Computer Audio 101: NAS

Network Attached Storage (NAS) allows you to store your digital music library in one place while providing access to it via an Ethernet or wireless connection from any number of network-attached devices. A NAS device is completely agnostic in terms of music-related technology—it will accept any file format at any resolution so you can consider a NAS device more or less future-proof.

Requirements & Recommendations

In order to get your NAS set up and working you need a few things:

  • An Internet connection (the faster, the better)
  • A router (NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router (R7000) $184.99 on Amazon)
  • A NAS (QNAP QNAP TS-251+ $499 or QNAP TS-451+ $599.00 on Amazon)
  • Ethernet cables
The NAS needs to be connected to the router with an Ethernet cable, and every device that you want to have access the music on your NAS needs to be connected to the same router/network either via Ethernet (preferred in most cases) or WiFi.

See Computer Audio 101: File Sizes and Storage to figure out how much storage your NAS needs.

Backup

Setup your NAS as a RAID Level 1 array (see you NAS manual). For backup, you'll need to buy a USB drive with the same amount of storage as your NAS, connect it to your NAS, and using the QNAP web-based tool set up an automatic backup to the USB drive (I schedule mine to run once a week on Monday at 3:00am).

Moving Your iTunes Library Onto Your New NAS

If you have an existing iTunes library that you'd like to move to your new NAS, open iTunes and go to iTunes > Preferences > Advanced. Make sure "Keep iTunes Media folder organized" and "Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to library" are checked. Next click "Change" next to "iTunes Media folder location" and browse to the Music folder on your new NAS and click open. Then just go to File > Library > Organize Library and iTunes will take care of the rest. If you don't trust me, here's Apple's Guide to Moving your iTunes Media folder.

One thing to note when using a NAS-based music library with iTunes is to make sure your NAS is powered on and connected before you open iTunes. If it isn't, iTunes will open and connect to its default local music library location. If this happens, you can quit iTunes and re-open it while holding the Option key down and use the "Choose Library..." option to browse to your NAS-based music.

COMMENTS
monetschemist's picture

Michael, it might be worth providing a link to one or more sites that provide independent hard drive reliability information, such as

https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hard-drive-reliability-q4-2015/

Also, googling for the device name and the word "reliability" is sometimes worthwhile...

AllanMarcus's picture

Why does he NAS have to be connected to the Internet? It should work fine on a stand alone network.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Firmware updates being the most important.
Michael Lavorgna's picture
In order to get music onto a NAS, you can either rip it or download it. In both cases you need an Internet connection, the faster, the better.
AllanMarcus's picture

Ok, but not true. You can rip or download with a connected computer and then copy everything to the NAS. In fact, not having the NAS connected to the Internet is much safer from a cyber security perspective. In most cases the ripping and downloading is being don't on a client, not the NAS.

It's certainly easier for some operations to have the NAS connected to the Internet, but not required.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...as the computer and that computer has to be connected to the Internet. Also, as I said, firmware updates require that the NAS be attached to the Internet.

I am focused here on Computer Audio 101 and building a system. In this case, the NAS is connected to the network which has to be connected to the Internet. This is CA 101.

Aomc317's picture

Thanks, Michael, for your reports! I've taken your advise on a number of products based on your reviews and love them. Examples are T+A (+A) R series amp and DAC and the qnap 251.

Question does the iTunes process still work when iTunes Match is employees? And can the files be transferred as lossless files? Sorry new to all of this.

Cheers
Andy

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...is a 'cloud' service so it actually stores your music remotely on Apple's servers. However, if you've kept locally stored copies of all your music, you can transfer these to your NAS.

If you have more questions, feel free to send me an email.

DavidL's picture

The process you describe separates the media from the meta data for the tracks. It worried me that I could get an inconsistency between the 2 if either computer or NAS hardware went down or its operation was interrupted (e.g. power outage). To avoid this (or at least minimise the effects) I have stored the entire "Music" folder on the NAS i.e. the /Music/ folder and all its sub-folders.
This has worked perfectly for several years.
To serve the music I point the server software to the iTunes media folder within this music folder on the NAS.
This approach has another benefit for me: in addition to the NAS "Music" folder I have an entirely independent iTunes "Music" folder on my computer which I use for testing hi-res stuff in different file formats etc. If anything goes amiss in my testing it has no effect on my main music library.

Tecknik1's picture

Your NAS recommended is a standard hard drive what is your thoughts on a SSD NAS?

tomp's picture

I am moving from a Blue Sound Node to a PS Audio DirectStream Junior DAC and was wondering if there is a way to access my music on my Synology NAS and see what I have on a television scree. Since the Directstream doesnt have wifi I thought it would be nice to pull up my Jriver or Roon on the tv to control it. I can do this with an HDMI cable from my laptop but would love to cut the cord so to speak. Any thoughts?

rsf150's picture

Pretty basic info. You only talk about moving itunes to a NAS. What about moving your Audirvana files over to a NAS? There are so many ways to use a NAS. There are BETTER options these days than to buy a single NAS drive. For example, Seagate and others sell Cloud disks which provide software to do other things than just surface disk space. The other option I like much better than using a NAS drive is to setup a Minimserver. Much more powerful and generally accepted for both sharing an itunes library or for most dedicated streamers.
I used to use a mac mini with audirvana with the audirvana music file on a cloud drive 100ft away from the server. Since then I moved to an Auralic Aries and repurposed the Mac Mini to become an OSX server running Minimserver. I have 20TB of disk attached to the mac mini, 10TB in a RAID 10 configuration (5TB usable) just for my music files. Now my google tv's, sony dvd players, my auralic aries and other devices can see this Minimserver. Now i use the cloud drive to backup the OSX server.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
I agree, this information is basic. This is the purpose of Computer Audio 101.