REVIEW: Comparison of 5 High End Digital Music Servers - Aurender N10, CAD CAT server, TotalDac d1-Server, Auralic Aries, Audiophile Vortex Box
Nov 10, 2015 at 7:37 PM Post #31 of 1,483

nepherte

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Thanks @romaz for your extensive comparison of music servers. The main lesson that I get out of this, is that at this level a high quality music server allegedly impacts the sound a lot (I say allegedly not because I don't believe you, but I want to judge that by listening myself). As to what music server I want to aim for, which is going to take some time anyways, I have not yet decided. I'll definitely wait for Roon to come out with RoonSpeakers and headless Linux builds, which might expand the range of music servers I am interested in (e.g. TotalDAC).
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 7:44 PM Post #32 of 1,483

jelt2359

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Interesting. Have you considered trying with some of the battery-powered portable solutions? Not all output USB, but some (eg the phones) do. Maybe pair them with a regen or ipurifier or iusb and we're still looking at much less than some of these.
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 8:07 PM Post #33 of 1,483

romaz

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  Thanks @romaz for your extensive comparison of music servers. The main lesson that I get out of this, is that at this level a high quality music server allegedly impacts the sound a lot (I say allegedly not because I don't believe you, but I want to judge that by listening myself). As to what music server I want to aim for, which is going to take some time anyways, I have not yet decided. I'll definitely wait for Roon to come out with RoonSpeakers and headless Linux builds, which might expand the range of music servers I am interested in (e.g. TotalDAC).

Sure, you should always trust your own ears.  There are obviously other digital front ends out there that could be as good as these three or even better.  I guess this would be as good a place as any to explore this and maybe these three servers could serve as some point of reference.  Some have inquired about the Baetis which I know nothing about.  The Antipodes as well although I have read mixed reviews.  If @prot wants to offer up his best solution, this could be a good place.  
 
Nepherte, you're in the unique position to possibly alter the course for many.  If you can port Roon successfully to the TotalDac Server, that becomes a game changer.  That is the main thing that separates it from the other two.  I'm just not sure why this doesn't interest Vincent but it's not just a convenience thing.  More and more people are streaming these days and Tidal via iPeng is simply subpar. 
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 8:23 PM Post #34 of 1,483

romaz

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Interesting. Have you considered trying with some of the battery-powered portable solutions? Not all output USB, but some (eg the phones) do. Maybe pair them with a regen or ipurifier or iusb and we're still looking at much less than some of these.

Yes and no.  The analog section of the Aurender W20 is battery powered (LiPos) which Aurender felt was the way to go with their flagship but this is obviously not a portable unit.  If you have something in mind, let us know.  USB remains the king of compatibility (very few other connections offer up to 4xDSD/DXD) and ubuiquity but it has plenty of downsides also.  There is a strong argument from some that AES/EBU or I2S provides the best potential SQ but few sources have such outputs.  Tweaks like Regen or ipurifier are fine but alone, they're not going to elevate something like an Aries to the status of a CAD CAT.
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 8:38 PM Post #35 of 1,483

romaz

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  Well, I really need to upgrade most of my gears.
 
As for music server, I was waiting for Roy feedback, and based on this I know now that I will not buy the TotalDAC server (due to it's software) and instead It may very well be an Aurender or a CAT, or..... the AK500n (used as a server at home, and as a complete solution when I travel during the WK).  I just hope that when used as a pure seurce (feeding an external DAC, it is a very good music server)
 
As for DAC, it seems that I will get the TotalDAC D1-Dual, but before I want to listen to the CHORD DAVE. After this listening I will decide.  I just hope that the DAVE is not just an imlprovement over the HUGO sound that I find very precice BUT  NON engaging.
 
