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Found 11 results

  1. CAPS v4 Pipeline is more traditional than CAPS Cortes because it’s designed to connect directly to one’s 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. I’ve been using the server in a 100% silent configuration with a linear power supply and solid state hard drive with great success. I can’t 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.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] 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 don’t 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. It’s 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 can’t obtain new parts. The X10SLH-F’s support for Xeon processors was important to me because Pipeline is essentially a server for data, not multimedia. The server doesn’t 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 “feature” 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 I’ve 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 it’s also possible to use enough SSDs to contain a user’s 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 it’s critical to supply the cleanest power signal possible. Given the server’s 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 didn’t require an on-board Thunderbolt header on the motherboard. Users that aren’t 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. It’s 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 “full” 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 I’m 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 isn’t 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 won’t 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, it’s 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 Windows’ built-in Remote Desktop capability. It works great and doesn’t 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 aren’t 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 it’s 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, etc… 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 [ATTACH=CONFIG]15711[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15708[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15715[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15712[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15709[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15706[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15713[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15710[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15707[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15714[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15718[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15719[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15716[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15720[/ATTACH] [ATTACH=CONFIG]15717[/ATTACH] 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
  2. 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 isn’t much to “design” 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, it’s a very small motherboard with the CPU soldered to the board. It’s 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 isn’t much hardware experimentation to be done when using a NUC, but I believe I’ve 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 aren’t for everyone, especially those who like to try different things and tweak their systems a bit. These servers are simple solutions that don’t cost an arm and a leg and fit nicely into any existing audio system. I hope readers don’t see this installment of CAPS v4 as anticlimactic but rather something offering two sensible solutions for specific members of the CA Community.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] 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 doesn’t 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. What’s special about this card is it’s 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 haven’t 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). There’s not much else to say about this server because there’s 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 isn’t 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) don’t 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. What’s different from Maroubra? In addition to the 1TB mSATA SSD users can select any size 2.5” 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 2.5” hard drive. Thus, users seeking USB power conditioning must look for an external solution. I’ve 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 Windows’ built-in Remote Desktop capability. It works great and doesn’t 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, etc… 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.
  3. CAPS v4 Cortes is like no other CAPS server to date. The server isn’t designed to connect directly to an audio system via USB or AES/EBU. Cortes is a server in the truest sense of the word. It’s designed to serve music to a single zone or to multiple zones over Ethernet, be a workhorse for all types of file operations such as format conversion or resampling, run network diagnostic tools if needed, and be the most flexible music server in the CAPS stable of designs. Cortes is a Network Attached Storage (NAS) replacement. The impetus to design a NAS replacement such as Cortes came from computer audiophiles' changing playback methods with the addition of many more network based players, and my own desire for a more flexible server that enabled me to install almost any piece of software available. Running several network based audio players in my system lead me to realize they are all different and function best with their own special software configurations. One DLNA renderer may work best with MinimServer and another may function best with JRiver Media Center. Using a traditional NAS limited my options to A) Installing MinimServer by jumping through a ring of fire while wearing a gasoline soaked suit (NAS units without the MinimServer package require a difficult installation), B) Using the built-in NAS DLNA media server application that likely doesn’t support gapless playback, DoP over Ethernet, any has terrible library browsing capabilities, or C) Install JRiver Media Center on a PC and map a drive from the PC to the NAS to serve up the music stored on the NAS. There are other scenarios and possible installation configurations, but this description should get my point across. As much as NAS vendors would like their products to appear as solutions for all media storage needs, NAS drives have serious limitations that can be overcome with a different solution. Thus, I designed Cortes. Cortes, just like any other computer isn’t perfect and suffers from it’s own limitations. For example, the Windows operating system is often seen as unstable, buggy, and less secure than its competitors. Fortunately, I’ve been running a Cortes server for months and haven’t run into any of the commonly perceived issues associated with the operating system. Windows can be a surprisingly stable OS when used as a network server setup like Cortes. Another limitation of the Windows OS is the requirement for more powerful hardware than a typical Linux based NAS. I like to flip this around to suggest that users of Cortes will actually prefer the increased horsepower as opposed to traditional NAS drives with ARM or Atom based processors and less memory than the new iPhone 6. This added horsepower may seem like a waste of resources if all the server does is share music over Ethernet. If that’s all this server did I would agree the horsepower is unneeded. However, over the course of the last decade I’ve used my NAS drives to do much more than serve music. For example, creating 24 bit / 176.4 kHz PCM versions of all my DSD material required me to use JRiver Media Center running on my PC to pull the files over the network, convert the DSD to PCM, and copy the files back to the NAS. This is so inefficient and time consuming. Using a Cortes server the DSD and PCM music remains on the same drive on the local PC. This uses the power of the Cortes CPU, the greater RAM capacity, the faster hard drives, and the blazing fast hardware RAID controller. Another area where Cortes’ added horsepower is terrific is analyzing a music library and making mass changes to metadata. Using Cortes and JRiver I selected my entire 50,000+ track library and instructed JRiver to analyze the dynamic range on every track. Sure the entire process took a while, but there’s no way I would have even attempted this using a traditional NAS system. I also like to include a bit more information in the title of my albums than the simple album name. This enables me to determine if I’m selecting the PCM, DSD, high resolution, or a specific master of an album before even tapping it on my iPad. Once I had my entire DSD library in a high resolution PCM format (I also kept the original DSD content) I selected all the new tracks and had JRiver Media Center append the suffix “PCM from DSD” to every track’s album title. Using all the Cortes horsepower the whole process was done in the blink of an eye. The flexibility to install nearly any application on the Cortes server can’t be overestimated. This is great for both consumers and application developers. For example, MinimServer currently has 18 different versions available for installation. The need for all these versions stems from different software and hardware requirements of NAS units and desktop computers. Even with 18 versions there are NAS units such as those from Thecus that MinimServer doesn’t support. Software and hardware fragmentation is a problem that hurts everybody. I've been running my Cortes server for months with JRMC, MinimServer, Devialet AIR, TIDAL, Sonos, Logitech Media Server, Twonky, and UPnP Tools without a single issue. Not only are these applications installed and running, but the installation and configuration of them was simple. Cortes makes NAS software configuration seem quite archaic. Running JRiver Media Center on Cortes not only enables use of all its UPnP/DLNA capabilities, but also enables the user to manage his library with ease. Too many people think that switching to a network based player will relieve them of the need for a computer because the music will flow form a NAS. However, without a good music management application such as JRMC the user is stuck with bad metadata or possibly no metadata. Plus, there’s nothing better than running JRMC on the actual computer that stores the music, i.e. Cortes. In addition to music related applications I recommend installing apps like Developer Tools for UPnP. Included in this suite of tools is a program called Device Spy. This program lists every UPnP device on one’s network and is capable of probing all the devices and listing their capabilities. This app is very helpful if one is having issues with a UPnP server, renderer, or control point. During Cortes testing I had an issue where the server couldn’t find all the renderers on my network. i was unsure if this was an issue with JRiver Media Center or the renderer or something else entirely. I opened Device Spy and saw the same issues that I saw through JRMC. This enabled me to rule out JRMC and focus more on the server itself. I made several configuration changes, each time using Device Spy to rescan my network. The problem was related to bonding two network cards into one large aggregated virtual device. Once I disabled link aggregation, Device Spy listed all the UPnP devices immediately. The Cortes motherboard, a SuperMicro X10SL7-F ($243), is much more of a server class component with a longer life span than previous CAPS servers and popular desktop computers. This board has many great features that suit a NAS replacement perfectly. The X10SL7-F supports Intel® Xeon® E3-1200 v3 processors that are much more geared toward data crunching than the Core i7 series of CPUs that have integrated video for multimedia playback. Thus, I selected the Intel Xeon E3-1241 v3 (BX80646E31241V3) ($273) as the Central Processing Unit (CPU) for Cortes. Both this CPU and the motherboard also support ECC or error correcting code memory. This type of RAM detects and corrects common types of data corruption. Cortes features 16GB of Crucial (2 x 8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM ECC Unbuffered DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Server Memory (CT2KIT102472BD160B) ($358) 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 board also features Dual Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports via Intel i210AT. These port support link aggregation to increase throughput to 2GB full duplex if needed, although I experienced some DLNA related issues when enabling this NIC bonding feature. Storage options on the X10SL7-F board are perfect for a NAS replacement. The board offers 2x SATA (6Gbps), 4x SATA (3Gbps), and 8x SAS2 (6Gbps) via LSI 2308 hardware RAID controller. Such a configuration enables the OS to reside on a 6Gbps SSD on one, more average, controller and all the music data to reside on the LSI 2308 server class hardware controller. The Cortes server features a single Samsung 850 Pro 128GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7KE128BW) SSD ($130) for the operating system and two Seagate Desktop HDD 6TB 6Gb/s 128MB Cache 3.5-Inch HDD (STBD6000100) ($300 ea.) for the music. The 6TB drives are configured as a RAID1 / mirroring set. Thus, if one drive fails no data is lost and no backup needs to be restored. A new drive must be put in place, but no further configuration or data restoration is required. Should one wish to backup his music inside the same chassis it’s possible to install up to four hard drives on the 3Gbps controller enabling a fairly quick and easy data backup. There are more secure ways to backup, but this way is pretty easy and even recommended more than the unbacked up method most people use. Another fairly good method of backup with the Cortes server is an external drive via the X10SL7-F’s USB 3.0 ports. The last piece of the X10SL7-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. It’s a great feature for the Cortes server because this server is likely to sit in a back room somewhere out of easy reach. My Cortes server resides in another room and without any keyboard, monitor, or mouse connected. The computer case I selected is the Corsair Graphite Series 600T ($160). During my research phase I tried smaller cases, but always had issues squeezing the components into the case. I found no purpose for using the smaller cases and settled on this mid-sized Corsair case that’s very easy to populate and looks half-way decent in person. The power supply I selected is the Corsair Professional Series 760 Watt Digital ATX/EPS Modular 80 PLUS Platinum AX760i ($185). It’s my current belief that the power supply of a network server has no baring on sound quality of a network based music player unless the PSU is feeding garbage back into the power line that isn’t isolated form the audio components. I like the Corsair AX760i because of its DSP controlled monitoring and performance. This PSU makes on-the-fly adjustments for tight voltage regulation, 80 PLUS Platinum efficiency, and stable power. One additional component I added to the design is a Corsair Hydro Series Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler H80i ($86). I like these coolers because, like the PSU, they enabled performance monitoring and adjustments via an application. The H80i is liquid cooled, fan-assisted, but never needs any maintenance associated with other liquid cooling solutions. Like all CAPS v4 computers, Cortes runs on Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit. I use the professional version because I connect to the server recently with Windows’ built-in Remote Desktop capability. It works great and doesn’t require an additional third party application for remote control of the actual server. The UPnP server I use most often on Cortes is JRiver Media Center because of its all encompassing capabilities and its great integration with JRemote for iOS. This combination of hardware and software make Cortes as stable as a Linux based NAS, but endlessly more flexible. As always, my component selections aren’t the only selections that will make a successful server. Members of the CA Community are encouraged to use Cortes as a platform from which to experiment. Users not needing 6TB of drive space can obviously scale back on the cost of hard drives. Please be careful when purchasing memory, as I went through a couple different memory models that made the server un-bootable. Those readers seeking a complete solution should be pretty happy with Cortes just as it’s designed. I encourage members of the community to post questions, concerns, and comments below. 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, etc… 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. Links Motherboard: SuperMicro X10SL7-F Case: Corsair Graphite Series 600T 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: Corsair Professional Series 760 Watt Digital ATX/EPS Modular 80 PLUS Platinum AX760i CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series Extreme Performance Liquid CPU Cooler H80i Tools: UPnP Developer Tools Music App: JRiver Media Center
