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Music Servers? - Page 3

post #31 of 85
If you're doing video, I'd use wired networking, mostly for bandwidth, though it will almost probably be more reliable than wireless. If you do wired, be sure to budget in a gigabit-capable switcher, too. Good ones aren't expensive.

There are lots of networked video players out there. Which one you get depends on what formats you want to play back. If you encode everything to H264 or WMV or one of the other popular Internet distribution formats, almost anything will be OK. If you rip MKV or ISOs (exact bit-for-bit images of a DVD or BluRay), then there are very few, if any, dedicated players that will play them back flawlessly. If that's important to you, a HTPC is probably the best device.

I wouldn't cheap out on a wireless router. I use and really like the Apple Airport Extreme, though there are probably others out there just as good or better. I've had bad luck with a repurposed Linksys WRT54G running one of the freely available hack packages.

--Andre
post #32 of 85
If you're renovating anyway, I cannot recommend running cable strongly enough. Wireless is a pain in the ass and slow as dirt. Wired is where its at and is cheap as balls to boot.
post #33 of 85
Be careful with networked video players for music.

My friend has the WD TV (HD Plus or something like that) and it is pretty sweet for video but clunky and crappy for music.

something like XBMC or an apple TV has native library functions (which I don't use as much as I should...but I have pretty well organized files) which makes it way easier to sort through your collection.
post #34 of 85
In case anyone else is wondering about music servers, I now have a Synology DS1511+ and can heartily recommend it. I'm technical and would have been perfectly capable of building my own based on freenas or something (i was doing a variation of this until yesterday), but there's a lot to be said for the form factor and how quiet/efficient the synology unit is. Being able to drop 15TB into something the size of a shoebox is definitely a nice thing, as are the expansion options (2 expansion units can chain off the main for a total of 15 drives or 45TB). No other company offers anything like it without getting into enterprise gear which is not suitable for home use (mainly because it's hella loud and a lot more expensive). It's also power efficient and can shut itself down and wake itself up on a schedule.

The other side of it is that it offers so much more than dumb storage. You can run a torrent client directly from the device. It can publish media libraries in various ways if you want to access it from a ps3 front-end, or itunes, or windows media player/center/xbox. It'll even transcode audio for you on the fly if your player doesn't support certain formats (ok audiophiles will hate that and i make sure i can always play natively). Hell, you can even run a web and database server from the device.

The backup capabilities of the unit are awesome. You can run a client on your computers and it will back up to the nas (and keep it synced at all times), keeping multiple versions. The neat part is that the device can then backup data from nas to amazon s3 storage, so even if your house burns down, you'll still have the data off-site. In my case, I'm obviously not going to backup the full 15TB to S3, but i'll probably put 50-100GB in the cloud. For things like pictures that you'd never want to lose, it's worth $10/mo imo.

Next year I can see myself buying a second unit to replicate my media library to because losing it would really suck and it would cost way too much money to send tens of TB to S3.

Oh and the device itself goes beyond raid 5. If you put enough drives in it'll sustain 2 drive failures and volumes can be expanded easily on the fly. You can also mix disk sizes in an array, which you can't with traditional raid (well you can, but if you had 3 disks, 2 of 500gb and 1 of 1tb, the 1tb disk would waste 500gb). You can also upgrade to larger disks over time by swapping out the smaller ones one at a time and letting array "rebuild". It's a very nice unit in just about every way.
Edited by GQgeek - 7/31/11 at 4:10pm
post #35 of 85
Thread Starter 
OK, bumping this thread as I'm finally in my new place and after several years of having the old system boxed up in an attic, I finally have it up and running. Very pleased to finally have it out - less than pleased that I had to discard the Transparent cable and replace it with Audioquest Type 4 because I needed a longer run to be able to run it down through the crawl and achieve spousal approval. I think there's a noticeable difference and I don't like it, but oh well, it is what it is.

Anyways....

I'm left with a few options and I'd like to figure out which way to go. I think my simplest, cheapest option is to just get a USB DAC and run it off my iMac using iTunes or some other player/song organizer. I have an OK collection of music built up in iTunes but in a perfect world I'd rip my entire, extensive CD collection to some kind of OS-neutral lossless format that could stream through some other software. I'm not a big iTunes fan. Anyways, this seems pretty do-able. I'd get something like a Musical Fidelity V-DAC. I would have to do a pretty long USB run to the DAC, as the iMac is in an adjoining study and I can't just run a USB cable along the floor. This brings me to question #1 - I think I'd need to get a powered USB cable to make such a long run - counting diving into the crawl we're probably looking at at least 30 feet. Monoprice seems to have something that will work... but will it, really?

That's the cheapest option, because for the price of a USB DAC (~$300) and a USB Cable (~$30) I'm in business. The system is expandable so that later I can add a NAS or simply hook up a few external hard drives to the iMac. Later I can hook in a Sonos or Squeezebox device/devices as well and not have lost anything, including my DAC investment which will still be useable.

But will it really work?