Also, since I bought +1500 Classical CDs, I now really need a CD player (and SACD).  I am hesitating between either a simple CD player to connect to a TotalDAC DAC (or DAVE), but in this case (for stupid copyright reasons) I can't read SACD, or I will go for a CD player/DAC all in one.  In this case, I am tempted by a TOL unit, that can also serve as a USB DAC:  
- Esoteric K-01x,
- TAD D1000 ,
- Accuphase DP720,
- or the Luxman C-08u,
- or... the tube based E.A.R. Acute 4/DAC 4 CD/SACD Player.  
All having very good reviews & also playing SACD.
I also consider the VITUS SCD-025 mk2, but it does not play SACD, Only RBCD.
 
I just wonder how good is their USB DAC, and.... if I can connect a Headphone to the 2x3pins XLR line out output like we can do with a TotalDAC ?  Has anyone tested this ? 

Bertrand, you need to pay some teenager to rip your collection to a NAS for you.  I have about 1,000 CDs and it took a few weeks but that's what I did and life is so much easier and Roon manages all of it.  If you get the CAD CAT, this is an excellent CD ripper but almost any other computer can do it.  For SACD playback, all TotalDac DACs have the ability to connect via 75 ohm RCA cable to an Oppo BDP-103 (an excellent SACD player and not very expensive) and allows full resolution playback of all your SACDs and CDs through the TotalDac.  Here's more information:
 
http://www.totaldac.com/principles.htm
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 8:45 PM Post #36 of 1,483

romaz

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  By the way, I just ordered a HE1000 (finally ! ) and I hope to be able to also get a ENIGMAcoustics Dharma soon to compare to the HE1000 before the HE1000's 7 days evaluation period end.

 
Wow, I didn't see that coming.  I thought for sure you were going electrostatic.  As a former SR-009/BHSE owner, I find so much more options with non-electrostatic gear, not just headphones but also things like "direct to DAC" connectabliity as an example.  
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 9:25 PM Post #37 of 1,483

Jose R

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  Bertrand, you need to pay some teenager to rip your collection to a NAS for you.  I have about 1,000 CDs and it took a few weeks but that's what I did and life is so much easier and Roon manages all of it.  If you get the CAD CAT, this is an excellent CD ripper but almost any other computer can do it.  For SACD playback, all TotalDac DACs have the ability to connect via 75 ohm RCA cable to an Oppo BDP-103 (an excellent SACD player and not very expensive) and allows full resolution playback of all your SACDs and CDs through the TotalDac.  Here's more information:
 
http://www.totaldac.com/principles.htm


75 ohm RCA cannot pass-through DSD. Only PCM.. So, you can't really state full resolution.
 
From the JVB Digital Vanity 103 website:
 
 The Vanity103HD DoP module has selectable SACD playback when in DoP mode. DoP stands for "DSD over PCM" and this method allows to send raw DSD stream in standard 24bit PCM frames at 176.4kHz over SPDIF.

 
Full resolution to me would imply DSD64 (2.8MHz) or DSD128 (5.6MHz) whether pure or via DoP. And this would entail USB or I2S.
 
Maybe I'm wrong, but the above description implies the signal is being converted to PCM, which makes sense, if you are converting the Oppo analog outputs to digital.
 
.
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 9:40 PM Post #38 of 1,483

romaz

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75 ohm RCA cannot pass-through DSD. Only PCM.. So, you can't really state full resolution.
 
From the JVB Digital Vanity 103 website:
 
 
Full resolution to me would imply DSD64 (2.8MHz) or DSD128 (5.6MHz) whether pure or via DoP. And this would entail USB or I2S.
 
Maybe I'm wrong, but the above description implies the signal is being converted to PCM, which makes sense, if you are converting the Oppo analog outputs to digital.
 
.

Very astute, Jose.  I've actually never tried this feature, just read about it, so I'm not commenting from first-hand knoweldge but this is what Vincent says on his website:
 
"Finally it is possible to play SACD discs to a Totaldac DAC.
The Totaldac DAC or reclocker or d1-server truly receives the unprocessed DSD stream coming directly from the SACD.
All totaldac DACs equipped with the DSD option can be connected to this new SACD transport.
A Totaldac reclocker or d1-server between the SACD transport and the Totaldac DAC will lower the jitter again and make an even better sound."