  4. 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.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] 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. Click to enlarge <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xwU74_MIGjY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> Click to enlarge * * * * * 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. Click to enlarge Click to enlarge 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
  5. Early in 2010 the original Computer Audiophile Pocket Server design was published on CA. At the time I wasn't sure if readers would be interested in building their own servers. I thought it would be a great thing if many computer audiophiles used the exact same music server. This could ease troubleshooting and enable the sharing of successful tweaks among all C.A.P.S. users. I had no idea the C.A.P.S. server would become incredibly popular among computer audiophiles. Many CA readers commented on the original build with suggestions to make it better while others were delighted someone else had done all the work. I was very happy to read both types of comments. After the original Pocket Server debuted I began fielding questions about it at every computer audio seminar I attended. A few months later in true computer audiophile fashion everyone was asking about the next C.A.P.S. server. The inquiries were a double-edged sword. I was thrilled so many people expressed interest in the server. At the same time pressure was building to create something better. After nearly 18 months I believe I have something better. It is with great pleasure that I reveal the Computer Audiophile Pocket Server version 2.0! [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] <font size="4"><b>C.A.P.S. Version 2.0</b></font> I was originally going to release version 1.5 as a minor update to the first Pocket Server. I was underwhelmed by some of the "upgrades" available from computer component manufacturers and couldn't justify calling it version 2.0. However, I have since scrapped the design of v1.5, wiped the slate clean, and built new version 2.0. This is not a minor upgrade to <a href="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-Pocket-Server-CAPS">version 1.0</a><a href="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/Computer-Audiophile-Pocket-Server-CAPS"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a>. I have tentative plans for version 3.0 but readers should not hold their breath waiting for this version. The current plan is very different, complicated, and will need a new set of requirements. Thus, if you like v2.0 don't wait for v3.0 as you might be disappointed and waiting quite awhile. My goal in publishing C.A.P.S. v2.0 is the same as it was for the original Pocket Server, <i>"[T]o put together a hardware and software music server solution that I would actually use and the Computer Audiophile readers could actually use. I would do the leg work, test & listen to everything, and provide the information for CA readers to put together the exact same music server."</i> Readers unfamiliar with history behind these servers are likely asking why the name Pocket Server? Here is a brief explanation copied from a comment response to version 1.0. <i>"The title does not reference the literal size of the music server. The name Pocket Server is no less accurate than the name Compact Car…Along the way this server was named the Pocket Server by a colleague who was very surprise at its small size when I pulled it out of my carry-on luggage. The server is a bit larger today than it was at that time but the name hasn't changed. This colleague named the server because it was so small not because it actually fits into a pocket. I elected to keep the name, going with the spirit of the name not the letter of the name."</i> Many CA readers realize standard off-the-shelf computers don't make the best high-end audio music servers. Sure a regular Dell built with nothing but price in mind, with commodity parts and software from any company willing to fork over enough cash, can work as a music server. Such a computer is usually good as a proof of concept machine but literally nothing else that has to do with high-end audio. Don't believe me? Try it and report back in the comments section below. The prevalence of USB DACs in high-end audio has made the need for a quality computer even greater. A quick glance at most computers built today usually reveals a few internal USB hubs to which devices like IR receivers, Bluetooth controllers, keyboards, trackpads, memory card readers, and built-in cameras are all attached. Most users have no clue computer are built this way. Computer audiophiles frequently avoid using external USB hubs like the plague. Little do they know they're using internal USB hubs for their USB DACs. Evidence of one problem related to this can be found by using a USB DAC with a pre unibody MacBook Pro. If the DAC is not connected to the correct USB port the listener will experience audio drop-outs. The trouble stems from several internal devices sharing the same USB bus, namely the keyboard in this situation. In layman's terms there are too many cars on the highway. The audio car should be in the dedicated high occupancy vehicle lane cruising by itself. In reality this is rarely the case. Throughout the history of consumer electronics the massive mainstream consumer base selects a technology because of its convenience. The niche high-end audio industry perfects this frequently less than desirable technology. Think optical S/PDIF - TosLink. Audiophiles are always striving to improv technology whether it be turntables, CD players, or music servers. The C.A.P.S. v2.0 design is no exception. This is a USB based design that's unlike almost every other music server. C.A.P.S. v2.0 addresses potential USB issues by providing the USB audio data its own autobahn in addition to other leading edge customizations. The performance and sonic quality of Pocket Server 2.0 has truly surprised me. I believe the Computer Audiophile Pocket Server version 2.0 is better than version 1.0 in every respect. Yes, that unequivocally means sound quality. Period. <font size="4"><b>Requirements</b></font> The requirements for version 2.0 are identical to the original Pocket Server. The requirements are both objective and subjective. When necessary I'll do my best to explain how or why my component selections meet these criteria. <ol> <li>Absolutely silent.</li> <li>Capable of great sound.</li> <li>Great looking.</li> <li>No moving parts.</li> <li>Fairly inexpensive.</li> <li>No legacy components.</li> <li>Easy to operate. <ol> <li>Directly or</li> <li>Remotely</li> </ol> </li> <li>Easy to assemble / install <ol> <li>Assembly / installation by one's self or</li> <li>Assembly / installation by local computer shop, son, daughter, neighbor, or friend.</li> </ol> </li> <li>Small size.</li> <li>Low power consumption.</li> <li>Low heat.</li> <li>Accept an add-in card for audio or additional capabilities. Hardware & Software must accept appropriate add-in cards.</li> <li>Play 16/44.1, 24/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4, and 24/192 all bit perfect.</li> </ol> <font size="4"><b>Hardware</b></font> <b>Motherboard</b> The main component of every computer is the motherboard. Selecting the right one is the toughest part of designing a server. It's very easy to go overboard with features and wind up with a board that requires so much cooling it sounds like the Space Shuttle. On the the end of the continuum are the boards without any features. These low power featureless boards are interesting but not for a C.A.P.S. design. My motherboard selection for C.A.P.S. v2.0 is the $167 Jetway NF96FL-525-LF. One thing to note about this board is its large heat sink. There is no way to use a full height PCI card, even with a riser, without hitting the heat sink. The main features of this board are a dual core 1.8 GHz Intel Atom D525 fanless processor, capacity for four GB of RAM, Integrated graphics, PCI slot for expansion, an eSATA port, and built-in DC 12-volt power. The dual core 64-bit Atom processor is a major improvement over the original server design. C.A.P.S. v1 was very close to maxing its slower single core 32-bit Atom processor. Like the previous design this processor requires no fan to assist in dispersing heat and satisfies the no moving parts, absolutely silent, low power, and low heat criteria. The other critical component for a silent fanless design is built-in DC power. This enables use of a small external power supply that connects to the rear of the server. Finding a "regular" fanless power supply is not impossible but can severely limit one's case options due to size and heat dissipation. The Jetway's support of 4Gb of memory is another major improvement. Mainstream operating systems and applications continue to take "advantage" of more memory every release. The eSATA port on this motherboard was one of the features that elevated this board over all others. I realize not every computer audiophile has or wants a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. These users require direct attached storage. It has been my experience that the speed of eSATA disks is a great benefit to music servers. The annoyance of waiting for an external hard drive, even if it's only a second or two, can drive users nuts over time. Using eSATA this annoyance should be reduced considerably. The remaining feature that is imperative to the C.A.P.S. v2.0 design is the PCI expansion slot. The PCI slot may seem like old technology when compared to new blazing fast PCI-express slots. However, many PCI-express cards such as the Lynx AES16e are actually bridged PCI cards made to work in PCI-express slots. The advantage of PCI-express may be moot for most music servers. Plus, C.A.P.S. v2 requires a PCI slot for its superior USB implementation discussed elsewhere. <center><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/jet-side-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-jet"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/jet-side-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/jet-top-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-jet"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/jet-top-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/jet-acc-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-jet"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/jet-acc-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1739.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-jet"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1739.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1745.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-jet"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1745.jpg"></a></center> <b>Ancillary Components</b> The remaining ancillary components aren't as exciting but required nonetheless. The <b>memory</b> used for version 2.0 is 2x2GB (4Gb total) modules of DDR2 667 from Transcend. The motherboard front side bus runs at 667 as well. The fact that this memory is standard size as opposed to "laptop" size memory is a plus. It should be easier to find other options and cost less than the smaller modules. There were a few options when selecting the <b>power supply</b> for this C.A.P.S. server. I ruled out using a linear supply for many reasons such as cost, size, complexity, scarcity, and logicality given the standard onboard switching power supplies. The three main PSU options were either 60, 80, or 102 Watts. This server is not power hungry so I followed the less is more path by selecting the Casetronic PW-12V5A-L5 60w supply. The <b>solid state drive</b> selected for version 2.0 will probably surprise many readers. I usually select OCZ drives as they are my standard go-to SSDs. This time I selected the very inexpensive $100 64GB Micro Center brand drive. The Micro Center drives are manufactured by ADATA using the SandForce 1222 Controller. I've used this very good performing drive over the last few months without any issues. <center><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/ram-side-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-ancillary"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/ram-side-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/ram-angle-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-ancillary"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/ram-angle-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/psu-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-ancillary"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/psu-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/psu-cord-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-ancillary"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/psu-cord-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/ssd-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-ancillary"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/ssd-thumb.jpg"></a></center> The one piece of C.A.P.S. v2.0 that remains unchanged from v1.0 is the $320 Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 <b>computer case</b>. I simply haven't found a better case for the job that meets all the requirements. The M10 is great looking, small, and is compatible with PCI add-in cards. There are literally hundreds of computer cases available that could have been used for this design. Unfortunately almost all of them are hideous looking compared to the M10. The Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 has form and function. <center><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot1.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-M10"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot1-s.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot2.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-M10"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot2-s.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot3.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-M10"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot3-s.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot4.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-M10"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot4-s.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot5.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-M10"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot5-s.jpg"></a></center> <center><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/M10_main.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-M10"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/M10_main-s.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_strip.