Music Server - The Search Begins


I recently upgraded my amp to a Lyngdorf TDAI-3400, which incorporates the highest quality DAC I have owned, so it's gotten me to seriously consider adding a music server to my system.  
I've been mainly playing records through my system for the past 8 years, so I really haven't paid much attention to the digital side of things.  I need some help figuring out what's ideal for my needs.
The main criteria I have:
- Needs to be able to store a lot of music because I have thousands of CDs and downloads I want to store in one place
- Should have its own CD ripper
- Needs to be easy to use. I'd like to be able to navigate it without having to use a phone, tablet or computer all the time
- Must be reliable.  Glitchy, buggy systems will end up being returned.
- Must sound good, but doesn't need to be in the top 5% of its class.  
- Should be under $3K (but willing to consider higher priced if the benefits are really worth it)

Servers that I've been considering include the Cocktail Audio X50D, Sony HAP-Z1ES, BlueSound Vault, Melco N1.  I realize that not all of these on my list include every criteria I listed above, hence my plea for help.  

If you have experience using a server that you really like and that might make sense for me please share your experiences.  Thanks so much!!

Peter

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I'd like to be able to navigate it without having to use a phone, tablet or computer all the time

Peter, can you explain what you mean by the above? Thanks.
I have Sony HAP-Z1ES but don’t use it as a server, just as a hard disk player with USB connection to an external DAC. Only one internal 2.5" SATA HDD/SSD can fit and there’s only 1 USB port. It does support USB hub (USB CD player, external hard disk, and external DAC) but I don’t know if using hub will degrade the USB output to external DAC. The user interface has good ergonomics (the big dial) and nice color screen - you can navigate and perform setup without using phone app. Ripping using Z1ES with connection to Gracenote gives more correct album artwork and song titles compared to Windows PC ripping, but it’s slow if ripping with verification is selected. One of Z1ES strengths is its ability to play gapless for all formats, including DSD.

Since you have thousands of CDs, I suggest you estimate the amount of HDD space required and tracks count since there’s an upper limit on how many tracks can be supported by Z1ES (never published officially, something like 20,000 tracks).
I'm beginning to bore myself, but consider the Innuos server. It sounds great to me and there is a range of price points, I chose the Zenith, which uses an SSD. I've got 2400 + CDs on it so far and 1TB is 86% full. Ripping is fast and very easy. It needs an I pad to control it, but the interface is very user friendly
It I thought that his request of not wanting to use a phone or tablet, etc was reasonably clear..  I take it that he doesn’t want a PC, and that he wants to be able to control it though buttons or touch screens on the unit itsel.
  He can cross Bluesound off his list, since a tablet or phone is essential.  That is the server that I have personal experience with.  Olive would have worked for him, except it didn’t work for anyone.
Cambridge Audio I think makes a server with a touch screen control, but I am not sure if it includes a CD ripper.
i
I had been using Cocktail X12 to feed EmmLab Dac2 with no trouble at all for more than 2 years.
I would say the Bluesound vault2 hits all your marks EXCEPT the control by phone, tablet request.
However the Bluos app is so good and non glitchy ever that I do not consider it a hassle in any sense.
Average rip time for a CD is 7 to 8 minutes, I have never had a single rip issue and with 2tb inbuilt hard drive about 5to6000 cds I would say. It is nice that you can connect an external 2tb usb hard drive and back your collection up just in case....

But for me the Vault2 is a winner on its streaming capabilities.
Tidal, Deezer, Spotify, Radio Paradise, Quboz all at your fingertips in one simple app, Bluos.

Constant updates via Bluesound on both the Vault2 and the Bluos app have also impressed me.

I have had mine for over 18 months and now I do not know what I did before it arrived!

