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.



@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.


I don't have Roon but that almost makes me curious enough to try it just to find out if it does change the sound of my N20.  That could be true I guess, but doesn't sound logical to me, am I missing something?  I have compared the sound of Qobuz to the sound of cd's recorded to the internal storage in my N20 with a small fraction of the time preferring one over the other, most of the time the songs I have compared sound the same.

If we are talking about a music server only with no on-board streamer, then teh connection between the external streamer and the server is a basic client/server data connection like any other application on a network. THere is absolutely nothing there that has to do with sound quality, just data transmission from a to b.

Now, say the connection is too slow, and the data cannot be provided to the streamer fast enough at full resolution. In this case it is possible that the streamer could negotiate with teh server to provide a lower resolution data stream that could easily impact sound quality upstream.

THis is all speculative but technically possible. The other possibility if the connection is poor is that the streamer has to wait for more data and pauses the music stream to the DAC accordingly until it receives all data needed.

SO two points:

1) the connection from server to client (streamer) makes no sound. The only issue is can the data be provided fast enough or not and that is more about the strength of teh connection, especially if say the connection is via wifi/wireless rather than wired ehternet.

2) The connection from streamer to DAC is where sound quality is more likely to suffer, assuming an adequate network connection is in play upstream as described above. Timing errors can occur between streamer and DAC (jitter) and greatly impact sound quality if not addressed. It is even possible with wired network connections that say one server introduces more noise into the network than another and that noise finds its way into the signal path from streamer to dac and adds jittter. The good new is many good quality modern DACS are jitter resistant and do reclocking themselves as needed.

So the devil is always in the details case by case even with the same gear in play. The details for digital streaming are much different than those for traditional analog gear alone. If swapping music servers alone (not streamer or DAC and same quality network connection and exact same source file at same resolution and same format)) makes a difference in sound, most likely it is introducing more noise into a wired network connection and teh streamer is allowing that to leak into the signal path to the DAC, and maybe even teh DAC is not jitter resistant.





Benjamin at Mojo is big on the small details.

That is what it is- breaking down every single part of the process and determining the best approach for each one. Dozens of small details add up a significant change.

The power supply is the biggest factor, from what I have read. Some of the current best (Grimm, Antipodes) have gone away from linear power supplies and have developed their own switch mode power supplies. When you consider in one Antipodes box there are 3 of these, 4 processors, one high powered one for the server, a lower powered one for less noise for renderer, each one designed from the ground up for one singular purpose- higher quality audio, it is easy to understand the 10k+ prices.

This is a good read if you want more on the process from Antipodes: Antipodes

click on "our approach" on the left after landing on that page