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-M10"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_strip-s.jpg"></a></center> <b>Audiophile Add-ins</b> The next two pieces of the C.A.P.S. v2.0 puzzle will never be found in an off-the-shelf Dell, HP, Apple, etc. The <b>SOtM tX-USB</b> and <b>SOtM In-Line SATA Power Noise Filter</b> are as far removed from standard commodity computer hardware as it gets. The inline SATA noise filter connects directly to a hard drive whether it's solid state or standard spinning disk. Regular SATA data and SATA power cables are then connected to the filter. No special cables required. The installation could not be simpler. The SOtM filter has individual 12V, 5V, and 3.3V RF noise filters in addition to ripple noise filters. I was skeptical at first but after seeing objective measurements detailing the positive effect this filter has on a computer system and placing this filter in the new C.A.P.S. server I'm sold. Add to cart for all my servers. The SOtM tX-USB is a half height PCI to USB card that fits perfectly in the Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 case as it's delivered with both short and long PCI trim plates. The design of the SOtM tX-USB is an all-out-assault on PCI to USB cards. The tX-USB has its own power line noise filter, individual ultra low noise regulators to power up to two attached USB devices, onboard ultra low jitter clock, onboard PCI host controller, and separate power connector. This enables the card to be powered by an external linear or battery PSU. Many computer audiophiles like to experiment with cutting the power leg from USB cables or special ordering cables without the power leg. The tX-USB has an easily accessed manual switch, next to the USB ports on the card, that enables/disables sending power over the USB cable. Users will have to check their DACs to determine if USB power is required. Some USB DACs require USB power even if the DAC itself is powered by a separate supply. The tX-USB is 100% compliant with USB 2.0 Hi-Speed and all prior USB specifications and speeds. <center><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/sata-filter-diag-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm-diag"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/sata-filter-diag-thumb.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/tx-usb-diag-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm-diag"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/tx-usb-diag-thumb.jpg"></a></center> Low quantity high quality components are never inexpensive. The SOtM components are no exception. The inline SATA noise filter retails for $65 and the tX-USB PCI card rings up at $339. Powering the tX-USB with the Jetway motherboard requires a SATA to LP4 Molex adapter <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/sata-adapter-01-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sata-adapter">(Photo 1)</a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/sata-adapter-02-full.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sata-adapter">(Photo 2)</a> as the motherboard ships with two SATA only power connectors. The $6 Nippon Labs SATA 15 Pin Male to Molex 4 pin female adapter should work great with C.A.P.S. v2.0 and the tX-USB. During the build process I was itching to get the server running so I created my own cable using spare parts from my music server graveyard. I recommend simply ordering the inexpensive adapter. Much easier and better looking. As a side note, Linux users will be happy to learn the tX-USB PCI card supports Hi-Speed USB 2.0 devices when used with the correct kernel. The most likely question CA readers are asking themselves as they read this article is, "How does it sound?" I unequivocally state the SOtM products improved the sound quality of my system when placed into the C.A.P.S. v2.0 server. In fact I was so interested to hear if these products made a difference I placed the tX-USB in the server then connected a <a href="http://www.usbdacs.com">Wavelength Audio</a><a href="http://www.usbdacs.com"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> WaveLink converter to a <u>main motherboard USB port</u> instead of the tX-USB. Old habits are hard to break. I was sorely disappointed as I heard absolutely no change with only the tX-USB installed and my USB converter to the main board. After a couple tracks I mentally retraced my steps and realized my error. Like any wise Golfer I gave myself a mulligan. With the WaveLink connected to the tX-USB (power enabled as required by WaveLink) I listened to the same tracks that I had played using the previous misconfiguration. I was pleasantly surprised to hear such a nice difference. I understand what has gone into engineering the SOtM components but I also understand far better how computers operate. How can there be a sonic difference? USB is USB isn't it? Bit transparent is bit transparent isn't it? Unfortunately there's much more to computer audio than meets the eye or the ear. While working on C.A.P.S. v2.0 a CA reader posted the following link to a <a href="http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/9/90278.html">discussion on Audio Asylum</a><a href="http://www.audioasylum.com/forums/pcaudio/messages/9/90278.html"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a>. The discussion details some of the problems associated with USB audio and the difficulties in addressing the issues. A phrase that comes to mind after reading such informative discussions is, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." <center><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1384.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1384.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1385.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1385.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1765.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1765.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1755.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1755.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1756.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1756.jpg"></a></center> <center><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1760.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1760.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1759.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1759.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1766.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1766.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1771.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1771.jpg"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/full/IMG_1777.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-v2-sotm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/minick-design/thumb/IMG_1777.jpg"></a></center> <b>Optional Add-ins</b> FireWire DAC users are also in luck with C.A.P.S. v2.0. The PCI USB card can be excluded from the design by substituting an $8 SYBA SD-VIA-FW1E1H <b>PCI FireWire card</b>. This card works perfect with the Weiss Engineering DAC202. The total savings is $331. <a href="http://www.sybausa.com/productInfo.php?iid=458">Manufacturer Link</a><a href="http://www.sybausa.com/productInfo.php?iid=458"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815124034&cm_re=fw1e1h-_-15-124-034-_-Product">Newegg Product Page</a><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815124034&cm_re=fw1e1h-_-15-124-034-_-Product"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> I did not include an <b>internal ROM drive</b> in Pocket Server version 2.0. If needed one can use an external drive or a $90 Panasonic SATA Slim drive or a $169 Sony Optiarc Blu-ray drive. Many slot loading drives feature drive eject buttons that are not compatible with the Origen<sup>ae</sup> case. Please look closely before purchasing another drive. A $5 mini SATA cable is likely required for the slot loading optical drives. <a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/DVD-Super-MULTI-Drive-UJ875A.htm">Panasonic SATA Slim drive</a><a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/DVD-Super-MULTI-Drive-UJ875A.htm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/BD-MULTI-Drive-BC-5600S.htm">Sony Optiarc Blu-ray drive</a><a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/BD-MULTI-Drive-BC-5600S.htm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/Mini-SATA-Cable-for-slot-ODDs-Mini-SATA.htm">Mini SATA Cable</a><a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/Mini-SATA-Cable-for-slot-ODDs-Mini-SATA.htm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> <font size="4"><b>Software</b></font> <b>Operating System</b> During the design of the original Pocket Server I researched and tested a few different operating systems including Windows 7 and Voyage Linux. I've closely followed Voyage's development since that time and noted the rise of other Linux based servers aimed at audiophiles. Given the C.A.P.S. v2.0 requirements and the fact that companies such as <a href="http://www.sonore.us/">Simple Design</a><a href="http://www.sonore.us/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> can design and build a better Linux system than I ever could I elected to bypass Linux for the Pocket Server design once more time. Linux is great but like everything in life it has an appropriate time and place. Linux is not the right fit for the C.A.P.S. v2.0 design. <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0224/win-7-packaging-JRMC14.png" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">I selected Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit as the version 2.0 operating system. Most of the same reasons used for the v1.0 design hold true for v2.0. Windows 7 meets all the software based requirements for a Pocket Server. Quoting the C.A.P.S. v1.0 article, Windows 7, <i>"s capable of great sound, [is] a current OS, easy to operate and install, works with more hardware than any other OS, and is capable of bit perfect playback at all required sample rates when configured properly."</i> CA readers familiar with the original design will likely wonder why I selected the 64-bit version when previously I saw no benefit to a 64-bit OS. The main reason I went with the 64-bit OS is I wanted the new C.A.P.S. design to be forward "thinking" for lack of a better term. It's clear the personal computer industry is moving toward 64-bit hardware and 64-bit operating systems. In fact most hardware has supported a 64-bit architecture for years. The C.A.P.S. v2.0 hardware is no exception, it fully supports 64-bit software. <b>Playback / Library Management Application</b> <a href="http://www.jriver.com">J River Media Center 16</a><a href="http://www.jriver.com"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> is by far the best choice for the playback application running on C.A.P.S. v2.0. JRMC has the best mix of file format support, good graphical user interface, database functionality, customization, and most importantly audio output modes such as WASAPI - Event Style, WASAPI, Kernel Streaming, and ASIO. In addition to a great application J River has very good support for the computer audiophile community. I recently had the opportunity to visit the guys at J River, once again, and test the new $FREE Android remote control app <a href="http://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Gizmo">Gizmo</a><a href="http://wiki.jriver.com/index.php/Gizmo"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a>. Readers with Android devices would be remiss not to give Gizmo a shot. I really like the functionality of the app and its ease of use. Currently iPhone users can control JRMC via a plain web interface or use an app such as <a href="http://www.bitremote.com/">BitRemote ($10)</a><a href="http://www.bitremote.com/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a>. After everything was installed and configured I began paring down the Windows operating system including applications and services. I uninstalled nearly all of the Windows "Features" including Games, Indexing, Search, Printing, etc. Within the Windows System Properties - Performance Options I selected "Adjust for best performance". this disables all the animations and graphically intense pieces of the operating system. I also disabled System Restore, Windows Defender, Windows Firewall, and Windows Update. Obviously there is no anti-virus software on the C.A.P.S server. I also removed everything from the startup folder and Registry startup entries via MSCONFIG. As a precautionary measure I installed the Google Chrome Internet browser for the rare times I need to find album art online. This browser appears more secure than many of the Microsoft Internet Explorer versions. A default Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit installation has over 140 services some of which run in the background whether or not they are required by the user. The C.A.P.S v2.0 server is currently running 33 of 144 possible services. It's certainly possible to stop or disable more of the remaining 33 services. It has been my experience that these remaining services provide a good mix of stability and software usability. I've included a list of services, status, and startup type in the document below. · <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/C.A.P.S.v2-Services.pdf">C.A.P.S. v2 Services PDF</a><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/C.A.P.S.v2-Services.pdf"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> <font size="4"><b>Comparison C.A.P.S. Version 1.0 and 2.0</b></font> Comparing the original Pocket Server to version 2.0 reveals this new design as the clear winner. Not only is v2.0 less expensive it offers better performance and sound quality. The motherboard, CPU, and RAM received a needed upgrade that leaves v1.0 in the dust without requiring a massive cooling apparatus or spinning fans. The most critical improvement to v2.0 is the replacement of the Lynx AES16 with the SOtM tX-USB card. This card in combination with many of the new USB DACs should make CA readers very happy. Running a USB DAC from a C.A.P.S v1.0 built-in USB port simply doesn't measure up. C.A.P.S. v2.0 is also a great system for FireWire users who will save $339 off the USB server price. After publishing the original Pocket Server design a few readers asked why not simply purchase a Mac Mini for $699 and call it a day? A Mac Mini doesn't meet the stated requirements of the C.A.P.S. design. Absolute Silence, no moving parts, and the ability to use an add-in card for expansion are not possible with a Mac Mini. Plus, the C.A.P.S server has increased computer audiophiles' engagement in this wonderful hobby through many user tweaks and customizations simply unavailable under OS X and a Mac Mini. Some people like to get more involved in the server part of the system while other would rather set it and forget it by using a Mac Mini. There's no right or wrong here. Both approaches have nothing to do with one's enjoyment of music or one's credibility as a music loving audiophile. It's even more likely that many CA readers enjoy both types of systems. I currently enjoy a highly tweaked C.A.P.S. v2.0 server and at the same time a Mac server, a Linux server, and hopefully soon a <a href="http://www.meridian-audio.com/sooloos/">Meridian-Sooloos</a><a href="http://www.meridian-audio.com/sooloos/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> server. This is all about furthering one's enjoyment of great music and interest in high-end audio. Nobody should care how it's done. <font size="4"><b>Wrap-Up</b></font> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/cash-logo-black.png" class="thickbox" rel="cash"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/cash-logo-black-thumb.jpg" style="padding: 2pt 5pt 2pt 2pt;" align="left" alt="CASH-List"></a>There you have it the Computer Audiophile Pocket Server version 2.0. I sincerely hope this server design accomplishes my goal of being a hardware and software solution