Yes I sound like a broken record on the subject of the Vault2 but if anybody has kept up with my equipment changes you would know for it to be still here after 18 months it has to be special!
@uberwaltz, +1
Bluesound really came out with great products, and their customer service is top notch.
B
Thanks guys for your feedback.
To clarify...
I do NOT mind using a phone or tablet to select and play music, but I also find it nice to still be able to navigate my library when one of these is not available.  Probably my fear is somewhat irrational but somewhat based on poor experiences in the past with this kind of arrangement.  To be honest, the Bluesound Vault is pretty high on my list because a friend of mine has one and likes it.  If it's true that the app works really well with the unit I already feel better about going with something like that.  
I do wish the storage of the Vault was bigger, however.  Does anyone know if adding an external drive to it is a smooth way of expanding storage?  What I mean is, do all the music files from both drives show up in the same library, or are you required to switch between volumes to see the files?  
FYI, I rip my CDs in ALAC format, so they take up more space than MP3, and I also have quite a few hi-res files and plan to add more.  The 1 TB drive on my MacBook Pro is nearly full and I want to keep adding music, so it's really frustrating.  What I'd like is to have enough storage or ability to expand to never have to worry about it.  
Thanks,
Peter
@snackeyp Peter, here is what I used previous to my now more narrowly focused server:

https://www.smallgreencomputer.com/collections/audio-server/products/sonictransporter-ap-roon-server...

It comes in under 3K and is versatile with respect to software interfaces.

You will need to control it via a web browser or if you are using specific player software (the specific app interface).

All the best.
BTW, having two RJ45 ports that are bridged, is a killer feature, should you choose to use it. You will be amazed. : )
OP
As far as I am aware you can only view and play the files that have been ripped to the Vault internal hard drive.
Connecting an external hard drive to it is for backup of your existing internal hard drive only, you cannot access the external hard drive through the Vault to play anything from it.

Now as far as cataloguing of the music on the internal hard drive it could not be easier, it gives you many options of how to look for your music, by artist, album, song etc.
It rarely fails to find the correct metadata for any ripped album, I think I had maybe 4 failures and these were all very old and obscure British bands. This is easily resolved though by the use of a third party program and editing the metadata via your PC where the Vault shows up as a storage unit. Heck this is also by far the quickest way to delete albums as well.... but not to add them I tried! 

And yes I would say the app for the Vault is about as friendly as any app can be on both android and ipad.
It is interesting to me that the Bluesound Vault does not allow for an external HDD for additional music. I have the Node 2 with no ripper or storage and it allows me to access a Western Digital MyCloud NAS drive with the ability to expand my storage. I would think the Vault GUI would allow one to point to a network with additional music, just like my Node 2!
As I said, to my knowledge it does not.
I know when I have my external hard drive connected to it by Usb I cannot see it either via the app or PC.

Maybe there is a workaround?
Bluesound allows external NAS 
my generation one powernode can see and read my NAS with 2,800 CD on it....

i would suggest you get a 4 Bay NAS, start with 2 drives in a RAID and host ROON server on a 128 ssd drive in bay 3

or ROON Odyssey + box and a 2 Bay NAS

or Innouous that can run ROON core and rip


+1 for Innuos.  Very simple to rip cd’s and manage library.  I just started running Roon and love it.  Sound is excellent - and I just have the Zen.
I did an exhaustive search for a music server, including many of the devices on your list.  Ended up purchasing the Innuos Zenith (2TB SSD).  Hands down was the best sounding and easiest to use.  This is real audiophile quality.   Might be able to get a good deal on a demo MKII as the MKIII is coming out any day.  You will not be disappointed.  Good luck with your search!
Alma Audio in SanDiego wants to move the demo, it is 1 TB
but you need a NAS anyway....
unless you feel charmed....... 
I recently bought a Bluesound Vault 2 and am pleasantly surprised how good it is.  Very easy to use once you get the hang of it and so many options for sourcing music.  It's the Squeezebox Touch of it's time, but with greater functionality and sound quality.  It's a steal for a little over $1,000 bucks!  
I wonder if it is only the Bluesound models that do NOT have a built in hard drive that can see external storage.
I cannot on my vault, at least not with it plugged into the usb port of the vault.

Any other Vault owners chime in? Could very well be I am missing something.

