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.




I agree with your conclusions. Trying to understand the “why” is elusive. Many manufacturers design improvements then listen and maybe adjust designs before being to market. It’s not that they have a specific sonic that they try to match and/or reach a specific level. Our hearing acuity is much more sophisticated than current science can measure, even if we could measure we don’t know what to measure (iirc John Curl said this).

My own experience is that confirmation bias is a huge challenge for all of us.  A/B comparisons are really hard, and aural memory sucks.  And the potential differences we’re talking about, if they exist at all, are really small.  For example, where I agree there are material differences - DACs - teasing out those differences, reliably, is challenging.  A friend of mine and I did a DAC shoutout with 4 DACs:  dcs Bartok ($10k), Gold Note DS10 ($5k), Mytek Brooklyn ($2k), and an Okto DAC8 ($1k).  We were both surprised at how subtle the differences were.  Predictably, he preferred his dcs, I preferred my DS10.  

Why have a computer in your listening room? Why use usb and all the gimmicks are trying to make usb better? Years ago when I used a dac with usb, I had the Auralic Aries server because I thought it sounded better than Lumin and Aurender, plus the Lightning DS software was light years ahead of the Aurender software. Then I got a great sounding dac with Ethernet and i2s with Roon and now I have my server in another room and it sounds superior to using usb.

@mitch2 the best streamer you can hear today is the Taiko Extreme, soon to be outclassed by the latest offerings. This is out of my price range and your stated range. What they have done to build this "streamer" should be the foundation of what you’re looking for. Power is the number one consideration. I won’t go into the other factors too much.

I’ve been building my own music servers for many years, having followed discoveries that have led to what Taiko is doing. I’ve built my own server as close to the Extreme as possible as well as built similar sounding servers. Each server or streamer will have its own sound profile. What I have targeted is what many look for; clarity with a black background, an expansive but accurate sounds stage and as close to a real life or analog listening experience as possible. There are other characteristics but these I’ve found are critical. The main goal is to reduce noise introduced by components.

In your search, if able, evaluate power and timing attention in the forms of latency and other digital impacts like jitter. The other critical factor I’ve found is upsampling ability. Upsampling in addition to being able to play high resolution sources is a significant factor in sound quality. My DAC can process DSD1024 native and PCM 1.536MHz so I upsample to those frequencies and I absolutely hear a difference. My DAC has NOS capability so I do that from my server/streamer. This means I have better control over the variety of available filters.


"I have my server in another room and it sounds superior to using usb."

Exactly.  The server, modem, router, etc. are in my network room and the streamer and DAC are in a separate room with my audio system.  The streamer connects to the router by 45 feet of fiber and USB connects the streamer to the DAC.