• Computer Audiophile Pocket Server C.A.P.S. v4 Pipeline



    CAPS v4 Pipeline is more traditional than CAPS Cortes because itís designed to connect directly to oneís audio system. The server has space to add in cards such as USB, AES/EBU, or S/PDIF. In addition to cards, the server has plenty of room for power products and large desktop hard drives. Pipeline offers plenty of room and power for user experimentation as opposed to the mini servers of the caps v3 ilk. Iíve been using the server in a 100% silent configuration with a linear power supply and solid state hard drive with great success. I canít wait to see what members of the CA Community do to this server to take it beyond my standard configuration and push it to the max with tips, tricks, and tweaks.

    Hardware

    The hardware used for the Pipeline design was selected because of the great response to the powerful CAPS v3 Zuma server and because my testing proved this new hardware was not only as good as Zuma but offered much more versatility and longevity. I believe this server has awesome potential in its current form and all the directions users will take the design.

    I selected the Supermicro X10SLH-F motherboard ($215) mainly because of its seven year life-span, support for E3-1200 v3 family of Xeon processors and 1600MHz ECC memory, extra PCIe slots, and support for IPMI 2.0 with KVM. While designing the server I talked to one person who asked why even update the Zuma server if I donít have any revolutionary changes. I explained my big reasons for the update and really stressed the fact that this motherboard will be available and supported for seven years. I love the fact this board has such long term support, especially because keeping up with end of life components is a pain in my neck once the CAPS servers are published. Itís also a pain in the neck for all the members of the CA Community who want to purchase or build a sever for which they canít obtain new parts.

    The X10SLH-Fís support for Xeon processors was important to me because Pipeline is essentially a server for data, not multimedia. The server doesnít need integrated video form an i7 series processor. Users should be aware that the x16 PCIe slot on this motherboard only supports x8 speeds, thus adding a video card if needed may be tricky. The Xeon processor selected, E3-1241 v3 (BX80646E31241V3) ($273), supports error correction and features quad core 3.5 GHz performance with a TDP of only 80 watts. Some Xeon processors ďfeatureĒ a TDP of nearly double that of the E3-1241 v3. The low-ish TDP of 80 watts is required to use the fanless case with heatipes selected for this server.

    Identical to CAPS Cortes, both this CPU and this motherboard support ECC or error correcting code memory. This type of RAM detects and corrects common types of data corruption. Pipeline features 16GB of Crucial (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Server Memory (CT2KIT102472BD160B) ($179) Random Access Memory (RAM). The SuperMicro X10SL7-F board supports up through 32GB of RAM should one wish to increase from the specified 16GB.

    The X10SLH-F motherboard supports six SATA III drives and even a SATA DOM power connector. During my testing I used one Samsung 850 Pro SSD ($130) with SOtM SATA power filter ($70) and pulled music from my Cortes NAS replacement server. The reason I mention the fact that this server supports six drives, even though I only use a single drive, is because this allows additional SSD or spinning hard drives to be connected to the server internally without using the USB bus. In the past Iíve been wary of using spinning hard drives, but several other members of the CA Community have used them with great success (and less neurosis). Just as in CAPS Cortes, I recommend 6TB Seagate drives for users seeking to contain all their storage inside the Pipeline chassis. With six SATA drive ports itís also possible to use enough SSDs to contain a userís library given that many users, according to the CA drive space survey, have less than several Terabytes of music to store.

    Expansion via PCIe is also very easy with the X10SLH-F motherboard. Pipeline features 1x PCI-E 3.0 x8 (in x16), 1x PCI-E 3.0 x8, and 1x PCI-E 2.0 x4 (in x8) slot. In the single PCIe 2.0 slot I have the SOtM tX-PCIexp card ($350) for increased USB audio performance over the standard built-in USB ports. Powering this card I also recommend the HDPlex Power Supply, described below, because itís critical to supply the cleanest power signal possible. Given the serverís direct connection to a DAC or other audio component, a dirty power signal will have negative effects on audio performance unless the audio component used features 100% isolation from the server (I.e. Are QB-9 DSD). The number of slots in the Pipeline server also allow for AES/EBU cards from companies such as Lynx or RME and for S/PDIF cards from companies such as ASUS and ESi. I searched for a way to add Thunderbolt to this server through a PCIe card, but was unable to find a card that didnít require an on-board Thunderbolt header on the motherboard. Users that arenít afraid of wireless interference (RFI) can use both an SOtM tX-PCIexp and an ASUS PCE-AC68 802.11ac card connect to the motherboard at the same time.