everyone can and will use. I'll never make a penny from this design and I'm not looking to publish a design that competes with an existing manufacturer. This design is first and foremost for all the Computer Audiophile readers who've shown such dedication to our terrific hobby and encouraged me to release an updated C.A.P.S. server. I thought about readers' likes, dislikes, and requirements throughout the entire design process. That said I didn't compromise any part of the design by sinking to the lowest common denominator. That's simply not what Computer Audiophile is about. I'm very excited to read user comments about the design, good and bad, and to see users start building their own v2.0 servers. It really has been my pleasure to design, build, and reveal the new Computer Audiophile Pocket Server version 2.0. <i>The Computer Audiophile Pocket Server v2.0 piece by piece</i> <ul> <li><b>Motherboard</b>: <a href="http://www.jetway.com.tw/jw/ipcboard_view.asp?productid=716&proname=NF96FL-510-LF%20/%20NF96FL-525-LF">Jetway NF96FL-525-LF ($167)</a><a href="http://www.jetway.com.tw/jw/ipcboard_view.asp?productid=716&proname=NF96FL-510-LF%20/%20NF96FL-525-LF"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/Manual-G03-NF96-F-V6.0.pdf">Manual (PDF)</a><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/Manual-G03-NF96-F-V6.0.pdf"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/nf96fl_525">Logic Supply Product Page</a><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/nf96fl_525"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>Memory</b>: <a href="http://www.transcendusa.com/Products/MemList.asp?axn=goSearch&srhMemWay=STD&L0No=Transcend&L2No=37&L4No=66&LangNo=0&Func1No=1&Func2No=12">Transcend DDR2 667 Memory 2GBx2 ($53 x 2 Modules = $106)</a><a href="http://www.transcendusa.com/Products/MemList.asp?axn=goSearch&srhMemWay=STD&L0No=Transcend&L2No=37&L4No=66&LangNo=0&Func1No=1&Func2No=12"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/RAM-Datasheet-TS256MLQ64V6U_2980_S.pdf">Datasheet</a><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/RAM-Datasheet-TS256MLQ64V6U_2980_S.pdf"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/256mlq64v6u">Logic Supply Product Page</a><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/256mlq64v6u"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>Solid State Drive</b>: <a href="http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0351760">Microcenter Brand 64GB SATA II 3.0Gb/s 2.5" G2 Series</a><a href="http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml?product_id=0351760"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>Power Adapter</b>: <a href="http://www.casetronic.com/product_d.php?dtype=0&id=0000000040#DETAIL">Casetronic PW-12V5A-L5 DC 12V, 60W Level 5 ($23.50)</a><a href="http://www.casetronic.com/product_d.php?dtype=0&id=0000000040#DETAIL"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/pw_12v5a_l5">Logic Supply Page</a><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/pw_12v5a_l5"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>Computer Case</b>: <a href="http://www.origenae.co.kr/">Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 ($320)</a><a href="http://www.origenae.co.kr/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/OrigenAE-chassis-and-amplifiers_c30.htm;jsessionid=0E147D8574CC026D36EFCD950A5C0A71.qscstrfrnt04">Product Purchase Page</a><a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/OrigenAE-chassis-and-amplifiers_c30.htm;jsessionid=0E147D8574CC026D36EFCD950A5C0A71.qscstrfrnt04"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/M10_User_guide_1.0911_En.pdf">User Guide (PDF)</a><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/M10_User_guide_1.0911_En.pdf"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/m10-brochure.pdf">Brochure (PDF)</a><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/m10-brochure.pdf"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>PCI to USB Card</b>: <a href="http://sotm-audio.com/sotm/products/tX-USB.htm">SOtM tX-USB ($339)</a><a href="http://sotm-audio.com/sotm/products/tX-USB.htm"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.sotm.sonore.us/">Purchase Page</a><a href="http://www.sotm.sonore.us/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/tX-USB-Operating-Instructions-Rev1.0.pdf">Operating Instructions (PDF)</a><a href="http://files.computeraudiophile.com/2011/0623/tX-USB-Operating-Instructions-Rev1.0.pdf"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>SATA Power Filter</b>: <a href="http://www.sotm.sonore.us/">SOtM In-Line SATA Power Noise Filter ($65) / Product Purchase Page</a><a href="http://www.sotm.sonore.us/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>Internal Power Adapter</b>: <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812816038">Nippon Labs SATA to Molex Power Adapter SATA - SATA 15 Pin Male to Molex 4 pin female ($6)</a><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812816038"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>Operating System</b>: <a href="http://www.microsoft.com/windows/">Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit ($185)</a><a href="http://www.microsoft.com/windows/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116997&cm_re=windows_7-_-32-116-997-_-Product">Newegg Product Page</a><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116997&cm_re=windows_7-_-32-116-997-_-Product"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>Playback Application</b>: <a href="http://www.jriver.com/">J River Media Center 16 ($50)</a><a href="http://www.jriver.com/"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> <li><b>(<i>Optional</i>) PCI FireWire Card</b>: <a href="http://www.sybausa.com/productInfo.php?iid=458">SYBA SD-VIA-FW1E1H ($8)</a><a href="http://www.sybausa.com/productInfo.php?iid=458"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/FireWire-SD-VIA-FW1E1H-Manual.jpg">User Manual (JPG)</a><a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2011/0623/FireWire-SD-VIA-FW1E1H-Manual.jpg"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a> | <a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815124034&cm_re=fw1e1h-_-15-124-034-_-Product">Newegg Product Page</a><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815124034&cm_re=fw1e1h-_-15-124-034-_-Product"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/ca/icons/ex.png" style="padding: 0pt 0pt 0pt 3pt;" alt="link"></img></a></li> </ul>
  6. CAPS v3 Lagoon is the second of four designs and a very nice upgrade from the entry level Topanga server. Lagoon has major similarities with Topanga such as the same motherboard, memory, base power supply, and case. I made a point to enable easy upgrading from the Topanga server while at the same time not dumbing-down the Lagoon design. A familiar addition to Lagoon is the SOtM tX-USBexp PCIe USB card for improved USB audio performance. In addition the mSATA drive from Topanga has been replaced with a new very low power SSD. The power saved by switching disks is not insignificant and plays a role in Lagoon's optional enhanced power supply. Based on my experience with this power supply I won't use a CAPS server without it in the future. The difference between using the server with and without the enhanced PSU is easily identifiable and repeatable. Even the most inattentive listener should recognize the impact of this PSU. Lagoon's unassuming compact design, increased sonic performance over Topanga, and enhanced power supply options should make it a great option for many computer audiophiles.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] 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 . Hardware Motherboard - Intel DN2800MT Marshalltown Mini-ITX Note: This is the same motherboard used in the Topanga design. Some of the information below is repeated from the Topanga article . 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 Lagoon 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. 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 Lagoon 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 Lagoon design differs from Topanga in that I only recommend one method of music storage with Lagoon and that's a NAS. Network Attached Storage is really the only way to use Lagoon because it only features USB ports. I use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive for nearly all my listening. My music is stored on the network and accessible to any network attached device in my house. On the Lagoon server a mapped drive such as M: is pointed to the NAS and JRiver is configured to watch the M: drive for library changes. The reason I don't recommend using eSATA with Lagoon like I did with Topanga is the SOtM tX-USBexp PCIe card and the Logic Supply computer case with special backplate prohibit running an eSATA cable from inside to outside the case. Logic Supply has no plans to include the small horizontal opening in this backplate, similar to the standard Intel DN2800MT backplate, to accommodate the many uses of the opening. The CAPS v3 Carbon design has no such limitation but comes at a greater cost and a completely different case. The use of this horizontal opening in the Carbon design is really cool and opens up a world of possibilities for creative computer audiophiles. Sticking with USB readers will 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. Click to enlarge <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xwU74_MIGjY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> 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 main reason I excluded an mSATA drive from the Lagoon design was power consumption. The Samsung 840 Pro Series consumes far less power than the Mushkin mSATA drive specified for use in the CAPS v3 Topanga. The 60GB Mushkin consumes 0.7 watts at idle and 2 watts active. Many people online have questioned these high numbers but nobody has been able to prove the numbers are inaccurate. 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 Lagoon but its availability is limited as of this writing. Given it's a new drive this should only improve. In the Lagoon 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. 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. Note: The SOtM In-Line SATA Power Noise Filter is not used in the Lagoon design because it doesn't fit with the drive mounted up against the top of the case. 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 Lagoon. 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 Lagoon 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 Lagoon 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 Lagoon 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 - LGX MC500 Compact Mini-ITX Case The LGX MC500 case didn't impress me at first with its unassuming appearance. Once I took delivery of the case I quickly changed my mind. It looks much better in person than online. It's black unobtrusive design somewhat disappears in one's audio system. I like that the case has no front LED lighting indicating either hard drive activity or power status. Computer audiophiles don't need to see if the hard drive is being accessed and with a little education can identify if the server is on or off by looking at the Ethernet port. When Lagoon is turned off the Ethernet port, if connected, will have a single green light blinking. When the server is on and connected to a Gigabit switch the lights will blink both green and amber. If the computer had a sound one would know instantly if it was on, but the silence of Lagoon requires this little peek in the back for confirmation it power state. More important than the appearance of this case is its versatility and ability to meet CAPS requirements including a fairly inexpensive price tag. The case is designed for only mini-ITX motherboards. I like that because there is no extra space when it's not needed. The CAPS v3 Carbon design has extra space but there's a reason for that space. Logic Supply states a single 2.5" hard drive can be placed in this case. In my testing I easily placed two 2.5" drives in the case even with one hovering over the SOtM tX-USBexp PCIe card. Using two 2.5" drives could enable readers to customize this server design and fit a nice sized music collection on internal drives. The LGX MC500 is delivered with one fan attached to the chassis. This fan is easily removed to satisfy the CAPS fanless design requirement. When ordering the case from Logic Supply readers will want to order the Atom-MC500X package. This package includes the sometimes difficult to find DN2800MT I/O shield / backplate that features an opening for the SOtM PCIe expansion card. Logic Supply has the backplate in stock as of this writing at an added cost of $17.00. In addition to the backplate this Atom-MC500X package includes the motherboard, case, power supply, and PCIe low profile riser necessary for the SOtM installation. Click to enlarge 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 Lagoon 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 Lagoon 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 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. Click to enlarge 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. Software Note: Software specifications and recommendations are identical to the CAPS v3 Topanga design. 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 Lagoon 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 Lagoon. The server is absolutely silent, capable of great sound, great/good 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 Lagoon design offers terrific performance and an upgrade path to a better power supply. Lagoon isn't the most versatile server ever built as it works best with NAS storage. Readers who require more storage options will be interested in the CAPS v3 Carbon design with its plethora of choices. The Carbon design is based on Lagoon and uses everything except the case, backplate, and riser card. Where to buy retail: Small Green Computer Where to buy components: CAPS v3 Lagoon - Total Price: $886 Atom-MC500X Package: Case (LGX MC500), Motherboard (DN2800MT), Power Supply (PW-12V5A-L5), PCIe Riser (PCIex1-LPR): Package Price: $227.00 Link Memory: DDR3 4GB RAM (991644) Price: $19.00 Link SSD: MZ-7PD064BW Price: $100.00 Link OS: Win 8 Pro 32-bit Price: $140.00Link Playback App: JRMC v18 Price: $50.00 Link Add-in Card: SOtM tX-USBexp Price: $350 Simple Design Optional Power Supply Red Wine Audio, Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply $895 (single battery), $1,195 (dual battery) Link
  7. The 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] 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 . To read about the CAPS v3 Carbon design please read the article linked here . Hardware Motherboard - Intel DH77EB Micro ATX Desktop Board My 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? This 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 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 Central Processing Unit - Intel 3rd Generation Core i7 (Ivy Bridge) i3770S Selecting 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) 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 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. Random Access Memory (RAM) - Crucial 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) Desktop Memory (Model CT2KIT51264BA160B) The 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 The 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. PC Case - Streacom FC5WS EVO (HTPC-FC5-EVO-B (black) or HTPC-FC5-EVO-S (silver)) Case 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. Click to enlarge Enhanced Power Supply Option - Red Wine Audio, Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply Note: 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 ). 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. 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 . 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. Software Operating System - Windows 8 Pro 64-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 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 . 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: 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 if using an Android device or JRemote 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. 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 Where to buy components: CAPS v3 Zuma - Total Price: $1,547 Case: Streacom FC5WS EVO Price: $272.00 Link Motherboard: Intel DH77EB / BOXDH77EB Price: $100.00 Link Processor: Intel Core i7 i3770S Price: $305 Link Memory: Crucial 8GB DDR3 1600 (CT2KIT51264BA160B) Price: $45.00 Link SSD: MZ-7PD064BW Price: $100.00 Link Power Supply: picoPSU-150-XT + 102W Adapter Power Kit Price: $76.00 Link OS: Win 8 Pro 64-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 Cable: Internal USB 3.0 Price: $9.00 Link Optional Power Supply Red Wine Audio, Black Lightning High-Current Battery Power Supply $1,195 (dual battery) Link
