Goodwin's High End

Big News!!!

We have finally found a music server that meets our standards!

For many years we have been looking for a music server that was truly worthy of being part of a high end audio system. And to that end we auditioned quite a number of different models from various manufacturers. But as of Fall 2014 we have finally found a company that makes servers that are sonically superior to all of the other ones that we tried as well as the ones that we designed ourselves.

The Baetis Audio music servers meet the three most important criteria. First they have the best sounding digital output we have heard on a music server. Second they offer an excellent support package. Third they utilize an excellent iPad app as a user interface which is the normal way to use it. As an added bonus these media servers can also play not just audio files but audio/video files as well. The Baetis music servers are what we now use in the store ourselves.


(Note: The following is old information on the approach that we used to take. Although we no longer recommend this approach as the sound quality is not as good as the Baetis. And in addition there isn't any good support.)


 

FAQ - Custom Computer-Based Silent Music Servers

 

Why would I wish to get a silent music server?

If you wish to play High Resolution files such as the Reference Recordings HRx files then to our knowledge this is one of the best sounding music servers available today. The reason is that properly implemented this will produce a very low level of jitter which will make digital audio sound better. This is especially important for high resolution files as they have higher sampling rates. It is amply evident when playing with your CD files too.

The only real drawback is if you wish to control your system with a Crestron remote control. At this point there is no way that we're aware of to control these servers with a Crestron. The other thing to consider is that while a music server from a company such as ReQuest or Kaleidescape will have a better GUI interface and be Crestron controllable, this music server will be a significantly less expensive alternative.

UPDATE: There are now some more choices in Music Servers. Here is a link for more info.
 

What is the price of the Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2?

For pricing and options information click this link.

 

What is the price of the silent computer?

And the price of the component-style computer can be found here: 

http://www.endpcnoise.com/cgi-bin/e/std/sku=mcubed_music_server.html

 

Where can I learn more about this?

Here is a link: http://www.goodwinshighend.com/silentmusicservers.htm

You can also read the review in the January 2009 issue of The Absolute Sound by the editor Robert Harley. Note however that as of September 2011 we have reconfigured the setup. We are now recommending using a USB output into an outboard USB to AES-EBU converter/reclocker such as the Berkeley Alpha USB.

What else do I need to implement a music server solution? And what are the costs of the hardware and software?

A list of both Hardware and Software needed for a complete high end music server solution.

  • You will need to select Music Server software such as JRiver Media Center, Sonata, Foobar2000, or MediaMonkey 4.x. For Windows 7 (or 8.1 if you prefer), the preferred connection is WASAPI which provides a low-overhead, bit-perfect data output with automatic sample rate switchingand in our experience works quite well. Therefore music server software that supports WASAPI such as JRiver Media Center (version 17 or higher), Sonata, Media Monkey (version 4.0 or higher) or Foobar should be used with Windows 7. (Estimated cost: under $30-150) (Note: As of March 2012 currently we are using JRiver in our soundrooms.)
  • If you are using JRiver we recommend using an iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch as a remote controller. Currently we are using the JRemote app on an iPad with good results. There are a number of other apps that you can choose from including ones for IOS, Android, and Windows. For more info here is a link. (Note: The most basic 16GB iPad model with the "retina display" works fine as a remote control and is what we use ourselves.) (Estimated cost $200-500.)
  • Another potentially more purist approach to Music Server software is JPlay. To learn more here is the Beginner's Guide. (Note: We started testing JPlay in January 2012 with the release of version 4.1 as a plug-in with JRiver.)
  • Either onboard SSD's or an outboard NAS to store the music files connected to the music server via a Gig Ethernet switch. If you are using a NAS we suggest remoting it to another room, closet, or basement so that no noise from the NAS interferes with your music listening. (Note: We have been using various models from both Synology and Netgear ReadyNAS which use Linux as the OS and they have been reliable in our experience.) - (Estimated cost: from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars depending upon NAS model and type and number of hard disks or SSD's)
  • Silent computer (no moving parts) running Windows 7 with a WASAPI driver. [Note: if you are using a Berkeley Alpha USB (as a digital output interface feeding your outboard DAC) there is a dedicated WASAPI driver that needs to be installed.] - (Estimated cost: $2000-5000 depending upon configuration plus whether or not you already have a monitor, keyboard, and mouse.) (Note: As of March 2012 we are using Windows 7 64-bit.)
  • An internal SOtM tX-USB PCI USB Audio Output Card - (Estimated Cost: approx. $300 + shipping)
  • A good quality USB cable - (Estimated cost: $50 to $700) (Note: As of March 2012 we are using a WyWires USB cable.)
  • An outboard USB to AES-EBU converter/reclocker such as the Berkeley Alpha USB ($1895) or the Audiophileo2 ($579). (Note: as of March 2012 in our soundroom we are typically using the Berkeley Alpha USB as the digital interface. And if the outboard DAC accepts single-wire AES-EBU then that is our configuration of choice as opposed to SPDIF, etc.)
  • A good quality AES-EBU cable - (Estimated Cost: $100-$5000)
  • An outboard DAC such as the Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2 - (There are DAC's available in a wide variety of price ranges. One example is the Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2 which as of March 2012 is $4995.)
  • Alternatively there are DAC's available that accept USB directly such as the Simaudio Moon 100D ($600) as well as others which are too numerous to list here.
  • A pair of analog interconnect cables. (Note: For the Alpha DAC Series 2 in most systems we suggest that you use XLR-XLR cables. However in some systems an RCA-RCA cable will need to be used.) - (Estimated cost: $50 on up)
  • Lastly we definitely suggest that you get some high resolution files so you can hear how amazing they sound for yourself on your new music server! For high resolution files we are currently offering the Reference Recordings HRx files which are bit for bit copies of the 176.4/24 masters. These really are extraordinarily good sounding files! - (Estimated cost: $45). There are also a plethora of high resolution files available from other sources. For more info here is a link.

