Wolf Audio music servers


I recently purchased a Wolf Audio Alpha 2 music server. If you considering purchasing one of these I would be glad to do a write up as to my experience and impressions. This will take me some time so let me know and I will do it this afternoon after I get some projects done.
lwin
Thank you for the offer as I have been looking at Wolf servers as a possible replacement for my Computer/Logitech Touch with EDO system.
Would love to hear your opinion.  I have the NAD M50/M52 combination as a server currently and would love to hear a comparison as to what you've used before the Wolf.
don't want to pop anyone's bubble but from what I hear, a computer is a computer.. and what these audio companies do is take a computer and modify the output audio cards.. if its true or not, I don't know for sure but it makes sense.. how I stream music is thru Ethernet - from my basic unmodified computer running JRiver to my Oppo205 (Modwright mod) .. the Oppo205 does all the work and sounds great.. but I still wonder if getting a dedicated computer for music would be better still.. I be looking forward to your review
A computer is a computer is a computer. Audio streaming does not require much processing power, so even a basic Raspberry Pi will do. There are two qualifications to be made, however. The first is that the more powerful ones necessarily have fans, and that fan noise completely wrecks your noise floor. So get a fanless one, or a very quiet one if you need that very same more powerful computer for other purposes as well.
The second qualification is discussed more often, and it is that internal soundcards rarely are any good, particularly in laptops. Even a very modest Behringer UCA 202 usb DAC will beat just about any inbuilt sound card. So get a decent usb DAC. My personal favourite for affordable basic high quality usb conversion is the ODAC. In your case the Oppo does all this work, and cannot be meaningfully improved upon.
@lwin  Definitely share your experience and impressions of the Wolf Audio server. Looking forward to your write-up.
I am glad to see there is some interest in this unit. I should begin with a disclaimer. I have no affiliation with Wolf Audio. I am just a customer.
For the last 5 years I have been using a custom Asus laptop as my music server. It has Windows 8, I TB solid state drive , I7 chip, 32 GB of ram. It also has J River, Tidal and Roon. The server I purchased from Wolf Audio has a 2TB solid state drive, I7 chip, 32GB ram with I believe Windows 10. I aslo have J River , Roon and Tidal on it so from a spec standpoint both units are very similar.
Before I purchased the server I had a good converstaion with Joe Parvey the owner. He wanted to know about my playback system, internet connection and what I was looking for in capability. Joseph then personally builds your server. I purchased the Alpha 2 which is in the middle of their product line.
Once your server arrives Joseph connects via the internet to download your music and walk you through the operation of your server.Joseph is very patient and persistent. He wants to make sure your server is working right and that you know how to operate it.
When I first tried playing some music the highs were shill and the bass was flabby. I let it play for a day and it was much improved sounding very close in performance to my laptop. One of the nice things about breaking in a server is you don't need to run amps, speakers etc. I ran it for a week 24/7.Since that time I have had several extended listening sessions.
The Alpha 2 is a real thoroughbred. If a disk is poorly recorded it shows no mercy. If a recording is well done it will surprise you with the playback quality.I don't think my laptop is more forgiving, I just think the the Alpha 2 plays at a higher performance level which emphasizes the contrast between good and bad recordings.
The Alpha 2 gets me much closer to to the recording venue. Bass is tighter and more accurate. Instruments and voices are more detailed in the sound stage. Cymbals and pianos have a verisimilitude that is uncanny.On recordings I know very well I am hearing details I never heard before usually it is background information that was present but I wasn't hearing it.
I have no idea why the Alpha 2 sounds better than my laptop of similar specs but I am delighted. My playback system is Cary 845 AE amps,an upgraded Cary SLP 05 preamp, PS Audio DSD dac, Martin Logan Summit speakers as well as Synergistic Research CTS and Atmosphere level 4 cables.
Irwin, hope you don't mind but I have a side question... Did you integrate Tidal with your JRiver ? I ask because I'm not sure how Tidal will work in my setup since my computer does none of the decoding. thx
Hi oem-wheels. My Tidal currently is integrated with Roon but I would like to also be able to run it through J River as well. If I can't figure out how to do this, I am sure Joseph will show me. Before I had Roon , Tidal played through J River on my laptop so it should do the same on yours. Tidal has a free trial so give it a shot. Larry W.
@lwin 

Thanks for sharing your setup, the path to your Wolf server and your findings.

