What makes One Music Server Sound Better than Another?

So this week my Mojo Audio DejaVu music server that I have used for the past 2-3 years crapped out. Benjamin at Mojo was more than helpful and the DejaVu is on its way to Mojo Audio where it will make a full recovery.

Thankfully, I still have my Antipodes DX2 Gen 3 (their former flagship) music server so I hooked it up. After wrestling with Roon protocols, transfers, and set-up menus, I was able to get it going so I have music. The DX and my Sonore Sig Rendu SE opt. are both connected to my network so the DX (like the DejaVu), is only being used as a Roon core and the Sig Rendu SE serves as the Roon endpoint for streaming Tidal and Qobuz, with a direct USB connection to my DAC.

The point of this thread is to ask, how come I perceive the the DejaVu server as sounding better than the Antipdes DX? In fairness, the differences I perceive are not great but it seems the DejaVu is fuller sounding, more tonally rich, and bolder. Is this why some here spend $10K+ on a Grimm, Taiko or something else?

If a server is basically a computer, sending digital information to a streamer/endpoint and, assuming that digital information is transmitted asynchronously and reclocked by the DAC’s master clock, and assuming noise is not the issue (i.e., both units are quiet and there is an optical break between the network and both the server and endpoint) then what are the technical reasons one should sound better than the other? It is not that I want to spend $10K+ on a music server with a lifespan of maybe 5 years before becoming obsolete, but I would like to understand what more you are getting for your money. So far, the best I can come up with is lower internal noise as the major factor.

As a side note to the above, when I thought things looked hopeless for getting set up, I scheduled a support session with Antipodes and, although I lucked into the solution before the meeting time, Mark Cole responded ready to help. Setting up the session was super easy and reminded me of the superior level of support I had come to enjoy from Antipodes during the time that the DX was my primary server, including multiple updates and 2 or 3 hardware upgrades, which prolonged the service life of the DX. Good products and good company.



@vandy357 that’s about how long the Aurender needs to break in. My N200 settled after couple of weeks. 

In another thread on another forum, I was berated for not knowing that Roon changes the sound on all servers. I asked if it was because of its DSP feature and was told no and that I was an idiot. He said that the basic software in Roon changes the sound. Is any of this true? Roon by itself changes the sound of every server from the Node to the N30?


It certainly did on this one, it just absolutely blew my mind that there was that much difference in the sound after a couple weeks.  I have always been a believer in break in time but have never experienced that big of a difference in a piece of equipment.

@curiousjim it’s an interesting question. I wouldn’t say it changes the sound on all servers. I just don’t know if it does. I owned Lumin U1 Mini and Auralic Aries G1. 

I will say though, that on Auralic, I preferred the sound quality of its native Lightning DS app. On Lumin, I preferred Roon. I believe it is due to signal processing taking a different path. In example of Auralic and using Lightning DS, the stream is cached, and that might potentially reduce the noise and result in cleaner processing. With Lumin, Roon sounded just a slight bit smoother than the Lumin native app, which is very user unfriendly by the way. In both cases, I had Roon DSP disabled. 

@audphile1 - Yes, the two servers I am comparing were at approximately the same level, when new, although the DX is older technology. The DejaVu seems quite well built with regard to spacing and isolation of internal components, isolation of connections, and power supply. All of these things may be adding up to the fuller, richer, sound I perceive through the DejaVu, maybe?

I am sure the WiiM Pro would be an interesting comparison but it is a player/streamer and the comparison I am making is between the two servers/Roon cores. I already noticed a sonic difference moving from my Metrum Ambre player/streamer to the Sig. Rendu SE opt., so I am certainly convinced on that front.

@mapman - No DSP here, just 24-bit, 192kHz, PCM into an R2R DAC, or 24-bit, 96kHz, PCM into the older technology SMc DAC-2 (delta sigma). I have a Benchmark DAC here and could try DSP, but I really have had no desire to try that yet.  Do I understand correctly that DSP can put additional demands on the server processor?


just isolating the clock board enables the server to produce a larger soundstage, greater clarity, and a more analog like presentation

Still curious how something like isolating the clock board affects those analog sonic traits when sending a digital signal. The digital signal is still read at the other end, corrected as needed, reclocked, and converted to analog. Does isolating the clock board somehow modify the digital signal that gets sent? Does it affect jitter? What is the technical mechanism for these changes? Not trying to be difficult, and I am certainly not saying it doesn’t sound different, but I would sure like to hear a technical explanation of how that isolation changes a digital signal.