• Computer Audiophile Pocket Server C.A.P.S. v3 Carbon

    CAPS v3 Carbon is the third of four v3 designs to be published and the last derivative design from v3 servers Topanga and Lagoon. The Carbon design is different form previous designs in several ways such as a more stylish case similar to an audio component, unique external storage expansion options, and a SATA filter. Carbon also provides endless opportunities for creativity inside the spacious chassis for items like batteries, power supplies, hard drives, and even a UPS. I believe the Computer Audiophile Community will have some very creative ideas for using the extra space inside this chassis. Carbon is my favorite CAPS design thus far and it's the one I use every day. I power the server and SOtM USB card with an optional Red Wine Audio Black Lightning battery supply. The sound quality from the CAPS v3 Carbon server is equal to or better than the best servers I've heard in recent memory.


















    For an introduction to the CAPS v3 server designs please read the article linked here .
    To read about the entry level CAPS v3 Topanga design please read the article linked here .
    To read about the CAPS v3 Lagoon design please read the article linked here .





    Hardware


    Motherboard - Intel DN2800MT Marshalltown Mini-ITX


    Note: This is the same motherboard used in the Topanga and Lagoon designs. Some of the information below is repeated from the articles about those servers. This motherboard is the successor to the board used in CAPS v1. After comparing nearly all available motherboards and considering the CAPS requirements the DN2800MT was the last board standing. This motherboard has a lot going for it including low power, low profile, no fan, and external DC power input among other items. I'm a firm believer in using as little power as possible, within reason, to accomplish a task. The key is finding a balance between low power and features. The DN2800MT has a Thermal Design Power (TDP) of only 8 watts. CAPS v1 had a TDP of 11.8 while CAPS v2 had a TDP of 13 watts. TDP is the maximum amount of power the computer's cooling system is required to dissipate. Many CPUs today have a TDP around 65 watts and can range from 17 watts for mobile CPUs to 130 watts for a powerful desktop CPU. Keep in mind that's only the CPU, not the CPU / motherboard combination like the Intel DN2800MT. The DN2800MT features a 1.86 GHz dual core Atom N2800 CPU (6.5 watt TDP). This processor has plenty of power for most music servers designed to output bit perfect audio. Using room correction or an add-on application like JPlay will likely require a much faster processor.


    A newer feature to the CAPS servers is the mSATA slot. Versions 1 and 2 were designed before any motherboard featured this technology. Traditional boards have standard SATA I/II/III ports that connect a spinning hard drive or solid state drive to the board via a SATA cable. mSATA drives are much more like computer memory in size and appearance. These drives are solid state and fit directly into the motherboard without any cables. Even though the DN2800MT board has mSATA capability the Carbon design doesn't use this slot. The server is still very easy to build but absolute simplicity was outweighed by the desire for a lower power SSD that requires internal power and SATA cables. Even better use of the mSATA slot is turning it into an ExpressCard 34 slot to expand storage options for larger music libraries. More on this below.


    The DN2800MT will likely be in production until the end of 2014. After that availability will be curtailed but readers should be able to find them online if needed. I prefer to use motherboards with extended life cycles when possible. This specific board isn't listed as part of Intel's Extended Life Program, but two years of remaining production and limited availability after that should get us to the next CAPS design.


    A frequent request from CA readers is an HDMI port on the CAPS servers. The DN280MT offers both HDMI and old school analog VGA ports. The onboard graphics are nothing to treasure but should be fine for displaying one's music library via JRiver Media Center. I haven't tried video playback as that is outside the scope of the CAPS designs. This is one area the CA community can help each other by testing video playback and reporting successes or failures.


    This motherboard features both standard and high current USB 2.0 ports. Lack of built-in USB 3.0 ports may be disappointing to some, but I don't think it's a showstopper. When connecting a USB DAC to the Carbon server readers should avoid using USB hard drives due to how the USB protocol operates. This issue may be alleviated some by separating the PCIe SOtM USB 3.0 card and built-in USB 2.0 bus lanes and controllers but that doesn't change the USB protocol. USB relies on a host processor to manage the low level protocol. This can load the host CPU with interrupts and buffer copies.


    This raises the question of how should users store their music collections if the internal hard drive is too small? My recommendation for the Carbon design differs from Topanga and Lagoon in that Carbon is much more flexible for both internal and external storage. Carbon users should consider Network Attached Storage (NAS), Internal SSD, External eSATA, and FireWire hard drive options. I use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive for nearly all my listening. My over 4,000 album music collection is stored on the network and accessible to any network attached device in my house. On the Carbon server a mapped drive such as M: is pointed to the NAS and JRiver is configured to watch the M: drive for library changes. CAPS v3 Carbon has plenty of room for internal solid state disks. Even the larger 3.5" SSDs will fit easily into the Carbon chassis. The motherboard is limited to two SATA ports. Depending on the size of one's collection this may be just fine. Or, readers can "stick it to the Man " and put in a spinning had drive capable of holding several terabytes. That would stray from the CAPS requirements, but if it's your server you only need to please yourself.

