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Media server vs NAS

SPOautos

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#1
You can skip all this long winded vomit....my question is.....So can I build a fairly quiet raid media server for say $500 (the price of a good capable used nas)?? I can source used stuff like case, etc. May even have a old case laying around. As opposed to snagging a good performing 4k transcoding capable nas.

I didnt want to have a PC in the living room but what I've decided to accomplish has grown so now I'm looking at either a used PC or nas. I've decided to localize all of our home videos (many) and pictures which are scattered across various computers and USB drives. Add all of our DVD's over time. Plus I have TB's of music I can incorporate (the music started it all). THEN I want to run something like Kodi that has a slick looking interface for all of it and a Plex addon for movies. I probably will also run something different for my music.

Looking at a used Qnap ts-453mini with a Celeron J3455 and 4-8gig of ram (listed by plex and reviews as a decent plex server being able to transcode several 4k movies in real time. Has hdmi and a remote. I can install Kodi/Plex from the Qnap app store. Make it have a media center feel. Then I'd probably need to run a virtual PC linux or windows to run a different music manager like JRiver or Emry unless. I can send music to my Yamaha wxc-50 via DLNA.

So can I build a raid media server for say $500 (the price of a good capable nas)?? That would be better than the nas? The nas isnt very powerful so a pretty cheap CPU would be stronger. Like I said I can get used stuff.

If custom, are there things to look for in order to ensure good clear audio via dlna or toslink? (I think dlna can handle 24/196 and optical only 24/96).
 
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SPOautos

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Thread Starter #2
I'm looking at a ugly looking Dell Precision T1700 with Xeon E3-1226 v3 and 8GB ram. It only has 2 hdd bays but I can get two large hdd and run them raid. It only has USB 2.0.....can I add a usb 3.0 card?? Also no hdmi but originally it was sold with a optional video card that has hdmi and can be picked up for like $25. It already has Linux installed on it and comes with a Win 7 certificate

I can get it for $200.
 
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#3
I've been running a similar setup with a Synology NAS for a few years now and it's been really good. I've got no idea what QNAP is like in terms of interface, but I've been connecting my Syno directly to my DAC by USB and streaming from there (it has an android app for controlling playback). I'd say it's definitely quiet enough for living room use and I never really noticed it even when new, but it's not totally silent because of the HDDs and fan. If you used SSDs instead of HDDs it would be a lot quieter but waaaay more expensive! You'll ultimately be limited to the number of bays and whatever the largest size of disk it supports is, although you can probably plug in extra USB disks (bear in mind though that putting USB disks in RAID is possible but could be problematic and is likely to result in a performance hit).

The advantage of the PC server over this would be extensibility and flexibility - you can add more disk space over time if you buy a different case and transplant the components, or as you suggest add a USB disk (if you're just streaming individual music/video files from it USB 2.0 is fine). The disadvantage is that it will be significantly louder - it's a much more powerful computer, and more power = more heat = more fans needed = more noise. Unless you buy some decent low noise fans and CPU cooler you're going to notice it in your living room.

The third option is to keep the server/NAS elsewhere (i.e. where noise isn't an issue) and get something like a Raspberry Pi and use that as a streamer. You can then stream music/video over the network via ethernet/WiFi to the Pi, and run Kodi/Plex/whatever on there. Output could be USB to your DAC, and it'd be totally silent as passive cooling should be sufficient to keep it cool.
 
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SPOautos

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Thread Starter #4
I've been running a similar setup with a Synology NAS for a few years now and it's been really good. I've got no idea what QNAP is like in terms of interface, but I've been connecting my Syno directly to my DAC by USB and streaming from there (it has an android app for controlling playback). I'd say it's definitely quiet enough for living room use and I never really noticed it even when new, but it's not totally silent because of the HDDs and fan. If you used SSDs instead of HDDs it would be a lot quieter but waaaay more expensive! You'll ultimately be limited to the number of bays and whatever the largest size of disk it supports is, although you can probably plug in extra USB disks (bear in mind though that putting USB disks in RAID is possible but could be problematic and is likely to result in a performance hit).

The advantage of the PC server over this would be extensibility and flexibility - you can add more disk space over time if you buy a different case and transplant the components, or as you suggest add a USB disk (if you're just streaming individual music/video files from it USB 2.0 is fine). The disadvantage is that it will be significantly louder - it's a much more powerful computer, and more power = more heat = more fans needed = more noise. Unless you buy some decent low noise fans and CPU cooler you're going to notice it in your living room.

