can a music server be better than pc with dac?

stpierre76

New member
Mar 14, 2010
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I recently posted about needing a new dac, however, it made me think about how good a dedicated music server be in comparaison to a pc and dac.Of course i m not prepared to go to the naim hdx path but are there other alternatives that offer true hifi sound?or is pc and dac the only path?

sincerely yours
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Well...

Music quality as the only criteria it is mostly down to the DAC. The operating system on the streamer (which I'll use as a catch-all term for the "device what changes the stored file to a digital audio stream") needs to be tuned for best results, which is easier on some operating systems than on others, but other factors are not about music quality; rather they are about the quality of the overall experience.

So a Linn Klimax DS will undoubtedly produce incredible sound quality (well, it had better for the price!), but how much of that is down to the DAC and how much is down to the streamer? Or a more pertinent question maybe is: what is the difference between the streamer on the Klimax and the one on the Akurate? I'd guess not a lot, if anything.

There are many factors on the quality of experience. So a PC as you'd normally think of one is not a good choice for the streamer. The streamer should be as low power as possible, minimal graphical output, no services running that are not about reproducing the sound, accessing files and interacting with the user. It should have no moving parts to prevent audible noise, and it should consume such a small amount of power that the potential for EM interference on the audio being reproduced moves towards insignificance. The software it runs should be tuned for music rather than video (UPnP=video) and should be designed for remote interaction via another device e.g. phone, tablet, other computers.

Music should ideally be stored on a remote device so it can be accessed by multiple playback devices in the house(your domestic music cloud!) depending on need and household member. The storage system should be able to present content in multiple protocols and multiple formats and source content from both its own storage and Internet services; so share files via SMB and via UPnP, deliver in MP3 to the limited devices that can only deal with MP3, deliver FLAC to the hifi and video to the TV, while being able to stream Internet radio or YouTube content to the same playback devices.

It seems to me a complete solution is required for the best user experience - but if you just want to play music in one place from a local store then a dedicated music streamer/DAC/preamp is a good option.
 

stpierre76

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Mar 14, 2010
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thanks a lot for your input and reply.I will keep all that in mind and try to audiotion a ferw solution.Just afarid that pc may have a little too much noise that s all.

sincerely
 

scene

Moderator
Sep 25, 2008
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stpierre76:
thanks a lot for your input and reply.I will keep all that in mind and try to audiotion a ferw solution.Just afarid that pc may have a little too much noise that s all.

sincerely

If your PC has an optical out (e.g. a sound card with an optical out), then the electrical noise of your PC should have no impact on the signal out put to a DAC, as the source to DAC will be 100% digital.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Too much noise, mechanical? Too much noise, electrical? The latter would have to be extreme to influence any connected DAC, particularly using what is probably the preferred connection type of USB (think Win7 laptop running full GUI), and the PC would have to be pretty close to the DAC/cables alos. The former is eliminated completely by using fanless PC with no onboard mechanical storage i.e. only using solid-state devices rather than traditional hard drives. I'd lay odds that the majority of hifi music servers are using a streamer that is a PC based on above basic spec, running an OS from flash memory on an ARM chip or similar, where the OS is modified Linux or, less likely, Unix.

My current development platform is a VIA x86 processor running at 1GHz with a SSD drive. It is utterly silent, but more interestingly very unstressed acting as the streamer. A much lower-power processor would have no difficulty in providing all the processing needs of the streaming function (network access to files, daemon to interact with remote software, decoding files). The current platform is also currently providing S/PDIF output - with a USB connection it would lower load even further (passing decode function to processor on DAC). It uses 12V DC in so has insignificant EM induction concerns for the DAC or beyond.
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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Yes, a PC can be hacked to automatically switch output for different formats i.e. 16/44.1 to 24/96 for example. But I don't like hacks and thus don't trust a PC in the long term assuming you want to play hi-res audio i.e. anything above 16/48.

But the PC is a very convenient, cost-effective way for standard-res audio.
 

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