Go with the Small Green Computer solution. it offers great performance for good value. I've used the SGC Sonic Transporter i5 with Roon and Tidal and am very happy with the results.
ZEN Mini S vs. Small Green Computer Sonic Transporter i5 music server/Ultra Rendu Streamer
Good evening forum members.
Looking for any experience and/or opinions on these two music servers/players/streamers.
My plan is to rip 3,000 rare and collectible CDs to FLAC files or better. I would also like to integrate Tidal and Qobuz into the mix using Roon.
The ZEN Mini S has a built in CD ripper/server/streamer ($3,548 total cost). The SGC Sonic Transporter server and Ultra Rendu streamer bundle does not have a built in CD ripper.
I'm leaning towards the SGC Sonic Transporter/Ultra Rendu Streamer because of the following:
- Cost. the cost for the SGC ST/Ultra Rendu option is $2,097, which includes the server and streamer, plus a linear PSU. The ZEN Mini S is $3,548 all up (ripper, server, streamer, etc.). This amounts to a $1,451 difference in price.
Subtract from this difference the cost of an internal 4TB SSD ($300), an external and portable 4TB SSD ($300), dbpoweramp ripping and music management software ($75), and a USB CD/DVD drive ($75) and the difference is now becomes $701 between the ZEN Mini S and the Small Green Computer solution. Significant.
- My preference is to rip the CDs using my Windows laptop (no additional cost), the portable 4TB SSD, a better, well-known software package, and a USB CD drive at my desk. This is it more significantly more convenient and ergonomically friendly to my bad back.
My plan is to transfer the ripped files from the portable 4TB SSD to the ST i5 internal 4TB SSD in my stereo cabinet when done, Going forward, I don't plan on buying any more CDs and will fill in the gaps and explore new music with Tidal and Qobuz.
- features on the ZEN Mini S ripping software are unknown. dbpoweramp is a well known product with a plethora of useful features.
- the CD Drive used in the ZEN Mini is $240 when bought separately. This is significantly more than a good USB CD/DVD drive ~ $75.
My main system is a Rotel Pre-amp, Rotel Power-amp, B&W 804 speakers, an Oppo 105 SACD/DVD-Audio/CD/Blu-ray player, EAT C-Sharp turntable and a Sutherland Phono Pre-amp.
Your thoughts on anything I've discussed above? I am not a DIY type and prefer an out of the box solution.
Thanks for your help!
Thank you. A couple of questions:
1. Which CD/DVD ripper do you use? Same question for the ripping software? Windows or MAC?
2. Do you store your ripped files on a portable SSD or NAS? Which make/model/size (GB)?
3. How are the transfer rates from external SSD or NAS to the i5's internal SSD?
4, How do you maintain back-ups for everything?
Please feel free to add comments about something I may have missed.
Thank you! 😊
Be advised that if you plan to use DSD that the I5 is limited to 128. If you're lucky and dont use too much DSP filtering, maybe 256. The I7 will get you all the way up to 512 if you want it plus gives you the built in ripper. Having said that I still use the I5 in one of my systems with the fiber isolation bundle and the optical rendu and it is years of trouble free use. I use dsd128 with no issues, and frankly, it gets difficult to hear a difference if you go further up the DSD chain, at least for me. Also remember that the higher you go, the more noise is inherently added for higher DSD. Andy at SGC is great with support. And I recommend the fiber isolation bundle to remove noise over the internet if you dont already have fiber internet. Either way you will save money and have a great product.
Best of luck.
I think you’ve answered your own question. Rather than mess with an external drive, ripping programs, etc. just go with Innuos. All in one box, very high quality, great customer support, and their free Sense app is continually upgraded, sounds excellent, and gets great customer reviews. My only question — why not just get the Zen Mk3 that is only $3150?