Did you consider any other servers as you researched them prior to going forward with the Wolf? If you did, what led you to choose the Wolf over them?

Also, what connection are you using from the Wolf to your PS Audio DAC?
Hi David-Ten: Yes I did consider other servers but the clincher for me was the level of hands on service that Wolf Audio promised and delivered.I wanted someone who would be available to help me get over any of the inevitable bumps in the road. You just can't beat one on one service especially when you are talking to the person who built your server.
 For connection to my dac I am using a split Lightspeed usb cable. I also have the Bridge II on my PS Audio DSD dac and I use that connection   when I want to listen to MQA files. 
@lwin  +1   Thanks.

I wanted someone who would be available to help me get over any of the inevitable bumps in the road. You just can't beat one on one service especially when you are talking to the person who built your server.

It would be nice if someone with technical chops would explain how a dedicated music server can sound better then a computer that is also used for music.I heard a very distinct improvement and would like to know why and how this came about.
Iwin....   One reason for better sound can be that it is set up to shut down programs that run in Windows in the background that can introduce noise. Another, is the internal cabling on most computers need to be upgraded for the best audio...  But, I am sure Wolf-audio has insight in various ways.   Possibly adding special shielding within the server itself to further drop any noise.
My question for you is...  Can this server be used also for normal web surfing and doing business as usual on the web?
Hi Genez: Thanks for the response. I can download music, access Goggle but as far as I can tell that is about it. To be candid I am just interested in music playback so it probably has computer capabilities that I have not found yet. I did watch as Joseph eliminated a bunch of standard Windows programs.
I’ve recently migrated to a modified Wolf Alpha 2. The A2 runs Gen 7 Kaby Lake  Quad core CPU (HT to 8 cores) on a Gigabyte board. The OS is Windows 10 Pro. There’s a customized internal silent 240W power supply, galvanically isolated USB audio, top of the line SSD (OS and media are on separate drives) and RAM components, plethora of other I/O options (HDMI, USB 3.1/C and USB 3, dual gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, optical, multi-channel mini rca etc). All components have been extensively tested for congruence. The OS/BIOS/source software are optimized. The A2 is fanless, and completely silent. Its case is solid and thick and heavy, exactly what I needed to run off any passing thoughts of jitter etc. @lwin @genez what this adds up to is a fully functioning PC (not just a music server). Keep in mind, the Wolf Audio folks are BUSY. My somewhat informed sense is that you will be seeing Wolf servers and hearing about them more and more. Also, these machines are built to function as multimedia, full-home solutions — audio, video, multi-room, you name it. So, if you’re in the market for an awesome audio source, take a hard look. If you want an awesome audio source AND an awesome everything else, take a hard look. If there’s interest, I can take a shot at writing up how the A2 sounds; and though these things take time for a novice like myself, I’m happy to give some thoughts on how it compares to my dedicated ASUS ZenBook (w/ AudiophileOptimizer), and my micro and the ultra Rendus. Cheers! PS I’m unaffiliated to Wolf, just a fan. 
Rdrockt990 we would enjoy reading your write up on how the Alpha2 sounds and if you can compare to other servers you have had or listened to that would be excellent also. 
@lwin , I too am interested in hearing more about the Wolf servers. I have a question on a slightly different topic. I noticed you use Jriver and Roon. Do you hear any difference in sound quality between the two?
Hi Lancelock. I prefer JRiver to Roon. I think it sounds better but Roon can fool you as to sound quality.I think it plays louder than JRiver . I find navigating the JRiver library is easier. I am debating whether or not to renew Roon next month.
Please forgive me if this post becomes long but people do not seem to realise that "a computer is a computer is a computer" should be swept out with the trash as it has no relevance now in the 21st Century.There is a whole diversity in computers today and what they are suitable for . The hobbyist who wants to build his own can make a system that will sonically blow away ANY laptop or desktop off the shelf. First of all one must be prepared to use a separate Dac to go with your PC as Dacs and sound cards that are integrated in even the most high end motherboards are ridden with noise and jitter. I always advocate a separate computer for music production as then you can get rid of windows programs and apps that do nothing but slow down your pc and cause lots of jitter. Lets take as an as example of my PC which is for music 90% of the time but I also have another hard drive that I boot up for excursions on to Photoshop and the web. My PC for web when only on idle has if I look in the task manager 1630 threads on average active on idle and twice that when programs are running. On the computer I use for music the typical thread value when I am working with Magix Sequoia and rendering music files are 475. These numbers may not seem important to many of you but they are vital in the fight to keep jitter down as I have found over many years of computer music that a computer with very little jitter is a whole lot better sounding than one that has a lot in it and I'm sorry to say that most laptops fall into that category. If you would like more information on jitter reduction then there are programs available to really combat it. I have a lot of those programs on my PC but I won't discuss that at the moment in case some of you feel I am trying to win sales for a certain company. All I will say is that the information is out there if you care to look for it, and a new bespoke computer will really open your eyes and ears when you hear one for the first time.

