The "Build An Audiophile Music Server" series continues with some improvements to the Model CA01. Model CA02 is still a very basic music server, but addresses the major backup pitfall of the CA01 and improves the sound with an upgraded USB DAC. The CA02 is also a solution that seeks to serve music without a steep learning curve to operate it. In the previous article I said the CA01 was not a long term solution. Fortunately the CA02 is fully capable of being your long term music server solution. Don't get me wrong, long term certainly does not have anything to do with quality of sound and features. If you are happy with this system, I suggest keeping it until you're unhappy or when you're looking for a jump to the next level. If it sounds good to you, then it's good. With the CA02 your music will be backed up without any user intervention and allow you to sit back and listen without worry.
I trust that readers have already read the CA01 article, so I won't recreate the wheel with every tiny detail. I will reiterate that simplicity and high quality sound are the goals of this system. Some nice features are absent here because they increase the price and complexity from a little to stratospheric. Trust me Computer Audiophile will layout systems for every level of functionality and price, from simple to "Holy S#&T."
Let's begin with the requirements to build CA02.
1. Apple MacBook laptop ($1099, same as CA01)
2. Apple Time Capsule ($299, 500 GB)
3. Audio Magus KingRex UD-01 DAC ($190)
4. Apple iTunes (Free)
Total price = $1,588
The differences between this system and the CA01 are the addition of the Time Capsule backup solution and the upgraded DAC. Everything else is the same. The MacBook is identical and can be the source for any music server from simple to grand. The skill set required to setup and use the CA02 is very minimal. If you poke around Computer Audiophile a little bit you're likely to find answers to any questions that come up.
Differences in Detail
The Time Capsule from Apple is a great addition to this music server. There is no backup solution easier, anywhere. Since the CA02's music resides on the local hard drive with limited capacity, the 500 GB Time Capsule should contain enough disk space. Want more? Pick up the 1 TB model for $499. The Time Capsule works hand-in-hand with OS X Leopard's application Time Machine. In the simplest terms, you enable Time Machine and select the Time Capsule as your backup drive. In full detail what you do is enable Time Machine and select the Time Capsule as your backup drive. Sure that might sound a little cliche, but backing up with the Time Capsule is that easy. You don't have to worry about anything. Seriously! Backups take place automatically and can be put on hold during listening sessions. once the first complete backup takes place there won't be much to transfer to the Time Capsule thereafter. When you get a new album it will be backed up automatically within the hour. Another major plus of the TC is that it uses 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless. You don't need to connect anything to your local music server. This sounds too easy to be true, but I'm 100% honest when I say this is how it works. No gotchas or show-stoppers with CA02 and the Time Capsule.
The Audio Magus KingRex UD-01 DAC is a product that I have not personally used. However, Computer Audiophile member "SGB" has one and says the price to performance ratio is great. It is a USB DAC with some very good specs and a very good recommendation. Here are the stats courtesy of audio-magus.com
This tiny audio powerhouse is built around the Burr Brown PCM 2702E DAC chip and a large internal buffer to store audio packets.
The Burr-Brown OPA2604 low pass filter acts as the output stage preamp and removes residual digital garbage. Combined with the Texas TL072 DC servo and low noise JFET op amps, the result is a more analogue sounding stream.
* Solidly-built titanium-look anodized aluminum case.
* Small footprint
* Excellent components and build quality
* No drivers needed. Plug-and-play with Windows and Mac
Main USB Decoder Chip Burr-Brown PCM 2702E
sampling rates 16-bit 44.1khz/48khz
Low Pass Filter OP AMP Burr-Brown OPA2604 (With socket for easy upgrade path)
DC Servo Chip TL072 (With socket for easy chip changes)
Power rating DC 12V +-10%
Adaptor input AC 100-240V (47-63Hz),outputC12V/0.5A
Dimension 110 x 75 x 33 mm
I hate to duplicate content here, but the setup is much the same for the CA02 as it was for the CA01. Differences start at step 8.
Many readers considering this system will be amazed at the simplicity of the setup process. This process literally takes fifteen minutes.
1. Turn your MacBook on.
2. Plug the KingRex USB DAC into an open USB port on the macBook.
3. Connect RCA cables to the DAC's output and your audio system's analog input.
4. Open Audio Midi Setup and select the KingRex as your output source if it is not already selected.
5. Open iTunes and enter iTunes preferences.
5a. Make sure that Sound Enhancer and Sound Check are not enabled.
5b. I select AIFF as my preferred format. (optional). Note: With limited disk space Apple Lossless is probably the best selection for importing.
5c. Most important piece - Make sure to enable error correction on CD reads.
Note: All of these audiophile settings can be viewed with screenshots here.
6. Put a CD in and click import to library. When finished eject the CD.
7. Start playing music with your new model CA02 music server or continue on to backup your music first.
8. Setup the Time Capsule with the simple wizard included on CD. This is what I call "Apple Easy."
9. Open the Time Machine application, enable it, and select the Time Capsule as your backup disk. Note: This is where you can disable Time Machine if it bothers you during listening sessions.
10. The first backup will take a considerable amount of time, but subsequent back ups will be very fast and without user intervention. Once the backup has finished you can relax knowing your music is as safe as a second copy can be.
A long term music server solution can be very easy to setup and be very satisfying to listen to. The backup solution used with the CA02 is what enables this to be a long term solution. You can use it as long as you want without worrying too much about data loss. Nothing is perfect and hard drives will fail. Fortunately the CA02 will have you protected for 99% of the problems you'll encounter. A major electrical storm could take out your macBook and the Time Capsule simultaneously leaving you with no music. Lucky for you all your original physical media based music is packed away in your closet ready to be re-ripped. You did make a physical CD backup of those Linn Records high resolutions downloads right? All you have really lost is replaceable gear and a good chunk of your time.
The first two music server models, CA01 & CA02, have obvious limitations because of smallish MacBook hard drives. With the CA02 you can listen stress-free knowing your music is backed up, but you can't listen too long because hard drive space is limited to the size of current laptop hard drives available from Apple. You can opt for an unsupported hard drive upgrade, but before you go down that path you'll want to read the next installment of "Build An Audiophile Music Server." See you all next time.
As usual, please post questions and comments below. I'd like to help you out.