Music Server

I am looking for a reliable and easy to use music server with a very good interface software package.  I have about 4,500 CDs, the majority classical, so I am looking for something that does a good job at cataloguing the content.  I currently run a Naim NDS/Uniti server.  I think the software is adequate, but, I have FAR too many bugs and problems keeping it working correctly.  Enough is enough.  I would like something that is much more stable and reliable that is designed to handle a decent sized collection. 

I did some quick research and found the Antipodes server.  It seems to have the ability to run a number of different software packages (comes with Roon pre-loaded) and it has built-in capability to rip CDs, both of which are a big plus, but, I am a bit concerned about whether it might be a bit complicated to use.  I have also taken a quick look at the Aurender servers.  I have a good local dealer who is a computer whiz that carries the Aurender so that is a big plus.  Another big plus would be something that could take what I have already loaded on my QNAP NAS and work with that so I don't have to re-load, edit metadata, etc. all 4,500 CDs again.

Are there any other top end servers that I should be looking at?  Also, any suggestions on a DAC to couple with the server?


larryi curious what bugs and problems specifically you have with your current server?

My concern with expensive music servers in general is TCO and what benefits they provide of value over what can be accomplished versus just running music server software on commercial computers.

FWIW I run both older Logitech Squeeze and newer Plex music servers on my laptop functioning as a music server. Have been doing this for years with good results though there are always issues to deal with to keep things running smooth especially when disk drives inevitably die and restore from backup is needed.

Would be interesting to discuss and compare these alternatives with each other.

I am an Antipodes owner, so I thought I would comment.

I have never used version 1, but version 2 is easy to use and set-up.  The provided directions are good and you might want to check them out via the Antipodes website to get a feel for the process.  I have also used their support which is very good.  Lastly, the Antipodes servers are not only Roon ready (endpoint), but can also run Roon core so you don't need another computer in the mix.  I am using IPeng and expect to move to Roon later.

As a former Olive user, I have been really happy.

Lots of good choices.
You might find the Sonore microRendu to be your solution, allowing compatibility with the QNAP NAS, and a variety of software control apps that you can use including Roon, Lumin, Linn Kazoo. I've posted the benefits on multiple threads already and suggest you read the recent discussions here and the  reviews from Chris Connaker & Michael Lavorgna for a detailed explanation and more raving enthusiasm. Cheers,
The Musica Pristina Acappella server is very easy to set up. It is Roon compatible. I am using a pre-Roon model with Kevin’s software and control app. I have not felt the need to go to Roon. It is very easy to use and has been bug free.  Kevin is readily available to speak with with should any issues arise. I have been using Musica Pristina for several years. It is a great product.
The Antipodes line of music servers has gotten great reviews and for good reasons. They don't come cheap though. If budget is important, I read this yesterday about the Elac Discovery music server that does what you want for a fair price. The reviewer has been into computer audio longer than most and loves what it does when it comes to cataloging and managing his music files.

There's no formal review as of yet (his is, for now, a blog) but it looks like it could be your answer.

All the best,
If you have a suitable computer already, you can download Plex and run it for free. If you like it you can continue to run for free or buy a subscription to create premium libraries which sound the same but provide supplemental automated tagging capabilities and other features that I’ve found useful.

Nothing at all to loose to try and see. Maybe you can save a lot of money on a music server and use it somewhere else.
Call Neal at Sound Science as he makes VERY easy to use units that offer the best sound available on a computer. Just call him and have a nice conversation. I own one of his computers/servers and could not be happier. Sold all my CDs and now am 100% ripped  CDs and Tidal. Neal is great. 
+1 for Neal van Berg's Music Vault servers. They do not use any proprietary software or hardware so you'll never get stuck w a boat anchor, they come w wifi and Ethernet, Jriver or roon they are easily expandable w USB hard drives and have log me in software so Neal can (and does) remotely troubleshoot and fix any issues you might have. it is a full on computer and server with auto back up via RAID drives and rips via DB power amp. They sound great and Neal's support is first rate. I started w the original MV and then traded it for an MV2 and now an Emerald and I couldn't be happier. It's virtually silent, plays from memory has the OS on an SSHD. Mine outputs digital coax to a Zodiac DAC which Neal also sells. He often has good deals on trade in units. Nothing to loose by giving him a call.  
Thanks everyone for the response so far.  Although I have not been in the market for a server for some time, when I did look into the matter, I did not particularly like computers running software approach as much as a purpose-built server.  I found them a bit less user friendly, but more importantly, I actually heard a professionally built computer server that was carefully stripped of all other functions vs. a purpose-built server into the same DAC and I thought the purpose-built server sounded better.  I talked to a local dealer who was a computer person in another life and who built many a computer based server for customers; he says that the better purpose built servers are slightly better sounding, but cannot really say why this is the case.  Another mystery to me is how the software to manage and access music should matter, but, I heard a comparison between two different software, and one sounded MUCH better than another.  All of this, and my complete incompetence with computers, leaves me wanting something that is simple, reliable, assembled by someone else who can also provide support (I like the log me in software for outside control/troubleshooting). 
I don't have any personal experience with it, other than having heard it, but the Melos servers are well regarded and quite affordable.