I agree with @soix : Keep it simple, all in one. Innuos. Yes, a bit more money, but convenience and simplicity must be worth something.
both will work very well
if you’re using roon the sonic transporter will handle the ripping via a cd drive plugged in... easy peasy (i never worry about thrid party ripping programs)
nice that the drive can then be unplugged with not being used
innuos is also fine, you are paying a bit more for the prettier box and integration and brand name -- innuos is also good at the upselling game, you will read soon why your zen mini needs a better power supply, but even then its still not as good as zen or zenith -- before you know it you feel your stuff is inadequate if you don't buy a $6000 box from them LOL
Thanks for all the feedback.
A couple of questions for the Innuos fan base @soix @thyname:
- Does the Zen Mini S provide audibly superior performance over the Sonic i5 and Ultra Rendu for the added cost of approximately $700?
- Is the Zen Mk3 clearly better than the Zen Mini S? Seems like they are in the same ballpark pricewise.
No one will probably be able to give you a head-to-head comparison of the Zen Mini S and the Rendu setup, but they’re clearly both excellent and you won’t be disappointed with either. Just get the Zen Mk3. It doesn’t require the outboard LPS power supply and gives you everything in one box. Plus, every time Innuos upgrades their Sense program the sound just keeps getting better, and it’s FREE! No brainer IMHO.
A couple of questions answered:
1. Which CD/DVD ripper do you use? Same question for the ripping software? Windows or MAC?
I use DBPoweramp ripping software. The CD/DVD mechanism is an internal Asus 24x DVD-RW Serial-ATA Internal OEM Optical Drive DRW-24B1ST in my Windows 10 Pro Intel computer.
2. Do you store your ripped files on a portable SSD or NAS? Which make/model/size (GB)? I rip the audio disks to my Synology DS1821+ 50 TB NAS which is Ethernet network attached. I'm using five Seagate 14 TB IronWolf NAS drives in a RaId SHR array configuration.
3. How are the transfer rates from external SSD or NAS to the i5's internal SSD? I don't use the USB method of moving files around. The USB speed depends on if you are using USB 2.x or 3.x capable devices. 3.x is much faster but these large file transfers can take time. I'm using Ethernet and speeds are fairly quick but multi-terabyte file copies can take overnight to copy depending on network utilization.
4, How do you maintain back-ups for everything? I backup the Roon Core database using the Roon backup facility to both USB thumb drives plugged into the i5 as well as to the NAS. I use a 14 TB external drive USB 3.0 attached to the NAS to back up music stored on the NAS as well as a second NAS.
I reference @nmolnar post — Do you really wanna deal with all that or just have a one-box solution optimized for audio by a company that specializes in streaming to do or all for you? Seems like a pretty simple answer to me if you don’t wanna mess with all the BS. Innuos is your friend.
Another vote for the Innuos Zen Mk 3 as long as you have an external DAC to work with it. I've owned a Zen for several years, and it's been great. Ripping couldn't be easier. The HDD vs SSD issue has not been a significant one for me. The drive is off during playback so there's no added noise. The Sense app is wonderful, so I don't need Roon.
Thanks to all of you for your feedback an comments. Very helpful.
I sent Andrew (SGC) a couple emails over the weekend based on your comments and questions that I had.
At this point, I'm still torn between the ZEN and the i5 sonictransporter/ultra rendu bundle. I like having the convenience of using my chosen ripping software, dbpoweramp, on my Windows laptop connected to an SSD for the ripping part of this project. I only want to rip the 3,000 CDs once and want to make sure it's an accurate rip with all the artwork intact.
The ZEN requires that I free up space on my desk where my router is. Just a bit clunky IMO.
Also, the drives included with both products are marked up 2x. With the i5 I can purchase the exact same 4TB SSD at half price from Amazon. I'm kind of stuck with the HDD provided by Innuous when I'd prefer to use an SSD or Synology NAS for file storage and back-up. Hmmm . . .
I'm on the fence about Roon. Seems like it's not necessary for the ZEN. Not sure about the i5.
in short, I can start ripping CDs tomorrow if I choose the i5 path without buying a thing from SMC in the near term. Then I can transfer the files to the i5 once it arrives. If I go the ZEN route, I need to order the table top unit now and use a clunky ripping set up, overpriced HDDs, but a better file management app plus I'm not tied to Roon.