What if I want to use an internal sound card like the Lynx AES16?

If you would like to go with an internal digital audio sound card with a AES-EBU output, in addition to the computer you need the Lynx AES16 card which is $695 plus a digital output cable. There is one that is available that has the proper connectors on each end and it is $60.   

If you would like us to set up the computer for you — by installing the Lynx card and configuring all of the software and finally testing it to make sure that it is locking to word clock properly and that it sounds good—our labor charge to do that would be a flat fee of $500.

 
So to summarize, those costs (the computer prices have just come down) would be approximately as follows:
 

Silent computer in the basic configuration:  approx $1-3000 (plus keyboard, mouse, & monitor)

Lynx AES-16                                                         695
Digital cable                                                            60 or more
Labor                                                                    500 (or setup it up yourself in which case that is no cost)

Keyboard and mouse are of course personal choices. You may have a keyboard preferences with regard to variables such as wired vs wireless, key layout, key feel, click or non-click. A mouse also has options like wired or wireless and the number of buttons. (For long term reliability we recommend wired as you can use really long cables to extend them--but some people prefer wireless for obvious reasons.) Note: once your music server is set up you will not normally use a keyboard, only the mouse. Or if you use a touchscreen you don't even need to use a mouse.

 
You will also need some software so that this computer can function as a music server. We used to use Media Monkey Gold ($40) on Windows XP which is available at www.mediamonkey.com. However we are now using J. River Media Center music server software ($50) on Windows 7 (64 bit).
 
Also if you would like to purchase a Reference Recordings HRx file (176.4kHz /24 bit) it would be $45 per file. The HRx files have top quality sound—and you owe it to yourself to hear at least one!
 
Lastly shipping to wherever you are would probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 plus or minus—depending upon where you live and how fast you want it shipped, cost of shipping insurance, etc.

UPDATE: As of September 2011 there is a new and better way to set up a music server--namely using the Berkeley Alpha USB instead of the Lynx card. Not only is it superior sonically but it is also easier to set-up.

Note: You can read a review by Robert Harley of a production prototype of the Alpha USB in the July 2011 issue of The Absolute Sound. However you'll be happy to know that the production version of the Alpha USB has been sonically improved over that production prototype.

Which size and type of flat panel computer monitor would you recommend?

Which monitor to choose obviously comes down to personal choice, as there are many variables to consider. First you should choose the size, aspect ratio, and pixel pitch. (Note: larger pixels means larger letters for increased readability.)

Here are some various representative monitor sizes in different aspect ratios with typical pixel pitches. Please note that some monitors of the same size may have different pixel pitches.

 

16:9 wide aspect ratio
size        pixels                 pixel pitch
            
21.5"     1920 x 1080          0.248 mm
23"        1920 x 1080           .248 or .265
24"        1920 x 1080           .282 or .27 or .276 or 0.2715
27"        2560 x 1440           .2335

 

16:10 wide aspect ratio
size        pixels                 pixel pitch
 
17"        1440 x 900             0.255 mm
19"        1440 x 900              .282 - .285
22"        1680 x 1050            .282
24"        1920 x 1200            .27
26"        1920 x 1200            .2865 - .292
27"        1920 x 1200            .3029
28"        1920 x 1200            .309
30"        2560 x 1600            .2524

 

4:3 aspect ratio

size        pixels                 pixel pitch
 
15"         1024 x 768           0.297 mm
21"         1600 x 1200           .27

 

 
5:4 aspect ratio
size        pixels                 pixel pitch
 
17"         1280 x 1024          0.264 mm
19"         1280 x 1024           .294
 

Obviously for a given size, the viewing area of wider aspect ratio monitors is not as high. As for the number of horizontal pixels, a larger number of them means that you can show more columns if you should wish to. However for some applications it is also important how many vertical pixels there areas well as the size of those pixels. Generally speaking for computer displays most people prefer a 16:10 aspect ratio monitor over a 16:9 one.

