• QNAP TS-409 Turbo NAS Review

    Many of us can't afford to purchase a piece of equipment that does one thing and one thing only. We often go for the item that does one thing great and has the ability to do many other things pretty well. Sometimes this even helps us justify the purchase with a significant other. The Apple TV works as a nice wireless audio device while at the same time enables your spouse to download every episode of Sex In The City via the iTunes Store. A new push lawnmower enables your spouse to get exercise while mowing the lawn. Or, maybe not. Those of you looking for a great NAS storage device for all your music, and a device that the rest of the family can use, must take a closer look at the QNAP TS-409 Turbo NAS.
     

    The Basics

    NAS = Network Attached Storage
    RAID = Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks
    LAN = Local Area Network

    I know many of you have read the abbreviation NAS over in the forums and wondered what the heck is NAS. A very easy way to think of NAS is like this: The hard drive in your computer is attached to the motherboard by a SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) cable. NAS is a hard drive attached to the motherboard by an Ethernet cable instead of a SATA cable. SATA cables are limited in length to one meter and Ethernet cables are limited to 100 meters. In addition to using an Ethernet cable NAS devices communicate via IP or Internet Protocol. Thus, a NAS disk storage device can be accessed from anywhere in the world over the Internet or from another room in your house over your LAN (Local Area Network).

    The advantages of a NAS disk storage device are many. The two most important advantages for audiophiles are noise reduction and data redundancy. Hard drive noise is eliminated because a NAS device can be placed outside of your listening room. The QNAP TS-409 Turbo NAS is holding my iTunes library and sitting in an ajacent room as I write this review. My music sever is pulling the files from the TS-409 seemlessly over my LAN and without a sound. Data redundancy, as we've discussed before, is hugely important. A NAS device such as the TS-409 allows you to store your music files in a RAID array with built-in fault tollerance. RAID is a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks that appear as one disk to the computer. The QNAP device supports many types of RAID. Audiophiles should be most interested in RAID1 and RAID5. Both types are fully supported by the TS-409. RAID1 is also know as disk mirroring. With two 1 terabyte drives in the TS-409 a RAID1 array provides 1 TB of usable space because one disk is a mirror of the other. RAID5 is known as disk striping with parity. The QNAP NAS will accept three or four disks in a RAID5 array. The data is stripped accross all four disks instead of written to one disk. When the data is stripped accross the disks extra data derived from the original data is also stripped accross the disks. When one disk fails no data is lost. Simply replace the failed drive and the data formerly on the bad drive is rebuit on to the new drive using the parity information contained on the remaining good drives. There are a couple disadvantages to a NAS device, but they are far outweighed by the advantages n my opinion. Ripping CDs to a NAS disk is slower than a directly connected drive. This really isn't a problem because the initial data load can be done via USB Copy. Adding a few CDs per week is also no problem because the extra minute it takes to load each disk is really no big deal in low volume situations. The biggest disadvantage of a NAS device such as the TS-409 is the technical skills required to set the device up. Don't get me wrong this is far from a complicated device and the instructions can pretty much walk anyone through the configuration. The QNAP, as well as most other NAS disks, is not as easy as the Drobo automated storage robot but it's about $150 cheaper and offers far more functionality.

     


    QNAP TS-409 Turbo NAS Review
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    QNAP TS-409 Turbo NAS Features

    As I elluded to earlier this NAS device can do many things in addition to storing your music collection. A USB printer can be connected to the TS-409 allowing a formerly direct connect only printer to become accessible over your LAN by all users. Your kids can use the NAS as a file server to store their school papers on the RAID array. The TS-409 also has built-in photo sharing, UPnP Media Server support, FTP and bit torrent capablities, and built-in Myphp and a Joomla web server. Those are what I call the extra features.

     








     

    Audiophiles will love the TS-409 because it supports SqueezeCenter 7 and has a built-in iTunes server. Audiophiles with expanding music collections will be happy to know the TS-409 supports online RAID capacity expansion. This is the technical / marketing term for upgrading your 1 TB disks to 1.5 TB disks on the fly when they are released in August. Replacing all the drives at once is a bad thing of course, but replacing one drive at a time and allowing it to rebuild through the parity information contained on the existing drives is a fabulous feature. You may never need to replace the QNAP TS-409 NAS device if you can continually upgrade its capacity.

    Fans of the Squeezebox will really like the ability to install SqueezeCenter 7 on this NAS. Four TB of music available directly off a NAS disk is an attractive feature. Even if you don't like the sound of the SB its convenience enhanced with the TS-409 is really something unmatched right now.

