Media Server Reviews

Sort By: Post Date | Title | Publish Date
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 19, 2015 18 comments
"A Digital Signal Is Not Just Bits"
So says Antipodes (and many others including me). They go on, "A digital signal sent from a digital source to a DAC is an electrical or optical wave. The DAC's receiver reads the wave to identify the bits. When the wave has electronic noise interference and/or timing errors, the bits can still be read but the bits are not recognised with perfect timing and this results in poor sound regardless of the DAC used." Oh heck, let's just light the fuse, "Faith in theory, without empirical testing in the intended application, is dangerous because all theories are gross simplifications of what really happens, so don't fall for the 'bits is bits' or reclocking rhetoric." Run!
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Nov 12, 2015 18 comments
Let's Talk Melco
Did you know that Buffalo Inc., makers of Wireless routers, Ethernet Data Switches and storage devices including NAS drives (and much more) began as a hi-fi company called Melco (Maki Engineering Laboratory COmpany)? Makoto Maki started up his company in Japan in 1975 "to design and manufacture the finest audio components of the time". Today Melco Holdings Inc., the parent company of Buffalo Inc. and 13 others including Melco, is the largest computer peripherals manufacturer in Japan.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 24, 2015 11 comments
I favorably reviewed the SOtM sMS-1000U Music Server back in 2013 (see review). Since then, SOtM has been working on their flagship music server that now comes with the "SQ" model designation. Among the upgrades from "U" to "SQ" is a standard Solid State Drive (32G SSD for OS), a high quality audio grade USB 3.0 host card using the company's tX-USBexp PCI express USB 3.0 host interface card, external power option for the audio USB output, and a "much improved ultra low noise regulator, jitter clock and active noise canceler." The idea being, better sound.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: May 18, 2015 0 comments
I was very favorably impressed with Digibit's Aria Server (see review) so I was happy to see them in Munich showing off the Aria's little brother the DLNA and AirPlay-enabled Aria Mini ($3200). The Mini can accommodate up to 2TB of HDD storage or 1TB of SSD storage into its fanless and fun form factor. You can attach to your network-attached storage via Ethernet/Wi-Fi or USB storage via its USB input. The Mini also houses a 32/384 and DSD128 capable DAC or you can opt to exit through its USB output (ASIO, WASAPI and Kernel streaming) to your DAC of choice.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Apr 28, 2015 6 comments
If you read Mark Jenkins', Founder & CEO, Antipodes Audio Limited, response to my review of the Antipodes DX server, you'll have read this:
"Regarding your observation of a decrease in sound quality when playing back music from the NAS using DLNA: in general, this is true. But if you'll allow us to assist you in setup mounting the QNAP, you'll find that the difference in sound quality between the internal storage and the mounted NAS is very small -indeed, tiny. We'd be happy to help you in the setup process, just as we would with any customer; the improvement in sound quality compared to playback through DLNA is well worth the minor effort involved."
So that's exactly what we did. Using TeamViewer, I invited Mark into my iMac, what an odd feeling that is, and he went about mounting the QNAP NAS after which I went about listening. Antipodes will perform this same service for any customer.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Apr 02, 2015 8 comments
the Antipodes
Unlike computers, music servers have but a few simple jobs to do—store, stream, and serve music. This seemingly simple task, easily accomplished by the even the doggiest of computers, is actually fraught with issues. Noise, noise, and noise being just three of them.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 04, 2014 0 comments
The Aria Music Server from Digibit is a purpose-built computer running Windows Home Server 11 stored on a 30GB SSD card (next year, the Aria will switch over to Linux) and its sole purpose is to rip, store, access and play music. Under the hood, we have Intel Atom N2600 (1M Cache, 1.6 GHz) dual core processor and 30GB of Kingston RAM. The standard version, under review, comes with 2TB of HDD storage in a RAID 0 array, a commercial grade Teac DVD/R ripper, and linear power supply. You can also opt for 4TB of storage or 2TB of SSD storage. There's also an optional internal DAC (Burr Brown 1795). The 6mm thick precision machined aluminum chassis was designed by Ochoa & Diaz-Llanos, a Spanish industrial design studio, and the Aria certainly looks the part of high end music server.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 25, 2014 3 comments
