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SpecificOcean
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Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

I like the idea of using a hard drive (s) as a music server. I've been Googling all sorts of things about the best way to do this.

So has anyone here done that? And connected it through your stereo? And downloaded all your CDs to said drives? And did/does it work well?

Thanks!...

fred333
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

My frat house had somthing similar to that in the party basement. They had a computer soley dedicated to music nothing else. It was very cool like a very in depth jukebox. Is that what you meant?

dbowker
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

For the smallest footprint and easiest interface I recommend a light duty laptop with an appropriate sized external drive. 500GB should do it, even with lossless or uncompressed files, although even a Terrabyte isn't so expensive these days. Personally I really like the iTunes interface, especially since it can download and display artwork, which too me is more intuitive. I like seeing album art, and it's often how I remember what an album has on it. The advantage of the laptop is that it's almost silent, is smaller, uses less power and has a built in monitor/keyboard/etc. A standard PC gets clunky fast if you want it to reside in your living room.

Mono
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

I've set up a Mac G5 as a music server.

I'm using iTunes. I've been told that iTunes is capable of sample-accurate playback.

It's very important not to use any of the "virtual" volume controls since they will reduce effective word length and dynamic range. Get the signal out of the digital domain at full volume and control the level in the analog domain.

If you're importing through iTunes, you need to set the import preference to WAV or AIFF since it will default to AAC.

And disable the Sound Check, Enhancer and EQ.

It's also important to use a better digital to analog converter than the one in the computer. I'm using an Apogee Rosetta 800. The Apogee Mini DAC is nice and it supports USB, Toslink, AES and I believe there's a Firewire option card.

My G5 has optical Toslink which is nice since the glass cable helps avoid ground loops between the computer and the converter/hifi system. Mac laptops have optical digital outs, but they're disguised as the 1/8" headphone output; you need a Toslink mini-plug to Toslink cable for that purpose.

And finally, I'm using a 1 Terrabyte Firewire drive. You can tell iTunes to put the library anywhere. Importing CDs at full 44.1/16 size gets big quick.

BTW, Mac laptops come with a nifty little remote control for iTunes that opens a different GUI that's easy to see from across a room.

I hope that helps!

bobedaone
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

Great guide, Mono!

I have an iMac G5 that I use for work and music. I stream the tunes to an Airport Express, which is connected to an Audio Alchemy DAC via an optical miniplug-to-toslink cable.

I imported all my CDs in Apple Lossless. First, it saves space. Second, JA (in his review of the Airport Express) found ALC to be identical to uncompressed files on playback:

"Some audiophiles have dissed the AirPort Express on the grounds that its digital output is not bit-accurate. However, I found that this was not the case, that the data appearing on the AE's digital output were identical in the original file. To check this, I compared a WAV file with a duplicate that I had captured on my PC from the AirPort Express's S/PDIF output. I used iTunes on my PowerBook playing a version of the file encoded with Apple Lossless Compression to feed data to the AE. The files were bit-for-bit identical, proving that the AirPort Express is transparent to the music data (as is ALC, for that matter)."

I keep all my music on a 320GB external drive, which is now about half full.

I always run iTunes in "purist mode", with EQ, sound check, and sound enhancer disabled. The sound is akin to a good CD player. It sure is a lot of fun, too!

I'm glad to see that this computer audio thing is catching on.

thequietman
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

I tried to save some money and use the equipment I had. I used both windows media palyer and xbox 360 as a media extender. I aslo tried itunes with airport express but neither were as convenient as the sonos system I ended up buying.
The price may be off putting initially but believe me, it just works really really well.
Good luck in whatever direction you go.
thequietman

struts
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?


Quote:
So has anyone here done that? And connected it through your stereo? And downloaded all your CDs to said drives? And did/does it work well?

Hey Ocean56!

The answer is a resounding 'yes' to all your questions! There are some pioneers out ahead of you who have taken some of the arrows. Check out the 'Computer Audio' board further down the page for advice on transferring music from optical to magnetic disk and setting up both PCs and Macs as audiophile-grade two-channel source components. This thread is a great place to start but there are many more.

Happy reading!

PoorRichard
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

I use a MacBook with a DAC from PSAudio that accepts a USB input.
My biggest complaint isn't the sound (I use an uncompressed format), but the
organizing limitations inherent to itunes.

Wags
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

I'm using a G4 iBook (sort of left over after I upgraded to a Macbook 2.16), and running a firewire cable into an Apogee Duet, then straight into my power amp. The Duet was a qualitative leap forward for me - much better than any of my old CD players running through my NAD preamp.

Next I spent a long weekend testing various formats - AIFF, WAV, Apple Lossless, high rez mp3, FLAC, AAC. For my ears WAV was slightly better than the others, but it might have been because it seemed to pump up the volume a little. AIFF and Apple Lossless were very close seconds - so close that after awhile I couldn't tell if I was imagining the difference or not - and it is less than half the size, so I'm going with that. FLAC, for about the same size as high quality mp3s, was better than mp3 or AAC but it won't work in iTunes (without a lot of intermediate steps).

A lot of folks complain about iTunes but I haven't found anything else on the Mac platform that works as well to keep several hundred CDs organized. Ditto the advice about turning off all the "enhancements". I'm thinking about getting a Time Capsule and using it as a central location to store my entire library. Right now its a little spread out on 3 different computers. I'm going to wait for awhile and let others beta test the device first.

chrishazel
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

I have that system for about 5 years now and it's working really great! I have a 3 gig of HDD filled with music,movies,pictures or documents, it is connected to a gigabit network running though out the house with 5 PC's all together. Here are some of the pics.

Elk
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

You look like you are having a blast!

What's the camera in the upper right corner? Security?

Elk
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?

AIFF, WAV, Apple Lossless and FLAC will all sound the same unless something is wrong in the way one transcodes the files (or elsewhere).

These are all lossless formats and the bits are precisely the same when played back and seen by the DAC.

chrishazel
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Re: Has anyone here built a music server using a PC?


Quote:
You look like you are having a blast!

What's the camera in the upper right corner? Security?

It's a network attached camera, i have 4 of those. I just want to see my theater anywhere I go 24/7. hahaha!

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