     








     



    The built-in iTunes server is likely the feature that will garner the most attention. During the review period I got a lot of use out of the iTunes server. I used my MacBook Air to work on the website and answer questions in the forums while listening to a whole slew of music through iTunes that was stored on the TS-409. Here is how the feature works. The TS-409 has a folder called Qmultimedia. All the music copied into this folder becomes part of the QNAP iTunes library. This library is accessible from any computer running iTunes as long as iTunes is setup to look for shared libraries. If you aren't familiar with accessing shared iTunes libraries don't worry the procedure is quite simple. Open iTunes, wait about one minute and the NAS device will appear under "Shared" on the left side above "Playlists." Selecting the QNAP library within iTunes from any computer displays the list of music stored on the NAS. This can be very nice if you don't want other family members messing with your highly customized music server or you want your music available without leaving your music server on all the time. Shared libraries don't allow full access to the music files so there so there is no ned to worry about your customized meta data or cover art disappearing because of an errant keystroke or an upset spouse.

     







     







     


    Online RAID capacity expansion is a very cool feature to say the least. It may actually be bad for QNAP NAS business in the long run because users may not need to upgrade their unit as disk capacity grows. My four 1 TB drives currently in the TS-409 will easily be swapped out for four 1.5 TB drives next month when Seagate releases the industries largest hard drives. QNAP does have a list of supported hard drives and the 1.5s are certainly not on the list yet. My experience with NAS devices and hard drives has been very good. If a drive is not on the list, but it's manufacturered by Seagate, Hitachi, or one of the other popular brands that comprises most of the list, then you should be fine. No promises, just an opinion based on experience.

     







     

    Wrap Up

    The QNAP TS-409 Turbo NAS rests comfortably between the Drobo and the Thecus 5200B Pro for ease of use and setup. The TS-409 blows away this competition when it comes to features. Not only are there great features for audiophiles there are great features for the rest of the family. The TS-409 Turbo Pro is available for about $550 from online retailers. This is well below the Drobo and Thecus NAS devices. Overall I really can't say the TS-409 is the best NAS because each one of these three is really a different animal satisfying different audiophile needs. I can easily say it's the best NAS for the money and is a great way to get all your music off your local drive and out of your listening room in more ways than one.

     

