The QNAP TS-559 Pro is a terrific NAS, on paper. The unit has five drive slots that accept standard desktop 3.5 inch or laptop size 2.5 inch hard drives. In addition the TS-559 contains 1 GB of memory, a dual core 1.66 GHz Intel Atom CPU, dual Gigabit network interfaces, iSCSI support, one-touch backup, and more software configuration options than any audiophile would reasonably need. Unfortunately all these configuration options don’t add any value to the unit when they don’t function. In fact some of the “time saving” simple configuration options actually caused more problems and wasted more time than the advanced features. For example I had iSCSI connectivity up and running in a matter of minutes yet configuration of the one-touch USB Copy button on the front of the unit caused many hours of wasted time and never functioned at all.
I started using the QNAP TS-559 Pro Turbo NAS as if I was an audiophile without much knowledge of NAS drives or much interest in becoming a one person IT support shop. I wanted to get the NAS up and running as quickly and easily as possible and to forget about NAS technology soon thereafter. Many Computer Audiophile readers are in this same boat. They want to use good technology to enhance their listening experience, but have no desire to exert energy and wast time getting products to function as they should right out of the box. On the other hand many CA readers are interested in exploiting every technological feature available and pushing the limits of a device like the QNAP TS-559 Pro NAS. After a considerable amount of time using the NAS in a simplistic fashion I dug much deeper into its feature set by using the NAS more closely to how I would actually use the unit in real life. Both the simple and advanced configurations had plenty of problems that required reformatting drives, resetting the NAS to factory defaults, enabling access for QNAP support in Taiwan, and acceptance that certain features just don’t work.
The TS-559 offers two initial setup options. The simplest option is configuration via the front LCD display. Upon first boot the TS-559 LCD asks how the disks should be configured. Since I used two drives during the review the unit automatically recommended RAID1 Mirroring. If desired it’s possible to scroll through other drive configurations like RAID0 and JBOD at this time. After selecting RAID1 the unit asks if disk encryption should be enabled. I highly recommend users do not enable disk encryption as the added overhead can only hurt performance. Once the disk encryption question has been answered the TS-559 starts configuring the RAID1 volume and formatting the disk. Configuring a RAID1 volume doesn’t get any easier than this procedure. Once the formatting is complete it’s possible to use the NAS as-is. I recommend readers spend some additional time to do things right and do not accept the default configuration.
The other method of configuring the TS-559’s disks is via the web browser interface. The major requirement of this configuration option is the user must obtain the IP address of the NAS to begin the setup procedure. I use a free application called WakeOnLan on my MacBook Pro. This tool scans a local area network and lists devices by name and IP address. Once the IP address of the TS-559 is obtained it can be entered into any web browser like Safari, Firefox, or Chrome. The ensuing configuration is done via a six step wizard. Configuring the NAS via web browser allows a bit more granularity during the initial setup. Available options allow configuration of device name, IP address (if static), networking services and more.
Now the bad news. Using either of these configuration methods may result in inconsistent and unacceptable performance issues. Adding more fuel to the fire is the fact that no other practical initial configuration methods exist. One show-stopping issue I ran into after using both configuration methods was the inability to copy files to the NAS when the files contained characters like a semicolon ( or apostrophe (’). Users moving from a FireWire or USB drive would likely copy a large number of albums to the TS-559 with a couple clicks. This type of file copy would likely fail numerous times. Once for each file or folder containing an “illegal” character. Strangely enough retrying the file copy may not result in the error messages. This is a show-stopper for me.
Another issue is the inability to set Guest user permissions on a built-in shared folder. The TS-559 includes a number of folders on the NAS by default. I was interested in using the Multimedia folder. I wanted to use a default folder to make life as simple as possible. Often using default folders enables applications like an iTunes server to work without any reconfiguration. I also could have created a user and user group, and granted folder permissions but that’s an unneeded process that increases complexity. I prefer to use Guest access because it doesn’t require a username and password when connecting to a folder on the NAS. Since the TS-559 offers a specific feature to control Guest access to the built-in folders it appears QNAP also sees validity in this approach. The options available are Full Access, Deny Access, and Read Only. Deny Access is enabled by default. As strange as this sounds, it was impossible to change this access level if the NAS had been setup via the front LCD panel or via the web interface wizard.
Right out of the box I expect products to function as designed without any work-arounds. If a feature does not function it should be hidden from view before leaving the factory and not advertised. These are reasonable expectations every manufacturer should meet for consumers paying good money for products.
