My review of the Musica Pristina Virtuoso server

Category: Digital

I have had a Musica Pristina Virtuoso music server for about 2 months at present. See

Previously, I had a Computer Audiophile CAPS2 music server, which used JRiver (and other) software. Over time, I also investigated several other music servers, but found none that I could be comfortable would meet my needs as a classical music listener.

The Musica Pristina Virtuoso has been a major improvement over the CAPS2/JRiver in every respect.

First, the sound is as at least as good as – and usually better than – what I was able to achieve with the best software setup on the CAPS2 (eg, kernel streaming or WASAPI) and JRiver (even with the JPlay plugin).

Second, the capacity of the solid state drive and RAM is such that I never get the “out of storage space or memory” messages that I frequently got with the CAPS2. Now I can play a 7 GB high res download of Mahler’s Third with no problem.

Third, the Musica Pristina software is easier to use than JRiver, and MUCH less prone to bugs. JRiver was endlessly frustrating. JRiver was designed to do a lot of things that audiophiles do not need and, in doing so, became overly complex. Presumably, that is why there were problems with every version upgrade of JRiver. Musica Pristina uses a Foobar interface, but has gone well beyond the Foobar software. From a software and system resources perspective, Musica Pristina is designed much like JPlay – it eliminates as many processes and simplifies so as to gain maximum purity of sound.

Fourth, as a classical listener I found Musica Pristina to be much better suited to my needs than CAPS2/JRiver and other software and servers. With my own file naming system, incorporating composer, genre, and piece in the filename, Musica Pristina allows me to play from the Windows Explorer file structure and avoid the inevitable problems of metadata that simply does not work for classical listeners in many instances. Gone are the days of trying to find a Beethoven piece and learning that the metadata had tagged the piece under “L” for Ludwig, rather than “B” for Beethoven.

Fifth, and most important, the Musica Pristina software (and hardware) support is on an entirely different level than JRiver (and CAPS2). The complexity and frequent problems with JRiver were greatly compounded by the lack of support. The only way to get support was to go on a blog, along with hundreds of other users, and post your question. Thereafter, (if you were lucky) you would get a short – and often incomplete -- answer from the overworked and under-resourced JRiver team. Indeed, in my experience, the JRiver responses avoided the question almost as often as they addressed it. Dare I say that the happiest day of my computer audio life was when I said goodby to JRiver/CAPS2 and went to Musica Pristina.

The contrast of Musica Pristina and CAPS2/JRiver could not be greater in terms of number of problems (very few with Musica Pristina) and the support to set up the system and solve problems. With Musica Pristina, you can talk to a live expert. First, the technical people assisted greatly with determining my needs and the precise configuration I needed before I placed an order. For someone who is not already extremely knowledgeable about computer audio, this is invaluable. Once the computer arrived, it got even better.

The Musica Pristina tech guru, Kevin Welsh, was extremely accommodating and helpful in setting up the system in the manner best suited for my needs. He spent as much time as I needed to assist me and explain the features of their system.

In thirty years of dealing with computers, I can think of only one certainty: even with the best systems, you will have problems at some point. Although the Musica Pristina system is well designed and robust, I did have a few problems – most of which were my doing. And this is where Kevin and Musica Pristina really distinguished itself. Kevin Welsh is perhaps the most knowledgeable computer person I have encountered, and he certainly is the most communicative and helpful of the dozens and dozens of computer people I have had to contact to resolve problems over the years. This fact, in itself, has made the Musica Pristina experience worth the price. If there were a Nobel Prize for computer service, Musica Pristina and Kevin Welsh should get it.

In sum, I was quite frustrated with the limitations and problems of CAPS2 and JRiver. I spent five times as much on my Musica Pristina Virtuoso, but it was worth it. What good does it do to spend $1000 and get limitations and endless problems? To me, it was a better audio investment spending $5000 for the Musica Pristina Virtuoso and getting a great sounding, robust, well-supported music server that should meet my needs for some time.