    The most unique storage options for the Carbon design involve turning the mSATA slot into an ExpressCard 34 slot. The Intel DN2800MT board was designed with this in mind as evidenced by the horizontal slot in its backplate or I/O shield. Installing an ExpressCard to mini-PCIe adapter is as simple as installing an mSATA card. It requires two screws and about 00:30 seconds. Once the adapter is in place virtually any ExpressCard 34 can be used in this slot. In my testing I used both an eSATA and FireWire 800 ExpressCards. Both cards worked perfect under Windows 8 without installing any drivers. Windows 8 has everything built-in to support these cards. I'm sure many other cards will work fine, but I only recommend the cards I've tested. In my research I found several cards for both interfaces that cause nothing but problems. I selected the cards that I thought were best for the CAPS design considering computer audiophiles want to listen to music rather than mess with a flakey ExpressCard. The FireWire card features two FW800 ports and a power port. If a FireWire drive requires more power than the card can deliver users may need to connect a small PSU. My guess is most people won't use the power option because larger hard drives often ship with power supplies. Depending on the power draw of the FW800 drive Red Wine Audio may be able to accommodate users with a third power lead from the Black Lightning to the FireWire ExpressCard.

    Note: Logic Supply has no plans to include the small horizontal opening in the backplate used for the Lagoon server.

    Note: I haven't tested the FireWire ExpressCard with a FireWire DAC.


    Readers may notice I don't connect the front panel USB ports to an internal USB header. The reasons for this are twofold. One I wouldn't use these ports for anything even if I only had one USB device. Two leaving these ports unconnected removes an internal cable from the PC design. Tidiness is important to me even on the inside of a computer where nobody looks. The Carbon PC case has USB 3.0 ports on the front but the Intel DN2800MT board doesn't feature any USB 3.0 headers to support SuperSpeed. The ports can be used at USB 2.0 speed if desired by connecting to a USB 2.0 header on the board.


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    Storage - Samsung 840 Pro Series 2.5" 64GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (MZ-7PD064BW)


    I selected the Samsung 840 Pro series of drives for three main reasons. 1. I've used the Samsung 830 Series of SSDs for awhile and have been thrilled with the performance and stability. The 830 Series was selected as the top SSD drive on many "Best Of" lists over the last year and I agree with its selection. The new 840 Series appears to improve upon the 830 designs and I expect nothing less from these drives. In the CAPS v3 servers the 840 Pro Series works terrific. 2. Low power consumption. According to Samsung the 840 Pro Series consumes 0.068W active and 0.042W idle. The 830 Series consumes a "wapping" 0.24W active and 0.14W idle. This low power consumption is critical when using the enhanced power supply discussed below. 3. End of life for the Samsung 840 Pro Series is as far off as possible with solid state drives. The 840 Pro Series was just released in October 2012. Hopefully these drives will be available for the life of the CAPS v3 designs as opposed to the CAPS v2 SSD that disappeared too quickly from store shelves.


    The 840 Series comes in both Pro and non-Pro versions. I selected the Pro version mainly because it's an MLC drive as opposed to the new TLC based non-Pro drive. Solid state drives are available in Single Level Cell (SLC), Multi Level Cell (MLC), and Triple Level Cell (TLC) NAND flash memory. SLC drives are enterprise class performers with the highest cost per gigabyte. The number of SLC drives available int he consumer market has dwindled quickly over the last few years. MLC drives are currently in the sweet spot between cost and performance. TLC drives are new to the consumer market. Samsung is the first manufacturer to release a TLC based drive in its 840 non-Pro Series. TLC drives can be much slower than MLC and SLC drives. Samsung indicated the 840 Series TLC drives are roughly 50% slower than the Pro models. In addition to the performance hit by using TLC NAND the TLC drives suffer greatly in endurance compared to the other SSD options as well as increasing program, erase, and read latency. In the future TLC drives will likely equal MLC performance as the technology is used and refined. Currently I wouldn't use a TLC drive for a CAPS server or every day computer.


    The Samsung 840 Pro Series comes in 64, 128, 256, and 512GB sizes. The 64GB is specified for the CAPS v3 Carbon but its availability is limited as of this writing. Given it's a new drive this should only improve. In the Carbon photos readers will notice I'm using the 128GB version as it's the smallest Pro Series drive I could purchase in October. The 840 Pro Series has a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of 1,500,000 hours, 500K less than the Mushkin mSATA drive used in the Topanga design. 840 Pro drives support trim like most solid state drives. Trim is a command run by the operating system that identifies unused blocks of data the drive can delete. This helps avoid severe performance degradation down the road. The specifications of the 840 Pro drives with 256 MB of Samsung DDR2 SDRAM cache memory and Samsung's 4th-generation 3-Core MDX Controller are very good at 97K IOPS (Random Read Speeds) and 530 MB/s / 390 MB/s (Sequential Read/Write Speeds). The speed of sequential writes increases to 520 MB/s on the 256 and 512GB drives. Astute readers will probably wonder why I selected a drive with SATA III 6 Gb/sec speed even though the motherboard only supports SATA II at 3 Gb/sec. The number of SATA II drive available is diminishing by the second and selecting a drive solely because its maximum speed is equivalent to the current motherboard's maximum speed would be a mistake. The 840 Pro Series can also be used in the future paired with a SATA III 6 Gb/sec capable motherboard and operate at its full potential.