Not that I have any other files on any other drive bar an exact copy of what's on the vault but now I am very curious.
You should plan for DSD with an investment of this sort, you would want the door open to the future of digital streaming. 
And apparently you can just add files directly from your PC without needing to rip the CD.

No idea why I stated could not previously as I remember adding a load of my daughter's mp3 files to the library direct at PC.

But I still do not see a Usb drive when plugged in back of the vault so not sure what is going on there. 


https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/articles/200387457-Accessing-the-Bluesound-Vault-s-Internal-...

Innuous sounds interesting.  Any recommended U.S. sellers, online or other?  I'm in Minneapolis and do not believe there are any dealers here.
Hi snackeyp,

Can I ask what your experience has been with the Lyngdorf TDAI-3400? I am especially curious to understand if the room correction is very effective and can help one replace having to do room treatments?

thanks?
Contact Alex at Alma Music and Audio for the Innuos.

https://almaaudio.com/
Fidata server plus Lumin U1 mini streamer. 
IMO, out of all servers mentioned here, I would pick the Auralic Aries over any 1 of them for many reasons.
When going this route, you need to look at:
SQ
functionality- support connected disks or access a NAS/server, integration of Tidal or other streaming services.
front end software - besides Roon, DS Lightning is fantastic

I have been using music servers for over 15 years and I went down the path of the Auralic Aries a few years ago and then went to a much different route for a much better SQ and a more enjoyable listening experience overall late last year. IMO:
never have any kind of server with spinning disks in your audio room and going the SSD route is a waste of money for music.
never use usb into a dac
use Roon for front end, best SQ and music integration of ripped/purchased music and Tidal.
get a dac with a bridge and use Ethernet to connect the dac to a real server.
use a pc/Mac to store to store your ripped/purchased music and keep this server far from your audio room. Set up a RAID over multiple disks for a more fault tolerant system and make sure this server has enough disk to backup your music every hour or every day.
Most music servers don’t allow setting up a RAID nor do they have a means to backup your data and especially, how do you restore the data when a disk fails or you screw up and delete music accidentally 

Uber
  The USB port on the Vault2 is for playback into a usb DAC not for attaching HDs.  I had also tried initially attaching a HD to it.
  I have added a NAS to my system and both my Vault2 and Node2 recognizes it.  I use the Bluesound app to play files from it.  It shows up as a separate folder in the Libraries section of the app.  With a little fiddling you can also transfer the contents of the Vault to the NAS, so all my music shows up on one folder.
  

OP
The Bluesound App does work well, for everything except Classical Music.  For CM, it at least isn’t any worse than iTunes.  If you don’t listen to Classical or Jazz then the app should be fine , but a tablet or phone is absolutely necessary 
mahler123
Thanks for the clarification on the Vault2. I had thought that maybe the USB connection was not intended for accessing external files on a HDD or NAS. I use the BluOs app on my tablet, phone and computer to get to the NAS folder to play external files, just as you do. It is worth noting that Bluesound has it’s own way to recognize a folder with music and metadata. Each folder must have the music files AND a jpg or png image of that (album) or artwork associated with the piece of music labeled cover.jpg. I had to make these folders myself since much of my library consisted of folders with artwork files Bluesound would not recognize. I am sure whatever file folders the Vault2 creates on it’s internal HDD when you rip a CD, it does it automatically. When using a Node 2 that does not automatically create these music files with the correct metadata like the Vault2, one must understand how Bluesound works with files.
https://support1.bluesound.com/hc/en-us/articles/200271926-Why-is-some-of-my-Album-Cover-Art-shown-a...It is good information for anyone thinking of buying a Vault2 that it does indeed allow for as much music you would want to use it for. It is not limited to the internal HDD storage.
Thanks Mahler
Now at least I know I am not going crazy wondering whay it will not see the external hard drive that is connected via usb to the vault.
So with that part my initial thoughts were correct, it is for a hard drive to back files up to only.