 
The way this is worded suggests to me it is receiving an unprocessed DSD stream and not a PCM stream.  Maybe it's not streaming in real time and the full signal is buffered somehow.  Bertrand, maybe you can interpret the French version for us and see if Vincent meant to say something different.
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 11:00 PM Post #39 of 1,483

djd1122

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  Welcome Marcin.  Yes, after considerable testing, Scott felt JPLAY streaming with JRiver DLNA sounded best and so that is how the CAD CAT comes configured.  Obviously, JPLAY and ROON play together as well.

 
Android BubbleDS Next (on an Android phone or tablet or from a separate control PC running VMware player and Kitkat r2) + MinimServer (for local library.. try running MinimServer on the CAD CAT or a separate control PC.  Which ever sounds best) + JPLAYStreamer might improve the sound quality further than compared to JRiver DLNA + JPLAYStreamer
 
Tidal lossless also works with BubbleDS Next but MinimServer local library sounds better in my system. 
 
Nov 10, 2015 at 11:26 PM Post #40 of 1,483

romaz

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75 ohm RCA cannot pass-through DSD. Only PCM.. So, you can't really state full resolution.
 
From the JVB Digital Vanity 103 website:
 
 
Full resolution to me would imply DSD64 (2.8MHz) or DSD128 (5.6MHz) whether pure or via DoP. And this would entail USB or I2S.
 
Maybe I'm wrong, but the above description implies the signal is being converted to PCM, which makes sense, if you are converting the Oppo analog outputs to digital.
 
.

Ok, I think I know how this works.  Yes, it appears this is a DoP transfer and as we know DoP transfers as 24/176 PCM which is within the bandwidth of 75 ohm RCA.  Whenever I feed a DSD signal to my TotalDac, the Server says DSD but the monoblocs each say 24/176 and so that is the signal the DACs are seeing.  
 
Nov 11, 2015 at 1:33 AM Post #41 of 1,483

romaz

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Android BubbleDS Next (on an Android phone or tablet or from a separate control PC running VMware player and Kitkat r2) + MinimServer (for local library.. try running MinimServer on the CAD CAT or a separate control PC.  Which ever sounds best) + JPLAYStreamer might improve the sound quality further than compared to JRiver DLNA + JPLAYStreamer
 
Tidal lossless also works with BubbleDS Next but MinimServer local library sounds better in my system. 

 
I have BubbleDS Next now.  This is the Android front end recommended for the CAD CAT by Scott Berry and I agree it is excellent.  Before Roon, this is what I was using on my Android tablet along with JRiver DLNA + JPLAYStreamer on the CAT.  Unfortunately, it is not available for iOS.
 
Nov 11, 2015 at 3:19 AM Post #42 of 1,483

romaz

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I'm also tempted to get the HE1000 again, should be a different beast driven directly via the Moon 600i (and TotalDAC). Make sure you get DHC cables for them!

 
Headphones as you know are a very personal thing and so I never try to talk anyone for or against a certain headphone but in this case, Ross, I'm going to make an exception : ).  I have noticed the HE1000 to be a polarizing headphone.  People either really seem to love it or hate it.  This was the case for many of the participants at Tyll's Big Sound 2015.  Upon first listen, it doesn't leave a great impression, pleasant but almost boring.  That was my first impression, at least compared to something with much more presence like the Abyss or with a giant headstage like the HD800.  
 
Everyone also seems to think it sounds the same on any amp and that special amplification isn't necessary but that is the beguiling nature of the HE1000, I find it to be very very picky if you want it to sound exquisitely good. And it is only with time that you appreciate its depths.  No question, it can sound soft, not very dynamic and with too polite of a leading edge and people seem to dismiss it quickly on those terms, especially if they have other headphones on hand.  But live with it exclusively for a while and pair it with the right amp, DAC and source and see how it scales.  
 
