• Build An Audiophile Music Server (CA02)

    Music Server Model CA02

    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.
    Model CA01

    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

    Apple MacBook with Front Row displayed.




     

    Audio Magus KingRex UD-01 DAC (USB) front.




     

    Audio Magus KingRex UD-01 DAC (USB) back.




     

    Apple Time Capsule (500 GB).




     

    Apple iTunes.




     


    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


    Specifications
    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
    Weight 500g


     

    Audio Magus KingRex UD-01 DAC (USB) front.




     

    Audio Magus KingRex UD-01 DAC (USB) back.




     



    Setup

    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.


    Wrap Up

    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.
    Comments 16 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey "MusicTrax" nice to talk to you again, thanks for your input. I agree with you 100%. You'll need to give this series of articles time as I have started with the most basic of music servers for people looking to get in the game easily, for little cost, and with little skill involved.<br />
      <br />
      I will cover all configurations of music servers from simple to grand. Stick around, you won't be disappointed.
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Gang,<br />
      <br />
      A few things...<br />
      <br />
      First I have never had any problems with noise from FANS except on hard drives. One thing you could do though is use the TimeCapsule to store the music. Then use the new TuneRanger software for backups to another device like a USB Hard Drive connected to the TimeCapsule:<br />
      <br />
      http://my.smithmicro.com/win/tuneranger/index.html<br />
      <br />
      For Touch Screens I suggest looking at the ELO stuff... I think the link is ELOTOUCH.com but not sure they have a ton of touch screen for both mac and pc.<br />
      <br />
      Then I think there is also that company axion or something like that that makes a MacBook into a tablett pc.<br />
      <br />
      To really make a killer system I think would be swap out the memory of a MacBook to 4gb and then swap the drive for one of these Samsung 64gb drivers or even smaller since the OS really only needs about 32gb.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Gordon - I have many configurations in the works, including one that swaps the spinning hard drive for the Samsung 64 GB solid State Drive. These drives look to be fabulous!<br />
      <br />
      Touch screens are also in the works for future systems. I am ramping up to those systems however.
    1. baumer's Avatar
      baumer -
      I can't wait for your next installments! The dac's for these first two are only 16-bit. What would you recommend for 24/96? I've been looking at the PS Audio Digital Link III and the Wavelength Proton, but i'm sure there are many others out there that i haven't even heard of yet.<br />
      <br />
      Doug
    1. Innertuber's Avatar
      Innertuber -
      Sounds pretty cool to me for some aspects, but the touch screens aren't really meant to be portable are they? These would be located in more of a semi permanent location? Wouldn't it be slower for searching vs a keyboard?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi there Doug - I certainly will get into the 24/96 DACs as I continue this series of articles. Be careful when you look at 24/96 USB DACs as many of them only support 16/44.1 over USB and 24/96 using the other inputs. The PS Audio unit does not support native 24/96 over USB. Gordon's Proton does however. I haven't heard the Proton, but if it is anything like his other USB DACs you can't go wrong by picking one up.<br />
      <br />
      Benchmark also makes a native 24/96 USB DAC called the DAC1 USB and DAC1 PRE.<br />
      <br />
      Stick around for further articles.
    1. Poo's Avatar
      Poo -
      Have been watching the site develop for some time, and decided it's high time I got in on the action. Great work so far BTW!<br />
      <br />
      I'm curious about your backup solution presented here in particular. Can you direct me to more specific information on exactly what process(es) are going on in the background of time capsule/time machine, or what sorts of options (if any) are available in directing how the backup will work? For example if I delete a file on the 'main' machine, is that deletion replicated on time capsule? If not, what happens? What about changes to files? (like updated tagging info or album art).<br />
      <br />
      Also curious how time capsule might be expanded upon (in terms of extra HD space) if required; can you run multiple time capsules (in series) or add extra drives for more storage?<br />
      <br />
      Fantastic to see more audiophiles taking 'PC as source' seriously - mine's sounding amazing!
    1. jimim's Avatar
      jimim -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Can you just use Time Capsule as your primary HD and just stream your music into you MAC and out to the DAC.<br />
      <br />
      Also, any comments on the citypulse that is USB also. Does it to 24/96 over USB?<br />
      <br />
      Jim
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey Jim - You certainly can use the Time Capsule as your main hard drive and stream your music to your Mac & out the DAC.<br />
      <br />
      I looked at the <a href="http://www.audio-magus.com/Citypulse_DAC_DA2_03e_p/cpda203e.htm">Citypulse DA2.03e II DAC USB</a> and I don't think it can do 24/96 via USB. The only reason I say this is because of the limited number of DACs that can do 24/96 via USB and the fact that those DACS make it well know they have native USB 24/96 support.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey Poo - Thanks for getting in on the action. <br />
      <br />
      First you should separate the Time Capsule's capabilities from Time machine. The TC is just a network disk that works flawlessly with Time Machine. Other network disks are not really supported with TM which is why I selected TC for the CA02. I think most of your questions surround Time Machine, and appropriately so.<br />