    Random Access Memory (RAM) - Mushkin Enhanced Essentials 4 GB (991644)


    I suspect the main item readers will want to know about the memory selection is why 4GB rather than the brand and specific modules. I'll get the later out of the way first. I selected the Mushkin memory because it's readily available, has worked very well for me, and meets the RAM requirements of DDR3 800/1066 SO-DIMM. One additional item in this category is my selection of a single 4GB module rather than two 2GB modules. I did this because the modules are 1.5v each. Doubling the power requirement for the same amount of memory doesn't make sense. Also, I could not locate readily available RAM modules with low voltage of 1.35v. Thus, a single 1.5v module was selected. Why 4GB when many readers are using 8, 12, and 16GB? According to Intel the DN2800MT motherboard only supports up to 4GB of RAM. I know a few readers have placed more memory on this board successfully, but for this music server I don't know if the pros outweigh the cons. My hunch is that 4GB is plenty of RAM in Carbon. Related to the selection of 4GB of RAM is the fact that Intel's Cedar Trail platform (DN2800MT) doesn't support 64-bit or DirectX 10.1 Graphics Drivers. A major benefit of 64-bit is the capability to use more than 4GB of memory. Without full 64-bit software support Carbon runs on a 32-bit operating system. The maximum amount of memory in this 32-bit OS is 4GB.




    Power Supply - Seasonic SSA-0601D-12


    Selecting a power supply for the CAPS v3 Carbon server involved a bit of research into the energy efficiency standards and finding a balance between efficiency, quality, and cost. I have no doubt a music server's power supply can have a great impact on a high end audio system. I'll detail my findings and recommend a terrific but not inexpensive PSU upgrade below. The Carbon server doesn't require a lot of power. Thus I selected a readily available 60 watt PSU. In my tests this server maxed out at below 25 watts! The Seasonic SSA-0601D-12 is a 12v 5A DC adapter with reduced idle power draw. It complies with Energy Star 2.0, CEC level V the highest level currently in use (>87% efficiency), and Eup Lot 7. I've used this supply for months without any issues and highly recommend it to CA readers.




    PC Case - Wesena e4 v3


    CAPS v3 Carbon was designed with a different case than Topanga, Lagoon, and the soon to be released Zuma designs. The Wesena e4 v3 case comes in both black and silver and may be purchased with a physical disc drive slot should readers want to rip CDs. The The small panel on the front bottom right opens for access to two USB ports. The top of the case can be removed without any tools using the small flippers in the back to prop up the top. I really like the tool-less design. The case ships with two or four fans but they can easily be removed with a screw driver or disabled by simply not connecting them to the motherboard.

    I have a few reasons for selecting the Wesena e4 v3 case. Most important this case enables the server to meet all the CAPS requirements. There are hundreds if not thousands of PC cases that could have fit the bill for CAPS v3 Carbon. Most of them are hideous looking. Based on appearance it's easy to rule out 99% of the cases available. I really like the look of the Wesena e4 v3 as it's wide like the audio components in many readers' equipment racks and has a really nice finish to the metal. The case is very low profile only allowing 2.25" in height for internal components.

    The biggest issue to work around when selecting a case was the ability to use both the SOtM USB PCIe card and the mSATA slot with ExpressCard 34 adapter. The Logic Supply MC500 case only allows use of the SOtM USB card with the specially designed backplate. This backplate doesn't feature the horizontal opening for ExpressCards to be placed into the adapter. Thus using one or the other was a show-stopping limitation. The Carbon design requires a breathable case with room for PCI/PCIe expansion away form the motherboard or perpendicular to the motherboard. I mention breathable case because some fanless designs feature a PCIe expansion port but force the use of heat dissipation through different CPU coolers and heat pipes. Such a design increases the level of build difficulty without getting anything in return. The Wesena e4 v3 features a PCIe slot capable of accepting both half and full size cards and the slot doesn't interfere with the original Intel DN2800MT motherboard's backplate. With the original backplate in place and the horizontal slot punched out an eSATA or FireWire ExpressCard can be used without issue.

    This case provides more than enough room for computer audiophiles to use their creativity. The DN2800MT motherboard features two SATA ports. The space inside the case can be used to house both the recommended Samsung 840 Series SSD as well as another hard drive suitable for one's music collection. There is plenty of room to accommodate the SOtM SATA Filter on one or two internal SSDs as well. The option to use internal storage combined with the ability to use the mSATA adapter for external storage for backup is nice for many users.

    The open space inside the Wesena e4 v3 will likely provide plenty of room for housing power supplies. Many CA readers have experimented with different PSUs and experienced great results. I doubt a huge linear supply will fit in the case but one never knows. If the supply was designed as low profile we may be in luck. On the back of the case is one small hole to accommodate a typical power supply and a large rectangle opening to accommodate any number of PSU upgrades. I'm not a fan of the external wires and bulk associated with many PC PSUs. Placing the PSU inside this case and running the AC cord out the back may be a nice option. There are also some very good switching PSUs that come without a housing to be placed inside a case like the Wesena e4 v3. I haven't tried any personally but I know some manufacturers and CA readers have tried them with good results.

