the new build of itunes.

Timrhu, my post does require some understanding of the interfaces and acronyms used in DAC technology.

TB - thunderbolt
DSD - codec used for SACD aka Direct Stream Digital which uses single bit sampled at very high frequencies (MHz instead of kHz)
GoFlex is a range of hard disks from Seagate that allow you to change the interface to the computer from USB to Firewire (FW), Thunderbolt or even eSATA

USB-SPDIF boxes are external boxes that provide a way for your computer to talk to a DAC, particularly a legacy one that has no way of talking to your computer otherwise. It provides usually a SPDIF (coax/optical/BNC) to the DAC.

If you need any more help beyond that, perhaps computer audio shouldn't be something in your radar :)
My disappointment was with the low computational power of the mac mini. Using a VNC connection (VNC server capability built in to the Mac Mini - use something on a laptop like GTK VNC Viewer on Linux, or Chicken of the VNC on an apple laptop as the client) the response is b.a.d.

You have to be patient. Give a command and wait.

I have also switched to Clementine as the music server as it allows me to point to media locations rather than a single library. This way I can plug in multiple USB drives and point to them all and they all show up in my music library.

If using a DAC from your MAC Mini - I can't recommend enough the sonic benefit of a USB to SPDIF converter and then plug in to your DAC's SPDIF input instead of the USB. There is too much they've screwed up on the USB interface of DACs to allow that in between.

The benefit of creating a playlist (genre=jazz for instance) and having the player on shuffle is fantastic. Allows you to listen to all your stuff randomly and you will be surprised at stuff you like but didn't know you had. My buddy ripped all his 2000 CDs and gave them all away.

BE SURE TO RIP TO LOSSLESS FORMAT!!! FLAC best, ALAC OK but a pain for the rest of the computer world.

Windows seems to have the best high sample rate players (for free to boot). Wish there were on Linux. If they were - I'd put Linux on my mac server and be done with Apple's BS.
Here I am typing this running screen sharing on a 2011 MacBook Air remote
controlling a 2009 MacBook Pro (quite ancient) over wifi (on the MBA) and
wired (to the MBP) and it still works remarkably well.

It is a bit slow if you are running a full HD and communicating over wifi for
both but that would be due to the slowness of wifi rather than the OS
Dogglehowser - what screen resolutions are you using? I agree that when I use my linux laptop wired to the network (Mac mini - brand new and on the wireless) things are better. But the ipad and mac mini combo is very frustrating. When you say screen sharing - are you using third party software? Or a VNC server/client? Thanks for any useful tips.

I use MochaVNC on the iPad but I suspect the speed on that has to do with the inadequacy of the iPad's hardware. The MBP/MBAs do a decent job even over wifi talking to the Mini which is connected over wired

FWIW, I don't use VNC on the Mini to play music but only the occasional setup/upgrade/system housekeeping. I use Remote to play.
Thanks for the warning. I plan to steer clear of this technology for the time being.
This thread was fascinating. I have been considering a Mac Mini to use as a music server because I wanted to try hi Rez files. I heard they can sound great. Based on this I will be staying with my Sonos or CD player setup for a while longer when listening to digital.

After reading this it makes setting up a vinyl playback system sound very easy and I will keep the turntable for serious listening.
I'm with Jburidan on this one, always have been actually. Development of PC audio is on a constant rise with the positive benefits of improvement and the negative detraction of obsolescence of what you just bought not 3 months ago.

There is an attraction of knowing how to implement it and the rewards one gets when successful but there is no standardization or even agreement as to what sounds best, let alone works best. Then there is the need for constant, or at least, periodic adjustments. It's not in the least reassuring when I read of someone who has a high level of expertise in PC audio bragging about how nothing's gone wrong for the last half year.

If and when PC audio leaves the realm of the PC and is becomes just as foolproof as inserting a CD into a CDP and pushing a button, I'm not going to be part of the advance movement of this side of audio. I've neither the time, skill and patience. One glitch or hangup that requires a reboot, reflash or kick in the CPU gives me the shudders. Call me a PC Luddite and I'll happily wear the moniker. :-)

I salute those who go before me and brave the elements as they perfect this medium and will continue to read up and watch, from afar.

