Media Server Reviews

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Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 04, 2014
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  |  Aug 28, 2014
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  May 22, 2014
photo credits: Synology (except where painfully obvious)

Up to 20TB of Storage
What are the most important features for any NAS to embody? Quiet, reliable, enough storage for your present and future music needs, processing power, features, functions, and ease of use? I'd say those are the top most qualities we want from any NAS whose sole purpose is music serving and I'd also say the Synology DS412+ delivers on all counts.

Steven Plaskin  |  May 20, 2014
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Mar 03, 2014
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  |  Feb 12, 2014
A Silent NAS is a Good NAS
The QNAP HS-210 is a two-bay fanless UPnP/DLNA compliant Network Attached Storage (NAS) device that can accept up to two 4TB drives. As a dedicated music server, especially one that may live within the confines of a listening room, the most important features for a NAS are performance, reliability, which has a lot to do with which drives you buy to populate your NAS, and noise. The last thing you want or need is a NAS with a noisy fan whirring away while you play your music. The other thing the QNAP HS-210 potentially has going for it, which is plainly obvious at a glance, is its horizontal form factor and black and brushed metal aluminum body. If these traits have you shaking your head "yes", I'd recommend reading on. If on the other hand these things mean nothing to you because your NAS sits in another room and it can make all the noise it wants, and you could care less about how it looks or the kind of space it occupies, feel free to take a pass.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Jan 21, 2014
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Dec 05, 2013
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.
Michael Lavorgna  |  Oct 24, 2013
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.

Michael Lavorgna  |  Jul 18, 2013
Served
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.

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