Media Server Reviews

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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jul 14, 2016 92 comments
Guess Who's Back?
If you've been following Roon's development, you know that you need to run Roon Core on either a computer or a NAS. Since I already own a NAS, which is underpowered for running Roon Core, I thought I'd explore the world of mini computers by reviewing two; an Intel NUC and a sonicTransporter i5 (sT). Why two? To see if there's any difference.
Steven Plaskin Posted: Jun 16, 2016 14 comments
Andreas Koch, Founder, CEO, and Engineer along with Bert Gerlach, Engineer have recently released the new Playback Designs Sonoma Series that includes the Syrah Server, Merlot DAC, and OpBox conversion kit for the Oppo103 Blu-ray Disc Player. Another component in the Sonoma series is also slated for release called the Pinot that is an Analog Digital Convertor. I’m sure a number of you have noticed that the Sonoma Series has named the products after fine wines. Andreas previously worked for Sony developing the first native DSD recorder and workstation. Sony’s chairman at that time felt that DSD’s potential and performance was similar to a good wine; hence the name Sonoma for the workstation. Andreas’ view of musical experiences and fine wine:
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jun 09, 2016 12 comments
Baetis
Think fly fishing: Baetis is a genus of mayflies that happens to be on every trout's mind and menu. Baetis, the company, is located on the banks of the Yellowstone River in Montana so my guess is trout is on their mind and menu.
Michael Lavorgna Posted: Apr 21, 2016 10 comments
NAS/Music Server/Streamer/CD Ripper/DAC/Headphone Amp
I'm sure some will want more, but that's a lot of functionality fit inside one relatively small box. The Bluesound Vault 2 makes computer audio easy—a one box solution for all of your computer audio needs. No need to fret about which NAS to buy, what streamer, which DAC and headphone amp, and there's no need for a computer. You will need a tablet for remote control and a love of music to make it all work as intended.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Mar 10, 2016 18 comments
2TB + NAS
The Aurender N100H houses 2TBs of internal storage while also offering the ability to play music from network attached storage (NAS) and USB storage. In addition to developing their own iOS Condutor app for remote control, Aurender also offers their free AMM (Aurender Media Manager) software for Mac and PC which essentially reads the contents of attached storage making it available in the Aurender app as if it was stored internally, metadata and all. This is a huge improvement over older versions where external storage was only available via Folder view. Since the N100H caches both locally-stored and NAS-based music in its 120GB solid-state drive (SSD) prior to playback, you can outgrow those 2TBs without performance concerns.
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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 24 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.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Sep 24, 2015 13 comments
"SQ"
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Dec 04, 2014 0 comments
Aria
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.
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Michael Lavorgna Posted: Aug 28, 2014 31 comments
Served
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.

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