    During CAPS v3 research I stumbled upon the OpenUPS from Mini-Box. Skilled or adventurous readers may want to consider this component for powering the Carbon server via batteries. The OpenUPS can handle input voltage from 6-34v and output from 6-24v. It supports balancing up to six Li-Ion, Li-Po, LIFEPO4, Lead Acid batteries. The unit does use a switching regulator to increase or decrease voltage. This is a lesser design than a product like the Red Wine Audio Black Lightning but it's also potentially much cheaper. I experimented with the OpenUPS a little bit but consider the unit a bit beyond what most computer audiophiles are willing to install. I think the OpenUPS has serious potential for those who have the knowledge and time to implement it correctly.




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    Enhanced Power Supply Option - Red Wine Audio, Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply


    The easiest component to upgrade in the CAPS v3 Lagoon design is the power supply. Lagoon is powered externally via its DC input or internally using a two-pin connector and internal PSU. Intel recommends using an external power supply and the outside DC input although doesn't give any reason for this recommendation. The SOtM tX-USBexp USB card can also be powered internally (4-pin connector) or externally (DC input). This combination of motherboard and USB card, both with external power options, is terrific for a CAPS music server.


    My requirements for an enhanced CAPS v3 power supply were low noise and the ability to power both the motherboard and SOtM tX-USBexp card via the same supply. My research lead me to Vinnie Rossi of Red Wine Audio. RWA has been a leader in battery powered high end audio for years. In addition, Vinnie is one of the nicest guys in the industry. Looking at his Audio Circle forum readers will see all the dedicated RWA users and kind words about Vinnie's customer service. Both the quality of the products and integrity of the manufacturer matter greatly. Many computer audiophiles have been burned by online direct sales from companies who've since disappeared and or stopped offering customer support. CA readers should have zero hesitation working with Vinnie Rossi and Red Wine Audio.


    A few months ago I asked Vinnie about his Black Lighting High-Current Battery Power Supply and its ability to power a CAPS v3 server. Vinnie responded with a few questions and a resounding certainty that there would be no problems. Vinnie has customers powering all kinds of computers, among other items such as audio components, with the Black Lighting. Vinnie recommend I measure the power consumption at peak and study state for the v3 server I wished to power. I purchased a Kill-A-Watt power strip and ran the Lagoon server for several days. The consumption never reached above 25 watts. With this information Vinnie recommended a single or double LiFePO4 (LFP) battery pack based Black Lightning depending on how long I wished to run from batteries. I selected the single battery option as a start knowing I could always upgrade to a double battery solution by simply adding a battery to the existing chassis. One great feature of the Black Lightning is its ability to power components with different input voltages. The Intel DN2800MT motherboard has an input voltage of +9V ~ +19Vdc (12V recommended) and the SOtM tX-USBexp card has an input voltage of +6.5V ~ +9Vdc. With this information Vinnie configured the Black Lightning for 12V output and crafted a power cable sporting one 12V connector and one 9V connector with a linear regulator.


    Note: CAPS v3 Carbon runs for eight hours on a single battery Black Lightning.


    The positive impact of the Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply could be heard immediately and without playing even one track. Powering both the SOtM tX-USBexp and Intel DN2800MT motherboard with the Black Lightning in battery mode removed very audible noise from the my system. The background of my system in an idle state, while powered on, was very noticeably blacker. Even the most casual listener could hear the difference in blackness before a single note was played. I was instantly impressed by the Black Lightning and conducted further testing to figure out how much or how little needed to be done to increase performance of one's audio system. I initially assumed that powering only the SOtM tX-USBexp card via battery, with the internal PSU disconnected, and the motherboard powered via the Seasonic PSU would yield an equal or nearly equal benefit as powering the entire server via battery. I was wrong with this assumption. Even though the clean battery power source of the Black Lightning was used to power the SOtM card that sends power to the USB receiver chip in the EMM Labs DAC2X I still heard harsh electrical noise through my speakers. Based on this test it appears that noise from the Seasonic PSU / motherboard combo is getting to the SOtM card via the PCIe slot's gold connectors. With this knowledge I thought maybe powering the motherboard from the battery supply and the SOtM card via the motherboard could clean up the noise. Wrong again. Both of these attempts cleaned about 20% of the electrical noise from what I heard through my speakers. Removing the Seasonic and powering everything with the Black Lightning once again cleaned up my system beautifully. Once the CAPS v3 Carbon and SOtM card were powered with the Black Lightning and the music started flowing the sound was stunning. This combination is far better than previous CAPS designs in all areas. Now that I've run both the CAPS v3 Lagoon and Carbon servers from the Red Wine Audio Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply I can't go back to standard computer power supplies. The difference is audible, repeatable, and wonderful.


