Your Music Server

This is a hot topic lately. There’s not a week that goes by without a how to question. My idea is one location and a lot of configurations. I feel it would be a big help to anyone wanting to set-up a Music Server.

Tell us about your Music server. Start at the Server/Computer and end up in your pre-amp. How does its sound compare to your other digital sources?

Mine was simple and easy to put together. The material list: From the local Apple Store I bought the following; Airport Extreme, AirPort Express and a AirPort Express Stereo Connection Kit with Monster Cables.

I had a PowerMac G5 in a home office 35 feet from my main rig. I also had an old un-used Audio Alchemy DAC. I installed the AirPort Extreme (wireless card) in my G-5, five-minute job. I plugged in the Airport Express (wireless receiver) into a power strip near my main stereo. Then I used the optical to optical cable in the Connection Kit for the connection to the DAC. I had to get the G-5 manual out for my Mac to configure it for Digital Out. The last step was to set-up the wireless connection in the G-5. I followed the instructions for the Airport Express. The whole project maybe 3 hour to do, which includes driving across town to the Mac store.

I had been using iTunes for burning ripped vinyl and CD’s to disc. ITunes found the new network and added a button for selection of source, computer speakers or stereo room.

How does it sound? Right out of the gate it sounded great. I have since changed the DAC to a CAL Alpha tubed DAC. The sound of the Server w/Alpha is very good but in many ways does not even come close to the music that comes out of my Esoteric DV-50. I use the Music Server when I’m reading or doing things around the house. For the present it will not replace my DV-50 but who know the future.

One more thing, when the microwave oven is being used it interrupters the wireless connection and I have to restart the music.
You can click on my system to see my setup, and even though I use an Airport Express you may be doing yourself a disservice by using one with your DAC. The Altmann has jitter reduction so it shouldn't make any difference, but I would suspect that output from the AE isn't that clean.

I have no trouble with interference and stream it all over the house. Have you tried turning "interference robustness" on and off with the AEs, different multicast rates, different channels, moving the AEs, etc.

Download a freeware program called iStumbler. It displays all networks within range with details on channels used and strengths. Look for other networks on your channel and switch if needed.
"even though I use an Airport Express you may be doing yourself a disservice by using one with your DAC."

Herman, interesting statement. Are you telling me that yours is bigger than mine. Oh I mean better!
I'm telling you that I suspect the jitter specs for an Airport Express are not very good, and that I'm using a DAC with a jitter reduction circuit and, as far as I know, you are not.
All of my music is on an Infrant ReadyNas NV+ NAS with 250gbx4 drives in them configured in RAID 5. I then use the Sonos wireless music system. For my main rig, I use the DAC of the Cary 306 cdp. The sound is pretty good, though not as good as my Cary cdp. I encode in VBR256 using the latest LAME encoder and EAC ripping software. I am not able to use lossless formats becuase I have over 40K songs which would take up way too much space. Overall i am very pleased with the instant access I have to my large music collection, even if the quality is not as good as my cds...
I use Slimserver with a fully RWA modded Squeezebox 3 connected to a MHDT Paradisea tube DAC via cheap glass optical cable in my living room rig. I also use JRiver Media Center with my notebook and an Edirol UA-25 in my bedroom rig. All my CD's were ripped to a Simpletech 160 gig external HD using Itunes and lossless then I discoverecd JRiver. This is still a work in progress and I'm not sure where its headed. Unfortunitely my pc and laptop are down so I'm forced to use my cheap sony DVD player connected to the Paradisea tube dac. With all honesty the DVD player and dac sounds pretty darn good.

I would have to agree with Herman's jitter concerns. I was running a Waveterminal U24 directly into a CAL Alpha (18 bit) dac and then into my Adcom GFP-750 (passive stage). The CAL Alpha was a big improvement over just using the U24's own dac in terms of reducing some of the digital harshness. HOWEVER, I have since picked up a Meridian 518 processor which reportedly has an excellent jitter reduction circuit and also has volume control. So the new chain is lossless FLAC -->U24-->Meridian 518-->CAL Alpha-->Hafler SE-120 amplifier.

