I need a server, NOT a streamer

I’ve been searching, and searching this forum, with no luck.
I have been using iTunes on my laptop sending the audio to an Airport Express. Well the Airport failed and Apple doesn’t sell them any longer. So, here I am,
What I want is a server (Windows 10 most likely) to house my collection, running iTunes. I also want to control the server with an Android phone or and iPad. These things I can do, using Remote Desktop to run the server remotely. FYI, I have a PS Audio GainCell DAC.
Now, my question(s). I would like to place the server in another room, if possible. But, that creates connectivity problems, as I think USB would be easiest.
If I put the server on the rack with the audio equip, a simple cable with do it.
If I put the server in another room, what’s my best option for this connectivity. I have Ethernet available to my LAN. Is there a USB extender, over Ethernet, that would work? Or is there a better solution?

Welcome, @tom.brewer !


I use a NUC box (Win10 pro) with JRiver, and JRemote on ipad to control playing- it sits next to the DAC with a short usb cable (<1m). If it is quite quiet even with a portable 5TB drive that holds the music library (AIF files, because apple products only works with iTunes library).
JRiver can also send to network DDC (or something like DSD with network bridge) if you want to avoid usb.

Hi Tom! Welcome!

This may/may not help, but it’s how I have solved the problem you are discussing.

Roon has been an amazing revelation for me. I have an iMac with a 4GB external storage drive. I currently use a PS Audio DirectStream DAC with a Bridge 2 card. I have loaded up all of my CD collection (FLAC) into the drive and with a wireless ethernet adapter I can access all of my music.

In place of the DAC setup I have at a lower cost you could buy a “streamer” but only use the portion of it that accesses your music catalogue. Many have great control setups via your smart phone. I have had good luck with Sonos previously, but their Connect does not support hi res formats. Recently Blue Sound, iFi (Zen) and others have put out some great not too expensive products that can stream your music collection in hi res formats.

Hope this helps!

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Thanks onusconsulting, I had never seen these NUC devices, but I will certainly be checking them out. They look very interesting. Could you please explain a bit more detail about JRiver sending to network DDC. I don’t know what or how this connectivity would be.

For 30m/100ft usb 3

But I think what you realt need is a music server. This is one example

toddgregson, I learned something else here. I did not know that you could have streaming and server functions in the same physical box. I’ll check that out. Thanks.

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A server-streamer is probably the way to go. Originally, I wasn’t looking for a streamer and found a box that did both. It’s been great. Aurender, Auralic and a few others make them. Bluesound Node comes up quite a bit on the forum, I just don’t know if it has internal file storage like the other two. It really just depends on your budget.

Tom, I have a pc running JRiver, then a wifi connected aurulic aries as a control point to pull the music from JRiver. The Aries is controlled via a LUMIN iPad app. The Aries uses wifi so there are no network wires getting into my hifi. Aries connects to dac via usb


Budget? Oh, these cost money? :cowboy_hat_face:

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Hi Tom,

You’re getting good advice here. You will see a noticeable sonic improvement when you render the music in Jriver or Roon. I own both and only use Roon as it’s substantially simpler to operate. Other family member can easily use Roon with its much simpler user interface.

Rendering with iTunes over AirPlay has turn to bit mangling folly.

The PC you use matter A LOT. Either Mac, PC Windows, NUC with Roon Server, etc are all good. Just make sure it has enough performance horsepower like 4 cores and lots of ram and less than 3 years old. Music is rendered in real-time and all software including JRiver or Roon will denigrate sonic purity for “getting the bits out”.

A buddy of mine wanted to upgrade and was wonder what first, his amp or DAC. I picked up his PC rendering with Roon and close the Chrome browser which was consuming 48% of the computer’s resources. SQ improved and he’s happy again. He’s buying a new computer instead.

Haha… You wouldn’t think, right? Originally, based on your post, it occurred to that you might be looking for a PC-based solution to keep photos and videos on a “server,” too. If you’re looking primarily for audio storage and access a PC can work as well, especially if budget is a major factor and you have a spare to use. I did that for a moment, but dealing with the rendering program wasn’t as automated as I would have liked and I couldn’t get the USB to sound good going into the DAC. Others here appear to have great success with USB from PC to DAC.