    Note: During testing I tried to measure the difference between running battery versus a normal computer power supply. I used both my iPhone 5 and iPad 3 with Faber Acoustical's SoundMeter FFT and Studio Six Digital's FFT programs as well as an Audio-Technica AT2020 USB microphone connected to my MacBook Pro retina. These tools are far from ideal for capturing the differences I heard. The noise I attempted to measure was not a a fixed frequency and not constant. In my un-anechoic chamber of a listening room I couldn't reliably capture the differences as the FFTs displayed too many noises from my room. It's also likely an experienced user could capture these differences as they are very audible and unmistakable.
















    Add-in USB Card - SOtM tX-USBexp


    The SOtM tX-USBexp is a USB 3.0 PCI express card that snaps into the single PCIe slot on the Intel DN2800MT motherboard. The card half-height but requires the full size PCIe bracket / trim plate to get perfectly into the case's backplate. Both small and full size brackets are included with purchase of the SOtM tX-USBexp from Simple Design . One huge benefit of this USB card is the ability to power it externally with the Red Wine Audio Black Lightning or any PSU of choice. Nearly all high end USB DACs require USB bus power form the computer to power the USb receiver chip in the DAC. Sending the dirty power from a computer motherboard can result in very audible noise and decreased sound quality. Readers with DACs that don't require USB power can also turn the USB power switch to the off position on the SOtM tX-USBexp card. This setting stops all power from going to the DAC.


    The SOtM tX-USBexp has been problematic under certain conditions. When using the card with Windows 7 I had many issues including very distorted sound and stuttering during playback. This was unacceptable so I stopped using the card with Windows 7. I tracked the issue down to the drivers included with the card from SOtM. USB 3.0 was not included in any PCs when Windows 7 was released and Microsoft still hasn't included native support for USB 3.0 devices. Thus the need for separate device driver installation. Fortunately Windows 8 includes native USb 3.0 support for existing USB 3.0 chipsets including the TI chipset used in the SOtM tX-USBexp. Windows 8 not only recognizes the SOtM tX-USBexp after installation but also enables the card to function flawlessly. I've tested the card with every DAC that has come through Computer Audiophile and haven't had a single issue.

    Note: I found it easiest to use a flexible PCIe riser cable rather than a PCIe riser card in the Carbon server due to the height of the PCIe slot on the case. The flexible riser I use and recommend is the EXP1-362-10 from Logic Supply.










    Software


    Note: Software specifications and recommendations are identical to the CAPS v3 Topanga and Lagoon designs.


    Operating System - Windows 8 Pro 32-bit


    The operating system for all the CAPS v3 designs is Microsoft Windows 8 Pro. Topanga, Lagoon, and Carbon run on the 32-bit OS and Zuma runs on the 64-bit version. Three main questions to be answered with this selection are 1. Why 32-bit over 64-bit? 2. Why Windows 8 over Windows 7 or Linux. 3. Why the Pro version over the standard Windows 8 version?




    1. Why 32-bit over 64-bit?
    CAPS v1 is 32-bit, CAPS v2 is 64-bit, and CAPS v3 is both 32 and 64 bit depending on the design. A simple answer is you don't bring a knife to a gun fight. In other words use the right tool for the job. As previously mentioned the the "Intel the DN2800MT motherboard only supports up to 4GB of RAM and Intel's Cedar Trail platform doesn't support 64-bit or DirectX 10.1 Graphics Drivers." When designing the CAPS servers I select the hardware before a specific version of the operating system. Reversing these selections leads to decisions based less on needed features and more on specifications.


    2. Why Windows 8 over Windows 7 or Linux.
    One major reason I selected Windows 8 over Windows 7 is longevity. I know both operating systems will be supported after CAPS v4 is released however I want users of a CAPS v3 system to have support for as long as possible. According to Microsoft the End of mainstream support for Windows 7 is January 12, 2015. Around two years from now the third party vendors will also stop supporting Windows 7 as they typically follow Microsoft's lead.


    I can't say that either Windows 7 or Windows 8 is sonically better than the other. The audio portion of the Windows 8 operating system is unchanged as far as I can tell. I'm sure there are some minor changes but I haven't seen any that really matter. Windows 8 RT is another story but that's for tablets using an ARM processor. Windows 8 still supports low level audio access and exclusive mode for low latency and bit perfect output. WASAPI (Windows Audio Session Application Programing Interface) is still in Windows 8 as it was in Windows Vista and Windows 7. Audio output modes WASAPI and WASAPI - Event Style work just fine in JRiver Media Center on Windows 8.


    Windows 8 also has native driver support for USB 3.0 chipsets including the TI chipset on the SOtM tX-USBexp PCIe card. This card wasn't part of the CAPS v3 Topanga design but is a critical part of the other three designs. I don't see a benefit to recommending Windows 7 for Topanga and Windows 8 for Lagoon, Carbon, and Zuma just because Topanga doesn't use USB 3.0. This USB 3.0 native driver support is a must for good performance with the SOtM card.


    All Windows 7 USB DAC drivers I've tried on Windows 8 have worked without issue once installed. The installation can require Compatibility Mode on the 32-bit version of Windows. This is a simple check box to click and the installation will work without a hitch. DACs that don't require driver installation such as the AudioQuest DragonFly also work perfect on the CAPS v3 servers. It has been reported by several CA readers that the DragonFly has issues with Windows 8 and AudioQuest mentions this issue on its website. I've tried several configurations to cause an issue with the DragonFly and I can't make it stutter, pop, or click on playback.