All the best,
You should definitelyp try hi res, sounds amazing. My issue is evidently caused by poor network speed on wireless Mac mini. Plan on trying dedicated wireless ntwk for audio to improve response.
I don't disagree that setting up a music server optimally does take some tweaking and it helps if you are already familiar with how they work.

Mach2Music has a blog with sections on optimizing the OS for music playback.

FWIW, getting a Mini to play music isn't difficult. But you can tweak the system to get more out.
No noise - +1. Well said.

Computer audio is certainly the future but it isn't quite the present.
Some of you remind of Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes" -- "I know nothing!" And you're so proud of it too.
That was very well stated and certainly a number of others share your perspective. At this point there`re still too many glitches,gremlims,failures and lack of standardization.This genre is a work in progress and lacking reliability,consistency and ease of set up and function. Its day will evenually come but it is not here presently.
You have to think computer audio is the future, and I do hope the hi rez stuff takes hold in a big enough way to establish itself. I've been planning to start building a server, but I hear too many stories like this. I have limited time. Do I want to spend my time listening to music, or fooling around with glitzy hardware/software issues? If I want frustration, I'll just go to work or start a serious discussion with my wife.

Too bad. Everything I read about hi rez done right gives me the feeling this can be a real step forward. As has been said, we are just not there yet. Until then, products that aim at audiophiles who are also computer geeks== Well, that is going to be a small market.

I have limited time. Do I want to spend my time listening to music, or fooling around with glitzy hardware/software issues? If I want frustration, I'll just go to work or start a serious discussion with my wife.
Too funny.

I use a Mac Mini with 1TB external hard drive to store music. Normally play it back through a PS Audio DLIII with a Monarchy Audio Super DIP in between. Sometimes stream to Apple tvs in various rooms.
Files are ripped with XLD to ensure bit perfect copies. Playback is just fine through itunes.
This was not too difficult to set up, and I am pretty much computer illiterate. Oh yeah, and this setup cost me just over $1k.
Actually, setting up the Mac to play music isn't difficult and once it's setup, when I was paying a lot less money for power, I used to leave my gear on all the time so any time I had a moment, I just used the app to select my music and began playing from my entire library. I spent less time selecting songs and listening vs with my analog system which required a ritual of cleaning :)

The difference is with tweaking. If you want the best performance squeezed out from the computer, Mojo Audio is one way to get about it. You can also do simple stuff like making sure the music storage hard disk is on a different bus/interface from the audio (to the DAC). Again, the setup is only done once and you can benefit from it for a long time.

If you want someone to do the optimization for you, have a look at the Aurender.
I use MacMini with external 1TB Firewire drive transmitting music over Wi-Fi across the room. Music is stored in ALAC and played by Itunes. Computer noise, computer speed, amount of memory, playback program etc don't make any difference in this setup. It required setting up initially but I use it for a long time without any problems. As for the cost - this MacMini is my main computer, so the only cost is Benchmark DAC1 and Airport Express - total about $1k, but since I use Benchmark as a preamp (that would cost >$1k anyway), I consider it free.

Traditional system is simpler, I agree, but computer playback offers more. Not only that I can change CD quickly but it is also much easier to find it. I can sort by artist, composer etc and also create playlists. In addition my computer plays files ripped without errors while CDP interpolates, especially on the less than perfect CDs. CDs or LPs can and will get scratches, but computer files will stay intact forever.
"but computer files will stay intact forever."