Incidentally, I should note for the record that I have no connection with Musica Pristina, and have received no consideration for, my review.
Would you be able to give more details about its sound? And your associated equipment , as well?
I agree with you in regard to both sound quality of Musica Pristina Virtuoso player I recently obtained as well as the quality of support from the company too. I will admit that the user interface is so simple and pleasure to use that I did not bother them too much to test limits of their patience.

I feel that "Member Reviews" is more appropriate location for this one(and any other review) but still thank you. Sometimes you feel "alone" in your judgment and its always reassuring to find soul with the same appreciation be it positive or negative (here is clearly, absolutely POSITIVE !!!!).

Great Player !
My system:
Magico V2 speakers
Stealth Dream speaker cables
Electrocompaniet 180 monoblock amps
Stealth Indra V10 XLR interconnects
Ear Acute III Player
Musica Pristina Virtuoso music server
Running Springs Maxim power filter
Kubala Sosna Emotion and Isoclean Autofocus and Dynamic Design power cords
Thanks for this review. I have ordered a Music Vault server from Sound Science. My hope is to receive the same level of service as you have gotten from Musica Pristina.

So I will echo Dob and agree to the the positive reassuring which I now enjoy after reading both of your experiences.
I have described some important property of Musica Pristina Virtuoso in my system: ways to improve ripped and doanloaded music;

Hope its useful....
I have recently published a review of Musica Pristina Virtuoso on other forum but for the sake of this discussion on Audiogon I am taking liberty to repeat some of this review here.

... I listen symphonic and operatic music as well as some rock, blues and jazz. I have a large open room, and I require my system to provide very large dynamic swings, as well as play cello both solo and in concerts (I am a cellist).

The Musica Pristina’s Virtuoso is one of the most musical pieces of audio equipment I have ever owned. It has pace and attack that few can match, let alone even compete with. It excels in clarity, transparency and depth of sound stage. In short the music just flows mesmerizing from the Virtuoso. It is amazing how soon one gets lost in the music and forget the system itself. The Musica Pristina Virtuoso can be listen to for hours on end, there is absolutely no listener fatique whatsoever and that wonderful sonic signature just keeps delivering the music. Regardless of the music you listen to, Virtuoso will retrieve the signal and give you a performance that just cannot be matched.

I brought Virtuoso to a few of my friends systems and we tested it there as well. Immediately, the sound from our familiar records surrounded us with a “rightness” and musically natural impact rarely if ever experienced before. Not in the homes of our friends with good sound systems, not in my listening room, not in any deal show room. This experience was about delicacy, grace and nuance, the capturing of subtle harmonic overtones, the capturing of the flow of the music, and, where appropriate, the demonstration of all of the power contained in a symphonic orchestra playing for all it is worth. The soundstage was solid, layered and dimensional. Instruments were focused, tangible, with body, weight and texture. Most of front ends (digital, turntable, and reel-to-reel tapes) we’ve ever heard have tended to compress and congeal the sound at some point. At this point, the ability to differentiate the instruments, to differentiate the various musical lines, gets lost as the sound becomes congested. Not so with Virtuoso. Same music played from my “CD Transport” (part of $21k SACD Player/DAC) is clearly inferior then played from this music server!

Navigation: much, much easier (yet much more flexible when needed) than any other servers I have tried (Music Vault and CAP 2.0).

Support is exceptional: seven days a week! Kevin is true computer professional (does everything remotely!) and Simon is great with integration and particularly with optimization. I love the fact that company is in constant state of R&D and in constant importation of new software into my server.

Associated Equipment -
Analog: Walker Proscenium turntable. Digital: Esoteric K-01 SACD Player/USB DAC. Amplification: Joule-Electra LA-300 Platinum & Spectron Musician III Mk2 w/all upgardes monoblocks power amps. Speakers: B&W802 Diamond. Power Conditioner – Audience aR12-TSS. Cables mostly by Purist Audio. Vibration control by Still Points ULTRA 5, LPI & ULTRA SS