    One additional item that may be important to some readers is Windows 8's touch capability. Readers who use JRiver Media Center in Theater View with a nice touch enabled screen like the Dell S2340T 23" multi-touch monitor will benefit nicely from Windows 8's built from the ground-up touch support.


    I selected the Windows operating system over a Linux based solution for two reasons. First I still don't believe Linux is easy for an end user without Linux experience. I've tried many solutions and always found issues that would stop the unlearned from enjoying a music server rather than learning a new language. I haven't found a Linux distribution that supports easy click & learn navigation. By that I mean enabling users to click around and figure things out on their own. Without Linux knowledge it just ain't gonna happen. Readers shouldn't take this as a dislike for Linux. Rather it's part of selecting the right tool for the job. The second reason I selected Windows over a Linux distribution is the new initiative to get the CA Community involved in CAPS designs. I believe a Linux based CAPS server will be much more successful if lead by a group of dedicated CA readers to perfect and address some of the issues other readers may have with the OS. The customizability of Linux lends itself to endless possibilities for CA readers. If someone can think of it, it can be done. Linux is only limited by one's imagination. As a group the CA Community can likely take a Linux based CAPS design to an incredibly high level. I would love to recommend a specific Linux ISO image for CA readers to install on CAPS v3 hardware. I know a few readers have been working on Linux based projects and those projects are great places to start.


    3. Why the Pro version over the standard Windows 8 version?
    This one is simple. Windows 8 Pro support Remote Desktop, using its built-in RDP capability, from both Mac OS X and another Windows computer. There is no need for third party solutions running in the background. I've used Windows RDP for years as the main connection method to my music servers when I need to view the whole desktop. It works every time, it works well, and it's free. The standard version of Windows 8 doesn't support RDP using the Remote Desktop Client.


    Windows 8 Pro Customization


    This article is mainly about hardware and software selection. It will be much more effective for me to write a specific Windows 8 article addressing tweaks and OS customizations at a later date. Plus, the CA Community has already started tweaking Windows 8 and discussing it in the Forum. I will use those discussions and the assistance from the Community when publishing a Windows 8 music server guide.






    Playback Software - JRiver Media Center 18


    The selection of JRMC as the playback software for all CAPS v3 designs should come as no surprise to CA readers. I haven't' seen a better playback, library management, and remote controllable application to date. In addition to the application's superiority over the competition the JRiver team has been terrific over the years supporting even the smallest of audiophile requests such as native DSD playback. For more details as to why I prefer JRMC over everything else please read the following article -> Link .


    JRiver has a Benchmarking feature that runs computers through Math, Image, and Database tests. The CAPS v3 Carbon server produced the following scores that are slightly better than Topanga.
    Running 'Math' benchmark... Score: 442
    Running 'Image' benchmark... Score: 599
    Running 'Database' benchmark... Score: 763
    JRMark (version 18.0.81): 601


    I didn't recommend a remote control application for JRiver in the CAPS v3 designs. There are a few available ranging in price from free to about $10-15. Readers unfamiliar with the options should consider JRiver's own Gizmo if using an Android device or JRemote is using an iPad/iPhone/iTouch.






    Wrap Up


    That's the Computer Audiophile Pocket Server CAPS v3 Carbon. It's my favorite CAPS server to date and the one I use every day for listening pleasure and component evaluation. The server is absolutely silent, capable of great sound, great looking, has no moving parts, fairly inexpensive, has no legacy components, is easy to operate, easy to assemble / install, small in size, consumes low power, produces low heat, accepts the SOtM tX-USBexp PCIe card, and plays all pertinent sample rates from 44.1 kHz through 192 kHz and DSD. That's the entire CAPS requirement list from version 1 of the server through v3. The Carbon design offers terrific performance and an upgrade path to a better power supply. Whereas Lagoon isn't the most versatile server ever built as it works best with NAS storage, Carbon offers almost endless storage options. The sound quality and usability of the Carbon server are both terrific. Computer audiophiles seeking more power should pursue the CAPS v3 Zuma design to be released in a few days.














    Where to buy retail: Small Green Computer


    Where to buy components:


    CAPS v3 Carbon - Total Price: $1,080

    Case: Wesena e4 v3 Price: $176.00 Link
    Motherboard: Intel DN2800MT Price: $110.00 Link
    Memory: DDR3 4GB RAM (991644) Price: $19.00 Link
    SSD: MZ-7PD064BW Price: $100.00 Link
    Power Supply: 60W, 12V (PW-12V5A-L5) Price: $25.00 Link
    OS: Win 8 Pro 32-bit Price: $140.00Link
    Playback App: JRMC v18 Price: $50.00 Link
    Flexible Riser: EXP1-362-10 Price: $34.50 Link
    Add-in Card: SOtM tX-USBexp Price: $350 Simple Design
    SATA Power Noise Filter: SOtM Price: $65 Link
    ExpressCard to mini-PCIe adapter: AOC-MT-EXPRESS-CARD Price: $10.00 Link


    Optional ExpressCard Storage

    ExpressCard to eSATA: SD-EXP40020 Price: $17.00 Link
    ExpressCard to 1394b (FireWire 800): EC1394B2 Price: $59.50 Link


    Optional Power Supply

    Red Wine Audio, Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply $895 (single battery), $1,195 (dual battery) Link













    Comments 268 Comments
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      Chris,
      Nice write-up, as usual.