Just thinking out loud a bit more. Feel free to constructively criticize my thought process.
There’s a neat workaround for this. Buy a Wi-Fi extender from TP-Link, etc. and just plug an Ethernet cable from that to the Zen and you don’t need it to be on your desktop. All you need is an outlet for the extender. Many people here with $$$ systems have done this with great success. Hope this helps.
i think you have your choice on this subject, and associated tradeoffs, well understood and well articulated - good job on that!
i signed up for roon lifetime early on, so am bought into it... i enjoy it immensely as an interface, but also realize that in the meanwhile the better streamer hardware companies like innuos aurender auralic and so on have continually improved their software and the user experiences they provide
for me, i enjoyed trying the value oriented piece-part options, doing it more ’a la carte’, if for no reason other than to allow me carefully learn each piece part and their associated impact on the sound quality
for this reason, i have an i7 equivalent roon core machine (from esteemed a-gon member @elberoth in poland), installed my own internal ssd for stored music, have an outboard cd drive to rip when needed (and detach when not using), then i bought an optical rendu from sgc as well as an ether-regen and na muon to do lan and usb filtering to feed whatever dac or dac streamer i am using at any time
@jjss49 thanks for your feedback.
You present a couple of new wrinkles to the equation:
- optical rendu: about $1,000 more than the Ultrarendu. Showing as "sold out" on the SGC website. Looks like this one allows me to eliminate network noise and use my Chord Qutest DAC as a network DAC. I get the noise part but not quite sure of the advantages of a network DAC in my system. Care to elaborate? Is it worth the incremental cost of $1,000? Should I wait for it to be back in stock? I'll have the time wile I'm ripping 3,000 cds. Also, I do not have fiber optic Ethernet. Does it matter?
- Do you have the upgraded LPS and FMC Bundle, too?
- Not sure what "ethergen" is? What does it do and cost? Did you get it from SGC?
- Not sure what "Na Muon" is? What does it do and cost? Where did you purchase it from?
Lots of questions from this newbie.
@soix , thanks for the suggestion. Looks like I can get the TP-Link WiFi extender on Amazon. This still would require that I load and rip the CDs from my stereo cabinet without the benefit of an ergonomic chair, correct? I am recovering from three fractured vertebrae and need to do this as comfortably as possible. There are quite a number of these extenders on Amazon. I have a man cave that's about 1,000 sq.ft. I think I could get by with one of the simpler models, agree? Looks like I should be able to pick one up for ~ $20. Do I need a minimum on terms of Mbps for data transfer rate?
if you are truly ripping 3,000 cd’s maybe the innuos with built in/integral cd slot is more convenient
optical rendu >> ultrarendu for network noise suppression - if you go in this direction i suggest you wait for the optical rendu (search youtube for andrew gillis’ explanation of how/why it works, and works better than the lesser micro and ultra rendus) -- important point here is the rendus all take a home network lan feed and give you a cleansed usb output to drive a dac (like a qutest, or any other modern dac with usb input)
you can also search for ’uptone audio ether regen’ here or on the web, much is written... it is a lan signal cleanser - gives you a purified ethernet feed (lan, not usb) -- this is useful if using some streamer/dac combo unit as front end (i.e. a cambridge audio cxn v2), which take a lan input directly -- so then you want a clean lan feed
network acoustics (eno or muon) - their two models, they do the same thing, same thing as the ether-regen - but do it passively -- much written about these here and elsewhere too, just search
you don’t need all three (i have them all as i am off the deep end, like to have every option to feed different dacs, some with, some without streamers)... what you want is one form of well cleansed digital feed compatible with your chosen dac, so you use the properly chosen filter device to deliver that
I believe it’s often better to go for the best you can afford or save up your $ until you can buy what you really want & is good quality.
You don’t always get what you pay for but you definitely don’t get what you don’t pay for!
I waited & saved for the Innuos Zenith Mark III & couldn’t be happier! Works flawlessly, sounds great, their app for an iPad is excellent. Eventually ripping all my 1000 or so CD’s & Qobuz is lots of fun & often sounds outstanding. I think the lower tiered Innuos models are also really good.