If you have a computer to install it on, you could have Plex up and running in an hour for free.   Why not try it first?   Especially since the differences you have heard to date are small and there is no clear reason why any custom device necessarily sounds much better.  You have everything to save possibly and nothing to loose.  If it does not work out just move on.  I'd be happy to coach you with Plex if needed and I would be very interested in your findings.
Do yourself a big favor and call Neal at Sound Science.  Nobody makes it easier for you and the sound quality is state of the art.  I did a deep dive into this as I dislike computers and they stress me.  I love what Neal built for me and it is stress dreams a joy to use.  

I agree with Grannyring and Swampwalker - call Neal at Sound Science, you want be disappointed and you get a lot for the money with his servers. Never thought Digital could sound this good.  

I’ve had computer music servers (Mac mini, NAS, Audirvana) and purpose-built music servers with internal music storage (Aurender N100H and Antipodes DX Gen 2).

From my personal experience, I can say that both the Aurender and the Antipodes are considerably better than the Mac mini solution from the perspectives of sound quality, control and ease of use.

The Aurender Conductor app works flawlessly, has an easy to use interface and a nice Tidal integration.

With the Antipodes, I use Roon as the control software. As indicated earlier in this thread, the Roon server software runs directly on the Antipodes. The Tidal integration and music metadata are absolutely amazing with Roon.

The sound quality of the Antipodes DX is much better than the N100H, but it’s close to triple the price.

Both the Aurender and Antipodes came with easy to follow directions and were problem free once set up. With each of these devices you do need a hardwired network connection whereas the Mac Mini can connect to a wireless network.

Would your local Aurender dealer be willing to loan you a unit for a home audition?

I have to plug the Totaldac Server. He has really taken it to a level I never thought possible for a digital source. I would be more than happy to discuss it with you further if you wish. Just shoot me a message.

I have used a Mac mini for years as a music server running software like pure music and audirvana. Using the latest audirvana software and getting rid of iTunes was a big step in the right direction but the interface was crude. When I started evaluating 3rd party music servers, I was surprised that they were better sounding than a Mac/audirvana setup and not by a small amount.
i still use my Mac mini running OS X server and minimserver to hold all my ripped music. 

If if you are going to use any music server whether it's on a Mac or dedicated server, you don't want to have any disks attached to it if this box is going to be in your audio rack. I have always had my disks in another room or 100ft away in the basement. I use a GIGe switch network which has no dropouts.
I think I’m headed in sbank’s direction with a microRendu Ethernet-to-USB appliance at the DAC in conjunction with a QNAP NAS with i5 processor. That should be enough processing power to support Roon, HQ player, and Vinyl Studio software. Add an external Lynx HiLo ADC, and all the elements are in place to archive vinyl.
Music Vault from Sound Science in Castle Rock CO. Neal is the best and a world class product. 
If you have money get the Burmester music server. It can do everything you ask and better than almost anyone. Unfortunately it's out of my budget range. 

i wish Aurender would add a ripper but they don't have. Meridian has a good music server but only software ripper from Mac and PC. So mostly imperfect world. 

Let us us know what you end up with. 
 I use a dedicated Mac Mini, and external hard drive, Roon, and a PS audio PWD MKII  with  PS audio bridge 2.    I'm very pleased with the set up,  but I'm not sure I would recommend it to someone who feels that they are not very computer savvy. 

 Roon is an essential component in my opinion!  I suggest visiting the Roon website and browsing The list of Roon ready components to see if there is an option you haven't yet encountered or considered. 

 Good luck! 
What *IS* it with people who have so much money they feel they need to spend it on something that costs 30 times as what they need to spend? Antipodes is based upon Fedora 20, the experimenter’s version of Redhat Linux. It is not something that will stay stable and supported for more than 3 years. I realize that a lot of people don’t mind dropping $600 on a cell phone that will be obsolete in 2 years, but Antipodes retails at something like $7500.

