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REVIEW: Comparison of 5 High End Digital Music Servers - Aurender N10, CAD CAT server, TotalDac d1-Server, Auralic Aries, Audiophile Vortex Box

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by romaz, Nov 9, 2015.
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  1. austinpop
    onsionsi likes this.
  2. Ben88
    Thank you , austinpop
  3. yellowblue
    After 100 hours continuous burning in the Innuos Zenith II SE I want to leave my first report. After the 80 hours mark the Zenith began to open up sonically - sounding more transparent and giving more sparkle than before.

    The first thing that has been very evident is the absence of digital glare in the treble region and harshness in the midths compared to my "Silent PC" with AO and MCRU power supply plus my MicroRendu 1.4 that I had before (I actually had to adopt to it because sometimes digital glare can give you the illusion of a clear treble - somebody understanding what i mean?). Next best thing is the much better layering of the music combined with a wider and much more accurate soundstage. At the same time the quantity and quality of bass increased wheras the midths sound much more relaxed and soulful. The first time I really enjoy my Alnico compact monitors which I always found sounding shouty in my old setup.

    I don´t know how meaningsful it is to describe the sound of a product that not longer is available for order. Therefore i want to emphasize how easy it is to install an Innous server. It took me two minutes including installing Roon. It is almost just plug and play, ripped CDs integrates automatically in your Roon-folders. Never more do I need to stop 25 services manually in the task manager of Win10 after starting AO. No more automatic Windows updates that could destroy an evening that was reserved for hearing music.

    By the way - I am using an Audeze DSP-plugin in Roon which works without problems on the Zenith SE. That makes my Audeze I4 headphones sounding wonderful (I sold my Utopia and never looked back). Someone more enjoying the I4 with the Chord DAVE?

    Here is my chain: Supra AC Blocker, Plixir BAC400 (balanced power): Aqvox Switch (with LPS-1) > Sablon CAT cable > Innuos Zenith MKII SE > Curious USB > tx-USBUltra (with LPS-1.2) fed by Cybershaft clock OT13 > Curious link USB > Chord Dave > Alnico CAM, Hifiman HE-1000 V1 (modded), Audeze I4
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2018
    onsionsi, romaz and Articnoise like this.
  4. Malcyg
    You’ve headed down a similar route to me it seems, albeit I’m pumping files into a BluDave and use speakers primarily, as well as HE-1000 V2, in my main system. I’ve had my Zenith SE for 8 months now so I reckon it is probably ‘burnt in’! I’d agree with most of your comments and, for me, the SE is definitely my long term server solution and, like my BluDave, I’ll be keeping it until it breaks. I’d hope that Innuos may come out with something else before long - probably something between the Mk II and the SE and maybe even something that’s better than the SE. The SE did well and sold out fairly quickly for them.

    The downside? Well, I got the SE for a number of reasons, one of which was that I really didn’t want to go down the ‘little black box’ solution that many folk were using, including myself - or at least, I was headed that way. However, like you, I found that the SE benefitted from a tX-U at the end and now, with the sCLK-OCX10 and a sPS500 to power it, I am back with 3 blasted little black boxes - a ‘Trifecta’ no less!

    Ah well, at least my journey is over. And I am not encouraging you to try the Master Clock at all. :wink:
  5. yellowblue
    The only upgrade I am planning for the future is a less expensive M-Scaler which I hope comes pretty soon. I don´t want to encourage Chord solely to continue with the exclusive Blu2 (with a CD-player I don´t need). Also the sCLK-OCX10 plus powersupply is too expensive for me just now. Even upgrading to the Aqvox SE version is not likely an option for now because I don´t know the benefit of it just with the Zenith SE which has its own Ethernet optimization. I have no problems to pretend that the system I own is the best sounding I can wish - until Chord or someone else comes with something really attractive and affordable.
  6. TheAttorney
    Yes, I'm still torn between the simplicity of a single box solution and the seeming inevitability of me never being able to stop tinkering with my hifi setup.

    I see that the UK dealer price of Mutec Ref10 (£3,195) and SOtM OCX10 (£3,099) are pretty closely matched (shame, as I was hoping SOtM would undercut the Mutec, considering the much lower base costs in Asia). As the Mutec has a built-in power supply and double the clock outputs, the SOtM would need to outperform the Mutec to justify its higher price. I'm hoping someone at CA will do a direct comparison soon :).