I spent tens of hours working on the TS-559 to narrow down the source of the issues. Relying on a hunch I reformatted the disk volume (not RAID configuration) via the web interface. The only thing this option is supposed to do is reformat the disk the same way as Windows or Mac OS X reformats a disk. I even used the same ext4 file system that was used during the initial configuration. Once the formatting was finished I was able to change the Guest permissions on default folders and I was able to copy files and folders with previously unaccepted characters to the NAS. I also tested this using the ext3 file system with the same success. Unconvinced that reformatting was the sole fix for these two issues I started from scratch by setting up the NAS via the front LCD panel. After setup was completed the two issues were again present. Reformatting the volume solved the issue just as it had the previous time.
As it stands now the only way to properly setup the TS-559 is to go through the motions of either the LCD setup or web browser based setup. Then reformat the volume to enable features that should work right out of the box. I worked with QNAP support in Taiwan to resolve these issues. As suggested I updated the NAS to a beta version of the firmware and enabled QNAP to access the unit remotely. As of this writing no solution has been provided.
Refining The Configuration
Nearly all users of the QNAP TS-559 should refine its configuration to maximize the unit’s usefulness. Simple options like changing the device’s name so it’s easily recognized on a home network and setting the time should be done soon after setup. Setting the time on the TS-559 is not as intuitive as it may seem. The utility of the Apply button is still lost on me to this day. In order to set the time and date, and synchronize with an Internet time server each option must be set individually followed by selecting the Update Now button. A small but certain inconvenience if done incorrectly.
TS-559 networking options offer a nice Port Trunking capability. Port Trunking enables increased bandwidth utilization through two network interfaces in addition to redundancy and load balancing. Here are the options available on the TS-559 that may interest CA readers.
- Round-Robin mode is good for general purpose load balancing between the adapters. This mode transmits packets in sequential order from the first available slave through the last. Balance-rr provides load balancing and fault tolerance.
Active Backup (Fail Over)
- Active Backup uses just one adapter. It switches to the second adapter if the first adapter fails. Only one slave in the bond is active. The bond’s MAC address is only visible externally on one port (network adapter) to avoid confusing the switch. Active Backup mode provides fault tolerance.
- Balance XOR balances traffic by splitting up outgoing packets between the adapters, using the same one for each specific destination when possible. It transmits based on the selected transmit hash policy. The default policy is a simple slave count operating on Layer 2 where the source MAC address is coupled with destination MAC address. Alternate transmit policies maybe selected via the xmit_hash_policy option. Balance XOR mode provides load balancing and fault tolerance.
- Broadcast sends traffic on both interfaces. This mode provides fault tolerance.
IEEE 802.3ad (Dynamic Link Aggregation)
- Dynamic Link Aggregation uses a complex algorithm to aggregate adapters by speed and duplex settings. It utilizes all slaves in the active aggregator according to the 802.3ad specification. Dynamic Link Aggregation mode provides load balancing and fault tolerance but requires a switch that supports IEEE 802.3ad with LACP mode properly configured.
Balance-tlb (Adaptive Transmit Load Balancing)
- Balance-tlb uses channel bonding that does not require any special switch support. The outgoing traffic is distributed according to the current load on each slave (computed relative to the speed). Incoming traffic is received by the current slave. If the receiving slave fails, the other slave takes over the MAC address of the failed receiving slave. Balance-tlb mode provides load balancing and fault tolerance.
Balance-alb (Adaptive Load Balancing)
- Balance-alb is similar to balance-tlb but also attempts attempts to redistribute incoming (receive load balancing) for IPV4 traffic. This setup does not require any special switch support or configuration. The receive load balancing is achieved by ARP negotiation sent by the local system on their way out and overwrites the source hardware address with the unique hardware address of one of the slaves in the bond such that different peers use different hardware address for the server. This mode provides load balancing and fault tolerance.