Hey guys, this is Joe Parvey from Wolf… What a great surprise to find this! I knew that @lwin had started a thread, but it’s been busy here, and I just found it again… This is really gratifying, and to be honest I am humbled by what I’m reading, if someone had told me 4 years ago that my products were being discussed on Audiogon, I might not have believed it. However, a little less than four years ago, my father wanted something pretty cool and very expensive (and a huge lack of features, by our judgement), and I said, ‘a computer is a computer, we’ll build you something at a fraction of the cost.’ I couldn’t have been more wrong - that audition of our first system was an eye opener. It was our sixth system – after several pilgrimages and many phone calls to industry heavyweights, combined with an insane amount of research – that our efforts began to bear fruit. It was a further 3 more system builds before we sold our first Wolf. The fact of the matter is, EVERYTHING matters... there is no silver bullet to achieving Hi-Fi results, the hardware, the software, the case, the vibration dampening, RFI/EMI, etc. all matter. And after that, it must be intuitive and easy to use, and you must be ready to support people from all walks of life, some with no computer experience at all, but desirous of a machine that helps you do whatever you want. Our mission, our team, take all of these must have matters into account, and we are really lucky to have such a smart group of people working towards the same goal.

I didn’t mean to write a book, but I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself and our company to you. Please ask any questions you’d like here in the thread, and I’ll check in every few days. Please also go to the footer of our site to sign up for our newsletter, we are working on our newest one this week.

Thanks!

  • joe

HI Joe it is great to see your posting here. I am going to give you a cream puff question but I am interested in your answer. Without naming names what is different in your servers compared to the competition? 