    Another nice feature of this server motherboard is the USB 3.0 capability. I say this not for audio playback but for backup purposes. Connecting a large USB 3.0 drive to Pipeline enables users to backup a music library and take the external drive off-site for safer storage (presumably).

    The last piece of the X10SLH-F motherboard that I absolutely love is the integrated Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) 2.0 with KVM and dedicated LAN port. This interface enables the user to connect to the server via web browser and access it as if the user was physically at the server with a keyboard, monitor, and mouse. The IPMI even enables the user to connect to the server when the power is off, get into the BIOS, and restart the server if the operating system hangs. Itís a great feature for the Pipeline server because this server is likely to sit in an audio rack without any monitor attached.

    Case options for the Pipeline server were very limited because I wanted the server to look like an A/V component. One of the only cases that fits the size and versatility requirements is the Streacom FC10 ($330). This is a ďfullĒ size chassis without a single fan. In order to run the server fanless users must purchase the Streacom ST-HT4 CPU Cooler Riser ($30) and Streacom ST-LH4 Pipes ($25) that extend further out over the motherboard than the included heat pipes. Working on a server in this case, compared to the small CAPS cases, is akin to working on an old American automobile when there was enough room under the hood for a person to stand next to the engine.

    The power supply Iím using for the CAPS v4 Pipeline server is an HDPlex Linear Power Supply ($358) in combination with the HDPlex 250W Internal DC-ATX PSU ($85). Once the power hits the motherboard there isnít much any of us can do to clean it up. However, using a linear supply for the main power and the USB card power we can effectively create a barrier of clean power around the server. The linear supply wonít feed the typical switching noise back into the power line and on to the audio components and the same linear supply feeding the USB card will make sure the direct connection to the audio system is as clean as possible. In other words, itís like a moat of clean power surrounding the dirty PC power.

    The HDPlex linear supply features a 100VA R-Core transformer and ELNA audio capacitors with extremely low ripple noise of less than 3mv. This PSU also features four individual outputs on the back for 5v, 9v, 12v, and 19v power needs. I am using both the 9v for the SOtM card and the 19v for the server main power connection. This main power connection is the HDPlex 250W DC-ATX PSU. I was very happy to find this PSU because it features all the connections needed for the fairly large server sized motherboard (Supermicro X10SLH-F). Finding another DC to ATX converter than can support this board is nearly impossible.


    Software

    Like all CAPS v4 computers, Pipeline runs on Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit. I use the professional version because I connect to the server recently with Windowsí built-in Remote Desktop capability. It works great and doesnít require an additional third party application for remote control of the actual server. The media management and playback application I use most often on Pipeline is JRiver Media Center because of its all encompassing capabilities and its great integration with JRemote for iOS.

    This combination of hardware and software makes Pipeline endlessly flexible. As always, my component selections arenít the only selections that will make a successful server. Members of the CA Community are encouraged to use Pipeline as a platform from which to experiment. Those readers seeking a complete solution should be pretty happy with Pipeline just as itís designed. I encourage members of the community to post questions, concerns, and comments below.

    JRMark Score -
    === Running Benchmarks (please do not interrupt) ===

    Running 'Math' benchmark...
    Single-threaded integer math... 3.851 seconds
    Single-threaded floating point math... 2.365 seconds
    Multi-threaded integer math... 1.165 seconds
    Multi-threaded mixed math... 0.805 seconds
    Score: 2321

    Running 'Image' benchmark...
    Image creation / destruction... 0.301 seconds
    Flood filling... 0.556 seconds
    Direct copying... 0.847 seconds
    Small renders... 1.047 seconds
    Bilinear rendering... 0.817 seconds
    Bicubic rendering... 0.469 seconds
    Score: 5451

    Running 'Database' benchmark...
    Create database... 0.177 seconds
    Populate database... 1.116 seconds
    Save database... 0.387 seconds
    Reload database... 0.097 seconds
    Search database... 0.808 seconds
    Sort database... 0.743 seconds
    Group database... 0.808 seconds
    Score: 5198

    JRMark (version 20.0.44): 4323


    A Note About Sponsorship

    Before going further I'd like to thank JRiver for sponsoring the entire CAPS v4 project. Researching and purchasing all the parts for CAPS servers takes time and money. In the past I spent over $10,000 just trying different motherboards, memory, SSDs, cases, etcÖ This time around I thought it would be prudent and a win-win for everybody if I obtained sponsorship for CAPS v4. I sought sponsorship from a handful of companies and before the "ink" on the email was dry JRiver stepped up to sponsor the whole project. This sponsorship enabled me to take the CAPS project further in a shorter period of time than I would have been able to on my own. The bottom line is that members of the CA Community benefitted from this sponsorship. Without this benefit to the entire Community I wouldn't have sought sponsorship. Period. Also, JRiver had no input on the design of the servers' hardware or software. Prior to contacting JRiver I had already decided what playback applications would be used for the CAPS v4 project. I also didn't let JRiver know this software decision, thus avoiding any semblance of impropriety. Again, thanks to JRiver for supporting CAPS v4 and the CA Community.