Another choice to be considered is the type of LCD panel. Various types available include: TN or S-PVA/MVA or e-IPS or S-IPS/H-IPS.

TN Panels are the least expensive but suffer from limited viewing angles, especially verticallynot to mention inferior color reproduction and contrast ratio.

PVA or MVA or AMVA Panels offer better viewing angles than TN panels--as well as better color reproduction.

e-IPS Panels also offer better viewing angles than either TN--as well as potentially better color reproduction than either

S-IPS/H-IPS Panels have the best viewing angles and are generally considered the best all around panel in terms of image quality, but they are more expensive.

If you would like to see a listing of various models of IPS monitors here is a link.

Note: Flat-panel LCDs are available with either glossy or matte antiglare screens.

As of November 2012--after trying out a number of different makes, models, and aspect ratios--we have found that 24" 1920x1200 LCD's can be a suitable way to go. And in our experience we have found NEC makes some very good IPS monitors. Models that we have used include the NEC LCD2490WUXi2, P241W, and PA-241W. Note, of the latter two, the P241W is a better choice for most systems as it is sRGB whereas the PA-241 has a wider color space than sRGB which is not necessary for most applications (outside of photo processing software). However if you are not really going to be using a monitor much then you may decide that you don't need such a high quality monitor.

In 2013 we expect to possibly see OLED monitors introduced as an alternative display technology.

Also starting in 2013 and going forward higher resolution monitors are expected to become available. According to Tom's Hardware Intel projects that within the 2013-2015 timeframe that resolutions for tablets will reach 2560x1600which is even more pixels than the 2048x1536 of the iPad3 "retina display". (Note that the former is a 16:10 aspect ratio whereas the latter is a 4:3 aspect ratio.) Also that notebooks will reach resolutions of 3200x2000 and 3840x2160. And that desktop monitors will reach resolutions of 3840x2160, 4096x2304, and 4800x2700. These higher pixel count resolutions of course have the potential to enhance the display of cover art.

If you would like to read some monitor reviews here are some links:

PRAD

TFT Central

FlatPanelsHD

With regard to selecting the type of monitor panel for a music server, most people will consider that application to be non-critical in terms of monitor performance so it may not be of much concern to them.

If you are going to use an LCD monitor something else to consider is the type of backlighting. The three common types available are:

  • CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps)
  • White LED
  • RGB LED

RGB LED backlighting is a superior solution to white LED however it is also more expensive.

Environmentally LED backlighting is more desirable as it is more energy efficient than CCFL. In addition CCFL's contain mercury which is environmentally harmful which is yet another reason to choose LED backlighting. LED should also last longer than CCFL's. (Although as of early 2012 there can still be certain technical superiorities for graphics and photography professionals to choose CCFL's over the current crop of LED backlit displays.)

Then there is bezel size, shape, and colorplus the quality, adjustability, and styling of the monitor stand utilized.

Alternatively you can also get a touchscreen which you can use without a mouse. For instance 17" or 19" 5:4 1280x1024 or a 20.1" 4:3 1600x1200 touchscreens are available. Widescreen touchscreens are also available.

What type of keyboard and mouse is recommended?

Personal preference obviously plays a role here. Some people prefer wired and some wireless. Obviously wired will be more reliable long term as you are not dependent on batteries that way.

If you would like a waterproof and spill-proof keyboard and mouse, either wired or wireless, that can be cleaned in the dishwasher here is a link.

How can I transfer my library of CD's into my Music Server?

Extracting music from your CD's so the music can be transferred to your computer or music server can be very time consuming if you wish to do a good jobespecially for classical music. So if you would like to set up a music server but don't want to spend the time necessary to get your CD library transferred you can simply call us and we will take care of getting it done for you.

However if you wish to do it yourself click here for some suggestions.

How much storage space is required for CD's?