    If Paul Hynes sticks to his more realistic production schedule (and I'm not holding my breath), I should be getting my SR7 within about 1 week. After a whole year waiting, I've almost forgotten why I ordered it in the first place. But I may as well see how it performs with my mR V1.4 and ISORegen - the result of which will help determine how key the SR7 is going to be for my end game server package.
    romaz likes this.
  7. motberg
    well said !
  8. astrostar59
    I am on the fence with a new server. In my research and server try outs / demo's, the biggest sound quality hike I have experienced was dropping USB and using Ethernet with a Rednet 3, on my own humble Mac Mini with LPS and up tone audio 12v conversion. I think the results are system dependent. IMO if a DAC has a well designed SPDIF input that seems to beat any USB inputs I have tried. For example I had the CH Precision C1 on a day demo at home, and it was better on it's Ethernet input than USB.

    With USB I am told it is a 2 way communication, so even if we send Asyncronious is creates it's own jitter. Then the well known noise issue sent via USB. I note Steve Nugent of Emperical Audio and all his superb USB add-on devices, is now saying Ethernet is the way, and in his words, he has 'hit the wall' with USB and it's limitations.

    So if I look for a music server I would probably want Ethernet input and i2S output. I believe that is the best way forward. Better still, have a DAC with an Ethernet renderer built in, with clocks close to the digital board.

    But I am only an audiophile so don't profess to know the technicalities, and YMMV.
  9. Whazzzup
    I think it can also depend on the preferred interface of dac and server. In my case Chord TT usb HD port is galvanized and preferred. Antipodes audio also prefers usb connection. The quality seems very good no jitter, no boxes, no ferriets needed. Course I am far from an engineer nor schooled on the subject or what will be important years from now.
    I don't care I'm close to end game for me, just waiting for my latest ds core upgrade.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
  10. astrostar59
    I am wondering if preferred USB to many manufacturers is partly the ability to handle any data rate, and DSD as either true DSD or on-board conversion to PCM inside the DAC? SPDIF has limitations of 192k of course. I still have to hear any USB input that sounds best in my setup. But I am prepared to accept it if it does prove to be the case. The big deal with computer audio is noise and jitter. To avoid that we either use a PC or Mac modded to reduce the inherent noise in the source (at the source) and / or we look to reduce it in the transfer using any of the latest gizmos' and decrapifiers. Then we can look to reclock that data on route to then present it to the DAC input as lowest jitter, lowest noise possible.

    I haven't tried an Aurender or similar server yet, but can appreciate it will be very good. My concern with that sort of product is the closed system of it, and the fact it may go out of date or stop talking to various streaming services etc. I feel £5K or whatever is a lot to invest in a moving target product. My Mac Mini system cost me £1700 inc the Uptone audio mod to 12V DC and the Linear PS, that I also use to power my ex drive and the Rednet 3 Ethernet bridge with new internal LPS fitted. I can tweak and adapt / upgrade this myself, choose my player software ect. And when I visit my parents I take it with me and do work on it as well. Suits my situation.
  11. Whazzzup
    By utilizing a quality server with roon core network and ssd drives and proprietary tech such as antipodes audio, you have an all in one solution. Not saying it’s the best, but why boxes, computers, and really consider the software and network platform. A quality Linux based network utilizing roon core is really easy to operate and consistent.
  12. Pappadave
    I have just got my SE and plugged it into BluDave. As expected, it does sounds great. I wonder, however, what app/settings are people using to operate it? I am a Roon user and running Roon off my NAS server via Zenith is easy. However, I can’t figure out what is the best way to switch between the services (Qobuz, Tidal) - NAS server - Zenith internal HD (bar changing settings and switching apps). Any words of wisdom on that?
  13. Malcyg
    If you run the Zenith as Roon core, then that”s all you can do unless you switch out of Roon mode. I use mine in Roon mode only - you can access Tidal within Roon as well as access files held on either of the SE internal drive or your server. So you’re only missing Qobuz - do you need that if you have Tidal? I used Qobuz but switched to Tidal when I adopted Roon.

    If you do want to access Qobuz, you will need to switch out of Roon mode in the SE settings and you can then access all other functionality using their web based app.
  14. Pappadave
    Thank you, Malcyg. I can live without Qobuz but I am trying to figure out a way to access Zenith HD without installing Roon core on it.
  15. Malcyg
    Ah, ok. Are you running Roon in your server and using the SE as a Roon player? I would suggest that you will get much better sound quality by running the SE as Roon core with direct usb output into your DAC. You do not need to ‘install’ Roon, you just select Roon Core mode in the Server Integration settings. I think Roon is pre-installed and you just need to enable it - can’t fully remember now as it is 8 months ago since I went through all of this, but it is very simple to set and unset as Roon Core with a simple click selection being all that is required.

    The Zenith SE is quite expensive just to use as a Roon player and a source of additional storage and I’m not sure that you will be making the most of it if that’s how you plan to use it imo. There’s no harm in trying both methods and seeing what you think anyway.

    You can do it the way that you want, you just need to add the SE drive in Roon - Settings/Storage/Add folder.

    Maybe PM me on how you’re running things rather than disrupt this thread any further?
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2018
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