The other drawback to this solution is that I don't currently have a good way to dive into my crawl on the computer side with this longass USB cable. On the stereo's side I do have a sneaky, invisible way in. But on the computer side I do have a wall-mounted wired Cat-5 connection, so ideally I'd go Cat-5 (or wireless) to the DAC.

Which brings us to Option 2: get something like a Sonos Connect that can stream music wirelessly (or via Cat-5) and hook that to the V-DAC. I do note that the Sonos Connect does not have a USB digital out, though it does have Coax and Toslink - are these all equal ways to send the digital signal to a DAC? Are there differences? I know Toslink was once pretty popular but I have also heard mixed reviews, although I'm never sure how to weigh these reviews.

This is also expandable - I can add a NAS later and presumably the Sonos software can pull music off any library wherever I have it in the house. Is this accurate?

I could also go with a Squeezebox unit instead, right? Sonos connect just looks like a pretty nice iOS controllable device to me.

Also, is the V-DAC a good one? Looks like a nice affordable DAC but I'm open to other suggestions.

Thoughts on these potential setups?

Thanks, I know this is a lot I'm asking here and I'm kind of a n00b with setting up computers and networking....
post #36 of 85

I can't really speak about the Sonos gear but I'm very happy with my Squeezeboxes. In your case you could just install the Squeezebox server software on your iMac and scan your music library. Then you would connect a Squeezebox Touch to your wireless network and plug it into your DAC using the coaxial or toslink output. The Squeezebox will scan your network and find the server. You then use the dedicated remote, or an app on your iPad, iPhone, Android phone to control the squeezebox (or you can pull up the interface in your browser from the local network). If you do intend to run it wireless just make sure you get a decent signal in the install area. Music playback is quite low bandwidth compared to video but it sucks when the signal drops in the middle of your favourite song. I have both my Squeezeboxes connected via Cat5, but it's really just because I already had cable in the area.

 

It's a pretty easy setup and very simple to control once you have it installed. We have two of them and it's really nice to be able to sync them so you have the same music playing in different rooms at the same time etc., among other things. My wife really likes it as well and she generally has no interest in electronic stuff. Sound quality is excellent and it will support native playback files up to 24/96, which in my mind is more than enough (though I know some others disagree). I would also actually suggest that if you go with a Squeezebox you try it for a while with the internal DAC before you splash out for an external. I think the difference between the internal DAC and an inexpensive external DAC is not going to be huge. I have my Squeezebox running through a Cambridge Audio DacMagic and to be honest I could probably do without it (and I've got a pretty decent system). Also if you skip getting the DAC right away you can avoid having to muck around with that awkward USB cable setup and it won't cost you any more up front (since the Squeezebox is less than $300, I believe).

post #37 of 85
Squeezebox works well, but the browsing is a bit of a PITA, even if you use iPeng. If you do get a NAS later on, make sure it supports the Squeezebox server since SBs will only talk to their own server. The popular NASes (Netgear, Synology) all do this or can be made to do this because they run Linux.

16.5 feet is the max USB cable length, so 30 feet is not a good idea. If you still want a USB DAC, a good no-nonsense USB DAC is the Centrance DACport LX ($300). They also make a slightly more expensive version that can drive headphones.

Another idea is to get an Airport Express or AppleTV so you can stream from the Mac over the network. They are bit-accurate, but I think they only go up to 48 kHz, and I don't know how many bits. If your library is CD quality (44.1 kHz, 16 bits), they will work fine. And they both have Toslink if you want to upgrade their DACs.

I'd try to rip everything to a lossless format. With iTunes, that means Apple Lossless (ALAC), but Apple's open-sourced the code (and people have reverse-engineered it before that), so it's easily convertible to whatever format you might use in the future.
post #38 of 85
Thread Starter 
Re: Long USB runs - could I not use something like this:

http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=103&cp_id=10303&cs_id=1030301&p_id=7531&seq=1&format=2

??

Also, AY, is there any difference between coax, S/PDIF, and USB for passing a digital signal? I note the DAC you recommended is USB only. I also noted that you have to "hack" the Squeezebox Touch to get it to output USB and it looked like they were also trying to make sure it wasn't doing any kind of signal processing (out of my depth here)????
post #39 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas View Post

Re: Long USB runs - could I not use something like this:
http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=103&cp_id=10303&cs_id=1030301&p_id=7531&seq=1&format=2
??
Also, AY, is there any difference between coax, S/PDIF, and USB for passing a digital signal? I note the DAC you recommended is USB only. I also noted that you have to "hack" the Squeezebox Touch to get it to output USB and it looked like they were also trying to make sure it wasn't doing any kind of signal processing (out of my depth here)????

You could use that cable, but whether it will work in your setup isn't clear. Some hardware with really marginal USB ports may not like it, while others may be fine. 16 feet is what is guaranteed to work all the time. If you really need to run a long USB cable, get a USB repeater or an active cable. (I have not used these devices, so I don't know if there are compatibiity issues.)