      <br />
      Here is a little <a href="http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/timemachine.html">info on Time Machine</a> from the Apple website. Nothing too detailed. I'll try to answer your questions here. Let me know what I miss and I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of this sooner rather than later.<br />
      <br />
      There really aren't many options for directing Time Machine what to do. You select the disk where the backup copies will go and you set any excluded folders you don't want backed up. That's it. If you want more options this isn't for you. I used to be in that camp, but soon found the ease of Time Machine much better than anything I could tweak with other programs. The way TM works is based on a calendar much like other backup programs. When you launch TM you navigate back through time to find the version of a file you want to restore. The interface is far better than any backup software interface I've ever seen. If you delete a file It will be gone from the backup from that moment forward, but will be available on a previous day's backup. Changes to files are the same way.<br />
      <br />
      You can expand the TC by "daisy chaining" another hard(s) drive to the unit. I need to look a little further into this one to see if an additional TC will show up as one drive or two etc...<br />
      <br />
    1. xvimbi's Avatar
      xvimbi -
      Great series! I can't wait for the higher-end solutions. Almost exactly what I have been looking for. When I say "almost", I am alluding to video. The Mac can easily also serve up video, not just audio. I know that's a slightly different proposition, but it really only requires connecting the server to a TV, AVR or Apple TV and otherwise does not change the audiophile aspect. However, it might impact the choice of DAC, depending on whether one wants to have audiophile surround sound or not. Chris, do you intend to take that into consideration in the following episodes?<br />
      <br />
      I am planning on putting the innards of a Mac Mini into a bigger, well made metal chassis, which will allow better cooling under heavy load. That's why I personally don't like the laptop systems, because they can get pretty hot when processing a lot of data. I would also replace the optical drive with a higher-quality one (BluRay?).<br />
      <br />
      The server would have to be in the listening room. In order to reduce noise, an external DVD/CD drive could be used, with the server itself residing in a cabinet. However, for easy access to the server, a silent-PC approach would be better suited. <br />
      <br />
      With respect to storage space, the chassis could easily hold two or more hard drives, either 2.5" drives or 3.5" drives combined with noise-reducing measures. Devices such as the Olive Opus demonstrate how it can be done. One could even think about putting a Time Capsule and/or an Apple TV into the same chassis. There is a myriad of solutions.<br />
      <br />
      In any case, these are exciting times for building an audiophile music or general media server! <br />
      <br />
      Chris, thanks so much for this series, the entire website and all the efforts going along with it. <br />
      <br />
      Best - MM<br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey MM - Thanks for the nice words about the site. I have in fact considered every one of your suggestions and have even built similar systems in the past! Great minds think alike :-)<br />
      <br />
      I have built these servers with full 1080 HD video capability and it just doesn't do it for me. It can be such pain in the ass when video is involved. Plus, my main interest is two channel audio and straying too far from that leads me down the road of doing things I don't really care to do and covering a topic that is covered to death on a million other websites. I think the only video I will incorporate into this series has to do with on screen displays or touch screens.<br />
      <br />
      Adding a Bluray drive to a Mac right now may be impossible without software support. I know Apple & Sony are in talks as we speak. Surely a cool feature to look forward to down the road.<br />
      <br />
      Have you looked at the Zalman fanless PC cases? I put together a media server using the Zalman TNN 500AF. Quite the case!<br />
      <br />
      As you say there are tons of storage options. So far in this series I have kept it pretty simple, but stick around and it will certainly get more "interesting" as far as storage goes.<br />
      <br />
      We are certainly on the same page with our shared enthusiasm for music/media servers and the limitless future the high-end has in this area. I can't wait for more people and manufacturers to jump on the bandwagon.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again for hanging around the site and for posting!
    1. jlowe's Avatar
      jlowe -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again for this great series. Each episode adds one more piece to the puzzle, and eventually I expect to get the whole picture.<br />
      <br />
      I didn't understand some of the comments that referred to DAC bit rates (e.g. 24/96, 16/44.1), so I'm hoping that a future episode will fill in that piece of the puzzle for me.<br />
      <br />
      Again, really nice work.<br />
      <br />
      -Jeff<br />
      <br />
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Jeff - Thanks for the nice post. I appreciate you letting me know what else I can clarify for the readers. Ask and you shall receive.
    1. AvFan's Avatar
      AvFan -
      Would an Airport Extreme and a RAID 1 drive be an alternative to the Time Capsule in the CA02? Is there a sacrifice when attaching a RAID drive to the AExtreme by USB versus firewire? I assume I would connect the Airport Extreme directly to my Outlaw 990's USB using a USB hub.
    1. aana's Avatar
      aana -
      The program they want to do it's like some music <a rel="follow" href="http://www.apartmentlifecare.org/27/moving/">pods</a> only that it is not actually move music from one part to another , but it sounds like a great program .