Hardware configuration of the TS-559 offers some very useful features that Computer Audiophile readers have addressed many times. The two major features are Hard Disk Standby Mode and Smart Fan Configuration. Hard Disk Standby Mode is very nice for readers looking to extend the lives of their hard drives. The drives can be set to standby mode if the drives are not accessed in 5, 10, 15 ,30, or 60 minutes. Accessing the drives does wake them from standby but involves a delay that may become annoying for some readers. I personally do not use any drive standby features of my Thecus NAS because of this necessary delay. The TS-559 is a fairly quiet NAS compared to my aforementioned Thecus unit. Contributing to this low noise output is the Smart Fan Configuration feature. Fans are a major source of noise in any component. It’s really nice to see QNAP address this concern. The default fan option lets the system handle fan speed based on static temperature thresholds. The other option uses a set of self-defined thresholds that enable a user to take more chances by allowing higher temperatures before the fan reaches high speed. Heat is not good for hard drives and significantly reduces Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF). However I can see some audiophiles adjusting the fan settings manually during listening sessions is the NAS is near the listening position, and letting the system handle the fans speed at all other times.
When ALL of the following temperature readings are met the fan will rotate at low speed:
- The system temperature is lower than 47°C(117°F).
- The CPU temperature is lower than 54°C(129°F).
- The hard drive temperature is lower than 48°C(118°F).
When ANY of the following temperature readings are met the fan will rotate at high speed:
- The system temperature is higher than or equal to 53°C(127°F).
- The CPU temperature is higher than or equal to 62°C(144°F).
- The hard drive temperature is higher than or equal to 54°C(129°F).
Similar to these specific hard drive features are the system power management features. The TS-559 has a WakeOnLan feature that allows a user to power on the NAS remotely. The TS-559 also allows user defined power schedules that Start, Shutdown, or Reboot the NAS. I can see the WakeOnLan feature coming in handy when using the NAS at unplanned times. If the NAS is powered down due to a preset schedule the WOL feature would eliminate any headaches associated with physically turning the unit on or waiting for the scheduled power on time to come around.
Many NAS users prefer to place their devices far from listening rooms or any livable spaces. My NAS is placed in a dark room next to the furnace where I rarely go. Thus it’s highly unlikely I would see a red light on my NAS indicating a failed drive or fan. Fortunately the QNAP NAS, and many other NAS devices, offer email notification when something goes awry. During my tests of the notification feature I received emails for seemingly everything taking place on the NAS. The number and granularity of emails do get to be a bit much but setting filters within an email client to automatically handle the emails could make this a moot point.
Apps & Services
The number of network services and applications available for the TS-559 is very nice. Support for Microsoft file sharing (SMB), Apple file sharing (AFP), and LInux file sharing (NFS) is easily enabled with s simple check box for each service. One underrated feature that many NAS manufacturers overlook is a web file manager. The TS-559 does offer a web file manager. This feature is very nice when large amounts of data need to be deleted. For example removing a 1 TB folder full of music files that were used as a test area for file conversion etc... can take a long time to delete from a Windows or Mac computer. The files are usually “inspected” by the host computer before deletion. Using a web file manager to delete such a folder is equivalent to deleting the folder on a local hard drive. The web file manager simply executes a command on the NAS to delete the directory without knowledge of the client computer requesting the deletion. The TS-559 ships with an iTunes server and Twonky UPnP media server. Enabling these is also involves a couple mouse clicks.
The TS-559 supports what it calls QPKG Plugins. Other NAS units call these modules. A QPKG Plugin is required to run Squeezebox Server on the QNAP NAS. However, installation of the Squeezebox Server is far more convoluted than enabling a simple module. As the following screenshots show the whole process may be more than the average audiophile is willing to complete. Other than the Squeezebox Server I didn’t find any Plugins that were necessary or desirable for audiophiles.
As everyone should know RAID is not backup. The QNAP TS-559 offers a couple straight forward methods to backup critical files and folders stored on the NAS. One method is a scheduled backup to an external USB device connected to the NAS. The other method is called USB One Touch Copy.
Scheduling backups to an external drive is fairly nice on the QNAP. It’s nice because it can allow users to recover from human errors such as accidental file deletion and double disk failures. If a user accidentally deletes a file or two it may be easy to browse the backup drive and retrieve the file(s). I used the scheduled backup method without issue several times. The two options when backing up are Copy and Synchronize.
The Copy option simply places a copy of the selected NAS folders on to the external drive. If the same file exists, it will be overwritten. This could lead to a backup copy that contains many unwanted files. For example after cleaning up a library full of tracks accumulated over the years that are worse than Rosie O’donnell singing Christmas tunes the Copy method of backup wouldn’t delete these files from the backup disk. It’s only additive and capable of replacing identical files.