Cocktail Audio
Cocktail Audio is, to the best of my knowledge, a division of Novatron a Korean company specializing in the manufacture of "Multimedia Devices". I first came across the Cocktail Audio X30 at CES 2014 and I was intrigued by its all in oneness. The X30 incorporates a 50W digital amp, DAC, server, UPnP network player, and CD ripper all in one package. Just add speakers.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 28, 2014 31 comments
The Aurender X100L is the relatively new baby brother of the previously reviewed S10 (see review). Like its brethren, the X100L is a purpose built music server while upping the ante on the S10s 2TB of storage to a whopping 6TB of total storage (2x 3TB). That's enough for most largish libraries but if you require even more storage Aurender has informed me that they're coming out with an 8TB ($3699) and 12TB version ($3899)! If you need less, there's also the X100S ($2,999) with 1TB of storage.
Steven Plaskin Posted: May 20, 2014 7 comments
Michael Lavorgna did an in-depth job reviewing Vincent Brient’s Totaldac d1-dual DAC (see review) and his Totaldac d1-server (see review) for AudioStream last September and December. Michael not only found the Totaldac d1-dual DAC to be one of the finest DACs he has experienced, but was very impressed with the clarity and abundant musical qualities of this DAC.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Mar 03, 2014 2 comments
Music Served
What is a music server? A music server is a computer. These days what isn't? Our automobiles have computers in them but we don't call them computers, our phones are computers in this same sense but we don't call them computers, either. A music server is a purpose built computer whose purpose is storing and playing file-based music and the Aurender S10 is such a beast and without giving too much away, it serves its purpose splendidly.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jan 21, 2014 23 comments
A Musical Vault
The Bluesound Vault is in a category all by itself, at least for the time being. The Vault combines 1TB of Network Attached Storage (NAS) with a DAC and digital volume control so you can connect it directly to your hi-fi with a pair of regular old RCA interconnects. Using the very slick Bluesound app on your smart gadget or tablet of choice you can be playing scads of music in no time flat. No computer or external storage need apply. But that's not all.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 05, 2013 1 comments
A totaldac Package
The totaldac d1-server is based on an 800MHz ARM based Cubox minicomputer running RTLinux (Real-Time Linux) and the MPD music player daemon. There's an integrated "digital reclocker" which accounts for a large chunk of the d1-server's price—the d1-digital reclocker is available as a stand alone device from totaldac for about $4,900 while you can pick up a Cubox 2" cube computer for around $100. The d1-server comes in the same chassis as the d1-dual DAC I was so impressed with when I reviewed it (see review) and continue to be each time I give it a listen.
Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Oct 24, 2013 13 comments
the SOtM sMS-1000U Music Server atop the prototype Linear Power Supply

SOtM "Soul Of the Music" Server
A music server is a computer. I know you already knew that but I figured I'd state the obvious anyway as a lead in to the most important criteria for any computer destined to act as a music server. Among these criteria I count ease of use as being paramount to worth. If there's anything at all cumbersome when it comes to operation, I'd say that pretty much disqualifies said server as a contender. After all, using a Mac or PC as a music server can be pretty simple. Next on the list of important items is sound quality. Again, if said server doesn't outperform a regular old computer, what use is it? Thankfully the folks at SOtM seem to think along these same lines.

Filed under
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jul 18, 2013 0 comments
The Weiss MAN301DAC Music Archive Network Player wraps everything you need, minus music storage and the mandatory iPad and associated app, into one very smart, clean, and simple box. A lone slot drive adorns its minimalist front panel along with an on/off button and blue LED. The hardware not even hinting at all of the functionality offered by the software inside. The review sample is the DAC version which essentially stuffs a Weiss DAC202 ($6,470) inside for a one box solution. Just add music.
Enter your AudioStream username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.