Goodwin's High End

Big News! We finally have 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. 

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

Computer-Based Silent Music Servers

We have been getting requests from clients saying that they wish to purchase a music server computer just like the one that we are using in our soundroom. As once they have visited us and heard the level of sound quality that is possible out of high resolution files they want to have the same thing in their own system. So we found a small US-based computer company who will hand-build computers to our exact specifications. 

These computers are designed to put out the highest quality signal possible and can play high resolution files with higher sampling rates/bit resolution. Examples of high resolution files include 176.4kHz/24 bit, 192/24, 88.2/24, and 96/24. In addition to these high resolution files, it can also play regular 44.1kHz /16bit CD files (with or without HDCD encoding) so you can have your whole digital music library all accessible in one place.

Silent Music Server - Component Style Chassis

This is a totally silent computer with no moving parts. Also this component style computer has an external power supply which can be viewed as a plus as it keeps the AC power completely outside of the computer chassis. That way only DC power enters the chassis itself.

This is a rather complicated and time-consuming computer to build because the heat-producing parts are all connected to heat-pipes which are in turn connected to the chassis which then acts as a heatsink. Because of the intricacies involved with building a computer this way we have contracted a computer company to build these to our specifications. The great thing about this is that all moving parts such as fans and spinning hard disks have been eliminated thus making it silent so that it can be right in your listening room next to your D-A converter.

Note: You can have 2 SSD's inside and that way you might not need an external NAS for music file storage. However if you have a larger collection of music files you will need more storage capacity than that--in which case either external eSATA or a NAS can be used in order to give you as much extra storage as you need.

If you would like to purchase one of these computers please click HERE. This is the link to EndPCNoise who manufactures this computer to our specifications.  Once you have configured the computer by selecting your desired options you can purchase it directly from them at that link just above.

Then you have the choice of having it shipped directly to you so that you can install the audio output card. (Note: We used to use the Lynx AES16 PCI digital audio card. But now we are recommending using a USB output. See below for more info about this new development.) Of course you can set it up yourself. Or if you wish you can specify to have the computer dropshipped to us and we can sell you the USB audio output card and set up the computer for you with the appropriate drivers and software.

(Note if you wish to use the Lynx AES16 PCI card we can sell one to you. We will then either install it—or if you prefer we can ship it to you and you can install it yourself.)

In addition you will need some cables which you can also purchase from us—please call us with your length requirements.

Finally if you wish you can hire us for a flat fee of $500 to install the digital audio output card (either USB or AES-EBU output) and configure the drivers, software, as well as input a few high resolution music files (any of which you would pay for separately) and do a final listening test to ensure that everything is working correctly. The charge for shipping will obviously depend upon where you live and how fast you want it shipped. Alternatively if you would like us to come to your home and install it in your system the charge for doing so would be at our standard hourly rate.

More detailed information is just below—and you can also read our technical FAQ. If you have any questions or would like additional information please let us know.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: As of September 2011, we are now suggesting that you use a USB output on the music server computer. This USB output will connect to an external USB to AES-EBU converter/reclocker. One example of such is the Berkeley Alpha USB. The Berkeley Alpha USB then connects to an outboard D-A converter. One example of which is the Berkeley Alpha DAC Series 2.


Silent Music Servers - More Detailed Information

There are several important aspects to understand about these computers. First of all they are silent so you can put them in your listening room right next to your other components. Second, they are designed to be used with a high end outboard D-A converter utilizing AES-EBU. Of critical importance is that they are setup to have the lowest possible jitter, as without low jitter the full potential sound quality of CD quality files or high resolution files cannot really be appreciated.

[NOTE: Starting in 2008 we were setting up these computers with Windows XP SP3 and a Lynx AES16 PCI digital output card. In this configuration the way that Windows XP is setup along with the proper drivers and firmware for the Lynx card is critical—as are a number of software settings which need to be made.]

UPDATE: As of September 2011 we are now using a USB output from the music server computer. While you can use any USB output, there are higher quality ones available such as the SOtM tX-USB PCI USB Audio Card. That in turn connects to an outboard USB to AES-EBU converterone example of which is the Berkeley Alpha USB. The outboard USB converter is then hooked to a separate DACand one example of which is the Berkeley Alpha DAC.

Right now we are using J.River or MediaMonkey as the music file player software—as properly setup these will not impede the inherent sound quality of the best high resolution recordings. Good music server software is essential in order to ensure the output of the high quality digital bitstream necessary to produce a very high level of sound quality.

Using the links above you may purchase a computer from the company with whom we have been collaborating on the design of this music server. They will build the computer to our specifications along with your preferred options and sell it to you directly. After it is built you can have it dropshipped directly to us—or if you prefer you can have it shipped directly to you and you can install the audio output card as well as install any necessary drivers and software yourself.

You can then purchase whatever else you need from us. We can provide you with the USB audio or digital soundcard, USB to AES-EBU converter/reclocker, cables, DAC, and even some high resolution files. And we can set it all up for you if you wish. If it is shipped to us, when the computer and whatever else is needed is all here, we will then install the audio output card, install the required drivers and software, and configure everything in order to optimize it. The final stage is we will do a listening test in a high end audio system to each computer-based Music Server to make sure that it is functioning properly and performing as it should sonically.

As of September 2011 the optimal way to configure a music server is as follows:

  • Music Server software such as J.River and MediaMonkey. (Note: If you prefer the Media Monkey interface we suggest waiting until Media Monkey 4.0 is released.)
  • An outboard NAS to store the music files connected to the music server via a Gig Ethernet switch. We suggest remoting this NAS 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 of Netgear ReadyNAS which use Linux as the OS.)
  • Silent computer (no moving parts) running Windows 7 with a WASAPI driver. (Note: if you are using a Berkeley Alpha USB there is a dedicated WASAPI driver that needs to be installed.)
  • An internal SOtM tX-USB PCI USB Audio Output Card
  • A good quality USB cable
  • An outboard USB to AES-EBU converter/reclocker such as the Berkeley Alpha USB
  • A good quality AES-EBU cable
  • An outboard DAC such as the Berkeley Alpha DAC
  • A pair of analog interconnect cables. (Note: For the Alpha DAC in most systems we suggest that you use XLR-XLR cables. However in some systems an RCA-RCA cable will need to be used.)
  • 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!

Note: If you would like to set up your music server the way that we used to do it using a Lynx AES16 card, here is a list of everything needed to play High Resolution as well as CD files at a high level of sound quality:

  • A customized Music Server computer with the Lynx AES-16 card with everything properly setup in terms of BIOS, Windows, drivers, Lynx software, music file-playing software, firmware, etc.
  • One D-connector to AES-EBU cable to connect the Music Server to the D-A converter
  • A high quality D-A converter. For a D-A converter we are currently using the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC which does a great job of playing high resolution files as well as CD-quality files.
  • A high quality interconnect from the D-A converter to your preamp or direct to your power amp. If you are using the Berkeley Alpha DAC in most systems we suggest that you use XLR-XLR cables. However in some systems an RCA-RCA cable will need to be used.
  • Finally some Reference Recordings HRx files are highly recommended!

We can supply a complete turnkey system with all of the above parts including the HRx files preloaded. Once it is plugged in and you click Play, you will hear what everyone is so excited about—exact copies of master recordings in your home! Up until now for many music lovers that has only been a dream—but now it is finally a reality!

You're invited to visit and hear our setup for yourself—as then you will really understand what all of the excitement is about. Hearing is certainly believing! 

If you'd like to know more about any of this you can read our rather technical FAQ or simply please give us a call at 781-893-9000.


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