As I have no further music files bar what is on my vault and pc it really does not worry me too much now but good to know for future reference and for potential new buyers.
@rsure The TDAI-3400 is really good, and yes, the room correction really does work.  
I started a thread in the amps section that documents some of my experiences so far.  
https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/lyngdorf-tdai-3400

It's still breaking in and keeps improving as it relaxes and opens up.  
It's one of those products that completely defies any conventional thinking about audio gear.  A digital amp is not supposed to sound this good.  FYI, I play mostly vinyl through my system and have only owned tube gear for the past 10 years.  The TDAI-3400 is better than anything I have owned.  Very impressive.
I also own a Lyngdorf 3400. I have a Innuos Zenith Mark III on order that has the functions you require. They make less expensive models too. Being able to control the server via IPad or IPhone is a must for me. The Innuos is also a Roon ready Core and Endpoint. If you’re not familiar with Roon, you should consider a free trial combined with Tidal. You might find you rip only those CDs not available in Tidal—it’s that good sonically. You can attach a portable HD to the Innuos for extra storage or go the NAS route as well. Ideally you attach via Ethernet IMO. The USB output usually allows for highest resolution files to be played, including DSD 
Inuos makes a $999 unit and as several of us have mentioned Alma music in SanDiego
@austinbob what delivery date did they give you for the MKIII?
I have the 2TB Innous Zenith MK2.  It’s a great CD ripper; easy to setup and use; I control it using my iPad Pro or laptop.  Tidal masters and DSD music sounds fantastic.  You can rip to WAV or FLAC, I prefer FLAC.  

Instead of Roon, I use its Logitech Media Server because I have a number of Squeezebox, Raspberry PI DAC, and AirPlay active speaker end-points around the house.

I think you’d be very satisfied with a Zenith.  Since the MK3 is out, you might be able to get a used or demo MK2 at a good price.
I have been using the cocktail x50 for about 1 year now and I am very happy with it.  Excellent interface, up to 12 terabytes of storage, mqa rendering, support for Tidal and Spotify and excellent sound quality overall. I also have the Auralic Aries in another system and I use a NAS drive to communicate with the x50.  Excellent support. 
Wolf Audio makes excellent servers at many performance levels.  My Luna is controllable from an iPad or the large monitor touchscreen attached to the unit.  Support and service is excellent. 
https://wolfaudiosystems.com/
I just went to my friend ,you can go to any competent 
computer  and repair shop ,build you ur own .
for well under $2k you can get a much better setup with all name brand name top parts. I have 3 Western digital Solid state drives ,
spool disc drives which many still use, heat pipe cases which are under $350 N moving parts, no fans a built in ,seperate linearpower supply, or seperate dvd-cd 
drive or both DB power amp to rip your discs ,Excellent program and versitile ,Jrivers24 software to catalog your library,as well as now they offer many radio stations ,several such as                Radio Paradise ,and JRivers that have high quality 24/96 Flac files
for ,No extra money.  Getting back to building 
you get a Top Gifabyte or other great name brand  mother board, intel 5 or 7 processor, Corsair or other top names of memory.it sits on your rack  like an amp .there are Hirez capabilities. None of these $3k serves can even approach  this 
quality for build.  That’s just me ,like with most speakers,and electronic 
unless you have $$ to buy the best on average 25%of the cost 
at most goes into the product, the rest markup and overhead.
That is a fact .i owned and operated a Audiostore for a number 
of years and the stores get over 45% on average for markup.
when you have custom built 60% or more goes into the quality 
of the parts. This is just something to consider. I am convinced 
as in modding premium quality parts Do matter,if  you plan on keeping it . The Dac is seperate Anyway. 
@honeybee2012 I'm hoping to see the Innuos within two weeks. I did preorder, however, so my guess is general release will not be until October or so.