In terms of bit-accuracy, both S/PDIF (which is the protocol used over coax and Toslink) and USB are capable of doing the same thing, but there may be other factors upstream that change this like Windows or OS X doing signal processing. These days, both OSes are pretty clean for audio, but it's good to check on the settings (Audio MIDI Setup for the Mac) just in case.

If you use a Squeezebox, then just use the Toslink or coax outputs, and don't bother with a USB DAC. Try the analog outputs of the Squeezebox first --- you may find it satisfactory.
post #40 of 85
According to my friend Chris who is a noted cable designer, USB cables don't work well over 15 feet and he generally recommends less than 12 feet.

In my experience, USB cables versus SPDIF depend more on the USB sync quality on the DAC and the quality of that depends to some degree, with exceptions, on whether it is an asynchronous connection.

Also, me and my friends have been experimenting with lossless formats. In my opinion, a better way to go is to rip everything in WAV format. You get a bigger file but also better sound quality in my experience. For a while I tried AIFF but WAV sounds better on my Mac Mini server. It's not that lossless is not lossless but that the unpacking of the file seems to have a detrimental effect.

Also, there are surprising sound quality differences with USB cable. While a good Belkin Gold USB cable can sound good, a great cable like the Audioquest Diamond is much better. I'm not sure why this is but it is so.

As for DACs, I like the V-DAC in your price range. The Squeezebox is okay but not built as well. The Centrance recommendation is a good one. You can also look for the Peachtree Audio Dac-it. It's got fantastic sound.
post #41 of 85
Thread Starter 
Not that anyone cares, but here's the latest update:

I bought an Apple Airport Express and a mini-Toslink adapter cable (what a PITA - they sell the Airport Express @ BB but nobody there had heard of the digital out and they didn't have the cables; I found that Radio Shack had one in stock @ the store near me but nobody knew where it was on the shelves; I finally found one behind some standard Toslink cables - typical Apple BS - a nicely designed product but one that requires something special and esoteric to make it work), as well as a Musical Fidelity V-DAC Mk. II.

Right now I just have most of my music on iTunes on a central iMac that is our home desktop computer and not at a high resolution to boot, but I do have an external hard drive and I'm going to start ripping everything to it in lossless format.

In future I'd like to build out a NAS but I'm technically incapable so I'll probably have to enlist someone's help when that time comes. The NAS seems like a smart way to go anyways - I'd like to have my photos and videos and music all accessible from any device in the house (and beyond?) and backed up properly in a RAID array. At that time, perhaps I'll also move to something more sophisticated for streaming music to the V-DAC. Squeezebox or Sonos or something else capable of handling "bit accurate" information (if I understand that correctly) and easily organizable/controllable and at a higher resolution than Apple's capability.

Anyone know what a basic NAS with, say, 3TB of storage (3TB of actual storage, so 6TB total, right?) ought to run?
post #42 of 85
just remember that RAID doesn't count as backup.

It protects against an individual drive failing, but it doesn't save you if something accidentally corrupts data (something misbehaving could easily corrupt both sides of the raid array since the array would think it was doing the right thing and merrily copy the corruption to both drives) and it doesn't save you from accidentally overwriting/modifying/deleting your data.

Realistically, RAID takes care of the "scariest" possibility--sudden harddrive failure--but human error is a far more likely way to end up needing to pull a few files out of the backups (whether it be your error or the error of somebody who wrote a buggy piece of software that screws up your crap).
post #43 of 85
I think synolgy has the best nas servers around. The barebones model costs about 200 on sale and factor in another 200 for 2x1 tb drives.

I'd wait til q3 of this year since that's when most of this stuff is supposed to go on sale
post #44 of 85
Quote:
Originally Posted by otc View Post

just remember that RAID doesn't count as backup.
It protects against an individual drive failing, but it doesn't save you if something accidentally corrupts data (something misbehaving could easily corrupt both sides of the raid array since the array would think it was doing the right thing and merrily copy the corruption to both drives) and it doesn't save you from accidentally overwriting/modifying/deleting your data.
Realistically, RAID takes care of the "scariest" possibility--sudden harddrive failure--but human error is a far more likely way to end up needing to pull a few files out of the backups (whether it be your error or the error of somebody who wrote a buggy piece of software that screws up your crap).

+1

Indeed.. keeping a single copy of one's valuable MP3 library, irreplaceable priceless photos, movies, etc. on a RAID is NOT a backup. I've heard of RAID controllers failing, rendering the HDDs unreadable. The ideal backup IMO, is a separate copy of the data away from PC or server, and another one outside of the building, in the cloud, stored at a friend's house, or whatever
post #45 of 85
Here's my backup plan.

1. Rip the original CD in wave format to Mac Mini. Keep the CDs. I also do hirez PCM rips and keep those discs.

2. Backup the Mac Mini to external drive.

3. Backup that drive to second external drive.

So I'd agree with above you always need a second backup drive. Drives fail more often than you would imagine.
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