    Gallery

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    Links

    Motherboard: Supermicro X10SLH-F
    Case: Streacom FC10
    CPU: Intel Xeon E3-1241 v3 (BX80646E31241V3)
    RAM: Crucial (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Server Memory (CT2KIT102472BD160B)
    SSD: Samsung 850 Pro 128GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7KE128BW)
    HDD: Seagate Desktop HDD 6TB 6Gb/s 128MB Cache 3.5-Inch HDD (STBD6000100)
    PSU: HDPlex Linear Power Supply in combination with the HDPlex 250W Internal DC-ATX PSU
    Music App: JRiver Media Center
    USB Card: SOtM tX-PCIexp
    SATA Filter: SOtM SATA power filter
    Comments 129 Comments
    1. DrP's Avatar
      DrP -
      I have some confusion about how to use this in addition to the Cortes. I built the last iteration of this Caps sever and use it currently. Am very happy with it, thank your for the work you did to come up with the specs. You state you are running Windows with Jriver on the Cortes. You are running JRiver on this Pipleline Server as well. This has me confused. Which version of these multiple Jriver controls everything?

      I understand your arguments of the benefit of the Cortes over traditional nas.

      What is confusing me is your discussion of having Jriver on the Cortes machine with the music along with another instance running on the Pipeline which connects to the DAC. What I don't grasp is which instance of JRiver do I use? I don't want multiple instances of playlists etc... I do not understand how to integrate all of it.

      Hope my question makes sense.
    1. bobflood's Avatar
      bobflood -
      Hi Chris, This looks great. Would this design support a local touch screen monitor (like a Dell for example) for local, at the rack, control in addition to remote control? Also, will Small Green Computers be building this new series of CAPS v4 designs? Thanks for your efforts on this project. Best, Bob
    1. ecwl's Avatar
      ecwl -
      This is fantastic. Thank you.

      Just ordered the HDPlex Linear Power Supply as an upgrade to my CAPSv3 Carbon. And if and when my CAPSv3 Carbon becomes obsolete or dies, I can just upgrade to the CAPSv4 Pipeline. Thanks for all the hard work.
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Chris-

      This looks like a great user friendly configuration for an audio PC. I think the "headless" feature will be very convenient for a lot of us.

      Did you try using the server with both internal and external drives for the music library? Any difference in SQ under the 2 scenarios? If you didn't try an internal drive, have you made this comparison in the past?

      Have you compared the sound using the linear supply to the Black Lightning you used on the V3 (even switching them out on the V3)? I know you were wowed by the difference the BL made on the V3, just wonder if this linear supply yields similar results.

      Thanks again
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Quote Originally Posted by DrP View Post
      I have some confusion about how to use this in addition to the Cortes. I built the last iteration of this Caps sever and use it currently. Am very happy with it, thank your for the work you did to come up with the specs. You state you are running Windows with Jriver on the Cortes. You are running JRiver on this Pipleline Server as well. This has me confused. Which version of these multiple Jriver controls everything?

      I understand your arguments of the benefit of the Cortes over traditional nas.

      What is confusing me is your discussion of having Jriver on the Cortes machine with the music along with another instance running on the Pipeline which connects to the DAC. What I don't grasp is which instance of JRiver do I use? I don't want multiple instances of playlists etc... I do not understand how to integrate all of it.

      Hope my question makes sense.
      +1 same question
    1. EuroChamp's Avatar
      EuroChamp -
      Dear Chris,

      congrats to this 4th iteration of a top of the line CAPS. There is really some interesting input for me. For me, the highlight is the KVM port in combination with the CAPS!

      Could you share a photo of the open case for a look inside?

      Bernhard
    1. AudioPhil's Avatar
      AudioPhil -
      ...and there is the front-end machine, very nice and well done as well! :-) And yet another mainboard with native Windows Server 2012/R2 support, fantastic!

      Best,
      Phil
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by EuroChamp View Post
      Dear Chris,

      congrats to this 4th iteration of a top of the line CAPS. There is really some interesting input for me. For me, the highlight is the KVM port in combination with the CAPS!

      Could you share a photo of the open case for a look inside?