  8. Two years have passed since version three CAPS servers were announced. Over this period of time many of the server parts went out of production, leading to CAPS lookalikes. I am happy to see people coming up with their own solutions to the lack of parts problem. Unfortunately people's CAPS servers move further apart from a similar design. This fragmentation can increase troubleshooting time and compatibility with the many third party software and hardware solutions the CA Community is now using. Addressing the issue of parts unavailability is difficult, if not impossible, without ordering massive quantities of items like motherboards, hard drives, and RAM. In the CAPS v4 designs I've addressed the issue with parts that have long term support and parts from well established companies when possible. In addition, I'd like the CA Community to look at the CAPS designs as part formula and part platform from which to build the worlds best music servers. Readers who just want a formula for successful playback can build or order a CAPS server and be happily playing music with the knowledge their servers are very good and will last a relatively long time. On the other hand, the CA Community has grown and knowledge about music servers has increased greatly since the first few CAPS designs were published. Because of this, I'd like those in the CA Community with imaginations and skills to consider CAPS v4 a platform from which to expand and perfect their very own server. As long as the foundation is a CAPS design and the individual changes aren't too drastic, we'll avoid the fragmentation of the PC world at large. For the first time members of the CA Community will have the opportunity to submit their CAPS designs for full CA Community endorsement and the right to attach their own names as a suffix to the CAPS "platform" server from which the design was created. I'll start us off with my four CAPS v4 designs and let the CA Community take them to new heights. This is a great opportunity to use the collective knowledge of the global CA Community to further this wonderful hobby of ours. 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, etc… 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 handfull 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. CAPS - Computer Audiophile Pocket Server As usual I should address the reasoning behind the CAPS name. Here is what I wrote two years ago. There is no need to make any changes as the reason hasn't changed. "New CA readers may be asking if the CAPS v3 servers can really squeeze into a pocket or if I've use my creative liberty too liberally when naming the servers. The following quote from the CAPS v1 article comments will hopefully answer questions related to the name. "The title does not reference the literal size of the music server. The name Pocket Server is no less accurate than the name Compact Car. Along the way this server was named the Pocket Server by a colleague who was very surprise at its small size when I pulled it out of my carry-on luggage. The server is a bit larger today than it was at that time but the name hasn't changed. This colleague named the server because it was so small not because it actually fits into a pocket. I elected to keep the name, going with the spirit of the name not the letter of the name." Near the end of CAPS v3 testing I received the new Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC). This small computer does fit into a large pocket but thus far I don't see a reason to use it in a CAPS design. The NUC doesn't meet the requirement of a fanless design. Plus, there's no way I would select a retail packaged computer that only requires RAM and a hard drive and call it a CAPS design." In addition to reasoning above, I mentioned the Intel NUC in my paragraph from CAPS version three. It's funny how times change. CAPS v4 features two servers that are based on the Intel NUC platform! One has a new custom USB board created specifically for this server and the other uses all external solutions to high end computer audio issues such as USB and power. Goals and Requirements My goals and requirements for the CAPS v4 project differ from the first three projects. My main goal of CAPS v4 is to provide a formula or platform for great sound. The advancement of the CA Community, online companies who build and sell CAPS servers, and the changing needs of computer audiophile's had a major impact on my requirements. The reasons for changing the requirements are many and I will address each one below. List of requirements from CAPS v1 through v3 with comments about v4. Absolutely silent. - Three of the four v4 servers are silent. The non-silent server is designed to go outside the listening room, negating the silent requirement. Capable of great sound. Great looking. - This is too subjective and doesn't really matter for one of the v4 servers as it will not reside near the audio components. No moving parts. - The CAPS v4 project features three fanless servers and one server with fans and spinning hard drives. The server with fans and HDDs isn't designed for a listening room and thus doesn't require a quiet environment. Fairly inexpensive. No legacy components. Easy to operate. [*]Easy to assemble / install [*]Small size. - This requirement is too relative and subjective. One of the v4 servers is housed in a mid sized tower chassis that isn't meant for the listening environment. The other servers range from small to full "a/v component" size. [*]Low power consumption. - The most required feature of the last few CAPS designs was more power. Thus, I have removed the low power requirement because more processing power equates to more power consumption. Fortunately none of the servers in the v4 project have high power consumption. [*]Low heat. [*]Accept an add-in card for audio or additional capabilities. Hardware & Software must accept appropriate add-in cards. [*]Play 16/44.1, 24/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4, 24/192 and DSD all bit perfect. CAPS v4 Hardware Brief CAPS v4 Cortes - This server is a response to computer audiophiles' changing playback methods and the addition of many more network based players. Cortes is a Windows based Network Attached Storage (NAS) replacement. Members of the CA Community no longer have to wait for NAS enabled versions of their favorite software. Running Windows enables installation of almost any audio application and additional diagnostic tools. Cortes runs JRiver Media Center out of the box and can take advantage of all the UPnP / DLNA capabilities of JRMC. I've been running a Cortes server for months with JRMC, MinimServer, Devialet AIR, TIDAL, Sonos, Logitech Media Server, Twonky, and UPnP Tools without a single issue. This server is as stable as a Linux based NAS, but endlessly more flexible. CAPS v4 Pipeline - This is a more traditional CAPS server in that it can connect directly to one's audio system. The chassis is similar to a full size A/V component. This enables use of a number of audio cards (AES, S/PDIF, etc..) or USB cards. The chassis has room for add-on cards, power filters, power supplies, and more. The motherboard has a minimum seven year life. I've been using this server with a linear power supply and it has been rock solid. I believe this server has the most potential for derivative designs and to be pushed to the max for sound quality. CAPS v4 Maroubra - This is an Intel NUC based server in a fanless chassis. It has a custom USB card designed specifically of this server, wireless capability, and a surprising amount of internal storage. CAPS v4 Bundoran - This is also an Intel NUC based server in a fanless chassis. The main difference between this and the Pipeline server is that Bundoran uses external USB power "conditioning", enabling users to experiment and even bypass this feature when using a DAC that is immune to external power such as the Ayre Acoustics QB-9 DSD. CAPS v4 Software All four CAPS servers will run Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit and JRiver Media Center v20. At this point in time Windows 8.1 is the only stable game in town that's compatible with any number of applications and audio components. I'm excited to see what members of the CA Community will do when they install Linux, but for now my four main designs are Windows based. I selected JRiver Media Center v20 because it's very stable, has great support, is widely used in the CA Community, and is capable of great sound quality for all PCM and DSD sample rates as well as multi-channel audio. There are other applications available that I consider a bit more fringe at this moment in time. I'll leave it to the CA Community to use and tweak those applications and share results with everyone. As a formula and platform I believe Windows 8.1 Professional and JRiver Media Center v20 is the best combination. A Bit About Derivative Designs As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, members of the CA Community can come up with derivative designs based on any of the four CAPS v4 servers and submit them for CA endorsement. A derivative server based on the Pipeline design would be called CAPS v4 Pipeline (Name of your choice here). I am very excited to see what users from around the world come up with and submit for endorsement. There aren't hard and fast rules for endorsement, but the server should be derived from one of the four CAPS v4 servers, be very stable unless noted as a bleeding edge design, and meet most of the CAPS requirements. It's not a requirement to ship hardware to CA for endorsement. We will use the forums to discuss current and proposed CAPS derivatives. Servers be endorsed by the entire CA Community. Wrap Up In the coming weeks I will release individual articles for each CAPS v4 servers. These articles will detail the hardware I selected and my reasons for selecting each component. I hope everyone is as excited as I am. It's CAPS season! Directly or Remotely Assembly / installation by one's self or Assembly / installation by local computer shop, son, daughter, neighbor, or friend.
  9. The first of four CAPS v3 designs to be published is called Topanga. This is the lowest cost and easiest to assemble CAPS server ever designed. Low cost doesn't equate to low quality components and poor performance. Properly configured Topanga is capable of great sound quality and providing a great user interface for computer audiophiles. I didn't skimp on any part of this design. The key was research and selection of the right components for the job, not the cheapest or the most popular. This server will appeal to several readers in that it's a great entry into computer audio for the uninitiated, it's a simple bit perfect server for the objectivists who believe bits are bits, it's a great UPnP/DLNA server for all the network audio aficionados, and it can be upgraded to a CAPS v3 Lagoon or even Carbon without replacing all the components. It has been about eighteen months since the previous design was revealed. The wait is finally over. As Mills Lane and Marvin Gaye would say let's get it on.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] For an introduction to the CAPS v3 server designs please read the article linked here . Hardware Motherboard - Intel DN2800MT Marshalltown Mini-ITX 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 feature 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. Part of CAPS v3 Topanga's design simplicity revolves around using an mSATA drive that also cleans up the look of the computer inside because it doesn't require cables for neither power nor data. I believe small design decisions like this will add up to make Topanga assembly easy for even the most unlearned computer audiophile. Using an mSATA drive also leaves standard SATA ports available for music storage should a user want that option. 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. Sticking with my lower power philosophy I used the standard USB ports for testing playback. I had no issues with these ports. Lack of USB 3.0 ports may be disappointing to some, but I don't think it's a showstopper. If connecting USB DAC to Topanga one should consider avoiding USB hard drives due to how the USB protocol operates. This issue may be alleviated some by separate USB 3.0 and 2.0 motherboard 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. A long way of saying why I don't think built-in USB 3.0 ports would enhance CAPS v3 Topanga. Plus, I don't believe the pros of selecting another motherboard with USB 3.0 outweigh the cons. This raises the question of how should users store their music collections if the internal hard drive is too small? I recommend two methods. I use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive. ALl my music is stored on the network and accessible to any network attached device in my house. On the Topanga server a mapped drive such as M: can point to the NAS and JRiver can be configured to watch the M: drive for library changes. The other music storage method on this server can be eSATA. How is this done without an eSATA port? Connect an internal SATA to eSATA cable to the black SATA port on the motherboard and run the eSATA end through the horizontal opening in the motherboard's backplate. When running this cable make sure to go from outside to inside as the eSATA connector is often too large to fit through the backplate opening. Also, avoid the internal gray colored SATA port as it's shared with the mSATA slot. All internal SATA slots and mSATA slot run at SATA II speeds of 3 Gb/sec. Sticking with USB readers will 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. Click to enlarge <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/xwU74_MIGjY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> Storage - Mushkin Atlas mSATA 60GB Solid State Drive (MKNSSDAT60GB-DX) The current selection of mSATA drives is very limited compared to spinning or 2.5" SSD drives. I selected the Mushkin Atlas drive based on its specs and weeks of testing. Specs alone aren't enough. The Atlas drives are available in 60, 120, and 240 GB sizes. I recommend the 60GB version as it's large enough for the operating system and applications. If one's entire music library can be squeezes on to the 240GB version I highly recommend spending the extra money. Most of us need much larger drives for music storage. Purchasing the larger than 60Gb drives would leave unused GBs and increase cost without reasonable justification. This mSATA drive has a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) of 2 million hours. Not long ago drives with this kind of MTBF were several hundred dollars and only available in the enterprise SLC drives. The Mushkin Atlas series is MLC drives only. The Atlas drive supports 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 Mushkin Atlas series of mSATA drives use the SandForce (recently acquired by LSI) 2281 controller. SandForce has been in the SSD controller market for a long time and is highly respected. The drive has impressive numbers for read (up to 555MB/sec) and write (up to 505MB/sec) with IOPS topping out at 80,000. 