Whoadie, As for storing other information. I have another computer that I use exclusively for backup of all my data. It’s sort of old, so I should upgrade and use newer hardware for my audio server. But looking at Jriver, it looks like it does more, so I “may” looking into other capabilities as well.

What sort of issues were you having with USB? If you’re not using USB, what interface are you using?

NUC is just Intel’s coined phrase meaning “Next Unit of Computing.” It’s a standard small form factor PC, usually using an “all in one” board (versus discrete board with mounted processor).

A disadvantage to a NUC is there isn’t as much flexibility. For example, you can’t swap processors if wanted, but there’s not many processors these days that CAN’T handle audio if that’s all you’ll be using it for.

From an “audiophile” perspective, a NUC does use an external power supply brick with one voltage, so one could conceivably use a linear power supply to feed the NUC rather than the typical multi-output ps monsters of typical computers.

So if you have a NUC, you will still need an OS (most already come with Windows) and software of your choice.

I have a mini-itx PC that I built just for my audio system. It serves as both player (using JRiver) and network storage of my music files.

Jriver can either play directly to the DS via USB, or through the network to the Bridge II. In JRiver, they are each considered “zones.”

With JRiver, I can also use something like BubbleUpnp to stream Qobuz to Jriver, then on to the DS, OR I can also stream directly to the Bridge II, bypassing the PC altogether.

I also built a PI4 using cards from Iancanada so I could try i2s directly from source to DS. PI4>Iancanada FifoPi>Iancanada HDMIPi>i2s on DS. In this case, the FifoPi is theoretically not necessary since the DS does not use MCLK and reclocks everything in conversion to DSD, but I still used it in case I ever wanted to try S/PDIF to some other DAC in the future (note - it does not do AES/EBU). With the FifoPi, the clock is swappable, so I currently have Crystek CCHD 957 clocks installed. Another advantage of the FifoPi is that it isolates the 3.3v (you have to use an external supply), the isolated 3.3v, in turn powers the HDMIPi, and it allows you to power the Pi itself with an external 5v (instead of powering the Pi through the USB C power input) if desired. i have the “Master License” from JRiver that allows use across platforms.

I COULD just pull the music from the PC, but since I decided to run the Pi from an external SSD anyway, it wasn’t much more coin to get a bigger SSD and put all the music files directly on it as well.

So I can also stream Qobuz to JRiver on the Pi/Iancanada stuff (output i2s to DS), or I can stream Qobuz to Pi to DS via USB, or I can (as stated above) stream Qobuz directly to the Bridge II.

I debated about using something like the Matrix, but FOR ME, it didn’t make sense because the DS already uses the XMOS chip for usb conversion (albeit I believe an slightly older version), and I wanted to eliminate the more complicated route of PC>USB chip>USB cable>USB chip>LVDS chip>HDMI cable>LVDS chip (in DS).

I forgot to mention. The mini-itx PC that I built is using a Gigabyte motherboard that feature the DAC-UP usb. The DAC-UP usb port uses it’s own isolated power supply on the board that also has reduced noise.

There is also the option in BIOS to completely shut off USB power on the output, which is how I ran it when I had the old Perfectwave II, but for whatever, reason, the DS doesn’t work without the 5v power.

The USB connection (it could have been the wire - just suspect it wasn’t), had some really harsh midrange frequencies. Some people here have sworn by it. I’m not sure if I got the wrong cable or what. Some use the Matrix, which I believe is a unit that resolves the issue. Look that up in the previous posts. There have got to be no fewer than 100 posts where it’s discussed.

Let me make a somewhat different suggestion (similar to what some others have mentioned already) that I believe meets your use-case specifications, including physically separating the “server” from the rest of the system.

My digital network music system is Mac-based but my approach would work with a PC as well. First, here are the key components of my system:

  • iMac computer (“server”)
  • Synology NAS device (back up storage of music library)
  • JRiver Media Center and Roon (music library and rendering software)
  • dBPoweramp (music converter/ripping software)
  • USB disc drive (for ripping CDs and transferring hi-res music files from data discs to the iMac)
  • Wi-Fi network (including modem/router that can connect to the iMAC wirelessly)
  • DS Sr. DAC with Bridge II Ethernet card (serves as ethernet bridge to DAC)
  • TP Link media converters and optical cable
  • Miscellaneous aftermarket replacement power supplies to power the modem/router, TP Link media converters and the two, garden variety ethernet switches that are in the chain to feed all of the other equipment hooked up to Hi-Fi system (Play Station, Smart TV, Satellite TV receiver, PS Audio DirectStream Media Player and Apple TV).

The benefits of this system include the fact that the computer is electrically and physically removed from the ethernet/wired network delivering the 1s and 0s from the computer to the DAC.

I do have my modem/router in the same room as the Hi-Fi gear, which might not be ideal. However, I have added galvanic isolation to the signal path by converting from Ethernet to Optical and back to Ethernet just before the DAC/Bridge II and placed aftermarket, lower noise power supplies in strategic locations along the signal path.

Both JRMC and Roon have good remote application interfaces that allow me to peruse, select and play music from my iMAC and the internet (I have Qobuz and Tidal subscriptions piggy-backed onto my Roon subscription) on my iPhone or iPad.

If you were to emulate a set up like this with a PC-based system you could have the same functionality.

In addition, if you don’t like the idea of using an Ethernet bridge to get your tunes to a DAC or the SGCD will not accommodate an Ethernet connection to your data stream, there are ways to convert ethernet to other types of inputs to your DAC of choice.

All of this might not apply to your current system or preferences, but the bottom line is that JRMC and/or Roon are excellent ways to get your data to your DAC and Wi-Fi is often overlooked as an option to get your data from a computer (and/or NAS) to the Ethernet network. Moreover, you don’t have to start this journey by shelling out big (or small) bucks for a stand-alone music server/“streamer”.

Excellent results can be had with a stable Wi-Fi/in-home network and a computer running as your music server. Just make sure you have a solid plan and reliable equipment to provide back up of your music files. You can add more expensive, purpose-built black boxes as your music collection grows along with your thirst for higher-end performance.

My network is rock-solid stable (no dropouts and no disconnects unless my whole network is actually down).

FWIW/sorry for the long post.

I hope more folks join in with additional comments and good luck with your search.


This is a fascinating discussion, and it makes me wish I was more fluent in “network.”

I use my 2019 iMac as my music server, connected to the network via wifi, though it’s kind of a kludgy setup in that the size of my primary library (ripped copies of all the CDs I own, plus some iTunes downloads - about 2000 albums worth) is too large to fit on the internal drive, so it’s kept on an external USB drive (with two backups). But then I’ve got purchased hi-res downloads (HD Tracks, Qobuz, @cookie ’s Blue Coast, etc.) stored on the internal drive because there are few enough of those that space isn’t an issue. Again, all is backed up twice.

It all works well enough, though like I said, it’s kludgy. My streamer (currently a Node 2i) can find the hi-res files on the iMac via wifi and play them fine, but it can’t locate the iMac’s external drive. Bluesound has confirmed this to be a limitation on the device. I have no idea whether they’ve addressed that in the new generation. But it doesn’t matter a lot, because I can use Apple iTunes Remote on my phone and tablet to pull my iTunes library across the network, and push the files to the Node via AirPlay. Having to use a second app in addition to the BluOS app to get to the rest of the library is inconvenient, but sound doesn’t suffer since the iTunes library is all 16/44, which is also the limit on AirPlay.

It will be interesting to see how this needs to change when I try to switch from the Node to the Aurender (which will plug into a mesh node since it doesn’t do wifi). I don’t know if it will “see” that iMac external drive or not. If it doesn’t, I hope it can connect to my phone or tablet through AirPlay like the Node. If it can’t, it looks like I may need to keep both devices in the system (or wipe out the ripped CD library completely and go 100% disc playback for that content and jettison the Node 2i entirely).

I believe this is why these server/streamer manufacturers are stepping up their game with software for their devices. They not only eliminate the need for a dedicated computer, but also the need for iTunes and programs that are otherwise tethered to a computer or its ecosystem. I actually appreciate iTunes for what it does, but outside of being able to organize my music on my Macs or tie my Apple devices, I’m finding less use for it. Sure, I could stream the files ripped to iTunes from my computer, but the computer needs to be involved and there’s only so much an iPad or iPhone can hold.