 

The table below shows approximately how much storage space is need for 1000 CD's in various formats:

Format Bit Rate kbit/s Storage Estimate (GB)
AAC 96 - lossy compressed 55GB
AAC 128 - lossy compressed 73GB
AAC 160 - lossy compressed 92GB
AAC 192 - lossy compressed 110GB
AIFF 1411 - Uncompressed 780GB
AIF-C Compressed Varies
FLAC Variable Bit Rate, typically 650-1100 - Lossless Compressed 450GB
FLAC 1411 - Uncompressed 780GB
MP3 128 - lossy compressed 73GB
MP3 192 - lossy compressed 110GB
MP3 224 - lossy compressed 128GB
MP3 320 - lossy compressed 183GB
WAV 1411 - Uncompressed 780GB
WMA 64 - lossy compressed 37GB
WMA 96 - lossy compressed 55GB
WMA 128 - lossy compressed 73GB
WMA 160 - lossy compressed 92GB
WMA 192 - lossy compressed 110GB
WMA Lossless Compressed 470GB

However because storage is quite inexpensive there really is no reason to use lossy or lossless files anymore. For high end audio playback we recommend the following formats which are highlighted in bright yellow above: WAV or AIFF or Uncompressed FLAC.

In our listening tests so far we have found that WAV and AIFF files sound slightly better than Uncompressed FLAC. However this may be a function of the hardware/software that we have been listening with. In the future we will continue to do some more listening comparisons in this regard. However because of the good metadata support, at this point we think that AIFF is probably the best format choice as it sounds either identical or virtually identical to WAV. And WAV is not as good in terms of metadata. But either WAV of AIFF can be made to work quite well depending on the type of music you listen to and the software/hardware that comprises your music server.

Testing the various file types on your music server of choice, in terms of both sound quality and metadata, is of course always recommended. And for your testing purposes dBpoweramp can rip a CD to all of the formats discussed here: WAV, AIFF, Uncompressed FLAC, and Compressed Lossless FLAC.

Note: We would recommend Uncompressed FLAC over Compressed Lossless FLAC.

Note: AIF is the same as AIFF.

Where can I get high resolution files?

For a link to a listing of various companies now offering high resolution files click here:

UPDATE:  One of our clients told us that he has transferred his music from his collection of DVD-A (DVD-Audio), DAD, HDAD, and DualDisc to his music server using some software called "DVD-Audio Explorer 2008". Many of these formats contain tracks at 96/24—while some are 48/24 or even 192/24. From a DVD-A there are two ways to rip to stereo. The best way would be to have DVDAexplorer use the "get stereo downmix" button/function which uses a hidden SMARTS table encoded on the disc. This SMARTS TOC, which is on most discs that don't have a dedicated stereo layer, tells the hardware downmix how to mix correctly. The other less desirable way to do a two-channel rip would be to pull up the DVD-V portion (Video_TS folder) in DVDAexplorer and rip the PCM stereo mix, which unfortunately is limited to only 48kHz/16 bit.

FYI DVD’s can contain two folders:
     Audio_TS – contains the high resolution music
     Video_TS – contains the standard DVD material

Click the links above for more information and some listings of available recordings.

Where can I get CD resolution 44.1/16 files? Where can I get HDCD encoded CD's which when decoded are 44.1/20?

The easy answer is to purchase CD's or HDCD-encoded CD's and then transfer them to your music server. That way you always have a backup on CD—plus you have the CD booklet which can also be nice to have for reference. If you would prefer to not have to do the transferring yourself we can have your whole CD collection transferred to hard disk or SSD—and as part of that service all of the metadata will be done too. Even though metadata can usually be downloaded, all too often certain things need to be corrected by hand. Also some obscure albums don't have the metadata available for download so then the whole album's metadata has to be typed in by hand.

If you would like to download some CD files here is a link:

http://www2.deutschegrammophon.com/cat/result?SearchString=&ALBUM_TYPE=L

 

How can I get the best possible transfer of my music CD's into my music server?

The goal is to make a bit-for-bit copy of the music data—and the best way to do that is to use either dBpoweramp or Exact Audio Copy with AccurateRip. You can do this yourself—or you can send us your CD's if you don't wish to bother as it is time consuming to do. If you wish to have it done for you can also have the metadata entered or corrected if needed. For more details on this service click here for details (and scroll all the way to the bottom of the page). Of course you can start off doing it yourself and then if you get tired of doing it you can always send us the rest of your CD collection.

http://www.dbpoweramp.com/

 

Tip: If you are going to transfer music from an HDCD-encoded CD's to a music server,  Illustrate's dBpoweramp CDGrabber has a DSP effect that allows tracks from HDCDs to be ripped to 24-bit WAV files. The files have a bit rate of 2116.8 kbit/x and are about 1.5 times as large as 16-bit WAV files. For example if a 16-bit WAV file was 60 MB in size, then that same file in 24-bit WAV file would be about 90 MB. Not that this will affect anything, but you might be interested to know that while the files will be listed as 24-bit, technically speaking only 20 bits per sample will contain actual data. However, if your D-A converter will decode HDCD there is no need to do this. The only reason to do this is if your D-A converter will not decode HDCD. In fact there is a distinct advantage in not doing this, as if your D-A will decode HDCD the HDCD light will be illuminated when decoding HDCD, and when it does that is an excellent indicator that you have an accurate file transfer to your music server.