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. I prefer to use this drive because it's hundreds of MB/sec faster than the competition even at SATA II speeds and it can be used in the future if paired with a SATA III 6 Gb/sec capable motherboard. 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 Topanga. 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 Topanga 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 Topanga 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 the CAPS v3 Lagoon and Carbon models I'll detail my findings and recommend a terrific but not inexpensive PSU upgrade. The Topanga 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 - LGX MC500 Compact Mini-ITX Case The LGX MC500 case didn't impress me at first with its unassuming appearance. Once I took delivery of the case I quickly changed my mind. It looks much better in person than online. It's black unobtrusive design somewhat disappears in one's audio system. I like that the case has no front LED lighting indicating either hard drive activity or power status. Computer audiophiles don't need to see if the hard drive is being accessed and with a little education can identify if the server is on or off by looking at the Ethernet port. When Topanga is turned off the Ethernet port, if connected, will have a single green light blinking. When the server is on and connected to a Gigabit switch the lights will blink both green and amber. If the computer had a sound one would know instantly if it was on, but the silence of Topanga requires this little peek in the back for confirmation it power state. More important than the appearance of this case is its versatility and ability to meet CAPS requirements including a fairly inexpensive price tag. The case is designed for only mini-ITX motherboards. I like that because there is no extra space when it's not needed. The CAPS v3 Carbon design has extra space but there's a reason for that space. Logic Supply states a single 2.5" hard drive can be placed in this case. In my testing I easily placed two 2.5" drives in the case even though none of these drives are used in the Topanga design. Using two 2.5" drives could enable readers to customize this server design and fit a nice sized music collection on internal drives. The LGX MC500 is delivered with one fan attached to the chassis. This fan is easily removed to satisfy the CAPS fanless design requirement. The LGX MC500 is also used in the CAPS v3 Lagoon design. Readers will see how easily a couple items swapped in and out can elevate this server into a different class. Click to enlarge Assembling CAPS v3 Topanga In Under 3 Minutes <iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/SBwal_c78V8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> Software 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 isn'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 Topanga server produced the following scores. Running 'Math' benchmark... Score: 438 Running 'Image' benchmark... Score: 564 Running 'Database' benchmark... Score: 723 JRMark (version 18.0.81): 575 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 Topanga. The server is absolutely silent, capable of great sound, great/good 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 PCIe card is necessary, 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. Readers interested in squeezing more sonic performance from a CAPS v3 design should consider the CAPS v3 Lagoon, Carbon, and Zuma servers. Where to buy retail: Small Green Computer Where to buy components: CAPS v3 Topanga - Total Price: $493 Case: LGX MC500 Price: $65.00 Link Motherboard: Intel DN2800MT Price: $110.00 Link Memory: DDR3 4GB RAM (991644) Price: $19.00 Link SSD: MKNSSDAT60GB-DX Price: $84.00 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
  10. The Computer Audiophile Pocket Server CAPS v3 is finally hear! More specifically all four of the CAPS v3 servers are finally here! Version three marks a departure from previous designs (CAPS v1 and CAPS v2 ) in the recognition that one size doesn't fit all. Yet, staying true to my audiophile roots I designed each of the four new servers with the singular focus of music playback. Differences between v3 designs are in areas such as ease of assembly, expansion capability, size, sound quality, computing power, and cost. In addition to launching CAPS v3 I'm also requesting that CA readers around the world use these designs as references from which to push the limits of what's possible. The collective brain capacity of this community continues to astonish me every day. I can only imagine what CA readers will come up with to make our collective listening experiences even better.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] What's In A Name? New CA readers may be asking if the CAPS v3 servers can really squeeze into a pocket or if I've use my creative liberty too liberally when naming the servers. The following quote from the CAPS v1 article comments will hopefully answer questions related to the name. "The title does not reference the literal size of the music server. The name Pocket Server is no less accurate than the name Compact Car. Along the way this server was named the Pocket Server by a colleague who was very surprise at its small size when I pulled it out of my carry-on luggage. The server is a bit larger today than it was at that time but the name hasn't changed. This colleague named the server because it was so small not because it actually fits into a pocket. I elected to keep the name, going with the spirit of the name not the letter of the name." Near the end of CAPS v3 testing I received the new Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC ). This small computer does fit into a large pocket but thus far I don't see a reason to use it in a CAPS design. The NUC doesn't meet the requirement of a fanless design. Plus, there's no way I would select a retail packaged computer that only requires RAM and a hard drive and call it a CAPS design. Goals and Requirements My goals when designing CAPS v3 were to design servers that are fairly easy to assemble and servers that I will use in my reference system. These goals sound straight forward to the layman or computer geek. However, meeting both goals involves satisfying a stiff set of requirements that are nothing to scoff at for even the learned computer audiophile. Over the years I've built many computers and used many music servers both custom and canned. I've placed enough Arctic Silver® thermal compound on CPUs to know that 99% of computer audiophiles have no desire to get that involved in custom PC building. Thus, three of the four CAPS v3 designs are thermal compound-free for the end user. I realize that DIY projects can be fun and rewarding but I also realize they can end up as unfinished dust collectors with very frustrated owners. To that end all CAPS v3 designs will be available for purchase completely assembled and tested from Small Green Computer. I want to be as inclusive as possible by making the v3 servers available to everyone to build or buy. 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. The requirements, both objective and subjective, for CAPS v3 servers are identical to the first two Pocket Servers, but with an asterisk. If I was a politician seeking reelection I could talk my way around the requirements and explain that CAPS v3 really does satisfy the each one. Fortunately I'm no politician and I will address a few requirements where the v3 designs may bend the rules just a bit. Absolutely silent. Capable of great sound. Great looking. No moving parts. Fairly inexpensive. No legacy components. Easy to operate. [*]Easy to assemble / install [*]Small size. [*]Low power consumption. [*]Low heat. [*]Accept an add-in card for audio or additional capabilities. Hardware & Software must accept appropriate add-in cards. [*]Play 16/44.1, 24/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4, and 24/192 all bit perfect. Easy is a Relative Term The first item I'll address is the Easy to assemble / install requirement. My only hesitation calling v3 easy to assemble / install is the fact that one of the v3 designs requires installation of a CPU and heat sink. This isn't rocket science, but it can be difficult for a novice. I have no doubt assembling all four designs is pretty easy for Small Green Computer, any local computer shop, or the computer savvy kid down the street. I believe the CAPS v3 designs satisfy the Easy to assemble / install requirement because it includes the second line mentioning assembly / installation by local shop, or other persons. Small is a Relative Term Two of the v3 designs are small compared to any computer. The two remaining designs are more thin than small, but can be considered small compared to full size tower computer chassis. The larger CAPS v3 designs are likely the same width as many readers' audio components and will fit nicely in an audio rack. I believe this requirement is bent as far as I can bend it without breaking. I consider the requirement satisfied. I hope the CA readers will as well once the larger designs are revealed. Low is a Relative Term The CAPS v3 design requiring installation of a CPU with heat sink consumes more power and puts out more heat than previous CAPS designs. However, the CPU is capable of fairly low power compared to the most powerful CPUs available. At less than half of the TDP of a high power processor I consider it at the high end of low power or mid power. This CPU also puts out more heat than other CAPS designs. This heat is drawn from the processor through copper pipes and sent into the chassis. More heat at the processor doesn't equate to more heat for the end user. Running this server for several days shouldn't produce much external heat or make the chassis hot to the touch. Requirements satisfied? I believe so but it's not as clear cut as I'd like. What CAPS v3 Isn't CAPS v3 designs are not meant to replace or make obsolete the previous CAPS designs. CAPS v2 was good when it was release and is just as good today. The main reasons for replacing v2 are the availability of parts and expanded design options. If I were using a v2 server I wouldn't be in a rush to replace it unless something specific in a v3 design really caught my eye. CAPS v3 designs are not published for Home Theater PC use although the servers may make fine HTPCs. CAPS may be called a one trick pony with the capability of many more tricks. CAPS v3 designs are not for everybody. Attempting to please everybody pleases nobody. CAPS v3 Hardware Brief The four CAPS v3 servers will each be featured in a separate article detailing all the specs and reasoning for the design decisions. This is a tiny hardware tease listing some detail about each server. Prices listed below are for parts only and will vary over time. There is a theme to the server names if anyone is wondering. 1. CAPS v3 Topanga $493 This is a very basic server that anyone can assemble. There are no internal cables required. Only four screws for the motherboard, two screws for the hard drive, and two screws for the case. Once the photos are published readers will see how simple this design is to assemble. Depending on one's use of the server sound quality may not be as good as the other CAPS v3 designs. This design is terrific for an entry level server that can be upgraded to the next v3 design level Lagoon with relatively little added cost. 2. CAPS v3 Lagoon $896 This server should hit the sweet spot for many CA readers. An unassuming compact design that's relatively inexpensive, sounds great, uses little power, and can be taken to the next level with any number of power supply upgrades. I will explain the PSU upgrade I've been using and why I think it's a must for all music servers. The PSU upgrade isn't included in the cost listed above as it's optional on this server and the next CAPS design Carbon. 3. CAPS v3 Carbon $1,080 This server uses a larger chassis with most of the same parts found in the Lagoon server. It's also relatively inexpensive, sounds great, uses little power, and can be taken to the next level with any number of power supply upgrades. The major benefit to this design is a more audio component looking chassis and plenty of room for internal and external expansion or creativity. I have some ideas as to what can be done inside this case. I think CA readers with a bit of knowledge can really make this into something special. The server also has a unique external expansion capability I haven't seen on any other server to date. 4. CAPS v3 Zuma $1,535 This is the higher power server many readers have asked for over the last couple years. It's not simple to assemble but readers who have built computers in the past will have no problems. Small Green Computer will also have this for sale on the day the design is published. The server will have enough power for almost any music playback configuration. I haven't tested everything but I'm willing to bet transcoding on the fly, room correction, sample rate conversion, and similar applications won't be an issue for CAPS v3 Zuma. E Pluribus Unum As part of the CAPS v3 launch I'm asking Computer Audiophile readers to use these designs as a reference from which to push the limits of what's possible. The entire CA Community has a great opportunity to get involved and make the CAPS servers something far better than I or anyone of us could make on our own. This community has the intelligence and ability to make CAPS a standard by which all servers are measured. There's nothing more powerful than many people working together with a common goal. Nothing can improve the CAPS v3 designs more than the entire Computer Audiophile community contributing to design improvements and tweaks. For example, a reader who designs RAM for a living and knows a certain memory module can lower power consumption and decrease latency may want to contribute this information to the community. Other readers may want to suggest power supplies, software refinements and adjustments, or some other improvement capable of taking CAPS to another level. All subjective and objective contributions are welcome but not all contributions can be put into use or a design. Someone has to be the arbiter and decide what if anything should be added or removed from a CAPS design. I'll take on that duty in order to keep tight control on the entire design and reassure CA readers that a new suggestion not only works but may improve the server. Part of this whole project is about offering readers a music server solution that simply works. Thus, tweaks that require placing the server on a depleted Uranium base and reinstalling the operating system every other day will be welcome but not necessarily accepted in to a design update. I believe the Computer Audiophile Community really has a great opportunity to set the bar for music servers. If we want more people to hear what we hear or experience wonderful sound quality and music collection enjoyment we must be willing to step up and offer an inviting solution. Like the previous CAPS designs I will never accept money for anything related to a CAPS v3 server. That means I won't sell v3 servers or license the design for use by another entity. Small Green Computer follows the CAPS designs exactly as published and sells the servers. I've talked to Andrew at SGC and know he can be trusted and he does quality work. No money is kicked back to me. No free server comes my way. These designs are owned by the CA Community. I couldn't have created CAPS without help from several readers. Some know who they are while others likely don't realize how helpful they have been by contributing so much to the CA forum. CAPS v3 To Be Continued... All the CAPS v3 designs have been tested and in use here at CA. The only thing left to do is publish the designs. Stick around CA for all the exciting CAPS v3 details to come :~) Directly or Remotely Assembly / installation by one's self or Assembly / installation by local computer shop, son, daughter, neighbor, or friend.
  11. Over the last several months I've researched different combinations of motherboards, computer cases, audio cards, and accessories that go along with these components. The goal of all this research was to put together a hardware and software music server solution that I would actually use and the Computer Audiophile readers could actually use. I would do the leg work, test & listen to everything, and provide the information for CA readers to put together the exact same music server. This sounds somewhat simple until one considers all the requirements that go into such an audiophile solution. Great sound, great looking, no moving parts, silent, fairly inexpensive, and 100% of the components must be available today. Along the way this server was named the Pocket Server by a colleague who was very surprise at its small size when I pulled it out of my carry-on luggage. The server is a bit larger today than it was at that time but the name hasn't changed. What follows is the story of the Computer Audiophile Pocket Server and all the information required to recreate the $1,500 C.A.P.S solution. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK] <b>Jack of All Trades Master of None</b> Like many audiophiles I am never satisfied with the status quo. The status quo in computer based audio is to purchase a Windows based PC or a Macintosh, plug it in, and let 'er rip. That type of a solution works wonderful for the vast majority of the world's population and it's one I recommend frequently when the situation arises. Moving beyond the status quo many audiophiles including myself customize standard Macs and PCs until they're satisfied with the sound quality. This customization still does not address many of the issues inherent in a machine built for general computing and is often like polishing a turd. The CA Pocket Server Project began with a completely blank whiteboard. This way I had no turds to polish or in audiophile terms I had no jitter to clean up from the start. It's always better to build a fanless system rather than install inches of acoustical foam, fight with noise, and worry about other issues related to fans. That's the general thought process I used to approach this project. Plus, the always pertinent acronym K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. <b>Requirements</b> The Computer Audiophile Pocket Server requirements were non-negotiable. I had to satisfy these requirements or the project would be a failure. I also elected to use many components that I haven't already discussed. I didn't want to rehash The <a href="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/Absolutely-Silent-Audiophile-Music-Server">Zalman</a> or <a href="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/mCubed-hFX-Silent-Fanless-Music-Server-Review">hFX</a> based music servers I wrote about in 2008 and 2009. Those servers are still great, but don't meet all the C.A.P.S. requirements. <i>01</i>. Absolutely silent. <i>02</i>. Capable of great sound. <i>03</i>. Great looking. <i>04</i>. No moving parts. <i>05</i>. Fairly inexpensive. <i>06</i>. No legacy components. <i>07</i>. Easy to operate. <i>a.</i>Directly or <i>b.</i>Remotely <i>08</i>. Easy to assemble / install <i>a.</i>Assembly / installation by one's self or <i>b.</i>Assembly / installation by local computer shop, son, daughter, neighbor, or friend. <i>09</i>. Small size. <i>10</i>. Low power consumption. <i>11</i>. Low heat. <i>12</i>. Accept an add-in card for audio or additional capabilities. Hardware & Software must accept appropriate add-in cards. <i>13</i>. Play 16/44.1, 24/44.1, 24/88.2, 24/96, 24/176.4, and 24/192 all bit perfect. <b>Operating System</b> The first step in the process was to test different operating systems. I rules out previous versions of Windows, including the apparent audiophile standard XP, because they were not current. Copies of Windows XP (OEM) are still floating around some of the online shops, but I was ready to retire XP anyway. That left Windows 7 as the Microsoft based candidate. Building a Mac OS X based machine (Hackintosh) is of no interest to me as it violates the Terms Of Service of OS X and is more of a tweaker's system than most audiophiles are willing to accept. Beyond the mainstream consumer operating systems I used used a variant of Berkeley Unix called FreeBSD in addition to a few distributions of Linux. I ruled out FreeBSD fairly quickly. After using it for a few hours as a music server I concluded FreeBSD was better left to host web servers and other business type applications. I am very fond of FreeBSD and I really wanted to like it as a music server OS but squeezing a square peg in a round hole wasn't a goal of the CA Pocket Server Project. I spent much more time researching and using Linux based operating systems than all the others combined. As I said at RMAF 2009, and I still believe today, Linux is the future for music servers. The only caveat is Linux requires quite a bit of knowledge to setup as a music server. The amount of knowledge required is a show-stopper for 99% of the Earth's population let alone analog loving audiophiles. However, if I could satisfy the C.A.P.S. requirements I was willing to attempt writing an extremely thorough how-to Linux guide for CA readers to build this music server. The Linux based operating systems I used are Debian Linux, Voyage Linux, Puppy Linux, Arch Linux, openSUSE, Ubuntu Studio, and probably a couple more that I can't remember at this time. The final selection of an operating system for the C.A.P.S. server came down to Windows 7 and Voyage Linux. <b>Voyage Linux</b> is an incredibly small operating system. It can fit on a tiny USB memory stick, compact flash drive, or any hard drive currently available. The initial installation requires about 128 Megabytes of disk space, not to be confused with 128 Gigabytes. Voyage installs as a barebones operating system. The user must add or update audio features such as Music Player Daemon (MPD), Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA), and other tools like NCMPC and Minion. There are countless options when using Linux. This is a great thing for most Linux users but can be overwhelming to those trying it for the first time. I forced myself to use Voyage Linux for many weeks. Without the option to jump over to a Mac or Windows based server one can become very well versed in Linux music servers. On the contrary one can quit using a Linux music server due to frustration if one doesn't have the necessary time and skills to work through problems. The Voyage based system I setup satisfied all but three of the stated C.A.P.S. requirements. Requirements 7,12, and 13 were constant battles. I tried a few different audio cards and had varying levels of success with each of them. I used an ESi MAYA44 and RME 9632 for much of the time. I was unable to pass 24/176.4 digital audio out of the ESi MAYA44. The MAYA44 data sheets proclaim support up to 24/192, but the user manual states clearly on page 34, <i>"Sample rate supports : 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, (192)kHz *Coaxial Output only."</i> Without 24/176.4 the MAYA44 card failed the requirement. The RME 9632 audio card was a different story. About 100 hours into the configuration nightmare I was able to pass bit perfect audio on all required sample rates. Configuring the RME 9632 in Linux was extremely frustrating. There are bits and pieces of outdated user generated documentation all over the Internet. If there is demand I will create my definitive guide to the RME 9632 on Linux. There are software, firmware, and hardware incompatibilities to work through. I'm really happy I put in the time to make it work on the C.A.P.S. server as I learned quite a bit in the process. Once I had the card working on all the required sample rates I still had problems changing sample rates on the fly when I switched audio tracks. I could not get this to work no matter what I tried. I did create scripts to change sample rates but each one had to be called up via command line before playing a track that required a sample rate change. This mix of problems is what lead me to exclude Linux from the list of possible operating systems. Requirements 12 and 13 combined equate to a system that is not easy to use. Audio cards with Linux support that also support the required sample rates are few and far between. The cards that do exist are not user friendly enough for most people to use on a daily basis. Canned servers, that one can purchase off the shelf, based on Linux and cards such as the RME 9632, RME HDSP AES-32, Lynx AES16 (with OSS drivers), or even the ESi Juli@ card have a bright future. Creating this type of solution at home for one's self is not for the average audiophile seeking to listen to music rather than fiddle with a computer. That said, I continue to use Linux in my listening room next to my other servers. Note: The ESi Juli@ card supports all the required sample rates but can be very hard to obtain. I was unable to procure one during the several months of this project. Even with a Juli@ card a Linux based solution still does not meet the C.A.P.S. requirements. <b>Windows 7</b> satisfies all of the software based requirements. It is capable of great sound, it's a current OS, easy to operate and install, works with more hardware than any other OS, and is capable of bit perfect playback at all required sample rates when configured properly. I selected the more efficient 32-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate as the operating system of choice for the C.A.P.S. server. More than anything the 64-bit version ruled itself out because of the minimum hardware requirements for a 64-bit OS. I could not use the hardware I wanted and still use the 64-bit version of Windows 7. Even if the hardware supported 64-bit Windows 7 I still think I would use the 32-bit version. There are no <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/64-bit#32_vs_64_bit">benefits to using a 64-bit operating system</a> on the C.A.P.S. server. I selected J River Media Center 14 as the playback and library management application for the C.A.P.S. server. MC 14 has become my new go-to Windows based music application because of its features, flexibility, and bit perfect playback. <b>Hardware</b> <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/atom_62.gif" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">The <b>motherboard</b> is the most critical component of the C.A.P.S. server. Without the right motherboard most of the requirements can't met. Readers not schooled in computer hardware should know a motherboard is the main board to which everything in a computer connects. The motherboard dictates what CPU can be used, how much memory can be used, how many and what type of hard drives can be used, and everything else that goes together to build a working computer. The first criterion I used to determine the best motherboard for the C.A.P.S. server was number four, no moving parts. There are many methods to eliminate moving parts from a motherboard such as the addition of passive cooling used in servers based on the Zalman TNN300 or hFX chassis. Adding passive or active cooling only increases complexity. I wanted a motherboard with no moving parts out of the box. Such a motherboard had to include passive cooling as part of the board's design. This requirement reduced the number of qualifying motherboards down to a handful. I had previously built a Linux based music sever using a motherboard from the swiss company PC Engines. These boards are very small, have incredibly low power requirements, but have too many limitations for the C.A.P.S. server. PCI slots, memory slots, hard drive capabilities, and operating system limitations were too much to overcome. One capability I really like using with a current PC Engines board I have is Power over Ethernet (PoE). This board receives all its power via an Ethernet cable. It's a nice bonus in the aesthetics department when one can remove the power cable from a component. After much research and testing I selected the mini-itx Intel D945GSEJT motherboard for the C.A.P.S. server <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/d945gsejt1.png" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-MB">(Photo 1)</a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/d945gsejt2.png" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-MB">(Photo 2)</a>. This board has a built-in, non-removable, Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz <b>CPU</b> that is passively cooled with low profile attached heat sinks. No CPU fan required. The Intel D945GSEJT has two SATA hard drive ports. Connecting standard SATA solid state hard drives (SSD) eliminates another source of moving parts from the server. Spinning hard drives are a source for noise, greater power requirements, increased heat, and can limit the computer case options. One feature that elevates the Intel D945GSEJT motherboard above others is the built-in full size PCI slot. This satisfies the requirement for add-in audio cards or additional capabilities. By additional capabilities I am talking about a PCI FireWire card to connect a FireWire DAC or FireWire hard drive for people using USB DACs. <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/psu.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">Power requirement for the Intel D945GSEJT is very flexible. One can use a traditional computer power supply that connects to the board's 2x2 power port. These traditional power supplies are rarely fanless, rarely silent, and can decrease the number of computer case options due to mounting requirements. The Intel D945GSEJT also accepts an external 12 volt power supply similar to most laptops on the market. A silent fanless external power brick was easily my choice to power the C.A.P.S. server. Other notable features of the Intel D945GSEJT include on-board S/PDIF digital audio output headers. Header is another term for pins on the motherboard to which one can connect devices. This output supports 16/44.1, 24/48, and 24/96 sample rates. A special cable is required <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0078.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-Cable">(Photo 1)</a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0080.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-Cable">(Photo 2)</a> to use this S/PDIF output as there are no built-in S/PDIF ports. A full-mini PCI Express slot is available for wireless cards or other devices like a hardware decoder to increase video playback capabilities. One of the USB headers on the D945GSEJT can be used for an eUSB solid state drive. I purchased an eight GB eUSB drive for this server <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/atp-8gb.png" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-eUSB">(Photo 1)</a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/atp-8gb-measurements.gif" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-eUSB">(Photo 2)</a>, but did not use it with the Windows 7 installation. Windows 7 will not install to a USB drive even if it's placed directly on the motherboard. I have installed Linux to this tiny drive without any issues. An underrated feature of small mini-itx motherboards is the network speed capabilities. Many small boards only contain 10/100 Mbps network cards. The Intel D945GSEJT has an on-board 10/100/1000 Mbps card commonly referred to as a gigabit Ethernet card. <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/sodimm2gb.