And while we’re at it, a Linux server is not some special people of exotic circuitry with magical geometry wiring and platinum plated gold bus bars. It’s a PC. You know. The kind of thing Dell sells for $300.

I run an HP laptop which is at least 7 years old that I paid $150 for a couple of years ago. I swapped in a new 1 TB disk drive ($100), loaded up Ubuntu Linux (free) and installed the free, open source Banshee software. As a music server, Banshee does everything you want in terms of GUI presentation, search, plays all the file formats and even gets you Internet Radio.

Free. So for $250, I got something which does everything your Antipodes box does AND it has a screen too! Not long ago I started working with DSP, so I paid $50 for a JRiver license and have been working with their DSP plug-in. Even Antipodes doesn’t have DSP, does it?

Did you notice that you can buy it for $5000 without a disk drive, or pay $6500 for it to have 1 TB of storage. $7500 gets you 2.3TB! I got my 1TB of storage for $100.

Ultimately all these things do is to deliver a digital file for your DAC to read and process. There are no magic cables or connectors that make any difference whatsoever. None. That’s the beauty of digital data. Either it transfers or it doesn’t. That’s because all data is transferred with error correction protocols.

Y’all are streaming digital data from Tidal and such over thousands of miles, over at least a dozen routers, fibre to copper converters, over cable or DSL, and somehow you expect that digital information to be absolutely 100% correct, but when you’re at the last 10 feet suddenly you need to manage it with a $7500 PC running an experimental version of Linux?!

Clearly I’m in the wrong line of work if y’all are buying this stuff.
Lots of good ideas here.  I did something along the lines of what sbank did, and it's quite effective.

I used EAC to rip my entire CD collection to a Qnap NAS as FLAC and stream bit-perfect to my preamp using a Raspberry Pi and HiFiBerry (though there are other DAC boards) running Moode audio player, but Volumio is also highly recommended.  There are others as well, such as OSMC and OpenELEC running Kodi media center.

So, if you want an affordable solution, you could start with a Pi3, HiFiBerry and existing laptop just to experiment.  For about $100 bucks, you might be quite surprised at the results.

I've been building my own custom media PCs for over 20 years now.  I tend to agree with russbutton except I would also say that you do need to look at the internals of the PC.  Check out computer where there are a number of good hardware and software combos.  I love foobar as the front end.
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larry, I recently put together a system based on Michael Lavorgnas reviews that has worked wonderfully. My cds only number a couple of hundred. Since I did not have a NAS I started out with the QNAP TVS471. Roon core is on the NAS on a 120gb SSD, my ripped cds are on one of two 4tb drives in raid1 array with a third 4tb drive as back up. this feeds a microRendu and on to an Auralic Vega usb dac. I use an iPad mini as remote. Being my first go at computer audio I am extremely impressed and love the Roon/Tidal integration. So far it is fast, clear and no drop outs or issues. I also added a section of fiber optic cable for isolation. You can read more on this on Audiostream. Good luck.  

The original post was about the $7500 Antipodes server, which is nothing more than the Fedora 20 version of Linux with it’s own music management software. My little $250 Ubuntu Linux server does all the things you want from a music server and does it just fine.

But rbstehno writes:

" Unless you know how to read a muc file and build a gui front end, then you got nothing."

Banshee *does* have a GUI front end and reads all of the music formats. Furthermore Ubuntu Linux has any number of free applications for manipulating sound files. The ffmpeg utility converts media files from almost any format to any other format for free. wav to flac to ogg to mp3, for whatever your requirement is. Banshee is also available, FREE, for Windows and Mac, as well as Linux.

And as I mentioned before JRiver runs on Linux as well. Costs you all of $50. It’s probably the most widely used music manager I’ve seen outside of iTunes or Windows Media Center.

The one thing my little $250 machine doesn’t do is iTunes and so your little rant about iTunes and its poor performance is just another example that rbstehno doesn’t know much of what he’s talking about. Not that it will stop him.

I chose to put everything on a single disk drive. My own music collection is about 600 GB of flac files in size. Ubuntu itself takes up almost no room. So there’s no need for a separate file server, etc. All the data is right there. I have an Ubuntu desktop for my primary machine and nightly everything gets rsync copied off to a backup drive I have there. I have a 3rd small machine on my network with a 3 TB drive on it that everything from my desktop gets rsync copied to, so in my house, I have three full copies of my music library. I also subscribe to an off-site backup service called CrashPlan, so that’s copy #4 of my music library.

