What should I be looking for in a music server?


#1

Asking as a ‘certified’ computer dummy. Tried a Small Green Computer with Roon via ethernet to my DSJ but sounded no better than my MacBook Air with iTunes via a 10ft USB cable, so I returned it. Network connection was wireless from MacBook, HomePage to switch, and switch into server/DSJ. According to nearly every review a server should sound a couple of steps up from my MacBook, so what was I missing?. Note that I have JBL 708P active reference studio monitors (very detailed, accurate, dynamic speakers) in a well designed/built private listening room using mid-field setup.

My goals are: better sound, affordable (~$2500 USD), and super simple to setup/maintain. After 50 years at this my hearing is tuned to be primarily a “speaker guy”, and not a “cable guy”.

So my question is what attributes should I be looking for in a music server?

Which connection into DSJ would be ideal?
Is clean (linear) power a huge consideration?
Should I avoid multiple boxes/conversions (would think so)?
If ethernet is the best connection should I avoid using the switch (two ports on the server)?
Maybe I should just buy a Perfect Wave Transport and go back to spinning CDs?

TIA


#2

The problem is there are almost as many opinions on this subject as there are members of this forum. I have gone back and forth on servers but mostly run JRiver Media Center on an old Mac Mini. I mostly used the Bridge (1 & 2) from the beginning because it sounded better the USB straight out of the Mini but recently added a Matrix X-SPDIF 2 that converts USB to I2S, with a $11 HDMI cable (search for bootzilla’s posts on the Matrix for the specific cable). Total cost is under $400. I found that to sound better on my system. Others have gone different routes. If you like iTunes and it works for you that would be one option. If you are using iTunes and have any high-res material, you should get BitPerfect from the Mac App Store (was $10 when I got it ages ago). Otherwise your MacBook will re-sample everything to whatever is set in Audio Midi Setup (in your utilities folder).


#3

Ease of use is key, ie the visual interface provided to your music is real important, as well as the ability to display meta data I e album cover photo and songs titles plus more…

First decide weather you want to use a Mac, a PC or even Linux. All have benefits and issues, stay with what you already know best.

Next, how do you add new material, Sometimes this requires a separate piece of software Like “Exact Audio Copy” There are many that do equally well, if you have a friend that has experience with another brand probably best to use that and gain from his setup experience

Next getting a NAS Hard Drive, nothing more than a hard drive which is reachable on your network, many brands available friends recommendations probably as good as any. Why a NAS drive All good server interface software can utilize a network drive, and you can get 8-12 terabytes in one device.

I personally use a Win10 PC, running a Plex Server ( has a web based interface ), which is connected to my Marantz AVR via HDMI which allows me to play Music as Stereo Direct or upscale to 5.1. Is it the Best, well it works for me I enjoy how it sounds. Added benefit of Plex is that since the interface is web based I can go anywhere and have access to my music, video and photos.

Options to look at:

Nvidia TV - 4k compatible, HDMI connection to your AVR or Preamp, passes all audio formats

ROKU - now on some newer TV’s, can be added as a USB stick to most TV’s it can find your NAS Drive and play your music all from your TV.

Hope this helps and Good Luck


#4

I use the following, which, playing FLAC redbook files, to my ears in my system, sounds superior to a very high quality CD transport. I ordered the computer hardware from www.fullysilentpcs.com. I use a linear power supply to power the PC and a small Ethernet switch. I have 2 SSDs—one for the operating system and another for data. I use Windows Server 2016 (Windows 10 can be used as well), with AudiophileOptimizer and Fidelizer Pro—which together transform the sound altogether. Music software is JRiver Music Center, controlled through JRemote, though many folks use Roon. The computer is connected via Ethernet to a DS SR via a Bridge II, which I control directly through MConnect. I hope that is the type of info you seek.


#5

jlm

What exactly don’t you like about just using the Bridge II built into your DS Jr. that would require you to buy a new $2500 streamer/server?


#6

Seems like I should just stay with my MacBook (until I run out of SSD space) and add the Matrix X-SPDIF/I2S cable and maybe JRiver or BitPerfect and call it a day.


#7

Thanks but am strictly a Mac user, don’t need 8-12 TB of storage. Don’t have a preamp or TV in this system.


#8

Thanks but again strictly a Mac user and your advice is a bit too “thick” for a ‘certified’ computer dummy.


#9

Where did you get the idea I was looking for a streamer/server?

Have looked at several music servers, most (like the Small Green Computer I tried) seem to be ‘glorified’ NASs, some even less.

Why, oh why can’t someone develop what I want? A truly friendly (in layman’s not I.T. terms) to setup/maintain/use, affordable, high-end music server with CD ripper and SSD built-in? A really plug and play solution, no harder to own than a Toyota. Seems like the mid-fi crowd has several options with BluSound being the first to come to mind.

BTW I’d hold out for Octave if there was any hope of it coming in near my price range, but with precious little information available it’s hard.


#10

Try a Melco network player. Simple to setup/maintain/use, effective ethernet isolation and easy bit-perfect cd ripping features.

I’m very happy with my N1ZS10 and experiencing their great service at this very moment due to a failed SSD. This former flagship with 2x 500GB SSD went to London for repair. Yesterday my dealer told me these SSD’s are out of stock and Melco will replace both with their new 1TB audio grade SSD’s for free :grinning:


#11

JLM – perhaps this is a good solution for you?

http://www.the-ear.net/review-hardware/naim-uniti-core-network-audio-server


#12

Because you’ve started multiple threads on multiple forums asking about most every popular brand of streamer all of which is mute because you won’t buy a tablet. Still haven’t answered the question of why you are not using the bridge for streaming instead of a Mac laptop or looking to buy something new.


#13

Some servers work without a tablet. I prefer using my MacBook that conveniently sits on my lap with a full keyboard that I can multi-function with and already own. I tried to use the bridge with the Small Green Computer/Roon I bought but was disappointed that it sounded no better than my MacBook/iTunes with 10ft USB cable. So don’t want to make the same mistake again.

And so far no one has answered a single one of my questions that I opened the topic with.


#14

Don’t see the CD ripping features anywhere. (?)

Would prefer SSD to HD and the Melco servers with SSD are beyond my budget.


#15

Where are you storing your music files? On the MacBook?


#16

Not much info on Naim, but it looks nice. Naim seems to push using their products with all Naim systems but don’t know why. Is it that they have a house sound? What about the single ethernet port (which would require use of a switch, like the Small Green Computer needed to function too). See my introductory questions at the top of this topic.


#17

If your music files are stored on a hard drive on your network including your MacBook then the Bridge II and mControl will see and play them. No need for another device.


#18

What is mControl?


#19

click on the mControl word, or click this link


#20

OK, got mconnect loaded onto my iPhone and seems to be communicating with the DSJ, but how do I access music that’s on my MacBook (iTunes and Tidal)?