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">The maximum amount of random access memory <b>(RAM)</b> the Intel D945GSEJT will accept is two GB in its only memory slot. The decision to use two GB of RAM doesn't require any thought or further discussion here. Just add to cart, it's cheap. Selecting a hard drive to meet the no moving parts requirement is easy if one has unlimited funds. Fortunately Solid State Drives <b>(SSD)</b> continue to decrease in price every week. At the time of this writing an OCZ Vertex Turbo 60GB SSD is $219. This is not the exact drive I used in the C.A.P.S. server but it's contains the same amount of disk space as the one I used. If I were putting together the C.A.P.S. server today I would purchase the OCZ drive previously mentioned. There is currently no way store most people's music collections on local solid state hard drives. The available sizes just aren't large enough without spending thousands of dollars on convoluted PCI/e SSD devices. That's why I selected a 60GB SSD. Most music must be stored elsewhere. My music is located on a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. If an external spinning USB or FireWire drive is necessary then so be it. At least C.A.P.S. server is free from internal moving parts for now. In the future it will be possible to house all one's music locally on solid state storage. <b>Audio card</b> selection for the C.A.P.S. server was fairly easy for me, a Lynx AES16. I am a strong supporter of the Lynx AES16 PCI card for its sound quality and its advanced capabilities. The Lynx enables one to use an external clocking device and supports dual wire AES. I used both of these features during the <i>d</i>CS component review. Along with the Lynx AES16 card I also recommend a custom cable from a place like Redco. Redco will make a cable with only one or two AES wires and a clock wire if desired for about $60. That said, there are many more audio cards available. I hesitate to say it but I did use the Merging Technologies Mykerinos card and Pyramix software on the C.A.P.S. server for a few weeks. Wonderful sound, but it doesn't meet many of the requirements of this project. An audio card I would really like to use in the C.A.P.S. server is the ASUS Xonar Essence St. I currently have the STX PCIe version that will not work in the C.A.P.S. server as it doesn't have a PCIe slot. A few weeks ago ASUS provided me a prerelease ASIO driver for the STX card. I was very pleased to see the card now outputting bit perfect audio at 16/44.1, 24/96, and 24/192. According to ASUS 24/88.2 and 24/176.4 support will be part of the final ASIO driver version. The reason I mention all of this about a card that won't work in the C.A.P.S. server is because this driver also works for the ST PCI version of the Xonar Essence card. Since I haven't heard the ST version I can't comment on the sound quality. However if the quality is similar to the STX version with the new ASIO driver I will highly recommend the ASUS Xonar Essence ST card and consider it a great option for the C.A.P.S. server. The ST PCI version of the card is available for around $200 at many online stores. During this project I researched a countless number of <b>computer cases</b>. I'm glad I did the research, but I could have saved all that time by selecting the case I originally wanted from day one of the project. The Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 computer case was clearly the best case for the C.A.P.S. server. Audiophiles not only like great sound, we like excellent build quality and products that look just as good as our audio components. The all aluminum (5mm) Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 case meets or exceeds all the requirements set out for the C.A.P.S. server. The case ships with a 60mm fan, but it's only required if the internal components need additional air flow. I never took the fan out of the box. The M10 is built for a mini-itx motherboard such as the Intel D945GSEJT. Installation is very simple. Origen<sup>ae</sup> provides the four required screws to attach the board to the bottom of the case. The 2.5" 60GB SSD selected for the C.A.P.S. server screws easily onto the inside panel right next to the SATA power and data cable ports on the motherboard <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0077.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-SSD">(Photo)</a>. Also included is a mountable tray to hold a slim slot-loading CD/DVD drive. I didn't install such a drive as I wanted to keep things very simple and I had no need for an internal CD/DVD drive. I used a USB CD/DVD drive to install Windows and I use a different computer to rip my CDs to the easily accessible NAS device. If I did install a DVD drive I would select the Pioneer DVR-TS08 slim slot-loading SATA drive for under $60. The M10 case features a very nice looking front display and hidden infrared sensor. I was unable to utilize these features because the Intel D945GSEJT motherboard has a power incompatibility with the M10. The M10 ships with its own 150 watt external power supply but I was unable to make it work with the Intel D945GSEJT motherboard. The D945GSEJT would not accept power via the 2x2 connector and the internal case electronics required a 20/24 pin motherboard connection, that the D945GSEJT doesn't have, to function properly. This incompatibility may have a silver lining. Audiophiles are always seeking ways to turn off unneeded features or capabilities and frequently use single purpose components such as a DAC with separate power supply or separate external clock. Turning off a component's display is nothing new to audiophiles either. This time there is no option to turn the display on or use the included remote control. I don't know if the lack of these features reduces any electrical noise inside the case but I'm willing to bet an argument could be made in support of such a reduction. Again, this is strictly because I selected a motherboard that was not 100% compatible with the M10 case. I've read other reports of these features working very well. In fact with a compatible motherboard it would be possible to control applications like J River Media Center via the infrared remote control. The Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 case supports half-hight PCI cards sitting vertically in the motherboard's PCI slot. I placed an ASUS Xonar HDAV 1.3 Slim card into the PCI slot and it lined up perfectly with the hole to screw the card into place stabilizing it with the unique internal metal frame of the case. The M10 can also accommodate full size PCI cards like the Lynx AES16 and ASUS Xonar Essence ST by use of a PCI riser card <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0076.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S-Riser">(Photo)</a>. A PCI riser card simply enables the PCI card to mount horizontally instead of its native vertical placement. I know of no detrimental effects by using such a riser card. I was initially concerned about heat dissipation as most of the motherboard rests underneath the horizontally mounted Lynx AES16 card. Thus far I've yet to experience any heat related issues. I've even listened to four hours straight of 24/176.4 HRx material outputting dual wire AES to a DAC without a single hiccup and the M10 case is cool to the touch. Inside the case the Lynx AES16 card is no hotter than any other installation I've seen. The bottom of the Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 case features four metal with rubber bottom feet. The feet are tall enough to allow placement of the case on short carpeting and the rubber bottom of the feet enable one to place the case on any surface without scratching. I currently place the M10 case on carpet in my listening room instead of behind a wall where my other music servers reside. The case looks very nice and I have no reason to hide such a component. This placement also allows me to use short AES cables from my Lynx AES16 card to my DAC. Overall I don't consider the power incompatibility an issue. I would purchase this case without the extra features were it available in such a configuration. Plus, I personally user remote desktop for control of the server and wouldn't use the IR receiver or front panel anyway. <img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/imo_touch.png" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left">Use of a <b>monitor</b> is not something I normally consider with my music servers. The Intel D945GSEJT does have analog DSUB and digital DVI video outputs. One of these is certainly required for system setup and could continue to be used if necessary. Seeking to add something extra to the C.A.P.S. server I contacted the nice people at Mimo. A few days later an iMo 7" Pivot Touch USB monitor arrived at my door. On paper or computer screen this touchscreen monitor seems too good to be true for only $199. Unfortunately it is too good to be true. I used the iMo 7" Pivot Touch on Windows and Mac system before concluding it wasn't my cup of tea. Connected to the C.A.P.S. server I had nothing but trouble using this little touchscreen. Initial setup wasn't very smooth, but I was eventually able to see my desktop on the iMo. Next I went through all the calibration steps to fine tune the touchscreen. Calibration is pretty simple, but when it came to actual use the iMo was a nonstarter. If I had infant size fingers I would like the monitor about 10% more than I currently like it. I don't have huge fingers but they are too large to click on a single track easily. Forget about navigating a menu. I had to touch the screen about one inch away from my intended target. This was troubling when I had to touch the lower right corner. My finger needed to be an inch off the screen over the non-touchscreen frame of the monitor. The only good thing I can say about the iMo Pivot Touch 7" touchscreen is that it may work as neat display similar to how Jeff Kalt of Resolution Audio used the non-touchscreen version at CES this year. I do not recommend people purchase this monitor before using it themselves. Needless to say the iMo 7" Pivot Touch did not make the cut to be part of the C.A.P.S. server. <b>Comparison</b> Compared to a Zalman TNN300 based silent music server the C.A.P.S. server comes out very well. The two main benefits of the Zalman baed server are disk space and the ability to use PCI Express cards in addition to PCI cards. The Zalman is also capable of handling more memory. Both servers are absolutely silent with no moving parts. The Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 based C.A.P.S. server is far more visually appealing than a Zalman TNN300. The Zalman case is no longer manufactured although there are plenty left in the supply chain here in the U.S. The C.A.P.S. server case is $320 and the Zalman TNN300 is $690. Not a single component in the Zalman servers is less expensive than coresponding C.A.P.S. serve component. The C.A.P.S. server (9.5" x 4" x 9.8" w feet, 6.6 lbs.) consumes far less space than a TNN300 (13" x 9" x 18.5" 32.5 lbs.). The CA Pocket Server is an excellent way to use a Lynx card in one's system without planting a huge PC tower next to audio components. I think both the C.A.P.S. and Zalman based servers are capable of similar great sound quality. <b>Wrap-Up</b> The Computer Audiophile Pocket Server project was frustrating at times but well worth the time, money, and effort. Make no mistake the C.A.P.S. server will never be a commercial product that benefits Computer Audiophile financially. This server was created to be a great solution for myself and CA readers alike. There are an unlimited number of ways to change this configuration or adjust it to one's personal needs. No single configuration is the right configuration for everyone. Despite some technical terms weaved into the article this is a really easy music server to build as a whole or in part. I know many people who like to dig into projects like this and I also know many people who want nothing to do with a computer project. Fortunately the C.A.P.S. server was created with both groups of people in mind. Using off the shelf parts currently available to anyone CA readers can undertake this project themselves or simply call up a local computer shop and have them put it together. Whether one builds it, buys it, or brushes it off is irrelevant. The Computer Audiophile Pocket Server's purpose is to increase one's enjoyment of our wonderful hobby. <i>The Computer Audiophile Pocket Server piece by piece</i> <b>Motherboard</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/d945gsejt">Intel D945GSEJT Johnstown Mini-ITX Motherboard</a> - $109.00</li> </ul> <b>Power Supply</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/pw_12v6a7">Power Adapter DC 12 V, 80 W</a> - $29.00</li> </ul> <b>RAM</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/256msq64v6u">TRANSCEND 256MSQ64V6U SO-DIMM DDR2 667 Memory 2GB</a> - $73.00</li> </ul> <b>Solid State Drive</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820227469&cm_re=ocz_ssd_turbo-_-20-227-469-_-Product">OCZ Vertex Turbo OCZSSD2-1VTXT60G 2.5" 60GB SSD</a> - $219.00</li> </ul> <b>PCI Riser</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/bp_pci_jt">PCI Riser Card for D945GSEJT</a> - $10.95</li> </ul> <b>Digital Audio Card</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://sonore.us/Lynx-AudioCards.html">Lynx AES16 PCI Audio Card</a> - $625</li> </ul> <b>Custom AES Cable</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.Redco.com">Lynx AES16 Cable</a> - ~$60</li> </ul> <b>Computer Case</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.shop.perfecthometheater.com/product.sc?productId=201&categoryId=30">Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10</a> - $320</li> </ul> <b>Music Application</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.jrmediacenter.com/purchase.html">J River Media Center 14</a> - $50</li> </ul> Other bits and pieces used during the C.A.P.S. Project that did not make the final build. <b>Hardware Decoder</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/bcm970012">Broadcom BCM970012 - PCIe Mini Card</a> - $59.00</li> </ul> <b>Solid State Drive</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/fdm44xdi4g">Emphase 44-pin Industrial Flash Disk Module 4 GB - 4000X</a> - $69.00 (Windows installation too large for 4GB version)</li> </ul> <b>Solid State Drive</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.memory4less.com/m4l_itemdetail.asp?itemid=1442265462">OCZ 16GB PATA PCIe Mini Solid State Drive</a> - $151.69 (Will not fit on Intel D945GSEJT motherboard)</li> </ul> <b>Solid State Drive</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.memorysuppliers.com/eusb-ssd-8gb-af8gssgh.html?CAWELAID=325272124">ATP eUSB SSD 8GB Z-U130</a> - $139 (Windows can't be installed to this drive)</li> </ul> <b>Wireless Card</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/int_5100">Intel Wifi Link 5100 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N PCIe Mini Card</a> - $29.00</li> </ul> <b>Wireless Antenna</b> <ul> <li><a href="http://www.logicsupply.com/products/kdbv0a_pc250">Wireless Dual Band Antenna, 108 mm (4") and Pigtail Cable</a> - $17.00</li> </ul> <b> Click To Enlarge Photos</b> C.A.P.S. Server in my listening room. <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0071.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0071-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0072.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0072-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0074.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0074-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0075.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0075-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0073.JPG" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/IMG_0073-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> Stock Photos of Origen<sup>ae</sup> M10 <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/M10_main.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/M10_main-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_strip.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_strip-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot1.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot1-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot2.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot2-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot3.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot3-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot4.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot4-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" align="left" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a> <a href="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot5.jpg" class="thickbox" rel="C.A.P.S"><img src="http://images.computeraudiophile.com/graphics/2010/0208/m10_shot5-s.jpg" style="padding: 5pt 10pt 7pt 5pt;" alt="C.A.P.S 01"></a>