    More information available from QNAP.com and the TS-409 product manual
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Mark - Good to hear you're looking at QNAP! It's a really solid product that you'll have no problem configuring. In fact you'll probably have many of the features running on all cylinders in no time.
    1. Wavelength's Avatar
      Wavelength -
      Chris,<br />
      <br />
      How was the speed? I mean 500mhz and 256m of memory is pretty common place for NAS servers. I had the Lacie and a couple of others here and they were all dreadfully slow when I did backups too them.<br />
      <br />
      I do like the iTunes server thing.. any problems with high rez files and continous playing (i.e. without hickups).<br />
      <br />
      Thanks<br />
      Gordon
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi Gordon - The speed on this QNAP unit is pretty good. just a hair slower than my Thecus 5200B Pro which performs very fast on my network. Wired via CAT6 to a Gigabit Ethernet Airport Extreme router (which is only a hub not a GigE switch) I can transfer about 1 GB per minute with the QNAP TS-409. Sometimes it will creep up to 1 GB per 1.25 minutes. My Thecus NAS is always under a minute per GB.<br />
      <br />
      The high resolution files playback flawlessly. I've been playing the 24/176.4 HRx albums from the QNAP without any dropouts.<br />
      <br />
      Backup may be another story, but I haven't specifically backed up anything to the unit. I suppose you could use the 1 GB per 1 to 1.25 minutes as a guide.
    1. airdronian's Avatar
      airdronian -
      sounds like a decent unit. full feature set for this type of device. I was a bit puzzled Chris by your mention of the gigabit apple airport extreme being only a hub and not a gigE switch. I'd expect any networking device that accommodates gigabit speeds and multiple ports would only be a switch - hub technology being yesterday's news. Then again I am not that familiar with the router itself.<br />
      <br />
      Not to detract from the article - well done and a good job in addressing our broad audience. Times are good when we see more of these devices being developed and improved. I will probably have to look at qnap now when it comes to upgrade, as well as the Thecus which you've reviewed before.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi airdronian - I would love to be proven wrong about the Apple switch/hub issue. If you do have anything that says this is a switch and not a hub please let me know. I talked to Apple and they were very evasive with their answer. They said they had absolutely no documentation that the unit is a switch, but that it would "act as a switch." That isn't very reassuring. I did however find documentation that "suggests" the unit is a hub. Check this out from the Apple Remote Desktop Administrator’s Guide, Version 3.1, page 72.<br />
      <br />
      <i>AirPort Base Stations are not considered “switched networks.” </i><br />
      <br />
      The reason I said "suggests" this unit is a hub is because the above statement was discussed in context with wireless connections, but not explicitly wireless or Ethernet.<br />
      <br />
      I also have a feeling that Apple would include this in the specs somewhere is this was a switch and they would not include it is the unit is a hub. Hubs = bad in my book.
    1. Afveep's Avatar
      Afveep -
      Hi Chris-<br />
      Once configured on a network and using the iTunes server, can Apple TV see and use this without having a computer running?<br />
      Thanks!
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi afveep - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. I thought about this exact thing when I was reviewing the QNAP unit, but I ruled out the possibility that it would work after thinking about it for a few minutes. Thus, I didn't actually try it. Here's why; When the Apple TV connects to a library it requires a code be entered. The QNAP NAS and other NAS devices have no ability to work with this authentication part of Apple TV. I hope I am wrong on this but I don't know of a way to get around it.
    1. flohmann's Avatar
      flohmann -
      One common configuration among many readers will involve the Apple Express combined with a Mac acting as a music server and the new Remote app for iPhone/iPod Touch. Does iTunes support in a NAS product like this allow remote control via the iPhone Remote app?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      As long as there is a Mac in the mix the remote app/iPod Touch will work. <br />
      Just a NAS and the remote app won't work.
    1. wappinghigh's Avatar
      wappinghigh -
      Hi Chris...<br />
      <br />
      I have a Buffalo "Live" NAS which (from your above description of the QNAP) has a very similar itunes "server", in that it appears in itunes as a "share".<br />
      <br />
      I agree that this prevents family etc "playing" with the files, but on the whole I find accessing and playing itunes tracks this way tedious. This is because I have found that playlists are not "linkable" for want of a better word with itunes shares. ie playcount/smartplaylists/ratings etc are not usable. Also you can't "drag" tracks in and out of playlists from a "shared" library. These are real "bummer" issues with families with multiple ipods/iphones!<br />
      Also I have tested the iphone "remote" app and this only controls tracks in the main library...I can't get it to access a remote "share"....another "bumber"<br />
      <br />
      So I have gone back to using my older Buffalo NAS (without) the itunes server, and copied my library directly onto this. That way the library appears where it should in itunes (as the main "music") and all the above problems don't occur. Leaving the library file on the mac, and with a few tweeks like changing the music "source" ( itunes/preferences/advanced settings) you can set up a standard NAS without an itunes server that in fact works better than one with a server. One proviso to make this work well is to always remember to mount the NAS after a reboot or itunes update, before you load itunes, otherwise itunes seems to "forget" the new music location...hope this helps and please anyone correct me, or add comments to make this experience "better"...an app to "save" the new library location would be really great.<br />
      <br />
      BTW this is an unreal site Chris<br />
      <br />
      AB
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey AB - I too don't make much use of the iTunes server function in my main library, but it does have some cool features that I know some of our readers use. During the review I did use it and liked it to a certain extent. For those with a specific need it's great. For others maybe not. Thanks for sharing your opinion on the usefulness of this for yourself and your family. I am sure there are plenty of others in your same situation and the caveats you mention are solid information for them.<br />