      Bernhard
      Here is a (bad) shot of it right now in my test lab.

      Attachment 15722
    1. EuroChamp's Avatar
      EuroChamp -
      Thank you, shot is perfect - all I wanted to see

      Do you think, there is enough space inside the Streacom, for housing all the HD Plex PSU electronic?
    1. joelha's Avatar
      joelha -
      Great stuff, Chris.
      Can't wait to tear into the details of your article.
      In the meantime, is there a preference between going USB out of a USB card or if your DAC has an XLR input or would it make more sense to output from a quality card with an XLR output straight to the DAC?
      If XLR is a better option for such DAC's, which card(s) would be recommended as the best?
      Thanks,
      Joel
    1. agillis's Avatar
      agillis -
      Quote Originally Posted by bobflood View Post
      Hi Chris, This looks great. Would this design support a local touch screen monitor (like a Dell for example) for local, at the rack, control in addition to remote control? Also, will Small Green Computers be building this new series of CAPS v4 designs? Thanks for your efforts on this project. Best, Bob

      Looks great Chris!

      Bob, Small Green Computer will be building the C.A.P.S v4 Pipeline for anybody who want's a prebuilt unit.

      http://shop.smallgreencomputer.com/C...4-pipeline.htm
    1. christopher3393's Avatar
      christopher3393 -
      Quote Originally Posted by bobflood View Post
      Hi Chris, This looks great. Would this design support a local touch screen monitor (like a Dell for example) for local, at the rack, control in addition to remote control? Also, will Small Green Computers be building this new series of CAPS v4 designs? Thanks for your efforts on this project. Best, Bob
      Looks like a yes:
      Chris Connaker CAPS Computer Audiophile

      On the ssd, I hope Small Green intends to use the Samsung 850 Pro, not the 840 Pro.

      A very rough estimate of what it would cost me to build this myself came to @ $2,200.00, but I need to check it more closely.

      Thanks Chris and Small Green Computer. And JRiver for sponsorship
    1. givita_burl's Avatar
      givita_burl -
      I appreciate the focus on achieving the best audiophile result, and great sound is also my main aim, however I would like the flexibility of running video as well. For me, this doesn't require a lot of processing power but must be able to pass thru HDMI or similar. It appears the Supermicro board has only VGA output and limited options to add a video card.
      Is there an alternative board that someone could suggest?
      Dave
    1. edorts's Avatar
      edorts -
      Chris,

      NAS would most likely still be required...right?
    1. evvivasms's Avatar
      evvivasms -
      Hello Chris, congratulations for the new C.A.P.S. v4 Pipeline. I have a question on the case: I already have a case streacom model FC 5 WS. Can I use this to build the server?
      thanks
      Roberto
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Quote Originally Posted by edorts View Post
      NAS would most likely still be required...right?
      Yes for the file storage; unless you add internal drives as Chris suggested.
    1. Audio_ELF's Avatar
      Audio_ELF -
      Quote Originally Posted by evvivasms View Post
      congratulations for the new C.A.P.S. v4 Pipeline. I have a question on the case: I already have a case streacom model FC 5 WS. Can I use this to build the server?
      thanks
      You should be able to use the FC5WS case - you'd need to check the heat pipes can be adapted. One limitation is that there is only a single slot accessible in the FC5WS.

      Others can express an opinion but I'm unsure if there would be any advantage in "upgrading" to the CAPSv4 Pipeline if you currently have a Zuma.
    1. tranz's Avatar
      tranz -
      Thanks for the next surfer server.

      A quick note for those still wanting graphics, the Matrox graphics cards have some that are often used in recording rigs as they have some low power ones.

      Cheers
    1. extracampine's Avatar
      extracampine -
      I would be very keen to avoid VGA as any monitor connected will be liable to video hum. Better stick with some form of digital video output. Looks very interesting otherwise though!
    1. EquaRack's Avatar
      EquaRack -
      Hello Chris:

      Congrats on the new Pipeline!

      I own a C.A.P.S. Carbon music server with optional SOtm3 USB Card and Red Wine Audio Black Lightning battery power supply, running W8.1 32-bit and JRiver-19.

      I care ONLY about SQ playing PCM & DSD files with no up-sampling or room correction.

      Putting all features and capabilities of the new Pipeline aside, do you know for a fact or is it your opinion that Pipeline does or should SOUND BETTER than what I currently have?

      In addition, why did you choose to use W8.1 Pro 64-bit instead of the (claimed superior) Windows 2012 Server OS?

      And finally, have you evaluated "Audiophile Optimizer" with Windows 2012 Server or another Windows OS?


      Many Thanks In Advance!
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