I must say that the improvement in sound in this configuration was no subtle change. It is by far the most resolving and detailed, yet analog sounding PC audio configuration I've experienced yet (I've also run an EAD DSP 7000 MK II and Museatex Bitstream dacs in the system). I strongly believe that the underlying problem in my chain was that it was missing a well clocked source - it really made the CAL shine and surpass the EAD and Museatex.

This is all experimental for me and granted, I'm not running the "best" gear in the world. But for now as I wait for technology to mature, I must say that I am quite enjoying my music right now. Hopefully a true one box solution in the near future?

Herman, nice gear by the way.
Tboooe, I have about 38,000 songs (2,800 albums) in Apple Lossless which takes up about 900 gig. FLAC would be about the same. You can buy a Buffalo 2 Terabyte NAS device for about $1,300 which would give you 1.5 terabytes in RAID 5, or add another one terabyte storage unit to the one you have for about $600. Relative to the rest of your system that seems like a small price to go from lossy to lossless, and given the quality of your system it's a shame you are listening to compressed files.

Unfortunately you would have to re-rip.
Herman, good thoughts. I do prefer to use MP3 so I can easily transfer songs to my IPOD and other devices. I also like to have all of the tag info. Unfortunately, FLAC is not that widely adopted by other device manufacturers. I am pretty sure things will change in the future and I am ready to embrace any new format. Re-ripping is not a problem.
Re-ripping is not a problem.

You are kiddin', right? I just started ripping 100 of my 800 CDs and could not imagine doing 40,000 !!!

As for my two music server setups I am right now putting together:

1) Main system:
Macbook 2.0GHz Intel 2Duo (iTunes with files encoded in Apple Lossless)
2 Samsung Spinpoint T133 HD in Macally External Enclosure
Lacie Porsche HD for backup
Wavelength Brick USB DAC
Fi Y pre, Fi Super X, Cain Abby

2) Headphone and media room
Macbook 2.0GHz Intel 2Duo (iTunes with files encoded in Apple Lossless)
2 Samsung Spinpoint T133 HD in Macally External Enclosure
Lacie Porsche HD for backup
Airport Express
Lavry DA10 DAC (also used as headphone amp)
Bottlehead SEX (tube headphone amp)
Sennheiser HD650

Very helpful thread!
restock, LOL...i should have said that I would siimply just use a service that does has taken me 3 years to rip my music collection. Doing it again would cause me to go insane!!!!!
- Sony Vaio running SlimServer 6.5
- USB-attached 500GB hard drive and backup 500GB drive
- About 7000 songs ripped mostly to FLAC using EAC eating up about 165GB
- Laptop cabled to a Linksys Wireless G Access Point
- SlimDevices Squeezebox 3 (wireless; no dropout problems at all)
- Marigo Apparition 5.8 s/pdif coax 1.5m
- Audio Note DAC 1.1 sig
- Audioquest Sky .75m RCA ICs
- Onkyo receiver
- Audioquest Rockefeller speaker cables
- Amphion Argon speakers on Atlantis Reference stands

Pretty simple ultimately, very effective imo.
Tboooe, 40,000 songs must be about 3,000 Cds. Most ripping services I see are about $1 a CD.

Ouch!! are right. Thats another reason why I am going to keep my collection as is for a while until a new encoding technology comes along that blows away mp3 @ vbr 256. For now, I will use my Cary 306 to listen critically.
I have about 300 cd's on a G5 Mac, it sends the signal via ethernet (it could be wireless, but I already had the ethernet line) to a stock Squeezebox v.3, to a Behringer DEQ, straight in to a pair of Nuforce amps, to a pair of Vandersteen 3A's. I control the volume with the Squeezebox remote.

Down the road I'll add a DAC between the Behringer and the amps and I'll get the Squeezebox modded by Bolder Cables.

Everything stays in the digital domain until it leaves the Behringer. I have instant access to 2500 plus songs without leaving my seat. I love the convenience and the sound.