PS: I have no affiliation with Wolf Audio outside of purchasing one of their  products.
Well, one of the first things I would point out is cost. I was shocked at some of the price points where certain features became available, and I found that highly detrimental to the consumer. When I started the project that would become Wolf, I too was simply a consumer, though with a pretty big tech budget at my day-job. So, I understood Hifi markups, but also the costs and markups in the larger technology field, and thought that the two should meet somewhere in the middle. That is how Wolf has been going up against competitors twice our cost - and winning.
Another difference is the R&D we do before releasing a feature. I really want to include AES & BNC output to our Wolf's - I have two customers waiting to pull the trigger for those outputs - but as it stands, the implementations currently out there in the world today are not consistent, and wont work exactly the same across the various DACs out there. Once we can get them to behave, they'll become available on new systems and as an upgrade to existing Wolfs.
Another benefit of coming from the tech industry is the knowledge and ability to do Wolf IT. Our music backup service is launching this month, allowing customers (and civilians too) to store their music, in the cloud, by the TB. We are working on the pricing structure, wanting to be competitive with the big guys, but without the headaches they give you in what you can and can't do with your own music.
I'll stop here, because I can think of ten other things but don't want to put you guys to sleep. @lwin you know and can speak to the support we offer, our willingness to teach and generally spend time helping our customers understand just what they've got in their Wolf. 



I can attest to the level of personal hands on service that Joe provides that is truly exemplary. I don't know how he finds the time but every time I have had an issue he has been there for me no matter how trivial it may have been.
 I should also add that now that my Alpha 2 is completely broken in there is such a difference in the sound quality between my laptop server and the Wolf it is disconcerting and my laptop was custom built to my specs.
I am putting the forum together on www.wolfaudiosystems.com (and working to speed the site up, please be patient!) where the 'trivial' questions you've asked can be quickly located and answered with screenshots and video. Likewise, I expect my wife to become a bit happier with me, especially at night. But your questions aren't trivial, all directly correlate with your happiness with our product.
All Wolf servers go through a 48Hr burn in period here before shipping, where we push the systems to see if something will break. Still, there is going to be a break in period at your home as well.    Our AXPONA systems are in rotation right now, because we want them as settled as possible, and then a full 24 hour cycle in the rooms for the power supplies to adjust to the flavor of power at the hotel. 
I have just purchased a Wolf Audio Cub to replace/upgrade my SOTM SMS200 and add, of course, a ton of features. Joe is building it as we speak and to say I'm excited would be an understatement. I will be posting impressions once it settles into my system and I've learned my way around it. 
Clarinetmonster we look forward to hearing your impressions on the Cub and Wolf Audio.
Just a quick commendation. At Axpona, the Wolfaudio room featured a Wolf server and Horn system that deserves a Suite for better appreciation. It was shockingly very good despite the poor room conditions. 
Thank you @la45 -  we spent a long Thursday setting the room up and figuring out how to make those massive speakers work in such a small room. Despite the challenges, we were really surprised at how good the room sounded, thanks to the BAT gear,  (my favorite DAC yet!), the Stillpoints Aperture panels and of course the Sadurni's. This system was sensitive, and that could be disastrous to some computer based systems, but our experiences using ZOTL Amps and Sadurni horns helped us identify noise that might never have been heard otherwise. We took those lessons and that experience from NYAS 2016 and tuned and tweaked, from November '16 till now, to create the Red Wolf 2 (RW2). Wolf Audio had been urged to release the RW2 back before Christmas, but we wanted to wait for a more special occasion and AXPONA 2018 was it... a massive show, great room partners, great reception from within the industry, magazine guys, and the public. Also, our presence in other rooms running a Wolf system really created a lot of buzz and awareness for Wolf: the Stillpoints (room 743)  received an Audio Oasis award from Positive Feedback, and this endorsement from Frank Malitz of the Bob Carver Corp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFhBlPwAfxg&t=116s really underscored how far Wolf Audio Systems has come as a company with dependable products and a team ready to help other rooms be successful. Nothing is more stressful than getting to a show and being dead in the water.
Updates please!!
iwin, redrocket990 and clarinetmonster2: you have had your Wolf servers for a while.  I’ve just ordered one.  Please post about your experience thus far. 
Thanks!
popspin
@poppin1 I liked the Alpha 2 so much that I sent it back last week to have it upgraded to the Red Wolf. Once I get it back and broken in I will post my impressions.
Hi Iwin: Good to know.  I am waiting on a RW2.  Moving from an Aurender N100h.  
Very excited to hear it in my system.