      Question: you say "Carbon is my favorite CAPS design thus far and it's the one I use every day.......The sound quality from the CAPS v3 Carbon server is equal to or better than the best servers I've heard in recent memory." Although I realize that the Carbon version's main differentiators are its documented expandability and open real estate (for future yet-discovered expandability) the truth is that the way you are using it currently is identical to the Lagoon, except for the SOtM SATA filter. Are you saying the Carbon sounds better than the Lagoon? And if so, do you trace it to the filter? Or am i reading this the wrong way, and what you are saying is that you can really only use one CAPS V3 on a daily basis anyway, so you use this one, period (i.e maybe based on something non-audio like looks, etc)?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by ted_b View Post
      Chris,
      Nice write-up, as usual.

      Question: you say "Carbon is my favorite CAPS design thus far and it's the one I use every day.......The sound quality from the CAPS v3 Carbon server is equal to or better than the best servers I've heard in recent memory." Although I realize that the Carbon version's main differentiators are its documented expandability and open real estate (for future yet-discovered expandability) the truth is that the way you are using it currently is identical to the Lagoon, except for the SOtM SATA filter. Are you saying the Carbon sounds better than the Lagoon? And if so, do you trace it to the filter? Or am i reading this the wrong way, and what you are saying is that you can really only use one CAPS V3 on a daily basis anyway, so you use this one, period (i.e maybe based on something non-audio like looks, etc)?
      Hi Ted - It's more of an "I selected the v3 version I like best and am sticking with it" type of thing. The JRiver JMark scores are identical as they should be. Some people actually dislike the SATA filters. The difference between Lagoon and Carbon may be up to personal taste if there are any differences at all.
    1. ted_b's Avatar
      ted_b -
      Chris, thanks. Yeah, I documented that i was not a fan of what the filter did for me and the 830 in the CAPS V2+, but a buddy, using one on an internal spinning drive, said it was easily the best $65 he'd ever spent.
    1. TJHUB's Avatar
      TJHUB -
      Chris:

      I was hoping you had found a really cool case for the v3's. Too bad that I had already found the E4, but it is great. How did you get your hands on one already?
    1. satbox's Avatar
      satbox -
      Hi Chris,
      Please, can you provide the exact reference of the "Kill-A-Watt power strip" you used to measure the power consumption at peak and study state for the CAPS V3?
      Thank you!
      Didier
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Chris-

      If we wanted to experiment and upgrade to 2X4 GB RAM, would that effect the ability of the Black Lightning to power the server?

      I think all the designs are great. Each stage so far is very well thought out. Can't wait to see the Zuma.

      Danny
    1. ejn1's Avatar
      ejn1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by TJHUB View Post
      Chris:

      I was hoping you had found a really cool case for the v3's. Too bad that I had already found the E4, but it is great. How did you get your hands on one already?
      I believe Streacom and Wesena are the same mfg... I found this version that is very similar but has heatsinks on the side which you dont have to use if using the DN2800mt board. Not bad looking at all. I purchased their F7C EVO case and its a great looking well made case. Im sure this one is also.

      FC5WS Evo Fanless Chassis | Streacom

      That would be great if someone can come up with an internal linear PS for the mobo... At a minimum you could keep the external PS for the SOTM card which I'm guessing is the more important of the two.
    1. wisnon's Avatar
      wisnon -
      Quote Originally Posted by ted_b View Post
      Chris, thanks. Yeah, I documented that i was not a fan of what the filter did for me and the 830 in the CAPS V2+, but a buddy, using one on an internal spinning drive, said it was easily the best $65 he'd ever spent.
      Ted, Could the iUSB Power be a solution to this, or is the $65 filer an internal contraption?
    1. MariustHvdB's Avatar
      MariustHvdB -
      HI,
      Interesting read, im new to this CAPS technique coming form a Bryston BDP/BDA and usb-hdd and Nas libraries.

      Why is it you write "When connecting a USB DAC to the Carbon server readers should avoid using USB hard drives due to how the USB protocol operates." Cant the 2 usb techniques be used simultaneously?
      Would the same issue occur when using a usb-spdif converter and usb-hdd's?

      Thanks,
      Marius
    1. wappinghigh's Avatar
      wappinghigh -
      What's the maximum SSD storage capacity (inbuilt) using 512Gb SSD drives, that are we now talking about here? (making use of the additional esata connection)

      Are we talking 4x 512 = around 2TB of SSD capacity?

      And could not JRiver be set up to index all 4 SSD's..all contained within the one server. All isolated from mains using battery power?

      This is cool!!