Note: The Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 2, which has been by far our most popular DAC, will decode HDCD. (We also expect that the forthcoming Spectral SDR-5000 will be able to decode HDCD-encoded recordings.)

If you use Exact Audio Copy make sure that you read the website thoroughly as there are a number of important things to know before using the program in order to obtain optimal results. Here are the links:

http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/

http://www.accuraterip.com/

You will need something like WinZip to unzip Exact Audio Copy which you can get here:

http://www.winzip.com/index.htm

However we would recommend dBpoweramp over Exact Audio Copy because the metadata is superior.

Can I rip files on my music server?

Normally we recommend that ripping be done on another computer—although it can be done on the music server itself. However what some clients do is they send us their entire CD collection and we get it ripped and install it on the music server for them so when they receive their music server it is ready to go with all of their music pre-installed. If you have several hundred or several thousand CD's it would take quite a bit of your time to rip if you do it yourself, especially if you have classical music because of the greater amount of metadata fields required!

Once your collection is in place of course then you could rip any new CD's or install any new files going forward—it is up to you. From our perspective, in order to keep it working in a pristine state, the ideal for the music server computer is to keep it functioning solely as a music server and have it do nothing else. However once you own the server you could of course rip CD's from that computer if you decided to do so and also do whatever else you wish on it.

As stated above, if you choose to rip your own CD's we recommend dbpoweramp. (If you are using a Mac as a music server you can use this in Bootcamp.)  Alternatively if you would like a free program you could choose Exact Audio Copy with AccurateRip. (Note: AccurateRip is included as a part of the normal EAC download). If you rip on another computer then you can easily transfer the files into the music server either over a network or with an external USB hard drive by simply dragging the files over.
How much storage can an SSD can provide? How can I add more storage space?

As of November 2013 SSD's (solid state drives) are now available in capacities of 1TB or more. We recommend using Intel SSD's for reliability and support reasons. And if you have an Intel SSD here is a link to the page where you can find the Intel SSD Toolbox 3.x download.

With regard to adding more storage space, right now you can go to the configuration webpage (click the link below) and add another internal SSD (solid state drive).

 
 

Alternatively you could add a hard disk as an additional internal drive. However if you add a spinning hard drive instead of an SSD as the 2nd drive please understand that a spinning internal hard drive will make some noise, however small (or not!) it might be. Of course in the future there will be larger SSD's available which could be installed later—as of November 2013 there are 1TB and larger SSD's available with ever larger capacities forthcoming in the not-to-distant future.

 
Another alternative is a remoted NAS (network attached storage) box. We have been using either Synology or Netgear ReadyNAS brands of NAS in our demo system—and properly setup they has been able to deliver Red Book (CD quality at 44.1kHz 16 bit) and high resolution files at up to 192kHz 24 bit without dropouts to multiple music servers simultaneously. QNAP is another reputable maker of NAS's. As each of these brand's hardware and software evolve monthly or annually there will be advances and/or benefits that might make a difference for a given application.

The final price of the NAS will of course depend upon how many TB (terabytes) of storage you would wish to have inside. For example, a ReadyNAS Pro with close to 4TB (4x1TB or 2x2TB) of raw hard drive space would one way of going—although this can also be configured to hold far more if you utilize the maximum of 6 hard disks. (Note raw space per hard disk is actually a bit less in actual use. For instance a 2TB hard disk actually is about 1.81TB.) Please understand though that if this is setup as RAID 1 that that would roughly cut the available storage space in half. There are other RAID configurations however which would use the storage space more efficiently of course such as X-RAID. One advantage to the NAS approach to adding more storage is that in theory you can run an Ethernet cable up to about 100 meters (328 feet).

December 2009 UPDATE: We are now looking at using 2TB hard drives as Western Digital is now shipping 2TB RE4-GP WD2002FYPS 5400 RPM drives (with firmware version 04.05G05 link or later) (firmware link -- use at your own risk of course) which means that storage space in RAID could be increased to something in the neighborhood of 9TB. [Note: The WD 2TB RE4-GP WD2002FYPS drive has been qualified by Netgear for the ReadyNAS Pro Business and Pro Pioneer as well as other ReadyNAS models].

Here is a Netgear ReadyNAS hard drive compatibility list.