Best of luck!
@jonwolfpell, thank you for your comments. I'm glad you waited and saved for the Zenith. I just took a look at it on the Innuos website and it looks great. I can only imagine what it sounds like.
I've now got to process all of this great information, do some research and make a decision. I've enjoyed interacting with all of you on this forum. I feel like I have gained a new group of friends for what is a very important part of my life - music.
Regardless of the outcome, thank you all for sharing your passion, knowledge and kindness.
Ugh. So sorry to hear about your back issues. That sucks and hope you feel better soon. My guess is you can hook up the Zen where your most comfortable chair is, and as long as there’s an outlet available I’d think you could rip to your heart’s content without needing to be hooked to the internet, but that’s a semi-educated guess. For the extender, as long as it’s not a large distance from your router or multiple floors away it should work just fine. Also, if you’re vying for Wi-Fi bandwidth with other people gaming, streaming movies, etc. in your house you might consider going with a Mesh system instead. Anyway, here’s the extender I got just fyi. It’s probably overkill and a cheaper one would probably work just as well, but for the few added $ I just splurged for the higher performance to help avoid potential issues..
Also, I just saw this Ethernet cable highly recommended by another respected member here that’d probably be great to start running from the extender to your streamer and will save you $$$…
Anyway, hope this fills in some gaps, and best of luck in whatever direction you choose.
I can’t speak to the Zen, but I have been running the i5 with UltraRendu for over a year. Terrific support from SGC. Coupled with Roon and Qobuz, my biggest problem is finding enough time to listen to all that I would like to hear. I skipped dBPoweramp and just use the ripping software in the i5 with a cheap DVD drive. I did add an Ultradigital from Sonare so I could use the I2S input of my Denafrips Pontus II. I use my laptop and an android tablet as interfaces. I bought an internal 4 GB SSD from B&H and it works flawlessly. I will admit that I used the Roon DSP to smooth out a little roughness in the upper mid/lower treble range. But this has lessened over time. Updates usually run smoothly, although a second reboot of the i5 is often needed, and you should keep the Roon app on your tablet or laptop up to date.
I use free metadata software to manage the files and keep everything easy to find. MP3tag works great for me.
Backup to my WD portable 4GB USB drive is easy and fast...I keep a USB cable plugged into the i5 and dangling around to the front. Connect the drive, open the Sonic Orbiter GUI, and start the backup. USB 3 is much faster than the 2. The only thing that takes a while is adding album art to my music files. Faster home network speeds help with this. I added a cheap Ethernet adapter to my laptop to avoid the WiFi, and it sped things up considerably.
Overall, I am happy, even if my rack looks like a Rube Goldberg contraption, with a bunch of little boxes, power supplies and cables.
I like the simplicity of the Zen, but it’s hard to imagine better support than you get from Andrew at SGC, and like yourself, the i5 bundle was clearly the most cost effective way to get hi res files, Roon and Qobuz to all work together seamlessly.
I have been researching this quite a bit, as well. With all due respect to the prior posters, if the OP was interested in the Zen MiniS, it does feature an SSD and an upgraded 8GB of memory, at least as I understand it.
@bondmanp thank you for your feedback. I'm leaning towards the i5 over the ZEN at this point. I need to talk to Andrew at SGC first, as I have a few questions for him.
I want to get your opinion on my approach if I go the i5 route. My thoughts are to use dbpoweramp to start ripping my CDs to a WD 4TB My Passport SSD using my Windows laptop. I am recovering from three spinal fractures (long story) and it's just ergonomically easier to use this set up over ripping files to the i5.
Once I get a decent number of CDs loaded, I would transfer them to the i5 internal drive via USB. I'd repeat the process over time to eventually rip the 3,000 or so CDs I want to stream via the UltraRendu or OpticalRendu.