I tried the Olive Musica, but the Squeezebox works & sounds better in my system.
Mine in a pc, with Windows XP Pro,twin seagate hard drives, powered by a silentmaxx german pc power supply. I use Adobe Audition, a lynx 2 card for burning vinyl.Out the usb with a Empirical Audio Off-Ramp Turbo 2 with battery power supply to a TRL modified Audiomeca Enkianthus x DAC to a Supratek Cabernet preamp.
I have owned a CEC 1 and 2 transport,a Goldmund, a Levinson 37, an Sonic Frontiers, and still have a Audiomeca Mephisto 2 transport. Dacs I have owned are Audiologic 24, Dosdon 217 mark 2 . I have heard the Zanden, EMM labs,Audio Aero Capital,Manley Slam,& MBL 1601 combo. I don't really know if my digital is as good as some ,but it's in the neighborhood .
MAC Powerbook G4 - running iTunes

Lacie 500GB-HD (Apple Lossless + AAC -- unplugged back-up)
Lacie 300GB-HD (Apple Lossless - Daily use)

HagUSB - USB to S/PDIF converter.

Altmann Attraction DAC
Altmann BYOB Integrated amp

Commonsenseaudio Lowther 2.8 Ambience (single driver) speakers

I have 285GB worth of music (900 albums) on my hard drives -- organized on
my laptop with iTunes. The whole collection is saved in both Apple Lossless
and AAC (for my 60GB Video iPod). The HagUSB takes the USB signal out of
my computer and converts it to coaxial S/PDIF which, via a Luminous Audio
Allegro Signature digital cable feeds my Attraction DAC which is then
connected to my Altmann amp via .5M of Luminous Audio Synchestra
Reference IC's.

I have not owned a traditional CD player for more than year and have been
using a computer as my digital front-end since the summer of 2004.
Dell XPS 410 (Intel Duo 2 core )with Media Center and remote. I use WMA lossless ripped to HD and Foobar as the playback program. I run an optical out of the Dell's sound card to a Monarchy DIP 48/96, from there it goes to one of my NOS OS DACs by way of digital coax >> Promitheus TVC preamp>>Audio Sector Patek integrated>>Bob Brines FTA-2000s. I use a 42 inch plasma as a monitor for everything.
I have many legal bootlegs (cd-quality) and other downloaded music stored on 500gb external hard drives and want to play them through my component system without the need for a computer or a component add-on that has hard drive space which I will never use. I saw one unit for 2k and connects via a ethernet connection. Does anyone know of any other components on the market that will let me do I do not have to put my music through a regular computer. All music has been gained to 89db and has album art imbetted in the file/tag. Any advice is very appreciated. Thank you.
Moser: look into Sonos or Slim Devices or Roku. All of these can wirelessly access your music stored on an external drive attached to your main pc.

I personally use the Sonos and could not be happier. This is a great solution if you want to distribute your music to more than one location in your home.

I hpe this helps.

Squeezebox for $300
Transporter for $2k
All CD's ripped to AIF files to a 400GB Western Digital External USB hard drive using Apple iTunes. PC is located in a separate room to eliminate fan noise and connected to a Roku Soundbridge via Ethernet or wireless connection. The Roku has a digital coax or toslink output. I'm using the coax out to a Ack! Dack 2.0 hirez option and Audio Mirror D2. Both DAC's are NOS types.

I've been using a PC based music server for almost a year now. Previous digial front ends have been CAL Audio Delta-Alpha combo and Marantz SACD SA14.

I'll never go back to a conventional CD player.
Apple G5 + LaCie FW Disk + Wireless + TOSLink.....

Music Server PC:
Apple G5 Dual 2.3 PPC / LaCie 500GB Big Disk Extreme (connected via FW800)
Audio output: AirPort Extreme Wireless Card

AirPort Express:
Audio output: TOSLink
Audio output: AirPort Extreme Wireless Card

Audio Receiver:
Denon AVR-4306 (in Pure Direct mode 95% of the time)
Speaker Cables: Anti-cable


° Tetra 120U Monitors
° Martin Logan Abyss Subwoofer

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Other Hardware:
° 2 Additional AEs are connected to mini-powered speakers in the bedroom and kitchen.

° Apple OSX 10.4.5
° iTunes 7
° netTunes server (the app allows me to remotely run an iTunes session on the G5 wirelessly from a powerbook)
° Music files format is AIFF (currently making my way through ripping 450 CDs to the LaCie)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Comments on my G5 wireless music server:

I am very happy with my set up. This is the most musical system I have ever owned. I really have no criticisms. My Denon AVR is also the center of my Home Theater in my living room as well. It is set up as a 5.1 system. The Apple G5 is not part of my HT video system.