The Synchronize backup option according to QNAP, ”Back[s] up data to the destination share folder and clear[s] the redundant files. If the same file exists, it will be overwritten.” and includes the following ”WARNING! Files are copied from the source to the destination. Extra files on the destination will be deleted, files of the same names will be overwritten by the source. Source data will remain unchanged.” When I think of synchronization I think of two-way synchronization where both drives are sources of data and in-sync. The QNAP synchronization is more like a drive mirror where the NAS drive is the source of data that is mirrored to the external USB drive.
The backup method I was really interested in using was the USB One Touch Copy. This method has the same Copy or Synchronize options. The difference between this and scheduled backups is the One Touch requires a USB drive connected via the front USB port and the user to physically push the USB Copy button. I really like the simplicity of this backup method. I also would use this method for my offsite copy of my music. Simply connecting a USB drive and hitting the Copy button is somewhat more assuring than counting on a scheduled software backup to function every time. I envision using a completely blank drive and the copy method to place everything on the NAS to the external disk. This doesn’t require any backup rules to process comparing file names etc... while running the backup. There is much less room for error. Anyone who has been involved with enterprise data backup knows what a colossal headache backing can become.
Now for the bad new (again). The USB One Touch Copy method doesn’t work. The following error message appears in the system event log every time the button is pressed. ”[USB One Touch Copy] USB copying failed. (USB mount point does not exist!)”. A quick Internet search reveals I am not the only person experiencing this issue [Link]. As of this writing QNAP is unable to correct the problem. During the review I used a USB thumb drive and an external USB drive with the industry standard Oxford 934 chipset.
Most of the QNAP TS-559 software menus are easy to use and many are wizard driven. The help system, available by clicking the ? in the upper right corner of every configuration page, is very thorough. I found several detailed descriptions and answers in the help system much quicker than I would have by searching the user manual. The speed of the TS-559 was not an issue even when using 5400 RPM 2.5 inch disks. I never noticed any slowness compared to my Thecus running 7200 RPM 3.5 inch drives. The build quality of the TS-559 s very nice. A common area of flimsiness is NAS drive trays. The TS-559’s trays are fairly solid compared to others in its category. Each tray is numbered for ease of placement if more than one is removed. The power supply is internal and only requires a standard power cord. I prefer this type of power arrangement over the external brick type supplies that take up plenty of room outside the unit. As long as I am not packing the unit in my laptop bag I prefer an internal power supply. In addition to the single front USB port the TS-559 has four USB ports in the back and two eSATA ports in the back. Additional storage connected via these ports cannot be included in existing RAID configurations to extend a RAID volume. A nice feature for the geeks in the crowd is the VGA output and ability to SSH into the NAS. The VGA output allows users to view the Linux based boot screen. For most people it offers way too much cryptic information. Also, if readers are unsure what SSH is please disregard the previous mention of this feature :~)
The following screenshots display the System Status area within the web interface. As the second photo shows, the interface uses Adobe Flash in certain areas. Thus, the iPad will not be able to display some of the System Status information.
The overall performance and consistency of the QNAP TS-559 Pro Turbo NAS was underwhelming and disappointing. The inability to copy certain files to the unit right out of the box is a show-stopper. Consumers cannot be expected to spend tens of hours troubleshooting a brand new product. The QNAP user forums do contain some information about the problems I experienced, but no resolutions to this date. I honestly hope QNAP can develop a firmware update that resolves the issues I ran into. If these issues are fixed and the NAS functions as it should right out of the box the QNAP TS-559 Pro Turbo NAS may be worth a second look. Until such time I cannot recommend Computer Audiophile readers invest time and money into this product.
- Price - $1,049
- QNAP TS-559 Pro Turbo NAS Product Page - Link
- QNAP TS-559 Pro Turbo NAS Manual - Link (37MB)
- Informational PDF - Link (3.4MB)
High Resolution Images
Associate Equipment: Verity Audio Fidelio loudspeakers, McIntosh MC275 amplification, Richard Gray's Power Company High Tension Wires, Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC, Wavelength Audio Proton, Ayre AX-7e Integrated Amp, C.A.P.S. server, Bel Canto USB Link, Halide Design Bridge, dCS Debussy DAC, dCS Puccini U-Clock, Kimber USB Cu, Kimber USB Ag, Benchmark DAC1 PRE, Kimber Select KS1011 Analog Cables, Kimber Select KS2020 Digital Cable, Kimber Monocle X Loudspeaker Cable, ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim, Apple iPad, Sonic Studio's Amarra, M2Tech hiFace, Weiss Engineering DAC202, Lynx Studio AES16 Digital I/O Card.