Primer on Music Servers?

I've been watching as the price of digital storage falls like a rock. You can now get a 4GB compact flash card for $45. A 16GB compact flash card sells for $235. I clicked around and saw that Samsung is planning 64GB CF cards in the near future, which means that those 16GB cards will be 50 bucks before too long.

However you code it, that's a lot of music. I have a friend who ran his own software company, and a short while back he told me that people will soon be carrying the contents of their PC (operating system, apps and data) on compact flash cards, and soon after that on their credit cards.

I've got to think that we're at the dawn of an era where digital content is stored and retrieved without moving parts, and where storage is so vast that capacity is no longer an issue. All of this leads me to believe that the various spinning media are living on borrowed time, be they conventional hard drives or CD, SACD and DVD.

I've discussed this with my A/V system dealer and he points out that the music servers come from the PC makers. Those guys just don't get it when it comes to the various interconnection and other performance issues that audiophiles care about, he says.

Having interacted with my share of geeks I absolutely believe thus. Still, how hard is this? I'd think it's a matter of how to stream the data from storage. If the PC makers don't get it, what's keeping the audio equipment guys like, say, Linn, from going there? It must be that there are much more formidble technical challenges than I know.

Perhaps folks here can lay them out? I'm not particularly interested in various format wars (coding methods) unless there's something about a particular one of them that makes it especially difficult to move digital content off of a CD or DVD. What's the holdup to music servers that would equal the sound from the best spinning disc players?

I'm hoping I don't set off a religious war with my question. I don't own a music server right now, and I'm not going to get one until my dealer tells me they're ready. I'm just wondering what the holdup is.
High quality computer music servers are hear now, no need to wait. Having your music organized on a server is a patently superior method of accessing one's music collection, assuming one has more than 50 CD's. There are the stand alone units (McIntosh, Yamaha, Sonos, Cambridge, SlimDevices, etc.) or you can construct your own music server with a PC of some sort.

IMHO the keys to audiophile grade sound in these implementations are: 1) lossless encoding of music files, and 2) careful attention to USB - S/PDIF conversion (and this is only an issue for those who are NOT using WIFI).

Once you have those elements sorted out though, the rest of the issues are those you would face when assembling any hifi system: amplification, D/A conversion, speakers, room acoustics, etc..

Computer music servers are the future of the digital front end (IMHO).
Thanks for your response. After I posted this, I saw your excellent posting, "Today's Transport War: Significant Differences?" At some point I'll probably post there with more questions. I was really impressed by your knowledge.
Thanks, Pluck. I am an amatuer, at best. Good luck in your journey. The threads here are a good place to get started. You can also learn a lot about computer audio from two websites: Empirical Audio and Wavelength Audio. Each has dedicated content on the subject. True experts behind these sites.
There is no hold up, they're here now. Problem isn't necessarily the ability to manufacture audiophile-grade USB equipment. Technology is out there.

The problem as I see it is very simple, and two-fold...The mass market is slow to adopt new technology, especially audiophile types. Second, alot of people have no idea how to use a computer well enough to set up a PC-based system. For example, most know little about digital compression, what it means, why it is important. Just those market conditions alone are enough to slow demand and ultimately r&d production. So at this point, there is little reason for the larger manufacturers to invest-but they undoubtedly will eventually. Although audiophile types may be the last to benefit of course.

Some of the stuff out there at the moment qualifies as just good, aforementioned McIntosh etc..All the Mac music server is is an Escient with a Mac faceplace-since Marantz owns both Mac and Escient. Sound was also very much sub-par out of this when I listened. Wireless is another approach, but you have to have big buffers for music that is streamed uncompressed, and there is just something about no wires that screams non-audiophile. Thats just me...

As far as formats etc...Don't waste your time worrying-Apple Lossles. And as far as storage, don't wait for SSD to advance to the point you can put all your 100's of gigs of music on it. HDD is excellent, and much more reliable these days than it once was. SSD is good, and I look forward to it, but I am not waiting around for advances out of it. It is very expensive to produce, when it fails there is NO recovering anything; so HDD will stick around for a while at reasonable prices per Gigabyte compared to SSD per gigabyte.

Like Paradales said, the time is now, and the two choices IMO are either Empirical or Wavelength, everything is a compromise at this point. Choice is limited for the level of gear you own, so you owe it to yourself to give either of those products a hard look before taking the plunge into server based audio.

Difference between Wavelength (WA) and Empirical (EA). EA is largely a modder, although more of his own stuff is being listed on his site..Everything form WA is custom designed from the ground up-no mods. EA tends to have more answers for the sPDIF inclined, whereas WA is largely pure USB Zero DACs, very little sPDIF, no I2S (native interface for alot of DAC chips). As far as sonic differences between the these two, can't speak for EA, and sonics really have to be tested in your own system.

I can say for my system, the Cosecant easily beat out a $12K Nagra player, among other very expensive players. Best digital I have ever heard.
Playback from SSD has already advanced: