Servers


#1

My friend has decided to take the plunge on an music server upgrade from his stock iMac. We are in the middle of listening and so far the stock iMac and stock PC are beaten out by the Digibit Aria, Aurender N100 and my moderately tricked out PC. The last three are indistinguishable sonically and I will say that the interfaces for the commercial units are a cut above minimserver on my PC in overall fun and functionality. The Aurender N10 has been tried on my friend’s Devialet and does offer a more natural presentation of the music. Better soundstage and individualization of instruments and voices primarily, and the music is more disconnected from the speakers (in a good way!).

He is going to try the Melco (not sure which one yet) as well as it receives great reviews on the Devialet chat site. Still waiting to see if he will try the Sonore Rendu Signature as well. I am hoping he can get his hands on one because I am dying to hear this one. Soon I will bring the N10 to my place to try it with the DS DAC. Any thoughts out there? He probably is not wanting to spring for the Aurender W20, but there is always hope that I can get him to spend his hard-earned cash…devil_gif


#2

How is your PC tricked out? And do you have any sense of what made the difference? I am running a fairly standard but slightly newer CAPS v3 Zuma; really the only tweaks are the SOTM drive noise eliminators and HDPlex power supply. OS (but not the music files) runs from an SSD. Really hard to know which of these things made a difference, and I am sure that if they do it is very system-dependent. I have not tried any OS add-ons yet, but I do run it stripped down as much as possible.


#3

It is indeed hard to determine what changes do make a difference. I have an i7 unlocked chip which I underclock, undervolt and run single core plus other more standard performance modifications in the BIOS. In addition, I use Fidelizer Pro with Win 10 and run nothing other than minimserver/minimstreamer. I also use SoTM fan and hard drive filters and a Seas fanless power supply and low voltage memory. I have noticed, in particular, that the underclock/volt makes a noticeable improvement in the sound as well as Fidelizer. I wish that I knew what makes the Aurender N10 sound so good but they have a proprietary MOBO which I’lll bet has an embedded processor. I found that Fidelizer Pro sounded better and resulted in a much more stable computer than the system optimizations that I did myself.


#4

Very interesting. Have not yet tried Fidelizer, but I might. I am also running an i7, so there is plenty of margin for underclocking or only running one core.


#5

Is the i7 a “K”? What brand MOBO do you have?


#6

I have the Melco N1A feeding the Directstream DAC’s USB input and the Bridge II input (The Melco can output both simultaneously). The sound quality is fantastic both ways, but the player output to the Bridge II has a better holographic soundstage and depth. Here are some findings:

  • The Melco does not have a dedicated App (although I hear they are working on one and it will be available soon). The USB works well with the Linn Kinsky App and the Bridge II is more stable using mconnect. However, I do find I have to initiate the mconnect app on my Iphone every once in a while (I think it’s an app issue, not Melco), so for noncritical listening I still use the USB input. Honestly, I am perfectly satisfied with the USB input, and even after I got the Bridge II and compared the two, it’s no slouch.

  • Melco will do DoP over USB but not thru its player output. So to listen to DSD (and especially DSD128) you can only listen via USB since the Bridge II doesn’t accept native DSD, and only DSD64 at that with DoP.

Even with these minor glitches, I don’t know how I could get a significant improvement in sound quality without spending a lot more money. The Melco costs less than the servers mentioned above and like the DSD DAC is firmware upgradable, so the issues I pointed out could be a thing of the past. Also, for what it’s worth, the latest Stereophile recommended components list in their April issue gives it an A+ rating with a $$$ value, so I have an A+ server feeding an A+ DAC. Yippie!!!

BTW, I am not affiliated with Melco in any way other than its model N1A owner.


#7

“Is the i7 a “K”? What brand MOBO do you have?”

Mobo is an Intel dh87RL, which in hindsight was a bit of a mistake, as Intel in their infinite wisdom doesn’t write network drivers for win server OS’s for their ‘desktop’ boards. I have one expansion slot in the machine, so I could add either a NIC card or fancy USB card, but not both. Had been running it via USB but recently decided to go back to the Bridge II, and just reconfigure for USB when I am away and the wife is using the system. (In case this should be misunderstood by anyone - Bridge II is extremely stable, but it does take a minute or two to appear as a zone in Jriver, which is enough to flummox certain other people I live with. So I decided it’s safest to leave the system on USB when I am not around.)

CPU is a 3770T, selected for low TDP. I suppose I will rip it all out at some point and replace the MB, but not till the next version of win server comes out. Running 10 for now. Anyway the CPU usage is extremely low, so if the BIOS lets me I can try underclocking etc.


#8

Davek, I have seen, though not carefully read, the reviews of the Melco. Where did you buy it? Are you in the US? I tend to be a build-it-myself kinda guy when it comes to servers, which allows me to recycle cases/power supplies/etc when I rebuild, among other things. But the price of the Melco is… nearly sane, which cannot be said for much of their competition. Looks very interesting!


#9

Yes, I’m in the US. Check their website, they are distributed by soundorg. There is a listing on Audiogon, I bought mine from a dealer in Atlanta.


#10

Bob: You can probably underplot with that combination of CPU and MOBO but not directly under clock. I seem to remember that after I undervolted, CPUz showed the processor running much slower than expected (which is good). There are some tutorials for dialing in the BIOS out on the web that can be helpful. I will not be able to audition the Melco or Aurender N10 at my place just yet. The left channel on my NCore just went up in smoke. Literally.facepalm-smiley-emoticon_gif

Now begins the man-craft… how to get the wife to let me give some money to Paul.devil_gif


#11

I have been using the Melco N1a for six months now. It’s connected to Directstream DAC which is connected directly to ATC SCM 40A speakers. It’s sound is far superior to my Mac mini and HP laptop. Never used a NAS drive so can’t compare. For the price it delivers on all fronts.


#12

Just a quick note. I had a chance to hear the Melco N1a on my friends Devialet system. This is a very good unit and I am indeed impressed. Blows away a laptop or Mac? No question about that! Personally, I would choose the N1a over the Aurender N100 based upon the sound but the Aurender’s user interface blows the Melco’s away. Now, the Aurender N10, which I have heard at my house as well, is a whole 'nuther beast. This unit’s sound is clearly superior to the Melco and my home made server. Niiiiice. Imaging and soundstage depth is superior, quieter background, microdynamics all better. Then again, you pay a hefty price for the upgraded sound ($8K USD).

Couldn’t talk the CFO into a new amp so I fixed the NCore. Oh well.


#13
wglenn said Just a quick note. I had a chance to hear the Melco N1a on my friends Devialet system. This is a very good unit and I am indeed impressed. Blows away a laptop or Mac? No question about that! Personally, I would choose the N1a over the Aurender N100 based upon the sound but the Aurender's user interface blows the Melco's away. Now, the Aurender N10, which I have heard at my house as well, is a whole 'nuther beast. This unit's sound is clearly superior to the Melco and my home made server. Niiiiice. Imaging and soundstage depth is superior, quieter background, microdynamics all better. Then again, you pay a hefty price for the upgraded sound ($8K USD).
Glenn, could you provide some more details on the comparison of the N10 to the home made server ? I would like to know more details on the home made server parts used and the s/w running. I had recently got some paul pang parts and the sq now is just gone up to a different level. I got to figure out a way to audition the N10 in my system as well.
Couldn't talk the CFO into a new amp so I fixed the NCore. Oh well.
yeah, the CFO's are very strict most of the times with the budget...to bad wink

#14
wglenn said Just a quick note. I had a chance to hear the Melco N1a on my friends Devialet system. This is a very good unit and I am indeed impressed. Blows away a laptop or Mac? No question about that! Personally, I would choose the N1a over the Aurender N100 based upon the sound but the Aurender's user interface blows the Melco's away. Now, the Aurender N10, which I have heard at my house as well, is a whole 'nuther beast. This unit's sound is clearly superior to the Melco and my home made server. Niiiiice. Imaging and soundstage depth is superior, quieter background, microdynamics all better. Then again, you pay a hefty price for the upgraded sound ($8K USD).