I ordered mine through Tony Barnette at Ellington HiFi. I also bought my Lyngdorf through him and I've been really happy with his service and follow up. http://www.ellingtonhifi.com/

I auditioned one of the very expensive Green Computer servers. Also experimented with dedicated solutions like the Roon Nuc. I'm pretty good with computers and found I could build a PC with the proper hardware and software for MUCH less than any of the boxed solutions that sounded significantly superior. And BTW, it feeds a 2170 via OMG!! USB. I played with the Ethernet solutions, very expensive Ethernet solutions, and ran away from those too to USB. I know, blaspheme. The money wasn't an issue. All decisions were made on perceived performance.
Uber
  The USB port on the Vault2 is for playback into a usb DAC not for attaching HDs.  I had also tried initially attaching a HD to it.
  I have added a NAS to my system and both my Vault2 and Node2 recognizes it.  I use the Bluesound app to play files from it.  It shows up as a separate folder in the Libraries section of the app.  With a little fiddling you can also transfer the contents of the Vault to the NAS, so all my music shows up on one folder.

After perusing the Bluesound help files and actually trying it I can confirm the Vault 2 does indeed recognise and playback music from a local USB drive inserted into the back of the unit. You have to connect it to the second port down not the top USB port. It then shows up under your navigation drawer as usb, click it and you can access the music contained via the folders option.

Between this and accessing NAS ( which I have also now cracked, Win10 setup being the issue) it makes the Bluesound Vault 2 a very powerful and versatile option for the grand sum of $1000 to $1200 depending on what deal you can find.

I have had it 18 months and only just now figured out it can do a lot more than I ever did with it....doh!
I really like my Melco. Very easy to use. You will need a $160 Buffalo Burner which is fast. The nice thing about that is if the burner burns out you don't lose your server. 
There are many reasons the Bluesound system was right for me. First it is, for the most part, budget audio gear. I paid $499 for my Node 2 and it has punched way above my expectations. Secondly, it is very versatile allowing me to listen to my digital library on a NAS or stream music like Tidal, Tidal MQA, Spotify or other services ( I think the Vault 2 would allow the user to play the Vault internal library of music or another external library as an option as well) Third, the customer service has been truly top rate and have helped me with some setup issues. Fourth, Lenbrook and NAD have an experienced team in digital audio and you could go with the higher end NAD systems later. Lastly, my impression is that even though there are many other platform choices at different price points from various high end manufacturers of audio, Bluesound (Lenbrook) have invested alot into making their system work and improve upon it. They seem to work for me, but good luck with the OP’s choice...whichever ecosystem he goes with.
Uber

Holy crap!  I just did the same thing with a usb stick and am playing it through the Vault.  I could have sworn that I had tried that USB port back when I purchased it and that it didn’t work.  Do you think it’s possible that they had a bug that they fixed with a firmware update?
  Glad to see that you could transfer the Vault files, as I have done (I had an IT pro help me, with Bluesound support on speakerphone).
  Do you listen to Internet Radio?  I really like the way that the Bluesound app organizes the choices.  It blows the Tune  In app on Apple away.
  I haven’t figured out how to rip from the Vault and have the files end up directly on the NAS.  The Bluesound tech support wasn’t too keen on helping with that.
  For the money, Bluesound really is a terrific option
Mahler123

I believe you could be right on it having been a bug that has subsequently been resolved. I am also fairly sure I tried both Usb ports early on( purchased in Dec 2016) and neither worked for playback. Add this to the fact that the help article I viewed today was dated Feb 2018.

Additional there is an excellent help article for setting up shared folders on win10 os that even I could follow by Bluesound too.

All in all outstanding customer support IMHO.

Now it will be interesting to see if they bring to the market a more upscale product maybe with a ssd drive and usb output to a DAC.

I would be interested based on present experience.

Uber
NAD, one of the parent companies for Bluesound, has some expensive (around 4K) streamers that use the same BluOS app.  I suspect that they view Bluesound as the budget line and their Master Series as the HE alternative.  I haven’t heard the Master Series, but my sneaking suspicion is that the big improvement over Bluesound would be included DAC.  For those of us that have DACs with the Bluesound—I use the Mytek Manhatten—this would be a useless and costly feature.  At any rate, I don’t see them upgrading Bluesound because it would be to the detriment of the Master Series
I guess I knew but did not know that if you get my drift..lol.
Yes I use a Mytek Brooklyn and I do not think any NAD dac would better that anyway so maybe a moot point