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mmadowitz
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Music Server Project

This is going into my main system. I'm looking for recommendations for everything. I'm planning on just using standard iTunes software with a wireless keyboard and an HDTV as the interface, so now allI need is everything else. In particular, I'd love advice on any of the following:

1) Silent (ish) case & components
2) Soundcard, outboard or internal
3) Any recommendations for a better interface than the itunes route?
4) How fast of a processor are people using for a machine dedicated to music playback?
5) Any rants you have on anything remotely related?

ludwigvan968
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Re: Music Server Project

sounds like you are making an HTPC more then just a music server, if you really just want a music server, I would look at getting a mac mini and if you need to add extra space, just pick up a lacie external drive, though 80gigs might be enough.

If you really want to go the PC route with HTPC capabilities, it really matters how much you want to spend and what you consider user friendly.

I currently have an HTPC, but definetly do not feel like it is ready for the masses, though I hear it is changning every day.

Anyway, if you could give us a rough price you want to spend, I will tell ya what components I would recommend.

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Music Server Project

It is time for the IPod HOME unit. 6 rear plug in docking bays each holding up to 120 gig HD's. Each drive should be formatted into 5-20 gig banks for downloading files, ABCDE. The main unit could come with a 60 or 80 gig hd and let the customer upgrade at will. It should have optical and coxial out for DAC upgradability. 800 gigs and now all we need is time. I'll gladly give Steve Jobs my address for my consulting fee for my "idea". I have about as much chance of that as winning the lottery.

mmadowitz
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Re: Music Server Project

First, let me second the request for the aforementioned-hypothetical-Apple product.

Though I'm on board with the Ipod Home edition, I'll throw out a price range on this project as a stopgap (caveat: I may be talking about a HTPC here, I'm not on top of my jargon--one box, connects to the pre/processor, holds all my music files).

I'm thinking about $300-400 for the computer (not including storage or soundcard). This thing is going to have to hold a huge amount of music, I'm already at about 150GB, and I've only replaced about 5-10% of the collection with lossless, so we are looking at the need for a lot of space down the road, for now, I've got 2 250GB hard drives to get this going, and I'm trying to scrimp there.

I'm thinking about going the cheap route on the sound card and just going coax to an outboard DAC, but I'm willing to spend up to $400 if there is a soundcard that can do DAC very well (think MSB quality or better) in that price range.

Thoughts? (especially on the quiet components front--pretty small room, so a loud machine is a big problem)

Jim Tavegia
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Re: Music Server Project

The idea of the IPod Home is that they could retail it for $499 with just 1-80 gig HD and then have us work on adding new units as needed or wanted. 120 gig hd these days are what, $120 at most. Apple could do it. Sony could to and it would not take as long to launch it as the Play Station 3 has taken.

manta.b
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Re: Music Server Project

If you want a quit PC in your livingroom, you will have to build two. The problem I experience with any "quit" PC is the hard drive and the processor cooler, mostly the HD. Expept the previously mentiond MiniMac, you will not be able to hear it!
You have two option. Build a fairly simple PC for $100 using an old PIII 700MHz, with 256MB RAM (or something in this range). Put in a IDE/SATA/RAID Controller card, 100Mbit card and your big and noisy Drives, than put it in the basement! Secondly you spend $400 on a MiniMac or option two make your own quit PC, this is wat you need (keeping $400 in mind):

Sharkoon Noisedamper Big $30
Zalman CNPS 7700-Cu $44 (you need a big housing for this one)
so Chieftec UNI Series $74 (In black or silver)
you want Sharkoon Mutech SE (passiv) $119 but you will have to settle with Zalman ZM400B-APS $79, budged wise

Now your up to $227 and still need a mainboard, memory, graphic and audiocard...

I'll advise you to buy an old used AMD Athlon 1800+ system with a minimum of 512MB RAM, 40GB HD, Graphic card and monitor for a maximum of $173.

Then build your new case, with the old mainboard including processor but with the new cooler. Before you close it you still need the audio card....

Perhaps you can help me with this one see my topic [Budged Audio Card ($150-$250)]

In the end you be a little over budged but your PC will be very quit! Better things to use are for instance a Laptop Hard Drive and liquid cooling, you can also save a couple of bucks on the Isolation and housing if the new one (form the used PC) feels heavy and solid.
Good Luck!

Weaverita
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Re: Music Server Project

I agree with the TWO-PC configuration for any audio or audio-video / HTPC solution. This is a classic example of client / server technology that has been around for some time. Having two PCs allows you to optimize for how each PC will be used.

I have had this type of solution for about 3 years.