Couldn’t talk the CFO into a new amp so I fixed the NCore. Oh well.

Agree about the user interface, Melco is supposedly working on its own app. I'm assuming you used the USB out of the N1A for comparison, have you tried the player out? I have it feeding the B II and think it sounds better than using USB.

#15
wglenn said

Couldn’t talk the CFO into a new amp so I fixed the NCore. Oh well.


Which NCore do you have, mine is a 400, so the ps went up in smoke, hmmm.

#16

@davek: I did not get a chance to hear it at my place via the Bridge II, only by USB on my friend’s Devialet. You bring up a great point by using it with BII. Unfortunately it had to go back home to the dealer before I was able to audition it. I should pursue this!

@rogerdn: 400, yup. Had to replace the whole L channel and I’m not sure which module was the chicken or the egg but it went up with a big “bang” that scared my wife and the dogs when I was at work.


#17

So let’s say that some $$ is burning a hole in my pocket to buy a new box. Not 100% sure what I am asking here, but let’s start by saying here’s what I would be looking for:

  1. Can run a more or less standard OS (Windows or Unix) if the company goes belly-up

  2. Can run JRiver or Roon instead of proprietary code

  3. No underpowered CPU’s. Looking for at least an i7. Underclocking/undervolting OK but I am not starting out with an Atom or Celery or i3. :slight_smile:

  4. Optimizable for either the Bridge II or I2S over HDMI

In the past I have always rolled my own servers, but while I have a ton of experience in building servers, I have little experience with specifying mb’s and other hardware specifically for audio purposes. Leery of proprietary code and of buying hardware than can only run some proprietary OS. Need also to retain the ability to control via iphone and run wife-friendly software. :slight_smile:

Thoughts? I can of course continue to build my own; right now running an uprated CAPS v3 with picp psu, HDPlex LPS, and a few other hardware tweaks but nothing huge. Win 10 and JRiver. Not averse to trying Fidelizer, but asking for the moment about the hardware side. Does someone sell a nice tweaked box that I can use to run what I want, that would go beyond what I can easily assemble myself? Wyred4Sound? Melco?


#18

A lot of the commercial servers are low power units. Refresh my memory, the CAPS v3 uses what CPU? In short, you’ll need a “K” CPU if using the Intel “i” series) to underclock reliably and the BIOS/UEFI needs to support this function. The Intel mobos, in general, are not good for this but many other manufacturers’ BIOS are adequate. When I think of a turn-key system that has I2S output and a large processor, Pink Faun comes to mind. I would consider trying Fidelizer Pro before investing in a new box. Also, if you haven’t already, google some info on killing specific Windows functions that Fidelizer doesn’t, like Cortana, Defender, Firewall etc…


#19

Thanks. Not sure what the original Caps v3 specified but my cpu is an i7, I think the i3770T, which has a fairly low TDP for use in a passively-cooled case. More than enough oomph for use with JRiver even if I have some eq/upsampling going on. I am currently running an intel mb, would absolutely not buy another one though. Already have all the extraneous services disabled. And yes, the Pink Faun card looks interesting but I checked into it and if I recall there was something that put me off about it - no DSD support perhaps? But perhaps there will soon be a new version.

Something I just came across the other day is the new HDPlex H5 case and their external 300w ATX power supply - looks like that has some potential for my next build, though I’m not sure how I’d manage to install those 8 heatpipes unless I grow a few more hands! Any specific mb recommendations?


#20

I use an ASUS Z77 Sabertooth thatI picked up used. Just basically look for ones that are known to be reliable in the form factor that you want. Reviews are abundant on the net. Even with the K CPU, not known for good TDP, I have no problem with cooling using a moderate sized cooler. Since I am running at reduced power, the temps stay low. I do use a 120mm fan at the lowest rpm setting “just in case” because my system is in a loft where it can get pretty hot this time of year. You can mess around with Intel visual BIOS a bit and probably undervolt your 3770. That is one that I have used in plain and K versions. I did find that you can trick the Intel system into underclocking. I’ll check my settings on the non-K machine and let you know.