Goodwin's High End

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

The great thing about this computer music server is that all moving parts such as fans and spinning hard disks have been eliminatedthus making it silent so that it can be in your listening room right next to your D-A converter without any distracting background noise. However this is rather a 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 found a computer company to build these to our specifications.

Note: You can have 2 SSD's inside and that way you might or might not 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 thatin 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 you can set it up yourself. Or if you wish you can specify to have the computer dropshipped to us. That way we can set up the computer for you with the appropriate drivers and software.

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 to configure the drivers, software—(as well as optionally install one or more 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. Then of course the charge for shipping will 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: In the past we suggested using a Lynx AES-16 digital output card. However we are now suggesting that you use a quality USB output (like the SOtM PCI USB card) on the music server computer. Of course should 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. More details are provided directly below.

 


Silent Music Servers - More Detailed Information

There are several important aspects to understand about this music server computer. First of all it is silent so you can put it in your listening room right next to your other components. Having it near the D-A converter is good as it means that optimal length cablesaround 1.5 meters for both the USB and AES-EBU cablescan be utilized. Second, it is designed to be used with either a high end outboard D-A converter with a USB input—or an outboard USB to AES-EBU converter which then feeds the DAC (with an AES-EBU cable). Of critical importance is that the complete setup 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.

UPDATE: As of September 2011 we are now using a high quality 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 Series 2.

Right now we are using JRiver as the music file player software—as properly setup these provide good results. Alternatively you can use Sonata which is based on JRiver. 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. As of late January 2012, we are just starting to test the new version of JPlay 4.x. Eventually we may also test the new version of MediaMonkey v4.x

If you decide that you would like to obtain one for yourself, 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 set it up yourself. You can then purchase whatever else you need from us. 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 USB digital audio output card if required, 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.

One important thing to be aware of is that you can now order this computer built with both the SOtM USB PCI card and the SOtM SATA Filter as part of the original configuration.

Note: If you already have a computer music server that you would like to upgrade, we can provide you with parts such as a USB output card, USB to AES-EBU converter/reclocker, cables, DAC, and even some high resolution files.


As of January 2012 the optimal way to configure a Windows 7 music server is as follows:

  • Windows 7 64-bit (Home, Pro, or Ultimate versions)
  • Music Server software such as JRiver. Optionally you can also add JPlay. Alternatively you can use Sonata music server software. Regardless of which you choose we recommend using the 64-bit versions.
  • For a larger music collection an outboard NAS (network attached storage) 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 the Drobo FS as well as various models of Netgear ReadyNAS which use Linux as the OS.) Note: We suggest that you use ethernet cable to connect the music server to the NAS rather than going wireless.
  • 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 SATA Filter
  • 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 Series 2
  • 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.)
  • 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!

If your collection of music files isn't too large you can use one or two SSD's (solid state drives) internally for storing your music files.

However if you have a large collection of music files you can use a NAS (network attached storage) with RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). There are different forms of RAID that are useable for this purpose including such modes as RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, or X-RAID.

Note: This music server setup has a high quality USB output. So either you will use a DAC with a USB input. Or you can use an outboard USB to AES-EBU adaptor/reclocker box, or a USB to SPDIF adaptor, like the Berkeley Alpha USB (which will output either AES-EBU or SPDIF).

We recommend using an iPad as a remote controller using WiFi which means you will also need a wireless network setup. Alternatively you could choose to use an iPod Touch, iPhone, or an Android phone as a remote controller via WiFi. Note that the wireless network is only intended for remote control. We recommend using wired gig ethernet if you are connecting a NAS to your computer music server. In addition we recommend a separate network for your music server setup that is not connected to the internet. The only time you will need the internet is for the initial setup of the computer.

We also recommend ripping CD's, downloading music files, acquiring metadata, downloading album art, and tagging/retagging be done on a separate computer that is connected to the internet rather than to perform those functions on your music server. That way the music server install stays clean—and by not being connected to the internet you don't need antivirus on it which is more optimal. The idea is the music sever should perform only one function—and that is operating as a music server!

For transferring music from your CD's you can use dBpoweramp or Exact Audio Copy. After using both extensively ourselves we would recommend dBpoweramp as your first choice.

Note: If you wish to use a NAS for your music files, and wish to have both your ripping computer and your music server hooked up to that same NAS simultaneously, then you can keep them on separate networks with a VLAN (virtual local area network).


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 bit-for-bit 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 demo 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.


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 music files as well as CD files:

  • A customized Music Server computer with the Lynx AES-16 card with everything properly setup in terms of BIOS, Windows XP 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. At this time our most popular D-A converter is the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Series 2 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 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.
  • Finally some Reference Recordings HRx files are highly recommended!

Note: If you would like to get the prior version of the music server that we designed back in 2008 here is a link for more info.

 

   
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