You mean they will stay intact forever if you systematically back them up and store the files and hope no freakish glitch affects groups of files or a whole hard drive... Sorry, but this is the sort of overpromising that computer audio needs to avoid. File maintenance remains an issue and requires time and know-how.
06-10-13: Jult52
You mean they will stay intact forever if you systematically back them up and store the files and hope no freakish glitch affects groups of files or a whole hard drive... Sorry, but this is the sort of overpromising that computer audio needs to avoid. File maintenance remains an issue and requires time and know-how.
Jult52 (Threads | Answers | This Thread)

Good point. About 7 years ago my NAS in full RAID 5 configuration died. Luckily the hard drives did not get fried so I was able to recover everything. Now I have to NAS's. One is running RAID 5, then I have another one that mirrors everything from the first with a weekly backup. Now I am thinking about off site/cloud storage. I have way too many songs, pictures, and videos to not take this precaution.
Jult52, Not big problem if it is done right. Raid is not the best way of doing it because in case of controller failure all files can be toast. I keep one backup at home and one at work. It isn't constant backing up as you suggested, because there is no sense to back it up if nothing was added. I back up only after about 20 CDs added to avoid major labor afterwards. Files in backup are perfectly safe since unpowered hard drives tend not to fail. I thing you missed the point. The point was that files will stay intact - always the same quality while CD or LP will start deteriorate getting more and more wear reducing playback quality. You talk about file maintenance? Last time I touched anything was about 6 month ago. On the other hand I can make case for loss of your CDs or LPs - Fire, Theft, Tornado etc. Would it be great to have backup anyway?
Kijanki - You've essentially acknowledged my objection is valid. Look at all the qualifiers you have in your description (and you're clearly quite knowledgeable about the process). I didn't say that computer data backup was impossible - I said it required effort. In other words, it's a pain-in-the-***. And risky.

I agree that CD & LP are imperfect storage mechanisms. So are hard drives. All of them are suboptimal.
Jult52, For me net result is flawless system, 15 min work every 6 months (or less often if I ripped <20 CDs) and no loss of quality over time. It didn't cost me time to rip CDs since I mostly ripped what I listened to (listening and ripping at the same time).

As for the risk - both backups are unused in storage and therefore safe and I cannot end up worse than you are, since I have original CDs. In case of disaster or theft you will loose all you CDs or LPs while I will still have my files. What is safer?

Yes, it might be complicated to set things up properly, but it is the case with setting of any computer. Quite painless and quick with Mac. It is one time job anyway.

Data backup itself is very easy - just connect HD and click on the icon. Backup once a year. If you're really lazy you can use Time Machine, on the Mac, that will do backup for you automatically in the background.
As for the risk - both backups are unused in storage and therefore safe and I cannot end up worse than you are, since I have original CDs. In case of disaster or theft you will loose all you CDs or LPs while I will still have my files. What is safer?

Curious when the last time you checked the back-up hard drives to ensure they are functional?
Timrhu, After backup is done program performs automatic verification. I also check before next backup. At each time I have main HD and two unpowered backups in storage. Whole operation is about 15 min of my time every 6 months.

Server based playback is not a rocket science but requires some computer skills. Perhaps people who don't feel confident should stay with traditional CDP. There is no right or wrong but confidence is very important.
15 minutes!??

How big is your library? My 1.5TB takes me a fair bit of time and that's using Thunderbolt!!

I back up to a RAID 5 NAS and 2 Thunderbolt drives :)
Doggiehowser, Right now about 650GB in ALAC. I stated time I spend connecting, checking disk, starting program and disconnecting. I don't count time when computer is doing backup (few hours) while I'm watching TV. Sometimes I start backup when I go to sleep.

After being away from audio for awhile, I'm thinking of building a system designed around a Mac Mini.

I've been using Macs for graphic design for over 20 years, so the operating system and iTunes were already familiar to me. I've been ripping CDs into Apple Lossless since 2001. However, there was still a learning curve for me on setting up a Mac Mini music server. I can understand if you bought a Mac Mini just for use as a music server after having only used Windows machines for years and finding it frustrating. Anything new and different will be confusing.

I had initially been running EVERYHING on my main Mac Pro that is primarily used for Photoshop. But having Firefox, iTunes, Quicktime, VLC, InDesign and a giant 58GB Photoshop file open and running at the same time is a recipe for disaster.

