• The Computer Audiophile
    The Computer Audiophile

    Computer Audiophile Pocket Server C.A.P.S. v3 Zuma

    thumb.pngThe fourth and final CAPS v3 server design is called Zuma. This design is a big departure from all other CAPS designs. Zuma is a high power server capable of nearly any audio task it's assigned whereas previous CAPS servers have slightly more power than needed for bit perfect audio output. Zuma is much more difficult to assemble than the previous servers because it requires installation of processor heat pipes to keep the CPU cool. Computer audiophiles are forewarned that Zuma isn't for the newbie seeking a weekend project. I hadn't built a fanless PC requiring thermal paste and heat pipes for over a year when I sat down to tackle this build. My sloppy work with the thermal paste can be seen in the photos. Once the paste is on a surface it's nearly impossible to remove. Fortunately any competent computer tech can put the server together or CA readers can simply purchase a fully assembled Zuma server from Small Green Computer. The look of Zuma is very nice and similar to traditional audio components with close to an 18 inch width. Zuma has three different display outputs, that should make users seeking a media server happy and eSATA for excellent external storage. CAPS v3 Zuma is a very versatile server with plenty of power and options to please many computer audiophiles.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

     

     

     

     

     

    1-Pixel.png

     

     

     

     

    opening.png

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    For an introduction to the CAPS v3 server designs please read the article linked here ex.png.

    To read about the entry level CAPS v3 Topanga design please read the article linked here ex.png.

    To read about the CAPS v3 Lagoon design please read the article linked here ex.png.

    To read about the CAPS v3 Carbon design please read the article linked here ex.png.

     

     

     

     

    Hardware

     

     

    Motherboard - Intel DH77EB Micro ATX Desktop Board

     

     

    internal.jpgMy search for a motherboard to place in the CAPS v3 Zuma server was more difficult than the other CAPS designs because Zuma requires a heat pipe CPU cooling solution. The other low power CAPS designs use Atom processors that are cooled by small heat sinks attached to the motherboard. An Intel Ivy Bridge processor can produce much more heat than any Atom processor. Thus the need for a more robust method of moving heat away from the CPU. The reason I mention the processor right away is that processor placement on the motherboard is critical. A processor placed far from the side wall of the PC case or a processor placed next to tall motherboard components is incapable of being cooled by heat pipes at a reasonable to low cost. Any motherboard and processor combination can be cooled silently with heat pipes, but the cost of the case and CPU cooler can increase by $500 to $1,000 quickly. I purchased the Intel DH77DF motherboard with FireWire and eSATA hoping I'd be able to passively cool the server but its CPU was placed in a location most heat pipes couldn't reach.

     

    The Intel DH77EB MicroATX motherboard is the best board for the CAPS v3 Zuma server because it supports 3rd Generation Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors, up to 32GB of RAM, PCI Express slots, external storage disk options, and most important this board has an ideal processor placement for passive cooling. An important design element of all CAPS designs is longevity. In the world of computers longevity is often discussed in quarters (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4) rather than years. For example a computer component may be available in the first quarter of one year and replaced by the fourth quarter of the following year in time for the holidays. While not part of Intel's Extended Life Program (XLP) the DH77EB's support for 3rd Generation Intel Core i7 Ivy Bridge processors should prolong its lifespan as these processors should be available longer than the previous two generations of Core i7s. Plus, the fact that this board doesn't support Intel's over clocking Z77 chipset should also prolong its lifespan. Users of the Z77 chipset usually want the latest and greatest whereas users of the DH77EB's H77 non-overclocking chipset are likely looking for stability and longevity.

     

    Powering a motherboard that supports Intel Core i7 processors is simple unless a fanless design is required. One of the requirements for all CAPS designs is a completely fanless chassis. The Intel DH77EB motherboard is fairly easy to power because it doesn't have an overabundance of power-sucking features. Many motherboards I considered required large box type ATX PSUs. Some of these ATX PSUs are fanless however they frequently require a case fan to remove the large amount of heat they emit into the computer. These ATX supplies also limit the case options far too severely for a CAPS design. The DH77EB can be powered by a picoPSU that's small enough to fit in most nice looking cases.

     

    Like the other CAPS v3 designs Zuma features an HDMI output port. Unlike the other designs there isn't an analog VGA output but there are both DVI-I and DisplayPort digital outputs. Combined with an i7 processor the integrated Intel HD Graphics should be much better on the Zuma design than all previous CAPS servers. 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.

     

    The Intel DH77EB motherboard is the first CAPS design to feature native USB 3.0 ports in addition to USB 2.0 ports. Just as I didn't think the lack of USB 3.0 ports on the previous CAPS designs was a showstopper I don't think the inclusion of native USB 3.0 ports on the Zuma server is anything special. When connecting a USB DAC to the Zuma 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 2.0/3.0 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. The only positive I see with the native USB 3.0 ports is the speed with which a backup can be completed. Users connecting a USB 3.0 drive to the side or rear USB 3.0 ports, for backup only then removing the drive, will see a huge boost in speed and dramatic decrease in the time it take to complete a backup. Everyone is backing up right?

     

    rear.jpgThis raises the question of how should users store their music collections if the internal hard drive is too small? My verified recommendation for the Zuma design is eSATA or NAS (Network Attached Storage). My unverified recommendation is to use more internal SATA hard drives. 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 Zuma server a mapped drive such as M: is pointed to the NAS and JRiver is configured to watch the M: drive for library changes. Both CAPS v2 and CAPS v3 Zuma feature built-in eSATA ports (3Gb/s). I really like using eSATA drives because they appear the same as an internal SATA drive in Disk Management and use a completely different protocol than USB drives for data access. Similar to the concept of separation of Church and State ex.png is the CAPS concept of separation of Disk and DAC.

     

    I mention an unverified recommendation above because I haven't tried multiple internal SATA drives with the existing specified CAPS v3 Zuma power supply. Given the low power requirements of the Samsung 840 Pro Series I am pretty confident users will not have any difficulties with two or three drives inside the Zuma case. Prior to purchasing internal SSD drives readers should know the Dh77EB motherboard features, two SATA III (6Gb/s) ports, two SATA II (3Gb/s) ports, and two shared SATA II (3Gb/s) ports. The shared "ports" consist of one mSATA slot (3Gb/s) and one standard SATA II port (3Gb/s). One pitfall of having these different types of ports is the inability to properly configure a large storage drive spanning several hard drives. While it can be done I don't recommend it due to different speeds, controllers, and less than stellar software RAID.

     

     

    Click to enlarge

    P1020607.jpg P1020609.jpg P1020610.jpg

    P1020611.jpg P1020612.jpg P1020613.jpg

    P1020616.jpg P1020619.jpg P1020620.jpg

    P1020621.jpg P1020622.jpg P1020624.jpg

    P1020626.jpg P1020629.jpg P1020631.jpg

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Central Processing Unit - Intel 3rd Generation Core i7 (Ivy Bridge) i3770S

     

     

    3rd_Gen_Intel_Core_i7_250px.jpgSelecting a processor for a CAPS design is usually simple as the previous designs had processors built in to the motherboard. The Zuma design is different as a processor and motherboard must be selected separately. The Intel DH77EB features an LGA1155 socket supporting Intel's Ivy Bridge processors. The major item of consideration for the Zuma processor was Thermal Design Power (TDP). TDP is the maximum amount of power the computer's cooling system is required to dissipate. I wanted a Core i7 processor with the lowest TDP in an effort to balance heat and power. Unfortunately the Core i7 3770T processor with a TDP of 45W is nearly impossible to purchase at this time. Many laptops from major manufacturers use this 3770T design so Intel has sold its inventory to these manufacturers and likely promised a delayed retail availability. The i7 3770K processor is unlocked and capable of being over clocked into oblivion. This processor is for gamers not computer audiophiles. The i7 3770S edition is a great match for the Zuma server. The letter S in 3770S indicates “Performance Optimized Lifestyle” and is built for performance and energy efficiency. It has a TDP of 65W, just below the K model and above the T model. The 3770S processor is widely available through companies such as NewEgg and Amazon. In addition to performance and efficiency the 3770S features Intel HD Graphics 4000. This should offer nice video output. The stats on the processor are 4 cores, 8 threads, 3.1 GHz speed, 3.9 GHz max turbo frequency, 8 MB smart cache, and 22 nm lithography.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

     

     

    SOtM-SATA2.jpgI 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 isn't as important in the Zuma design as it is in the previous CAPS designs, but I still like keeping power use to a minimum when it makes sense. 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 Zuma but its availability is limited as of this writing. Given it's a new drive this should only improve. I'm currently 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. The Zuma motherboard supports SATA III (6Gb/s) speeds to take full advantage of the Samsung 840 Pro Series drives.

     

     

     

    ssd.jpg

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Random Access Memory (RAM) - Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory (Model CT2KIT51264BA160B)

     

     

    240-pinDIMMDDR3kit_2.gifThe CAPS v3 Zuma design is somewhat finicky about RAM modules. The Crucial CT2KIT51264BA160B was the third set of memory modules I purchased for testing with Zuma. Other modules caused the server to reboot shorty after POST. Readers who stray from the Zuma design should steer clear of Crucial Ballistix Sport and Corsair Dominator Platinum. This memory works well in other designs just not CAPS v3 Zuma. I selected 8GB of RAM for the Zuma design thinking users may want to try memory based playback or block out a chunk of memory for an add-on software app etc… 8Gb should be plenty of memory, but if users want to move up to 16GB I have tested the Crucial 16GB kit (8GBx2), 240-pin DIMM (Model CT2KIT102464BD160B).

     

     

     

     

    Power Supply - picoPSU-150-XT + 102W Adapter Power Kit

     

     

    picoPSU-150-XT-102W-Adapter-250px.jpgThe Intel DH77EB motherboard doesn't have an external DC input like the previous CAPS designs. The motherboard requires a 24-pin DC to DC converter. These converters feed the internal PC components and have a DC input that connects to the adapter outside the PC case. I tested three different picoPSUs for the Zuma design. Two of the PSUs work just fine while the other didn't even power on the server. Readers ordering the Zuma case from Perfect Home Theater should NOT order the picoPSU from PHT. The 150W PSU-450+120W converter is one of the options at check-out when ordering the case from Perfect Home Theater. I tested this unit but was unable to boot the server. I also checked with another source who tried the same configuration as I and was unable to boot his server.

     

    The picoPSU sweet spot is the PicoPSU-150-XT 12V DC-DC ATX power supply with the 102 watt adapter. This PSU has enough power to run the server at 100% CPU utilization for hours without faltering. I highly recommend the 102 watt adapter because 1. it supplies enough power and 2. it has a standard 5/2.5mm barrel connector rather than a 4 pin mini-din jack. The barrel connector will mount perfectly on the PC case whereas the 4 pin connector requires an incompatible mount to be installed on the case. To use the 4 pin connector users must either special order a mount or remove the square plate and feed the 4 pin receiver through the large hole. This looks kind of funny as the hole is much larger than the 4 pin receiver.

     

    Readers interested in more power for the Zuma server can opt for the picoPSU-160-XT + 192W Adapter Power Kit. I tested this picoPSU and found no issues. In fact it's the one pictured in the Zuma photos. If adding more hard drives or a bus powered external drive this PSU may be nice to have. Unfortunately the 192w adapter only comes with a 4 pin mini-din jack. It's not a showstopper just an small inconvenience at installation.

     

    Both picoPSU options come with interchangeable connectors for a 4 pin mini-din jack and a standard 5/2.5mm barrel connector. The advantage of using a standard barrel connector is the ability to use a better power supply like the Red Wine Audio Black Lightening without ordering a custom connector.

     

    picoPSU-600px.jpg

     

     

     

     

    PC Case - Streacom FC5WS EVO (HTPC-FC5-EVO-B (black) or HTPC-FC5-EVO-S (silver))

     

     

    evo-front-top-angle-250px.pngCase options for a nice looking and passively cooled server are very limited. There are many cases that meet one of the two requirements but few that meet both requirements. The Streacom FC5WS EVO comes in both black or silver. I like its clean front panel without an unsightly USB port. Streacom wisely placed two USB 3.0 ports hidden between heat fins near the front right side of the nearly 18 inch (wide)case. THE FC5WS EVO isn't a tool-less case, like the Wesena e4, as it requires four screws to open the top. The black finish is pretty nice but very easy to mark up with one's fingers or a tool. I attempted to wipe off a couple spots with my thumb but wound up leaving a nice thumb width mark from my skin.

     

    The most critical feature of the FC5WS EVO is its passive cooling capability. Passive cooling has come a long way over the years with much smaller and equally effective designs. The low profile CPU heat sink and four heat pipes work great to transport the heat away from the CPU and into the aluminum case for dissipation. This passive cooling design can accommodate CPUs with a TDP of 95W. The Zuma CPU has a TDP of 65 Watts. Even when operating at high CPU utilization the Streacom FC5WS EVO doesn't get hot to the touch in my listening room. Playback of bit perfect music through JRiver is a breeze that only warms the CPU heat sink. Installation of the CPU, heat sinks, and heat pipes isn't for the unlearned computer audiophile. The Streamcom instructions are pretty good but the process of installation can be frustrating and messy. During installation I accidentally smeared more thermal paste on the heat pipes and case than I would have liked. This made for an unsightly appearance inside the chassis even after my failed attempts to remove the paste. Once the CPU heat sink, heat pipes, and side panel heat sinks are installed they should not be removed for re-working. I would like to have a second chance at the installation as I'm sure I could do it a bit better and cleaner but the more these parts are moved the messier it gets and the greater the chance at breaking a necessary piece. I've had my share of over-tightened screws break off during fanless CPU installations. Users should plan the install out very carefully. I recommend quasi-installing the pieces without tightening the screws or using thermal paste just to get the feel of how it will work and where the pipes may be placed. Or, go the easy route by ordering a Zuma pre-assembled by Small Green Computer. I don't encourage anyone to build the Zuma server without decent PC knowledge. If assembled by a novice this wonderful hobby of ours will be about troubleshooting a computer rather than listening to music.

     

    The FC5WS EVO case has room for additional hard drives. I believe all the SATA ports could be used with 2.5" SSD drives with a little room to spare inside the case. Extra storage can also be had by using the mSATA slot. The expansion slot for PCIe cards can accommodate either full or half height cards. All expansion cards require a PCIe riser card or flexible riser as the cards must be mounted horizontally away from the motherboard. I selected a flexible riser because none of the riser cards I tried was the correct height for the SOtM card. The flexible riser is easily adjusted to any height.

     

    evo-side-usb-600px.png

     

     

     

     

    Click to enlarge

    evo-front-200px-2.png evo-front-top-angle-200px-2.png evo-front-side-angle-200px-2.png

    P1020599.jpg evo-heat-pipes-200px.png P1020597.jpg

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

     

     

     

     

    icon_battery_c.pngNote: Testing the Black Lightning with the CAPS v3 Zuma is underway. Due to the picoPSU's strict 12v only input it will not work with the Black Lightning configuration used for the previous CAPS v3 designs. The picoPSU's "over-voltage protection" occurs at 13 - 13.5v. The CAPS v3 Lagoon and Carbon servers don't have an issue with a little voltage swing so they work great with the Black Lightning LiFePO4 pack that can range from 15v when fully charged and running on AC, down to around 12V. Vinnie at Red Wine Audio is adjusting my Black Lightning with a good 12v regulator to work with the Zuma server. Vinnie also highly recommends using a Black Lightning with two batteries due to Zuma's power consumption of 22 watts / 0.2 amps steady state and 60 watts / 0.7 amps maximum (tested with Kill-A-Watt PS10 power strip Link ex.png). The following text is based on my previous experience with the Black Lightning and the specs of the CAPS v3 Zuma server.

     

     

    Zuma is powered externally via its DC input that connects to the internal picoPSU. The SOtM tX-USBexp USB card can also be powered externally via DC input. This combination of motherboard and USB card, both with external power options, is terrific for a CAPS user seeking a PSU upgrade.

     

     

    My requirements for an enhanced CAPS v3 power supply are low noise and the ability to power both the motherboard/picoPSU 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.

     

     

    Recently I asked Vinnie about his Black Lighting High-Current Battery Power Supply and its ability to power a CAPS v3 Zuma server. For some illogical reason I assumed the high power CAPS would preclude a battery supply. 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 steady state for the v3 Zuma server. Here is where the Zuma server departs from previous CAPS designs. The consumption reached 60 watts maximum but the steady state was about 22 watts. With this information Vinnie recommended a double LiFePO4 (LFP) battery pack. One great feature of the Black Lightning is its ability to power components with different input voltages. The picoPSU-150-XT has a strict input voltage of 12Vdc and the SOtM tX-USBexp card has an input voltage of +6.5V ~ +9Vdc. As of this writing Vinnie is configuring my Black Lightning with linear regulators for both the 12V and 9V connectors for use with the Zuma server. I will publish results as soon as I receive the returned unit.

     

     

    Note: CAPS v3 Carbon and Lagoon run for eight hours on a single battery Black Lightning. Once I have more information I will publish stats for the Zuma / BL combination.

     

    blacklightning3.jpg

     

    blacklightning2.jpg

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Add-in USB Card - SOtM tX-USBexp

     

     

    The SOtM tX-USBexp is a USB 3.0 PCI express card that snaps into a PCIe slot on the Intel DH77EB motherboard. The half-height card can use either full or half-height PCIe bracket / trim plate. Both small and full size brackets are included with purchase of the SOtM tX-USBexp from Simple Design ex.png. 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 Zuma 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.

     

     

     

     

    SOtM-PCIe.jpg

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Software

     

     

    Operating System - Windows 8 Pro 64-bit

     

     

    win8.jpgThe 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 64-bit over 32-bit for Zuma? 2. Why Windows 8 over Windows 7 or Linux. 3. Why the Pro version over the standard Windows 8 version?

     

     

     

     

    1. Why 64-bit over 32-bit?

    CAPS v1 is 32-bit, CAPS v2 is 64-bit, and CAPS v3 is both 32 and 64 bit depending on the design. Zuma is 64-bit. The decision to use a 64-bit OS for Zuma was simple. In order to use more than 4GB of RAM the OS must be 64-bit. Whether to not more than 4GB is needed is another story and is up to each individual use case. The Zuma server was designed to be flexible and much higher powered than the other designs. More than 4GB of memory or at least the ability to use more is necessary.

     

     

    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 but installing the drive on the 64-bit OS can be tricky. An error message I received when trying to install XMOS / Thesycon USB drivers that haven't been "signed" is, "Preinstallation failed! Please run setup again. If you are asked to confirm installation of software, please confirm." This somewhat unhelpful message is displayed because Windows 8 Pro 64-bit enforces code signing more rigorously than the 32 bit version. To get around this error and install the unsigned USB drivers for your DAC follow these instructions Link ex.png.

     

     

    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

     

     

    jrmc-17-150.pngThe 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 ex.png.

     

    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: 2515

    Running 'Image' benchmark... Score: 6356

    Running 'Database' benchmark... Score: 5265

    JRMark (version 18.0.103): 4712

     

     

    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 ex.png if using an Android device or JRemote ex.png is using an iPad/iPhone/iTouch.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Wrap Up

     

     

    That's the Computer Audiophile Pocket Server CAPS v3 Zuma. It's the first high powered CAPS server to date. 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 (buy qualified personnel), small in size, consumes low power for a higher power design, 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 Zuma design offers very fast performance. An upgrade path to a better power supply is being tested at the time of this writing. Zuma offers decent storage options of NAS or eSATA. The sound quality and usability of the Zuma server are both great. Computer audiophiles seeking computing power to accomplish most audio related tasks should consider CAPS v3 Zuma over all previous designs.

     

     

     

    1-Pixel.png

     

     

     

    1-Pixel.png

     

     

     

    1-Pixel.png

     

     

    P.S. As one astute CA reader pointed out in the comments section of the CAPS v3 Introduction the names Topanga, Lagoon, Carbon, and Zuma are all beaches in Malibu, California. One of my favorite places :~)

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Where to buy retail: Small Green Computer ex.png

     

     

    Where to buy components:

     

     

    CAPS v3 Zuma - Total Price: $1,547

     

    Case: Streacom FC5WS EVO Price: $272.00 Link ex.png

    Motherboard: Intel DH77EB / BOXDH77EB Price: $100.00 Link ex.png

    Processor: Intel Core i7 i3770S Price: $305 Link ex.png

    Memory: Crucial 8GB DDR3 1600 (CT2KIT51264BA160B) Price: $45.00 Link ex.png

    SSD: MZ-7PD064BW Price: $100.00 Link ex.png

    Power Supply: picoPSU-150-XT + 102W Adapter Power Kit Price: $76.00 Link ex.png

    OS: Win 8 Pro 64-bit Price: $140.00Link ex.png

    Playback App: JRMC v18 Price: $50.00 Link ex.png

    Flexible Riser: EXP1-362-10 Price: $34.50 Link ex.png

    Add-in Card: SOtM tX-USBexp Price: $350 Simple Design ex.png

    SATA Power Noise Filter: SOtM Price: $65 Link ex.png

    Cable: Internal USB 3.0 Price: $9.00 Link ex.png

     

     

     

    Optional Power Supply

     

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

     

     

    1-Pixel.png

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1-Pixel.png

    Edited by The Computer Audiophile

    0


    Sign in to follow this  
    Followers 0
    Sign in to follow this  
    Followers 0


    User Feedback




    Chris, thank you and great write-up. I was thinking of building a higher powered music server, but hasn't proceeded to this yet as I am still trying to understand applications for having high powered CPU vs. Atom purely for music playback. I understand that JPlay requires as much power it you can provide, but what else? It would be interesting to understand these applications for music. Also, have you tested sound quality between Zuma and Carbon? Does having more power for Zuma results in better music reproduction?

     

    Thanks again for great work and Happy New Year!

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Hi Chris. Love the write up! Awesome. So there are no other motherborad options suitable for the zuma with direct external DC power connectors? What other motherboards have this option? Or is it just the Intel Atoms? Cheers

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Chris, thank you and great write-up. I was thinking of building a higher powered music server, but hasn't proceeded to this yet as I am still trying to understand applications for having high powered CPU vs. Atom purely for music playback. I understand that JPlay requires as much power it you can provide, but what else? It would be interesting to understand these applications for music. Also, have you tested sound quality between Zuma and Carbon? Does having more power for Zuma results in better music reproduction?

     

    Thanks again for great work and Happy New Year!

     

    In the context of small, fanless computers, I think that for JPlay you are looking minimum at an miniITX Ivy Bridge-capable MB such as the Asus P8Z77-I LGA Wi-Fi, a Core i5-3330 CPU (low power, 45W) and 8GB memory (full scale hibernate for JPlay).

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I am wondering if this can do FIR filters? Like room correction or digital XO? Could the HD-PLEX work instead of the the Streacom? Any reason for SSD vs mSSD?

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Finally Zuma is here, thanks Chris!

    I ordered parts for my high power server before Zuma is out, since I wanted it to be done before new year. It's very similar with a mini-itx form factor.

    One question is that I ordered the "150W PSU-450+120W converter" in checkout options. As you tested, it had problems powering Zuma, I guess it's not the best for my "i5-2500T + mushkin mSATA" combo. I'll try after it arrives tomorrow.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    I am wondering if this can do FIR filters? Like room correction or digital XO? Could the HD-PLEX work instead of the the Streacom? Any reason for SSD vs mSSD?

    The SSD is SATA III whereas the mSATA is only SATA II.

     

    This design should work for room correction and digital XO. It has power.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Hi Chris,

     

    I checked and thought you might like to know that the Intel i7 3770T (45w max TDP) is shown as being available at these two sites:

     

    INTEL (CM8063701212200) Product Page -- NextWarehouse.com

     

    Buy Intel Processor, Core i7-3770T LV 2.5GHz, 8MB Cache, LGA1155, Processor Upgrades CM8063701212200 today at PC Connection

     

    Hope this helps...

     

    Cheers,

    Alan Goodwin

    Goodwin's High End

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Hi Chris,

     

    I checked and thought you might like to know that the Intel i7 3770T (45w max TDP) is shown as available at these two sites:

     

    INTEL (CM8063701212200) Product Page -- NextWarehouse.com

     

    Buy Intel Processor, Core i7-3770T LV 2.5GHz, 8MB Cache, LGA1155, Processor Upgrades CM8063701212200 today at PC Connection

     

    Hope this helps...

     

    Cheers,

    Alan Goodwin

    Goodwin's High End

     

    Hi Alan - Thanks for the extra sources. ATech Fabrication has the T model as well. Hopefull these will be available for purchase by computer audiophiles around the world from major retailers.

     

    I encourage people to try the T model processor. It should be terrific.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    New Egg has $30 off the 128 and 256 Samsung 840 pro til 12/30. The 128 is not much more than the 64 which they are sold out of.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Chris, what about the intel motherboards such as the DQ77KB which run with a single 19V DC input?

     

    This way you don't have to go through the PICO PSU since the voltage regulators are already built in. I spoke with Vinnie of Red Wine who said that the 19V DC input can be satisfied using two packs at 25.6V. Not sure which solution is better.

     

    I was thinking of going the DQ77KB way for more power until you posted the specs for the Zuma, battery power is a must for me.

     

    Yeang

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Chris, what about the intel motherboards such as the DQ77KB which run with a single 19V DC input?

     

    This way you don't have to go through the PICO PSU since the voltage regulators are already built in. I spoke with Vinnie of Red Wine who said that the 19V DC input can be satisfied using two packs at 25.6V. Not sure which solution is better.

     

    I was thinking of going the DQ77KB way for more power until you posted the specs for the Zuma, battery power is a must for me.

     

    Yeang

     

    Hi Yeang - The KB board is difficult to passively cool because of where the CPU sits on the board.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Nice Chris. This is the setup I envisioned for my CAPS (sort of). One note. Is it just me or the copper pipes of FC5WS-EVO are not long enough to cover the entire CPU where is located on DH77EB board. It seems that the pipes are covering only about 50% of CPU. This will somewhat diminish cooling efficiency. Please correct me if I am wrong.

     

    On the other note, if your input is higher than 12V into PicoPSU, could you not use the Wide Input version of Pico ? Not sure if it is available in 150W though, I have seen 120W.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I really like this build. It's extremely well-rounded, capable, expandable and could easily double as a HTPC. It's almost identical to what I would build.

     

    My main question is, why an i7? That's some serious horsepower. Any of the Core gen 3 processors should handle any music server load, and most HTPC loads, without breaking a sweat. Going for an i7 seems like serious overkill, especially since this server is designed to offload the music processing to an outboard DAC via the SotM.

     

    I would recommend to keep the i7 as an option, but for those who want to shave cost and power, give some alternate processors. I would suggest the i5-3225 (55W TDP, 4 cores without HT, $145) as a mid-range alternate and the i3-3220T (35W TDP, 2 cores w/ HT, $130) as a low-end alternate.

     

    Personally, I think the i3-3220T is the best way to go for a pure music server. It still has some serious processing power, and should last a lot longer on battery power than its i7 counterpart.

     

    Which brings me a power question...

     

    The Red Wine Audio, Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply... What happens when the batteries are about to die? Does it auto-switch to wall power? is there an optional USB connection that will power down the computer before power is lost, like a UPS? Or does the computer simply lose power and go down?

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    The Red Wine Audio, Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply... What happens when the batteries are about to die? Does it auto-switch to wall power? is there an optional USB connection that will power down the computer before power is lost, like a UPS? Or does the computer simply lose power and go down?

     

    I believe Vinnie can program the BL to do anything the user wants such as auto-switch to wall power etc...

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    Nice Chris. This is the setup I envisioned for my CAPS (sort of). One note. Is it just me or the copper pipes of FC5WS-EVO are not long enough to cover the entire CPU where is located on DH77EB board. It seems that the pipes are covering only about 50% of CPU. This will somewhat diminish cooling efficiency. Please correct me if I am wrong.

     

    On the other note, if your input is higher than 12V into PicoPSU, could you not use the Wide Input version of Pico ? Not sure if it is available in 150W though, I have seen 120W.

     

    The CPU and its heat sink run pretty cool in the Zuma server. I can't remember how far the heat pipes go in and cover the CPU, but it's enough to properly cool the unit.

     

    A wide input version of the PSU could probably be used.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Miki. In the images of Zuma, that star shaped metal plate contraption with the "Streatcom" label on it sits right over the top of the chip. So I'm not sure what you mean? Do you mean that the heat pipes under this don't go far in enough? They are connected to that metal plate on top right? So why should this matter...? As heat is collected by the plate, then conducted away via the pipes... I'm no computer engineer, but isn't this how heat dissipation is working?

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I tend to agree with i3-3220T. I was going to use it for my CAPS and Intel DH61DL but that board has a weired CPU and 12-pin power placement, so it is out. Anyway, I exchanged some emails with Vinnie from Red Wine Audio and he said:

     

    "When the switch is in BATT mode, it only runs on the internal battery packs. If you switch to AC mode, it will charge and play at the same time (not as clean as BATT mode since you'll be using the charger).

     

    When it needs charging, the red light on the power switch will begin to blink. At that time, you can switch to AC mode if you want to keep on playing, or shut down your server and then switch off your BL to allow it to charge."

     

    I don't think there is any smart logic in BL to power down the server properly.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    ^ well just leave the server on, and keep the Redwine in charge mode. (Unless you are listening)... In which case switch it to battery mode. When you are finished listening, switch it over and leave it in charger mode again.... :)

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Special Request for Chris C.

     

    Hi Chris.

     

    Could you contact SGC and put in a request for a CAPS V3 Zuma "kit"

     

    Same format as the lagoon kit. Everything made up (user self installs SSD and OS)

     

    Perhaps with choice of processor (to allow i3-i7 lower power "T" varieties.)

     

    I'm sure they would sell lots of these. :)

     

    As that would take the heart ache out of the heat pipe stuff for computer maker newbies, but allow ultimate choice of plug in "add on's"... Which most of us here are capable of (and enjoy the flexibilty of doing anyway....)

     

    Cheers

     

    And thanks so much for the awesome site !!!

     

    Wap.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    I wonder, how a CAPS v4 will look like. The next gen of Intel processors, about to hit the market in q3 2013, are said to use 20x (twenty times) less power than the current gen at idle, and seriously enchance the video playback at the same time. The Zuma may be the last CAPS to require external cooling at all.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Sure. I guess that's life in computeraudiofile server land. What makes this Zuma CAPS so attractive is when that day comes, this V3 has the processing power and video capabilities to be re-used as an all round HTPC... In other words it can be oncycled to a different use.. ..anyway by end of 2013, some genius will probably be getting bit perfect 24/192 and DSD asynchronous USB out of a AA battery powered Rasberry Pi (? Version b..or the next "c"..all for 100 bucks and it won't matter anymore. C'est la vie:)

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    As we're considering the "ultimate" CAPS 3 build, maybe this power supply option would be eligible - with it being linear throughout there should be no DC to DC converters feeding crud back into the mains bus. It is a little pricey though...

     

    https://coreaudiotechnology.com/products/power-supplies/nanoatx

     

    BTW I have had more or less the same server running Vortexbox via the excellent Squeezepad using the i3-3220T processor and a Gigabyte GA-H61N-USB3 LGA1155 Mini ITX Motherboard. At present I use the PicoPSU for the mobo but I intend to revert to linear throughout, a project for the new year....

     

    I also use this external RAID enclosure which has it's own power supply (5V DC 2.0A) fitted with 2 x 480GB SSD drives in RAID1 configuration and connected to the mobo via eSata

     

    http://eu.startech.com/HDD/Enclosures/25in-Removable-eSATA-USB-Dual-SATA-Hard-Drive-Enclosure-with-RAID~S252U2ERR

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    A word of warning about using this case. Note very carefully the configuration of the heat pipes and the CPU position. (Google the casing and you'll find an extensive pdf manual online)

     

    My mobo didn't fit as standard as the CPU was on the wrong side of the mobo for the heat pipes. Thankfully the rear panel can be detached and reversed (ie upside down) which is what I had to do, and then custom install the pipes, cutting one down in length to fit. However, all seems to run just fine, my less powerful processor only raises the casing temperature to luke warm so the pipes seem to be doing their job.

     

    For the PCIe I've had to run a flexible riser across the top of the mobo as the mobo slot and the casing mount are now on opposite sides...

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites
    cutting one down in length to fit.

     

    How did you do that?

     

    They are supposed to be a vacuum with a small amount of coolant that vaporizes and then re condenses.

    0

    Share this comment


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites



    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.


    Sign In Now