      So please confirm the max no of SSD that could be installed internally and powered in this way. Thx!!
    1. AjCrisci's Avatar
      AjCrisci -
      Hi. Long time lurker who is just about to pull the trigger on this design, however, room corection is near a must have for me (I move a lot and cant invest heavily on room treatment). In the overview of CAPS 3, it's impled that only CAPS Carbon will have enough 'power' to do that. Is there any reason that I coulndt use ikmultimedia's ARC program (which I have already from my home recording studio)?


      Thanks all.
    1. Matias's Avatar
      Matias -
      Cris, just a small fix, the component lists says CAPS v3 Lagoon - Total Price: $1,080 where it should be Carbon.
    1. AjCrisci's Avatar
      AjCrisci -
      Quote Originally Posted by AjCrisci View Post
      Hi. Long time lurker who is just about to pull the trigger on this design, however, room corection is near a must have for me (I move a lot and cant invest heavily on room treatment). In the overview of CAPS 3, it's impled that only CAPS Carbon will have enough 'power' to do that. Is there any reason that I coulndt use ikmultimedia's ARC program (which I have already from my home recording studio)?


      Thanks all.

      sorry I meant Zuma.
    1. roubaixpro's Avatar
      roubaixpro -
      Hi Chris,

      I have a question regarding a statement you made in your CAPS v3 preview article below:

      "My experience with several canned music servers such as Aurender, Sooloos, and Sonore to name a few has given me a good idea of what I and other computer audiophiles want in both performance and remote control. Given one of the goals is to design servers I will use in my system the CAPS v3 servers must compete with all the canned server options. I didn't design these servers for everyone else to use while I sit in an Ivory Tower listening to something else. I designed these servers for myself and all the CA readers."

      One of your goals of CAPS v3 was no moving parts, which means no internal hard drives, yet all the canned server options that you mentioned above along with other ones from Olive, SOtM, Music Vault Diamond and Baetis Audio include one or even two spinning hard drives for storage and back-up using dBpoweramp. It seems that all these manufacturers have integrated internal spinning hard drives without compromising the sound quality.

      I'm wondering if you think that these all-in-one music servers with internal storage are being compromised in terms of sound quality because they do have these spinning internal hard drives? You mentioned that additional storage such as extra SSD cards and spinning hard drives can be added to the Carbon server, but I would like to see a "reference design" with say 2 - 3TB hard drives (one for music storage and one as a back-up) and a 64GB SSD for the OS. That way, I could just purchase it canned from Small Green Computer, since I am not much into assembly or modding. I am most interested in the Aurender, but at $7k and with future planned models being even more expensive, it is out of my budget. I assume that a a good portion of the cost of the Aurender is due to it's proprietary OS.

      BTW, Small Green Computer does not seem to be selling the Carbon model yet.
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Quote Originally Posted by ejn1 View Post
      I believe Streacom and Wesena are the same mfg... I found this version that is very similar but has heatsinks on the side which you dont have to use if using the DN2800mt board. Not bad looking at all. I purchased their F7C EVO case and its a great looking well made case.
      I believe Streacom are the official distributor (not sure the correct term) of PC cases manufactured by Wesena in the far east.

      There was a website/company wesena dot co dot uk but I believe they have been issued a cease and desist notice about using the Wesena name as they didn't have rights to use it.

      So just a warning/clarification which perhaps Chris could/should research and let us know.

      Eloise
    1. JJJ's Avatar
      JJJ -
      Is the PW-12V5A-L5 enough of a power supply? I note that the Bryston BDP-2 has a bumped up linear PSU with "over 5 amps, 10 amps peak". With an internal SSD and a couple of connected USB drives, how much power do you think is drawn?
    1. AjCrisci's Avatar
      AjCrisci -
      If my memory servs me correctly, I think it also is running a Juli@ soundcard internally. Thats got to consume someting. I could possibly be talking out of my butt. But, I know the BDP-1 had one.
    1. 4est's Avatar
      4est -
      Quote Originally Posted by JJJ View Post
      Is the PW-12V5A-L5 enough of a power supply? I note that the Bryston BDP-2 has a bumped up linear PSU with "over 5 amps, 10 amps peak". With an internal SSD and a couple of connected USB drives, how much power do you think is drawn?
      Why don't you just ask Bryston?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by 4est View Post
      Why don't you just ask Bryston?
      Thanks for the unhelpful comment 4est :~|


      Yes, the recommended PSU is more than enough power for CAPS v3 Topanga, Lagoon, and Carbon. CAPS servers don't draw more than 25 watts. I doubt the BDP-1 draws anywhere near the max capability of its PSU.
    1. StreamFan's Avatar
      StreamFan -
      Great design. Great case.
      Regarding USB 3.0, I'm wondering if the usefulness for having 3.0 might be bandwidth for reading 24/192 flac files from a stick, since StreamMagic 6, and MF M1 CLiC seem to have trouble reading those files from USB sticks.
      While most usage of this server for me would be via NAS access, it would be useful on occasion to put in a USB stick for files. Someone comes over or whatever. Is there a difference between USB 2 and 3 related to the reading of 24/192 flac files.
      Again, Thanks for the design.
      cheers,
      SF
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