A few months ago, I bought an HRT Music Streamer II which is an asynchronous USB DAC which I plugged into my NAD receiver that has become the heart of my computer music system. I noticed right away that having many programs open at the same time, along with 7 or 8 eight hard drives was causing weird sounds to emanate form my NHT speakers. Having not restarted my computer for a few days also didn't help. It was then that I decided to buy a Mac Mini and move web surfing, movie viewing and music playback to a separate computer.

So I bought a Mac Mini and hooked the HRT Music Streamer II to it and liked what I heard. But I've noticed that noisy power supplies and a computer that has been "busy and active" can have a profound affect on playback whether it's an NPR news feed, music or a ripped Blu-ray movie I'm playing through VLC. A restart will cure that. But this realization has convinced me that when I do build my main system again I will do it in this manner. Even on this mid-fi computer system I can hear a difference between the MP3s I downloaded from the iTunes Store and the CDS I ripped with Apple Lossless. Listening through headphones or earbuds from the audio output of an iPhone I can't tell the difference, but through the Music Streamer and my integrated NAD it's quite noticeable.

The Mac Mini will handle music only. I will install an SSD [solid state drive] internally in the free HD slot and put my music there. As I have with my current Mac Mini I bought a 16GB memory kit and will do so for the new unit. I bought an M2Tech USB-SPDIF adapter to connect the Mac Mini to my outboard NOS DAC. I am thinking of using the iPad or iPhone app which remotely controls a Mac so I can turn off the monitor if I choose to. I have downloaded and fooled around with the free music app Audirvana. but quite frankly haven't figured why I need it. Does this work with or in place of iTunes?

I rip all my CDs and movies with my Mac Pro and transfer them to my Mac Mini wirelessly via Airport Extreme WiFi and it's pretty fast. This way I have a copy of my music library on two separate computers even before I create the dedicated music system. On top of that I will back a fourth copy up to a stand alone hard drive.

Also, it is easy to duplicate your iTunes library between two computers via WiFi using the "home sharing" and import/export library" functions in iTunes. It works better than synchronizing Firefox between two computers when you have thousands of bookmarks. Home sharing will even transfer all your preferences such as your playlists to the new computer so you don't have to recreate them.

For file storage I don't use RAID 5 arrays anymore. I've had two separate RAID 5s die on me over the last three years losing tons of work. In theory the 5th drive which is a parity drive should save you, but I've had controllers and power supplies destroy my whole silver box of drives. It's a good thing I had copies of my work on separate single drives and 2-drive RAID 0s and RAID 1 set ups. I now use 6 separate 3TB Seagate single drive units for redundant copies and back up of work, movies and music. On an aside, I don't rely on Time Machine for scheduled back ups. Too many Photoshop crashes over the last 15 years have me in the habit of doing them manually while I work. Carbon Copy Cloner or Super Duper are good utilities for cloning and creating back ups.

I took a look at a few websites online on how to set up a system using a Mac Mini and even one on a Windows machine. Many audio manufacturers actually have guides online for setting me up. Here are some that are helpful.

With a computer based system, I like that I have access to all songs in one small place. As I continue to transfer CDs to iTunes I will archive them.

I just need to buy a pair of speakers now for the system I'm building.

Back on the audio merry go round again!
Sounds like you've already grabbed the brass ring. :-)
Have fun and enjoy.

All the best,
I haven't taken the time to read through this thread, as Kijanki has probably already said pretty much anything I would have.

But I noticed cloud storage being mentioned earlier as a possible means of backup, and I just want to point out that it should be kept in mind that if the need ever arises to download an entire large music collection from a cloud backup, the amount of time required will probably be absurd.

For example, if a hard drive containing 1 terabyte of data were to fail, downloading that 1 terabyte via a 15 mbps cable connection would take more than 6 days of 24/7 operation. And possibly much more than that, if the download speed is limited by anything other than the local internet connection.

-- Al
Al, absolutely right, it takes too long. On the other hand, why to even make on line backup when it is already done in NSA. Just ask them for the copy.