Of course there are other choices. Choices are a Good Thing, but ultimately all you’re doing is transferring digital data from one place to another, and that’s something most all computers do equally well. Yes there’s loss of information when you convert from the original raw format to some others like mp3 or such, but there is no loss at all from full rez formats like wav and flac. ANY software app which can work with them will copy them from one device to another equally well.

Clearly where the real differences happen are the place where digital data is converted to analog. That’s why there’s so much weight given in audio circles to the quality of DAC devices. There’s a recent review in Stereophile of a digitally powered loudspeaker from Dynaudio that takes a digital feed directly from your music server, thus eliminating the need for a DAC or preamp. You’re digital right to the very end of the chain, though somehow even here, the reviewer has not reached Audio Nirvana.

My cheesy old laptop, running Ubuntu Linux, delivers the exact same full rez digital data to a DAC that your higher priced boutique servers do.  As for your Toyota vs. Porche comparison, the Porche may well perform better, but it doesn't do any better job of taking you to/from the grocery store, and all these things do is gather and present digital data.  Not much different.

And it’s not that you have to be a Linux guru to do something like this. JRiver on a Windows PC gives you much of the same capabilities. Personally I hate anything from Apple, so you get to keep your iTunes rant to yourself.

Kudos @parabolic You've got the best low cost solution going. The Raspberry PI, HiFiBerry using Moode or Volumio is amazing at what it can do for under $100. The Pi is non-profit project originally developed for the education market (Cool to read about unrelated to audio). 

Kudos @65voodoo I bet your solution outperforms many of the higher priced recommendations mentioned in this thread from posters who haven't made enough listening comparisons to rightfully make recommendations. 

If any of you recommending Mac or Windows solutions can tell us about your LISTENING EXPERIENCES & COMPARISONS vs. single purpose Linux based appliances with NAS storage solutions or even single box single purpose Linux boxes like @russbutton describes, then please do tell. Because I am sick of reading recommendations of what somebody bought when they haven't compared it to alternatives. 
IMHE, this thread is full of both terrific and terrible advice; more than most. Sorry, too much coffee ;-) Cheers,
Agree with everything @russbutton has said.  However, the one point missing here, is the fact that a vast majority of the population is either not able to, or has zero interest in setting up and maintaining their own music server. 

The reason people pay $7k for something which can be thrown together for considerably less, is because they are paying for that expertise. You and I, and many others have the know-how. But we're not the majority. Others without the expertise, or the time, or the inclination prefer a simple, reliable, supported, and working solution. And they are willing to pay.

So yes @russbutton ... you may well be in the wrong business! :)

Last comment.  Though I'm a total Linux-head, if you're willing to live with a Windows machine, both JRiver ($50) and Banshee (free) run on that platform as well.  And truth be told, Windows Media Player isn't bad either.  If you know enough of how to use a web browser, read this forum and post here, you should be competent enough to set up a laptop with any of these applications.  

Just sayin'...
I was in a very similar position to yours earlier this year. I had a Naim NDX, Naim Dac, Naim 555ps on both the NDX and the Dac. I loved Naim for a really long time. When I finally decided to move on from Naim amplifiers I kept the digital front end for a couple of reasons, but most of which is that I invested so much that I could not justify giving it all away. The time did come where it made sense and I found a buyer for the digital items. I decided to be more flexible in the front end. At this point I moved to Boulder electronics so I was more open to options. I decided on the Aurender X100L. I very nearly chose the N20. It sounded great, but I had a hard time justifying the additional cost know that in a few years I will have to assess upgrading again. I probably overspent on the dac, but I love it and I was convinced that it could be upgraded. 

The Aurender has been fantastic. 
Have a look at the Playback design Server and DAC, I compared them to MSB, Bryston, Aurender and to me it sounds cleaner, musical and engaging. 

Hi Juan, great review. I currently have an L7 and thought your review of that device was spot on. I’m considering an upgrade to the Big 7, have you heard one in your system?

Once you experience a great dedicated music server it’s really easy to recognize the improvements over using a commercial off-the-shelf computer for audio.
Thanks, Jay!  I appreciate it.  

I have not heard the Big 7 or the Golden Gate on my system, but if I can get Lukasz Fikus or Fred Ainsley to bring one by following AXPONA 2017, maybe that will become a reality.  I'll have to reach out to them and ask.


P.S. -- Fred got back to me last night.  He's considering it, but as it's six months out, they've still got to decide what they're bringing.  And then, there's the logistical issues; I live about an hours drive from the Westin O'Hare.  

Still, it would be fun and edifying!  Guess we'll see!