This planar headphone absolutely loves current, almost as much as an Abyss or HE6.  Give it what it craves and you'll be rewarded.  It also doesn't like soft amps (like the Moon Neo 430 which I thought was a very poor pairing at Tyll's) but very incisive ones with tight grip like a HeadAmp GS-X Mk2.  With tubes, I believe it sounds better with smaller tubes rather than large ones.  The more commanding the DAC, the better the HE-1000.  It doesn't like smooth buttery DACs like a DCS but very dynamic DACs like a Bricasti M1 or a TotalDAC that can really punch you in the gut.  I have not heard a headphone thus far that can layer detail as well as this one can.  Listen to the harmonics of a guitar being strummed and you'll know what I'm talking about.  The air and space and 3D feel it can generate surpasses any that I've experienced.  From the Bricasti M1 to the TotalDac d1-dual to the d1-monobloc, it has been revealing of the finest details and the most subtle of nuances yet when called upon, it can generate enthralling bass (provided the current is there), convincing midrange and very airy treble.  Is it dead neutral and studio quality?  According to Bob Katz, no, and I would agree, but not so colored to sound unnatural to my ears.  Is it emotive and transportive?  Feed it properly and this is how I would describe it best.  It's one thing to feel like you're there at the studio while the track is being recorded (a very sterile feel) and it's another thing to feel as if you've been transported to the Apollo as Nina Simone comes back to life for one last encore performance.  Lastly, it is also supremely comfortable and non-fatiguing for hours on end both sonically and physically.  It doesn't do everything perfectly and I may get an HD800S as I believe it would complement it well but despite all of my uncertainties about my audio chain, knowing what this headphone is capable of under the right conditions, this is what I'm building everything around.
 
Nov 11, 2015 at 10:34 AM Post #43 of 1,483

preproman

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The Aurender N10 is in "Da House"  Really cool piece of kit I must say.  Sorry to say however, it's going to take me way more than 30 seconds to evaluate the sound quality. 
wink_face.gif

 
So far I love the coolness of it, adding it to my network was easy, the user interface on the iPad is great.  Added my NAS with music folders with ease.  Navigating around the app is easy and cool as well, mounting the internal drives to add music is just a few quick steps.  The only issue I have at this point is my cover art and all the metadata does not show up on the screen from the music files on the NAS.  J. River sees them just fine.  Other than that I'm really enjoying it.  
 
Thanks to @romaz for the tip / info and thanks to Brian from Essential Audio for allowing me to have a home demo of this great product.   
 
I will talk about the sound quality and compare it to J. River later.  Now back to having more fun.
 

 

 

 

 

 
Nov 11, 2015 at 12:34 PM Post #44 of 1,483

romaz

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  The Aurender N10 is in "Da House"  Really cool piece of kit I must say.  Sorry to say however, it's going to take me way more than 30 seconds to evaluate the sound quality. 
wink_face.gif

 
So far I love the coolness of it, adding it to my network was easy, the user interface on the iPad is great.  Added my NAS with music folders with ease.  Navigating around the app is easy and cool as well, mounting the internal drives to add music is just a few quick steps.  The only issue I have at this point is my cover art and all the metadata does not show up on the screen from the music files on the NAS.  J. River sees them just fine.  Other than that I'm really enjoying it.  
 
Thanks to @romaz for the tip / info and thanks to Brian from Essential Audio for allowing me to have a home demo of this great product.   
 
I will talk about the sound quality and compare it to J. River later.  Now back to having more fun.
 

 

 

 

 

Very cool photos.  The N10 and W20 only also come in black while the lesser models are silver only.  Aurender does user experience as good as anyone.  I still like Roon better for a few reasons although Aurender is expected to have Roon soon.  Looking forward very much to your more detailed impressions.
 
Nov 11, 2015 at 3:42 PM Post #45 of 1,483

bmichels

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  .... Aurender is expected to have Roon soon.  

 
Interesting, but are you sure of this ?  where do you get this info ? 
 

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