March 2010 UPDATE:  We have recently seen several 2TB Western Digital RE4-GP WD2002FYPS 5400 RPM drives fail. At first we thought that maybe they were not being sufficiently cooled and therefore that was a contributing factor. However after some research, including the Google white paper on hard drive reliability (just google it!), it would seem that drive temperatures, unless they are extreme are probably not the cause. So it would appear that some percentage of these drives have indeed been problematicalthough our sample size is too small to draw any valid overall conclusions. Going forward we will continue to monitor the reliability of these hard drives. If we continue to see problems we may alternatively try the 2TB Hitachi Ultrastar A7K2000 HUA722020ALA330 drives (an Enterprise level drive). However any drive from any manufacturer can fail which is why of course all data on every system needs to be backed up. In any case, for now we are continuing to use Western Digital RE (RAID Edition) drives at the 2TB sizeespecially as we have heard that Western Digital tech support is better than that of Hitachi here in the US.

April 2010 UPDATE: So far the 1TB WD RE3 drives have continued to work reliably long term so at present that is our top recommendation unless you need the larger 2TB size.

June 2010 UPDATE: We haven't seen any of the above mentioned 1TB or 2TB Western Digital drives have any problems over the past few months.

November 2010 UPDATE: We still haven't seen any of the above mentioned 1TB or 2TB Western Digital drives have any problems since we started using them.

September 2011 UPDATE: Certain models of 3TB drives are now approved for use in ReadyNAS. 4TB models have just been introduced so those should be soon to follow.

March 2012 UPDATE: After doing some testing, for UPnP output from a NAS we are now using a Synology NAS instead of a Netgear ReadyNAS. Specifically the model that we are using for demo is the Synology DS1512+. We have also tested the DS411+ II which is a last generation model. However, with the exception of speed and capacity, we would expect that all of the Synology models would work the same as they all use the same software. In addition various Synology NAS models have now been certified for certain models of 3TB and 4TB hard drives--and you can see the compatibility list here.

May 2012 UPDATE: At this point we have switched over to Hitachi brand hard disks for library storage. Hitachi now has 2TB to 4TB hard drives. Though more expensive, the best ones are the models for "enterprise". We still recommend an Intel brand SSD for the boot drive of the music server.

As of 2012 we have also started using internal SSD's for music storageat least for collections that aren't too massive. At some point In the future we will also be testing an eSATA SSD RAID array. However in the near future a NAS (Network Attached Storage) will still be a less expensive proposition if you have a large music library. Plus you should know that eSATA is limited to a cable length of about 2 meterswhereas, as previously mentioned, the NAS can have an ethernet cable that is up to 100 meters (328 feet) long.

September 2014 UPDATE: We are still using Hitachi HGST drives for file storage. Here is a reliability report.

 
What NAS/hard disk configurations are recommended?

A NAS can be obtained with or without hard drives preinstalled. The minimum number of hard drives to use is two for RAID 1 which means that the 2nd drive mirrors the first one. A small NAS will hold 2 hard drives. Depending upon the NAS that you choose larger ones will typically hold anywhere from 4-7 drives. There are of course a plethora of NAS models and new ones are introduced regularly. As of 2012 you can get a NAS for as little as a few hundred dollars.

Western Digital 1TB RE3 hard drives are relatively inexpensive--and the Western Digital 2TB RE4-GP hard drives (firmware version 04.05G05 or later) are typically double the price or the 1TB. As a reminder, for redundancy a minimum 2 hard drives is necessary to start. Of course with 4TB drives (and soon even larger capacities are expected) the number of files that can be stored is vast indeed!

If you would like us to set up the NAS for you we can do so for a flat fee to do the following: install the hard drives, set up the software, and test it here with your music server. However if you are savvy with regard to NAS and networking this is something that you can do yourself.

You also will need a Router and Gig Ethernet switch as well as Ethernet cables to hook up the NAS to the music server computer. For highest reliability we recommend using wired connections rather than wireless for connecting the music server to the NAS for accessing music files.

 
If I order a complete setup how long will it take before I actually have it in my hands?

Assuming that all parts are in stock, it typically takes a minimum of about 7-10 days to have the computer built. Then it takes about a week for ground shipping for it to arrive here. Then, depending upon how busy we are, it usually takes us about a week or two to set it up and test it. Then add in however long it takes to ship or deliver it to you. So an estimate of the total time it would take could be approximately 4 weeks or more from time of order.

For a Windows music server is Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 preferred?

If you would like to use Windows 8.1 rather than Windows 7 that is your perogative.

While we have used Windows 8 and 8.1 Pro on several machines to test it out, we are still using Windows 7 on our music servers. At some point we may change to Windows 8.1, or some later version of Windows, but at this point we can recommend Windows 7 as we have been using it far longer.