During this time I may buy a new MacBook Pro as I prefer Mac to Windows. I know dbpoweramp comes in a bundle with both the Windows and MAC versions included. Do you foresee a compatibility issue with the files ripped on Windows now and then a MAC in the future using different versions of the same software? I know you're not a dbpoweramp user so it's probably not a fair question to ask. No worries, I can contact them for information.
A couple of questions:
- do I have to subscribe to Roon before I start ripping CDs? I don't anticipate that I will begin streaming to the UltraRendu or OpticalRendu for at least three to six months.
- since I will have all my FLAC files on the WD 4TB My Passport SSD from the original desktop rip, do I still need to purchase another 4TB SSD to back up my integrated Roon library (ripped files, Qobuz and Tidal playlists). My guess is "yes" but I wanted to make sure.
I used an old Vortexbox appliance with Squeezebox Touch from SGC for 10 years before upgrading to the i5 and Roon. No issues transferring files over. Ran my backup drive into the i5. Even with USB 2, it took a couple of days. I used to use dBPoweramp, but just don't feel the need for it. As long as everything is in FLAC, you should be fine. I can't speak for ALAC or Apple, though. Yes, you should have a backup drive, or even two.
@forestg thanks. Was not aware of the ability to upgrade to SSD on the ZENmini S. Is this upgrade path available for the ZEN model as well?
If going with Sonore, why not look at the opticalRendu. I had both the ultraRendu and opticalRendu and found the optical version to be superior. Much lower noise floor. Also if you go with the sonicTransporter please make sure you get the LPS (also sold by SGC). The LPS made a substantial improvement in my system. Good luck.
@drlou77 I am by no means an expert at this, nor an expert on Innuos products.
@forestg Thanks for your insight. I think I'm going to go the Innuos route. Actually, I'm in the process on doing a deal online as I type. Once it's confirmed, I'll report back to you and the group who so graciously helped me on this journey. Good luck to you.
@forestg If you get the Zen MiniS you should look into upgrading to their linear power supply at some point because it’s a significant upgrade in sound quality — in case you weren’t already considering it.
I have the opticalRendu and a Lumin X1 with both doing fibre optic streaming. Both are great and I like the oR a bit more. I think it sounds a bit more refined vs the wild child of the X1.
My 3rd streamer, Playback Designs Plink, is also fibre optic and I have not listened to that yet. It uses different fibre cables so it should be an interesting listen.
Thank you, @soix . I have every intention of doing so.😉
I saw that you can save a couple of dollars by buying both at the same time, so I’ll save a little longer to be able to do that.
OP, if it’s not too late and you’ve pulled the trigger already, here is something worth contemplating. I have 3 systems, one with a Sonictransporter i7 Audiophile version and an opticalRendu, (all with linear power supplies) the other two systems are Innuos (Zen Mk3 and Zenith Mk3) in my opinion the Zen SQ outperforms the OpticalRendu and Sonictransporter combo. let alone the Senore/SGC combo is 5 boxes, vs 1. It’s messy, more complicated and doesn’t sound as good. Don’t bother with the Zen mini and you’ll be a happy camper, let alone you won’t need Roon either.
@ianderson thanks. I wound up getting the Zenith. One box, better sound, Sense app, etc. Running it through a Chord Qutest Dac.
Happy listening to all!!
I run an i5 with 4tb SSD, Roon and Qobuz. I currently have about 3tb’s music loaded on the ssd. It has worked flawlessly for about 2 years. No more network issues, full integration between my music and Qobuz as well as separation. Could not be happier. Andrew offers great support and is excellent to work with.
fyi - feeding a Bricasti M1 from i5 which is located in another room. All is good!!!
@audiotroy thanks for your reply.
I researched (online) the 432 evo standard and it looks like a great unit.
I went with the Zenith mk3 for the following reasons:
- one box solution with a 4TB SSD
- I have neither the desire or funds to upgrade
- the Sense app is superb for my purposes.
- the price, which was below published retail, was right for my budget
- three year warranty
- great customer service from Kevin at Innuos
That's it in a nutshell.
I want to thank everyone who posted feedback. I read every post and carefully considered my options before pulling the trigger.
Happy listening to all!