What is the custom audio music server doing that a cheap PC is not? I think eliminate electrical and external noise as much as possible. Which is great.
Let’s assume your PC is very powerful, because those are also cheap, but maybe a little noisy, like mine here.
OptiPlex 3080 Micro Form Factor Desktop | Dell USA
My PC runs ROON Core, and I occasionally connect to it by RDP. I also have the machine automatically startup each morning at 8AM and shutdown at 1:30AM. So totally hands off. No keyboard, no mouse, no monitor.
Now assume you can put that PC in a closet of a room where you do not listen to music. You need to connect this PC by direct Ethernet to your router or a network switch connected to your router. I will skip why for brevity.
What about the noise of this cheap PC that spews into the Ethernet wire? I use a Sonore OpticalRendu with 2 of my 3 systems. This is a ROON READY streamer. For 1 of my systems, I have a $79 network switch in one room. This takes the potentially noisy Ethernet wire I have, from many networked connected PC’s, switching power suppliers, etc. and stops that noise from traveling to the DAC.
A FIBRE Optical cable cannot carry electrical noise. This Fibre cable hooks up the $79 network switch (output) with the Sonore OpticalRendu (input). The Rendu then outputs the stream via USB to my DAC. There is a little inefficacy in that Optical to USB conversion, but I would think it would add minimal noise and there would be no noise going into the Rendu.
For my second system, I do the same think but with a $199 Network Switch. I should have bought 2 or the $79 ones.
BTW - Chris Connecker (sp?) the owner of ComputerAudiophile.com, has a similar streaming setup as mine. He reviews expensive music servers and I asked him why he bothers. I told him that he should compare his reference setup with and without an expensive music server. He said he would do a review on that one day.
From a theoretical view, what I am doing should be really all you need. That is if someone can say that a dedicated music server does more that eliminate NOISE.