• CAPS v4 Maroubra and Bundoran


    This is the final installment of the CAPS v4 series! It will cover both the Maroubra and Bundoran servers because they are very closely related. This is the first time a CAPS design has been based on an Intel NUC. Part of me feels bad because there isnít much to ďdesignĒ when using the NUC platform, but I am more excited than anything because there is a lot of user demand of NUC based servers. For readers unfamiliar with the Intel NUC, itís a very small motherboard with the CPU soldered to the board. Itís one of the platforms Intel has decided to keep supporting, unlike its traditional motherboard business. Anyway, the main purpose for NUC based CAPS servers is size. These servers will fit into almost any component rack or fit nicely hidden behind a DAC. There isnít much hardware experimentation to be done when using a NUC, but I believe Iíve found a couple ways to make these last two designs a bit more audiophile than a standard off-the-shelf server. The Maroubra and Bundoran servers arenít for everyone, especially those who like to try different things and tweak their systems a bit. These servers are simple solutions that donít cost an arm and a leg and fit nicely into any existing audio system. I hope readers donít see this installment of CAPS v4 as anticlimactic but rather something offering two sensible solutions for specific members of the CA Community.


    CAPS v4 Maroubra

    This NUC server is based on the Intel NUC Kit D54250WYKH ($379). The board holds a 1.3 GHz Core i5 processor, four USB 3.0 ports, and a SATA connection to power the custom USB audio card or in the case of the Bundoran server an extra hard drive if needed. The motherboard supports up to 16 GB of 1.35v DDR3L memory. Users must be very careful selecting memory because this board will not support standard 1.5v DDR3 memory. For this build I selected G.Skill Ripjaws Series Laptop Memory F3-1600C9D-16GRSL ($162).

    A surprising amount of people have less than one terabyte of music stored on their local hard drive. This is another reason the NUC is a great platform. The board doesnít have endless SATA HDD ports like many full size boards, but it does support a single mSATA SSD. The mSATA drive I selected for this server is the 1TB SAMSUNG 840 EVO MZ-MTE1T0BW ($450).

    The Maroubra server features a custom USB audio card from SOtM, similar to the SOtM cards many members of the CA Community already use. Whatís special about this card is itís powered via internal SATA power connection or an external source. This USB card is also shaped specifically to fit side-by-side with the motherboard in an ML320 fanless case from Logic Supply. However, a custom rear panel is required. Small Green Computer will be handling all the CAPS v4 Maroubra orders for people interested in this custom USB card / case / rear panel. Price to be determined.

    The Intel NUC Kit D54250WYKH comes with a very standard switch mode power supply. I havenít specified a separate power supply for this server, but I am certain many of those already available will work just fine. The server requires 65W / 19V / 3.42A / socket C6 (barrel output connector has 2.5mm internal diameter and 5.5mm external diameter).

    Thereís not much else to say about this server because thereís not much one can do to customize it. I envision this server for cost-conscious computer audiophiles seeking a small server with clean USB audio output and either a small local library of music or a larger NAS based collection. This isnít a server for tweak geeks :~)



    CAPS v4 Bundoran

    This server is almost identical to Maroubra with the exception of an optional hard drive and a different USB audio solution. This server is for computer audiophiles with less than 2TB of music who either A) donít need USB power to their DACs (i.e. Are QB-9 DSD) or B) want to experiment with different external USB power conditioning rather than the internal SOtM card.

    Whatís different from Maroubra? In addition to the 1TB mSATA SSD users can select any size 2.5Ē SSD or HDD. I prefer the Samsung 1TB Evo SSD. This will provide the user with 2TB of space for music. In the Bundoran the SOtM card is replaced with this 2.5Ē hard drive. Thus, users seeking USB power conditioning must look for an external solution. Iíve been using the Teddy Pardo TeddyUSB PSU for USB powered equipment ($399) with great success. The TeddyUSB accepts USB input from the server and outputs the USB audio stream with a clean linear based 5V signal, stripping away the dirty USB power from the server.