PC 1: Server (NOISY PC)
- Big Ugly White Box PC (hidden in another room / office / closet)
- Windows Server 2000 (other OSs will work)
- 2 x 40GB drives (RAID 1 Mirror) - for Operating System
- 2 x 250GB drives (RAID 1 Mirror) - for Music Library
- 10/100MB Network Card
- 12,000 music titles ripped at highest MP3 resolution (~1200 CDs) which uses up about 90GB of the 250GB drives

PC 2: Client (QUIET PC)
- Turtle Beach AudioTron [Linux PC] (I don't think these are made any more but equivalent turn-key hardware is also available.) an equivalent PC needs:
** an ethernet connection (even 10MB will work)
** better than average audio card
** minimal disk space (just enough for the OS)

Please consider:
- On your server using redundant RAID 1 mirror (not RAID 0 striping) technology as these drives will spin 24 hours / day and expect Mean Time to Failure of about 3 years. Whenever a drive fails, you simply replace the failed drive and re-mirror your music library. When you have 10,000 titles you will be POd if you have to re-rip your CD library. Do not consider using RAID 0 striping to get the double speed and storage space, you do not need the disk speed and your Mean Time to Failure is much higher. Disks are cheep.

- Depending on your OS, there may be OS settings that allow you to spin-down the drives when not used; This is highly recommended if your OS supports it.

- Connect the two PCs with an ethernet connection. Because the compression of MP3 is so good (even at a high resolution) 10MB ethernet will work fine though most new network hardware (even on on-board PCs) is 10/100MB or some now are even 10/100/1000MB.

- Except for the storage (disk) technology, this is a simple task for computers. You do not need to spend big-$ to get this set up to work. Your newer / faster PCs also run hotter and need more cooling.

Good luck!!!

Mark

ghunter
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Re: Music Server Project

I sold my Naim cdp last year when I hooked up a Chord DAC-64 to an Airport Express and finally heard sound quality that was on par (and in some respects better). The introduction of Apple Lossless meant that I could store all of our cd's on a single drive without losing quality, and iTunes provides an interface that is nice and easy to use. I think you're on the right track, as I'll never buy another cdp again.

Here are some replies to the original question:

1. You won't be able to beat a notebook for low noise levels and convenience. I went with an Apple iBook for my system because it's something I can leave in the living room and not upset my wife.

The Mac Mini is also good, but you will need a separate monitor and keyboard which can be bulky. I don't really think the Mac Mini buys you much over the iBook, except saving a few hundred dollars.

2. External sound cards work great with notebooks. I've been using an M-Audio Audiophile USB running into a Musical Fidelity A3.24 DAC, then an Audio Research DAC-5 with great results.

I read Art Dudley's review of the Wavelength Audio Brick recently, and was intrigued enough to demo one in my system. It was pretty good, arguably a little better than the ARC DAC-5. However, it was their Cosecant model that I ended up buying as it was head and shoulders above the Brick and pretty much every other DAC I've heard in this system:

http://www.wavelengthaudio.com/usbdac.html

If you buy an external DAC, make sure it has jitter correction circuitry. That lets you buy any audio interface you want and feed it digitally with no worries. If you're going digital out then you won't have to buy a top-notch audio interface - spend the money on the DAC instead.

3. iTunes is the way to go with low hassle. There are plenty of people out there using Exact Audio Copy and similar programs, but the files will be 2-3 times larger and the convenience just isn't there. When you're talking about importing over 1,000 cd's, believe me convenience matters!

4. Playing back two-channel audio is no big deal. I was running my home studio in the late 90's off a P3-400 MHz and a Power Mac G4-400 MHz and getting 8-12 concurrent channels of cd-quality audio. Don't even worry about USB 2.0 - USB 1.1 is plenty fast for 16-bit 44.1 KHz audio.

Storage is where you're going to spend the most money in upgrades. If you want an easy route, Buffalo and LaCie make very-large external drives. I'm recommending those to my friends who want to do this for convenience.

5. You won't regret moving to a hard-disk system. Just be careful that there are a lot of different technical skill levels out there and you need to understand what you're capable of handling. If you don't understand how to build your own PC then definitely go the Mac route.

Here's how my system looks now:

- Custom-built PC with Athlon XP 2800+, 2GB RAM, 80gb main drive for OS with 5x200gb drives in RAID-5 array (Windows 2003 Server Dynamic Drives)
- 100mbps network running into an Apple Airport Extreme router
- iBook is the main client, USB extender cables run into Wavelength Cosecant, then ARC LS25mk2/VS110/Totem Hawk
- Other clients include my wife's notebook (and her iPod), my work notebook, another PC desktop, and an Airport Express hooked into some decent Logitech speakers in our bedroom

This works great and we have access to our entire library from any computer in the house, and can stream music wirelessly into our bedroom from any of these computers. I'm going to add another Airport Express soon and hook it up into our Home Theater system to stream into that, too.

PaleBlueEgo
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Re: Music Server Project

If you really are determined to have or build a quiet PC, this site has parts, advice, and complete systems:

http://www.endpcnoise.com/

But my advice is to get the PC hardware out of the listening room altogether. This way, you can use cheap, noisy PC hardware to store the music files, and a silent audio component to connect to your high-end system. Slim Devices Squeezebox 3 is what I would use, a $300 wired or wireless unit with a beautiful aqua display panel, no moving parts, and an excellent interface that makes it easy to find what you want using the remote. It can use the iTunes interface if you prefer that, and also has its own web-based interface, so you can also control it from any computer on your network.

http://www.slimdevices.com/

The server runs on Windows, Mac, or Linux, and 1 server can feed several Squeezeboxes (I have one each in the listening room, bedroom, and garage). You can synchronize multiple players or control them separately. It handles just about every type of music file, and can deliver bit-perfect audio from uncompressed or lossless files.