For a Windows music server, in terms of watts, what size power supply is recommended?

Typically anywhere between 300-800 watts is usual, depending upon the configuration. Although each yea the wattage required seems to go down as the efficiency of the components parts (CPU, RAM, SSD's, etc.) increases. Here is a calculator that you can use to estimate the wattage required:

http://support.asus.com/powersupply.aspx?Slanguage=en

How much RAM is recommended for a Windows music server?

We have used both 8GB and 16GB of RAM with good results with Windows 7 Home Premiumas well as 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB of RAM with Windows 7 Pro as well as Windows 8/8.1 Pro. Note that there are RAM limits that vary depending upon the OS (Operating System) that you are using. With Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit the maximum you can use 16GB. With Windows 7 Pro 64 bit the limit is 192GB. Whereas the 32 bit versions of both of the above are limited to 4GB.

For more info here is a link:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa366778(v=vs.85).aspx

With Windows 8.x the limit is 192GB and for Windows 8.x Pro the upper limit is 512GB. However for the 32 bit versions the limit is 4GB.

Can this play encoded formats such as Dolby True HD or DTS-HD Master?

As for what formats can be played, any format for which there is computer software available can be played as long as it can be outputted over either "audiophile-grade" USB or AES-EBU which are the recommended type of digital cable connection. (Depending upon your hardware, we recommend either "audiophile-grade" USB and/or AES-EBU in order to obtain the lowest jitter. To make a long story short, the lower the jitter the better the sound quality. In case you don't know jitter is defined as timing errors in the digital domain and can be measured in picoseconds. We are not familiar with what software there currently is that would play Dolby True-HD—however it may exist either now or in the future. However please understand that currently Dolby True HD as well as encoded formats such as DTS-HD Master are limited to HDMI which incorporates HDCP.

What type of files can this play?

It depends on the music server software of course, but most good music server software will play audio Wave files that range from 44.1/16 up to 192/24. However you can also use it for lossless compressed files such as FLAC. (Or even lossy compressed files such as MP3.) In addition DSD files can now be played--however to do so you also need a DAC that can play DSD files such as a DCS or a Chord Chordette.

Here is a list of file formats that J. River will play:

http://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Audio_Formats

There is also a fairly complete list of file types that are supported on Media Monkey that you can find on their website:

 www.mediamonkey.com

AIFF (which can be also tagged as AIF) files can be played with a plug-in which is available from the aforementioned Media Monkey website. Click this link and scroll down to "WAVE Input Plug-in 2.07" and follow the instructions.

SHD files also can be played—though we haven't tested this file type yet.

Can other Operating Systems besides Windows 7 be used?

You have the option of buying the computer with no OS (operating system) and then installing whichever OS you wish. For instance using some version of Linux plus whatever music server software that would run on it if that were your choice. In theory you might even be able to put the Mac OS on it if you so chose—however we have never attempted to do that and we don't recommend going the "Hackintosh" route as it violates the Apple OS X EULA (software agreement) and obviously is completely unsupported. We do not recommend using Vista as it has been superseded by Win 7.

However Windows 7 (32 bit or 64 bit) with JRiver Media Center music server software is a combination that many people have chosen to go with. For ourselves we have been using JRiver with Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium or Pro.

(Note: In the past we were using Media Monkey 4.x running on either Windows XP or Windows 7.)

JRiver has finally released Media Center for Mac OSX. In addition there will be a Linux version forthcoming as well.

 
How can I optimize the setup of JRiver music server software when used in conjunction with the JRemote IOS app?

From JRiver:

"As an audiophile you will be concerned about putting the least amount of stress on your computer while playing back music. JRemote will not send any requests to your computer if you are not browsing. The “Now Playing” view however will poll your computer in short intervals.

If you are only listening to music we also recommend running JRiver Media Center in server mode. You will find this option under Tools > Advanced Tools > Media Server. After selecting this option JRiver will run as a service so you can shut down the program and still be able to control the program from JRemote."

UPDATE, March 2012: Apple IOS 5.1 upgrade warning. We just identified a glitch for those of you who are using an iPod Touch or iPhone with JRemote as a remote control app for a music server running JRiver 17 software. After upgrading to IOS 5.1 the JRemote app will crash. So it is necessary to upgrade the JRemote app to the latest release which cures the problem.

UPDATE, July 2012: We have been running a number of music servers with JRiver Media Center 17 and JRemote and they have been working well.

Besides JRiver can other Music Server software be used?

Yes you can use any Music Server software that you choose. Alternatives include:

 
If I wish to use Windows XP with the Lynx AES16 digital audio output card, how can I tweak that setup?