    The standard Logic Supply ML320 ($139) case is all that's required for this model. No special rear panel.





    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.



    Wrap-up

    Due to the simplicity of these servers, I'm sure I missed a thing or two in the explanation. Please let me know what questions you have in the comments below.

    Note: The newer 5th generation NUC servers are available, but I don't believe there are any fanless cases available for them just yet. Thus, the 4th generation specified here is still recommended.





    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.
    Comments 70 Comments
    1. iamimdoc's Avatar
      iamimdoc -
      Are these devices powerful enough to deal with SACD iso decoding without hiccough?
    1. agillis's Avatar
      agillis -
      Quote Originally Posted by iamimdoc View Post
      Are these devices powerful enough to deal with SACD iso decoding without hiccough?
      This unit uses the Intel i5-4250U processor. Although this is only a dual core processor it has 3mb of cache. This means that most up sampling or resampling code with fit entirely into the cache.

      The end result is this will have plenty of power to for up sampling or resampling of SACD to DoP.

      Here is the specs on the processor if your interested

      ARK | Intelģ Core
    1. Tubefan9's Avatar
      Tubefan9 -
      Chris,
      How does this sound compared to CAPS 3 Models?
    1. Tubefan9's Avatar
      Tubefan9 -
      Here's a sexier case: http://www.amazon.com/Streacom-ST-NC...7M5SX9NF804N7E
    1. beetlemania's Avatar
      beetlemania -

      Another fanless case option is the Akasa Tesla H (~$110), tho' it probably isn't compatible with the SGC faceplate.

      Cheapskates might also consider the i-3 version of the NUC. It's about $75 less than the i-5 Chris chose. Altho' the i-5 version has a benchmark score ~40% greater than the i-3 version, you might note that the i-3 has a benchmark score nearly FOUR times greater than the mobo used in the CAPS3 Carbon!
    1. designmule's Avatar
      designmule -
      Those NUCs are so cool!
    1. Matias's Avatar
      Matias -
      I would rather choose any standard NUC or HTPC, and add a $100 Schiit Wyrd external USB cleaner. Easier and cheaper.
    1. YashN's Avatar
      YashN -
      These look cool. I am intrigued by the USB ports.

      Are the two USB (Clean) ones those from the SOTM card?

      Are the two other USB ports not clean in any way? If so, what would they be used for, offline transfer of files via USB sticks or something else?

      Additionally, if you were forced to use an external USB HDD drive, would you also use one of the Clean USB Ports?

      Kudos on choosing the low voltage memory - that should help tremendously with ground plane noise and RFI/EMI.

      Overall, looks like a great server to use.
    1. vortecjr's Avatar
      vortecjr -
      Quote Originally Posted by YashN View Post
      These look cool. I am intrigued by the USB ports.

      Are the two USB (Clean) ones those from the SOTM card?

      Are the two other USB ports not clean in any way? If so, what would they be used for, offline transfer of files via USB sticks or something else?

      Additionally, if you were forced to use an external USB HDD drive, would you also use one of the Clean USB Ports?

      Kudos on choosing the low voltage memory - that should help tremendously with ground plane noise and RFI/EMI.

      Overall, looks like a great server to use.
      The two "Clean USB" ports are the direct outputs of a new SOtM card that was designed for Chris for this project. The new SOtM card is mounted to the custom back panel. You would connect your USB audio device to one of the two "Clean USB" ports and any external USB drives to the motherboard's USB ports.

      Jesus R
    1. Peter_T's Avatar
      Peter_T -
      Quote Originally Posted by vortecjr View Post
      The two "Clean USB" ports are the direct outputs of a new SOtM card that was designed for Chris for this project. The new SOtM card is mounted to the custom back panel. You would connect your USB audio device to one of the two "Clean USB" ports and any external USB drives to the motherboard's USB ports.