      <br />
      My favorite and current NAS the Thecus 5200B Pro does not have an iTunes server. I use it strictly as an external disk just like you use your Buffalo NAS. Works very slick.<br />
      <br />
      As far as mounting the NAS drive there are some automated ways to do this so you don't have to worry about iTunes changing the location of your music folder unknowingly. I created an automator script to auto-mount my NAS drive at every login. It works great. Here is link to the article and at the end you can download the script. You'll need to adjust it for the correct server address and folder but it's a good start. http://www.computeraudiophile.com/node/289
    1. wappinghigh's Avatar
      wappinghigh -
      Thanks for the unreal application and suggestion Chris...just the tonic my setup needed!<br />
      <br />
      Your site rocks!<br />
      <br />
      AB
    1. airdronian's Avatar
      airdronian -
      Just got back from vacation. I may have missed the original context of the first post. If we are speaking of the wireless aspect of the airport extreme then I am not surprised that it is not considered switched. Wireless networks basically spray their connectivity around their range and any client that can negotiate the wep/wpa keys can communicate. (If wep or wpa is used - a drive around a residential area will often show unprotected networks) .<br />
      <br />
      When I hear the mention of hub I am relating to wired ethernet networks. I just recently pulled a hub from a remote office. In these cases (wired) there is a distinct difference between switches and hubs which I am sure you're aware of. Not being the owner of an Airport Extreme I cannot test, but would bet money that the wired ports of the unit behave as a switch on the internal network provided by the device . Not so with the wireless segment - one reason why some businesses completely bar wireless connectivity to their LAN.<br />
      <br />
      The wireless router I use can turn off the wireless portion, a common feature and when employed it lets the unit serve as a regular home router with one WAN port and 4 switched ports - and readers with windows laptops will notice that their network connections folder will list separate connections for their ethernet lan and their wireless connection. They are distinct devices which operate independantly.<br />
      <br />
      Not surprised that if you talked to Apple (by phone ?) that the answer you received was vague - your question was probably a third tier support question and you may not have gotten that far.<br />
      <br />
      I am hoping to become more familiar with Mac gear in the coming year - congrats on the new Mac Pro.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. SeVeReD's Avatar
      SeVeReD -
      I'm about to duplicate for a friend what I've got going on for myself. See my sig. for front end of system. At the moment I use Western Digital Mybook Premium Edition IIs (2TB a piece; usually about $400. each) daisy chained through firewire 800. I don't care to much about speed of pulling my WAV/CUE file off the HDD because I use XXHighEnd as a player and it loads the entire album into RAM before it starts to play it...I don't like to have other programs running when listening to music and I don't like having wireless stuff going, so,..(ok, ya I think it can interfer with the presentation).<br />
      My question about NAS<br />
      Does it show up like regular HDDs in MyComputer, or do I have to have another program running to access the HDDs on the lan.... I do all my back up manually and keep backup discs offsite... so I only need to run raid 0. so, how do I pull the files off the HDD with a nas? Can I see them with Explorer going to network places probably? noob
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hi SeVeReD - Welcome to Computer Audiophile. Good questions. A NAS is accessed just like an internal hard drive. On Windows you can access it a couple different ways. The easiest way is to map a drive to the NAS unit. So, your C drive is local, your FireWire drive is probably something like E, and your NAS drive can be the F drive or whatever you want. Your audio application accesses the NAS the same as any other drive local, external or via network. The other way to access a NAS is through network neighborhood. Not as easy though. Just map the drive and it will show up in the Computer (old My Computer) section every time you log in. Nothing special needs to run to access a NAS.<br />
      <br />
      It's really very simple and quite uncomplicated. I'm here to help if needed. Just let me know :-)
    1. SeVeReD's Avatar
      SeVeReD -
      It really does sound like the way to go in his situation. I'm just unfamiliar with NAS storage and how well it works, (I know what I have going on works, but I'm always looking for better...)<br />
      <br />
      For me personally, since my computer is in a closet opposite the wall of the music room (drilled holes through the wall carry the analog RCAs from the Pass Labs Xover; i use it like a preamp) I don't have to worry about HDD noise. My only thoughts are about music presentation/quality, so<br />
      I wonder if shutting off the FW would be "easier" on the computer or if the nas on the network would be...course I'd have to enable the lan full time hehe<br />
      yeppers you've got a crazy one here. <br />
      <br />
      thanks again.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Hey SeVeReD - Since your computer is out of your listening room you could use a Drobo unit. It holds four drives in a RAID like configuration and attaches via FireWire or USB depending on the model. Plus it can always be converted to a NAS with the DroboShare for about $199. It's probably the easiest mas storage device available today. Some CA readers use it right now and really like it.
    1. SeVeReD's Avatar
      SeVeReD -
      If I use it with firewire, would it daisy chain with the WesternDigital Mybooks? I assume it would, but do you know for sure... ya, that would be better ... I have a lot of music hehe I guess it would have it's own raid manager that would load up.
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      The daisychain "should" work, but I cannot confirm for sure.<br />
      <br />
      You won't have to load a RAID manager every time you boot.
    1. SH0x's Avatar
      SH0x -
      You guys mentioned ts-409, N5200pro and other, but I can't see if any has some spin down or standby mode for longer life of hdds. How about this point of view? Btw I see seagate blackarmor has some DRIVE STANDBY MODE, but Im interested why seagate wasn't mention as a good NAS, is something wrong with seagate, maybe it doesn't have some features I don't know (maybe about pour linux support)? Please comment