Here is link to an article on this subject. However though this article does talk about ASIO drivers, we are not recommending using ASIO drivers for the Lynx AES-16.

 
How do I set up Media Monkey on Windows XP with a Lynx AES16 digital audio soundcard for best sonic results?

If you would like to do it yourself here is a link. It is recommended that you follow the instructions precisely!

How do I set up the PCI version of the Lynx AES16 digital audio card on Windows XP for best sonic results?

If you would like to do it yourself here is a link. It is recommended that you follow the instructions precisely!

 
What other ports are on the silent computer?

The computer also has the normal ports such as Gig Ethernet and USB.

How can I control the music server from my listening position without using a wireless remote control?

What we have in our soundroom is a long extension cable for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. That way the music server is sitting by the equipment rack right next to the DAC so the digital cable is nice and short. And the user interface hardware (monitor, keyboard, and mouse) can be on a side table right next to the listening chair. (For normal use we only use the mouse and the monitor for operating the music server. The keyboard is only used for set-up, certain types of searches, and inputting metadata.) However for home use an iPad or iPod Touch utilized as a remote controller makes the monitor, keyboard, and mouse unnecessary. That way they can be placed out of the way.

Can I use an app to control JRiver Media Center via an Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad?

Yes you can use JRemote or Bitremote or RiverMote to use an Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad as a wireless remote control via WiFi. Although there may be future updates, at this point we think most people would prefer JRemote:

http://www.jremote.net/

http://www.bitremote.com/

http://melloware.com/products/rivermote/

Can I use the wireless remote control MonkeyTunes or iMonkey software apps to control MediaMonkey with the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad?

The Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad can be used as remotes to control MediaMonkey, though unlike traditional remote controls these devices will send commands to MediaMonkey through a Wi-Fi signal instead of infrared transmission. With either the iMonkey or MonkeyTunes applications available from the iPhone app store, you can control MediaMonkey on your PC from your iPhone or iPod touch!

After you purchase the iMonkey application from the Apple AppStore, all that's needed is to make a quick download of the iMonkey server from: http://melloware.com/products/imonkey/ You'll have to start MediaMonkey with this modified MediaMonkey.exe file so that the iPhone or Touch can access MediaMonkey (no installation needed, just extract and double click the downloaded MediaMonkey.exe file).

Please note that when using iMonkey software that it only allows you to select from playlists. And it shows you lots of info on the current playlist (artist, song, bitrate, length).

Whereas MonkeyTunes uses an iTunes interface so you can navigate/search your whole library not just playlists. However it only shows the song title and cover art when playing the song--but you can also "turn the screen over" and on the "back" is the Album name and list of tracks of the album playing. Nevertheless it offers a lot more than iMonkey does in terms of control.

April 2010 UPDATE: We have tested the iPad with iMonkey and MonkeyTunes they both work like charm via WiFi--as long as you are in range of course. Please note that there have been reports of iPad having somewhat weak WiFi—although in our initial testing of several different iPads we haven't experienced this. However if you do experience a problem here is a link for info on WiFi connectivity problem resolution from Apple. Or if you should experience a firewall blocking issue here is some information on how to fix it.

Note: In case you don't already know, you should be aware that like the iPod Touch, the iPad battery is not designed to be user replaceable--for more info see this link.

What if my Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad freezes or the screen appears just to be blank or it isn't acting right? How do I do a hard reboot?

First of all, as an Apple technician will readily tell you, all of these devices are computers. So therefore sometimes they may need a hard reboot!

1) Press and hold the Home button (big circle below the screen) and the Sleep/Wake button (on top of the iPhone, iPod Touch) simultaneously.

2) Continue holding both buttons (Ignore the "Slide to power off") until the iPhone shuts off and begins to restart. This takes about 10 seconds or so.

3) You may let go when you see the silver Apple logo.

4) You have completed a hard reset successfully.

5) Note that it takes quite a while to load from the Apple logo to the main screen. This is normal.

For an iPad reboot here is a link:

http://thehowto.wikidot.com/hard-reset-ipad

How else can I control MediaMonkey with a wireless remote?

There are other ways to do so and you can find them on the MediaMonkey site here and here

Please note that we have not tested any of the other wireless remote controls so we can't vouch for how well they work or if there could possibly be any sonic consequences from using any of them.

How do can I setup a RAMdisk?

Occasionally we are asked about playing files from a RAMDisk. While we ourselves haven't done this, if you have the requisite level of computer expertise required in order implement this approach here are two links that have been recommended to us here and here.

However the better way to implement this is within JRiver or Sonata which can play files from RAM. In addition JPlay can also play from memory.

If you have any further questions please let us know.

You can reach us at 781-893-9000 if you have any further questions.

 

   
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