      Jesus R
      Can we have a picture of this new USB card? I am curious how this card is connected to the NUC mini-PCIe slot. Or is there a cable part between the mini-PCIe and the card in the extra bay of the case?
    1. vortecjr's Avatar
      vortecjr -
      Quote Originally Posted by Peter_T View Post
      Can we have a picture of this new USB card? I am curious how this card is connected to the NUC mini-PCIe slot. Or is there a cable part between the mini-PCIe and the card in the extra bay of the case?
      A SOtM SATA filter provides clean power to the SOtM card. The SOtM card then connects to the motherboard via USB. You can also power the SOtM card via the external power connector that bypasses the internal power with something like the SOtM batter supply or SOtM linear supply.

      Attachment 16702

      Jesus R
    1. stuarth's Avatar
      stuarth -
      Quote Originally Posted by vortecjr View Post
      A SOtM SATA filter provides clean power to the SOtM card. The SOtM card then connects to the motherboard via USB. You can also power the SOtM card via the external power connector that bypasses the internal power with something like the SOtM batter supply or SOtM linear supply.

      Attachment 16702

      Jesus R
      OK, it hooks up direct to USB, where the previous SOtM cards used the PCI slot to connect to the mainboard.
      A clever little package, and it gets round one of the main drawbacks of the NUC platform which is the lack of expandability.

      I like.
    1. stuarth's Avatar
      stuarth -
      I'm sure I missed a thing or two in the explanation. Please let me know what questions you have in the comments below.
      Chris, will you be posting any tips on tweaking Win 8 by disabling un-necessary services and suchlike? This was covered in some detail back with the CAPS v2 article, but that info was specifically for windows 7 and may no longer apply to the newer O/S. Thanks.
    1. slingshot's Avatar
      slingshot -
      Hi, I am interested in the NUC but I trying to find out if the Pink Faun I2S-bridge would fit in it. Per the manufacturer, it is a PCIe low profile card. Thanks.

      Also, it may be worth waiting for the Intel NUCs with the Broadwell chips as it likely the dimensions will be similar to the ones in the review.
    1. slowdown5646's Avatar
      slowdown5646 -
      Do you expect to work with SoTM again when the NUC 2.0 is available along with a fanless chassis? It looks like an attractive option worth waiting for!
    1. BobSherman's Avatar
      BobSherman -
      Quote Originally Posted by stuarth View Post
      Chris, will you be posting any tips on tweaking Win 8 by disabling un-necessary services and suchlike? This was covered in some detail back with the CAPS v2 article, but that info was specifically for windows 7 and may no longer apply to the newer O/S. Thanks.
      It would apply just as much if not more with all the unnecessary junk that is running in Win 8. Sadly there has been much recent misinformation that this tuning is unnecessary. It would be great for Chris to update this information for the people building these systems so they may obtain optimum performance for his suggested configurations.
    1. dtb300's Avatar
      dtb300 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Matias View Post
      I would rather choose any standard NUC or HTPC, and add a $100 Schiit Wyrd external USB cleaner. Easier and cheaper.
      This is what I currently do with a NUC 54250. And the unit easily does 2xDSD via DoP without any issues. I am running 2012R2 with AO.
    1. tranz's Avatar
      tranz -
      Quote Originally Posted by BobSherman View Post
      It would apply just as much if not more with all the unnecessary junk that is running in Win 8. Sadly there has been much recent misinformation that this tuning is unnecessary. It would be great for Chris to update this information for the people building these systems so they may obtain optimum performance for his suggested configurations.
      That is definitely something that has not been in any of the CAPS build articles I remember reading. And yet it is very important.

      Chris - If you are reading this, is there a reason why this was left out? Can it be added?

      Cheers
    1. bobflood's Avatar
      bobflood -
      USB audio power supply, galvanical isolated, audiophile USB Power supply, isolated USB low noise transformer, USB DAC power supply, audiophile power supply

      If you want a lower cost outboard USB power supply, try this one. Another advantage is that it requires only one USB cable as the power injector is a USB-B female to USB- B male end.

      I currently use it with my Bel Canto U-Link with excellent results.
  •