There's an active community of audiophiles using the Squeezebox in high-end systems with great results.

If you don't want to go wireless and stringing CAT-5 cable is not an option, you can use wall-plugged networking like this 11 Mbps Netgear unit:

http://www.netgear.com/products/details/XE102.php

There's also an 85 Mpbs unit coming out in January:

http://www.netgear.com/products/details/XE104.php

Good luck and happy listening!

bobb
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Re: Music Server Project

The Squeezebox looks interesting, but does it play DRM protected music files? I have seen other similar devices that will not support DRM. That could be a serious limitation (and yet another maddening facet of record labels treating the majority of listeners as criminals because of the actions of a few.)

Bob

PaleBlueEgo
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Re: Music Server Project

Squeezebox can handle AAC and WMA unprotected files, but doesn't support any DRM'ed audio formats. I guess that's the point of DRM - to lock you to one vendor and prevent you from using your music except on approved devices in approved ways.

I won't go into an elaborate DRM rant, except to say I don't see the value in it for the consumer. As we've seen with the Sony BMG debacle, their DRM scheme backfired so badly that Sony is now providing unencumbered mp3s of those songs to customers who bought the rootkit CDs. How ironic - they broke people's PCs to prevent customers from "ripping" to mp3, now they PROVIDE the mp3s to try to save face.

mmadowitz
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Re: Music Server Project

The squeezebox is very interesting, and I've had my eye on it for a while, but I'm skeptical of it's ability to deal with an unwieldy music collection. I was hoping this version would have some kind of external display support, but it looks like that's still a little ways off.

If anyone is currently running a squeezebox with a very large music collection (say 20,000 tracks or more) I'd love to hear about the experience with the interface. I'm very sold on the product from a sound quality point of view, but I'd really like to be able to see more than its display provides.

Also, a question on the multi-box approach: Is anyone doing this wireless? Is there enough bandwidth, or am I going to have to kiss my security deposit on this place goodbye and run some cat5 for this one?

Thanks to all for the help so far, and please keep suggestions coming.

nastir
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Re: Music Server Project

The fact that the Squeezebox does NOT require a video display is a major plus. It's native high-res display can be easily read from across the room, and the remote is great. However, you can optionally use a wi-fi enabled PDA to control it, thereby offering full graphics. Slimserver can probably manage 8-9 simultaneous Squeezeboxes, probably more, limited only by network bandwidth, and processing power of the computer it's running on. I am using three (1 wired, 2 wireless B, no problems with bandwidth). I would also post your questions on the Slimdevices Audiophile forum for detailed answers.

PaleBlueEgo
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Re: Music Server Project


Quote:
If anyone is currently running a squeezebox with a very large music collection (say 20,000 tracks or more) I'd love to hear about the experience with the nterface.

I'm using 3 Squeezeboxes with a 17,000+ track collection of FLAC and mp3 files. The server is a modest $300 Athlon system (512 RAM) running Linux. The players in the listening room and garage are wired with Cat-5, and the bedroom player is using a Netgear XE102 wall-plugged ethernet bridge. This might be a good solution if you can't run Cat-5.

As far as finding what you want via the interface, it's not a problem at all. I can find any single track within 5-6 seconds using the remote. Of course I usually just cue up a bunch of songs by artist, album, or genre. You can also select songs by year, which is cool.

Obviously, it's important to have accurate tag information on your files. One nice thing about the Slimserver software is that you can list multiple genres for each file. Tag a file with a genre of "Jazz;Xmas" and it will show up in the list of both genres. You can also tag with multiple artists.

Playlists are also an excellent way to organize your music. I've got a few dozen playlists that I've refined over the years to give me really great music for different moods and occasions. Sleep, Romance, Dance, Mellow...it's cool to be able to cue up the perfect mood music in a few seconds. I've even got playlists for each member of the family.

The Squeezebox is an excellent music player and a joy to use. It also does a lot of cool tricks like display of album art on the web interface if it is present in your tags or folders, thousands of Internet radio stations, RSS feeds (you can display pretty much any web page as a text scroll), an option to display beautiful "analog" level meters on the front panel, an alarm clock, and lots more.

nastir
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Re: Music Server Project

What program are you using for tagging multiple Genres or Artists?

PaleBlueEgo
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Re: Music Server Project


Quote:
What program are you using for tagging multiple Genres or Artists?

Usually Tag & Rename, sometimes Mp3 Collector. I'm pretty sure that any program that uses ID3 version 2 tags will allow you to use any text you want as tags. ID3 version 1 is a lot more restrictive.

FLAC files use "vorbis tags", which are similar to ID3 tags. Both those programs can tag FLAC files.

Tag & Rename is pretty cool because it also grabs album art from Amazon. I also put album reviews in the comment field.

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