The ability (via netTunes) to run iTunes from the sofa using the familiar iTunes interface is great. Thoug I only occasionally use it since the office is 15 feet from the G5 location (office) - it comes in handy when it a schizophrenic/I-wanna-listen-to-this/no wait/I wanna-listen-to-that mood).

Music Server Future Plans:

1. Office Speakers: I've ordered an M-Audio 2.1 lx4 powered speaker system for the office, but it's on back-order. So I am still looking for other high quality alternatives. Genelecs and swans were considered but I am not feeling the aesthetic designs of either of these. NHT M-00s may be considered, highly rated but more than my $350 budget. BlueSyk Medias 2.1 are also on my list to audition. My options are really open at this point. Though, I have already de-listed Klipsches.

2. Direct Digital connection to AVR: Since my G5 is in my office directly behind my Living Room. and only 10 ft away, I am considering running a TOSLink connection directly to the Denon AVR. But that requires drilling through a few walls (and I rent, do I need to test the relative benefits first). I will conduct a test by moving my the G5 into the living room to listen to the music directly through TOSLink to determine if I can discern any difference between wireless connection to digital connection of the AIFF files, as well as my DVD player -no measurements will be taken. I am also curious to find out if I can make sense of the often mentioned 'jitter' issue associated to the AE and DACs. Really I would love to hear a sample of music with jitter compared to the original source to know what I am listening for. As far as I know, I am not hearing any jitter on my system currently.
I currently use a Seagate 300GB External and a combination of iTunes and SlimServer Software. I will soon be moving to a larger storage unit as my music library is growing rapidly. I have both a Squeezebox 3 (Connected to my ECD-1 DAC via SPDIF) and an Apple Airport Express (Connected to my ECD-1 DAC via Toslink) in service.

I mainly listen to the Squeezebox as it just plain sounds better. Although I prefer the iTunes interface. I rip my tunes in MP3 variable bit-rate format which sounds great. If I want higher resolution, I throw a CD into my CEC Transport.. That simple.

I have an old and trusty G4 cube that is running all of my digital media. No keyboard, no mouse, just a keyspan remote that controls front row (it is apples media software). The MAC is connected to a M-Audio Audiophile (thats the actual name of the unit) external sound card via firewire. Right now i am using the DAC in the external sound card, but soon i am going to use an external DAC connected to the coax output of the sound card. Its sounds pretty darn good, but does not sound quite as great as my ELITE DV-59AVi universal player. I like the G4 cube as a media server because it is dead quite with no fan. WOOT! Anyway, i made a custom enclosure for it out of maple and it sits on bright star iso nodes, check it out in my virtual system. It really looks like a piece of high end audio gear.
I'm using iTunes to keep track of music ripped in Apple Lossless on an external hard drive on my Powerbook G4. I use a Scott Nixon USB Tube DAC (USBTD)and 15' USB connector. Previously, I used an Apple Airport/Musical Fidelity Trivista DAC 21, but I think the Airport created too much jitter and I couldn't hear the full benefit of the DAC 21. The Scott Nixon sounds much better. Soundstage is bigger. Bass is more defined. The sound is less fatiguing, even with 128k MP3's and internet radio. I'm sold on USB DAC's.

I'm using a Dell server with an added Seagate Barracuda 300gb drive, out to a Scott Nixon USB Tube DAC. I use J River Media Center for software, although usually EAC for ripping. I use FLAC as my file format. I find the sound indistinguishable from my CD player, although to be fair I'm not running the highest end electronics around (Cambridge Audio amps & CD).

The server runs pretty quiet, although I'm thinking of moving furniture, putting all the equipment in the next room and drilling holes in the wall for the speaker wire. Logitech has a universal remote they claim can work without line-of-sight.
I used an Apple Airport/Musical Fidelity Trivista DAC 21, but I think the Airport created too much jitter and I couldn't hear the full benefit of the DAC 21

Maybe the Nixon is simple better to your ear than the MF no matter how you feed them. Just curious. Did you try any other way to feed the DAC 21 or do you just attribute this to the AE?
I use the apple airport express with a Bel Canto Dac 1 connected to my McIntosh 4300V receiver.