The third option is to keep the server/NAS elsewhere (i.e. where noise isn't an issue) and get something like a Raspberry Pi and use that as a streamer. You can then stream music/video over the network via ethernet/WiFi to the Pi, and run Kodi/Plex/whatever on there. Output could be USB to your DAC, and it'd be totally silent as passive cooling should be sufficient to keep it cool.
I like the idea of using a qnap nas since I can hdmi it to the TV and use it for movies and such with a remote it comes with. The only somewhat issue is I believe they run a custom OS so I cant just load on anything (say Jriver or Audivarna or whatever), I'm restricted to what apps they have (which qnap has kodi/plex apps)...OR, running through a virtual since the nas can create a virtural PC of win or linux. I'm not sure how that would work out in terms of user experience

The noise of the PC concerns me. The nas I'm looking at is very quiet. I'm sure the PC will be very loud in comparison. I can probably replace the fans with a more quiet cooling. Also, I wish the PC had more bays for hard drives. I'd really prefer 4 so I have room to grow, as you mentioned.

I dont think the RPi4 is very good for transcoding high def video. BUT, a Nvidia Shield can, I thought about getting one of those with a big external drive but decided I need a raid config so with that I may as well just use a nas or PC that can do everything and dlna to my stereo system.
 
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#5
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SPOautos

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Thread Starter #6

somebodyelse

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#7
There's a whole load more about the WD Red issue in this thread - skip to the end if you just want the most recent links. Seagate have something similar, but didn't sell them as suitable for NAS, and the fuss seems to have made them all a little more honest about which drives use SMR and what the implications are.

As for the NAS or PC, there are a number of mini-ITX and micro-ATX boards using the J3455 and successors with passive cooling and HDMI. By the time you've added a PSU, case and memory (and remote?) you're probably close to the Qnap price, with a little more versatility. Which is better is probably a marginal call, depending on your needs. When I next rebuild the box attached to my TV (mythtv and squeezelite) I'll be moving the HDDs to another room - the current one is quiet but I do notice the change in noise floor when it powers down.
 
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#8
Hey folks, I have a closely related question. (Apologies for a threadjack, but it seemed silly to post a new question that was almost the same to this one and clog up the forum.)

I’m also debating NAS versus headless Linux music server. In my case, whichever way I go it will be used exclusively for music playback, no video or other file storage. I will host 1-2 Tb of my own music which I’ll want to stream using UPnP to 3 different renderers on my home network. I will also run BubbleUPnP Server and use it to stream Qobuz to my renderers. I will not use USB to connect a DAC. All connectivity will be via Ethernet. In both cases I’ll use an SSD to store my music (in the case of a Linux server, I’d use a separate SSD for my OS.)

Any thoughts on which is likely to produce better quality streams and offer better stability for 24/7 operation? I’m expecting to spend $500-1000 either way.
 

somebodyelse

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#12
Any thoughts on which is likely to produce better quality streams and offer better stability for 24/7 operation? I’m expecting to spend $500-1000 either way.
The answer depends on the specifics of the NAS or music server, not whether or not it's a NAS. Both are viable options, assuming the NAS in question is capable of running the music server software you want to use. Making your own is more versatile, but easier to screw up.
 
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#13
I suggest you take a look at Intel NUC. I have one for my music and Roon but thinking of adding Plex for photos and video.
Thanks, will do! I see that quietpc is selling a [email protected] sexy looking “ultraNUC” in an Akasa case, definitely adding to the short list.

The answer depends on the specifics of the NAS or music server, not whether or not it's a NAS. Both are viable options, assuming the NAS in question is capable of running the music server software you want to use. Making your own is more versatile, but easier to screw up.
That makes sense. I suppose the difference is really just software! For my UPnP AV server, I really like the look of Asset UPnP, along with the fact that it has a control panel that is accessible via http, but I’ll likely compare it to minimserver just to make sure I’m not giving up performance. I’ll also run BubbleUPnP Server for Qobuz streaming. All of these appear to be available for both QN and Synology, along with various Linux distros like Debian/Ubuntu.

I definitely want it to be a fanless design. Also, I’ve read on CA that for a music server it’s strongly recommended that the OS be on a different drive than the music (am I correct in thinking that prebuilt NAS like QNAP and Synology have some flash memory somewhere containing the OS?) which seems like a sound recommendation, if only to preserve the longevity of the drive storing the music. As for the processor and memory, I’m having a hard time sorting out which of the recommendations I’ve read are audiophile overkill myth (Core i7 quad core processor, 16+ GB ECC memory?) versus which are sound practice to ensure no latency (real-time Linux kernel?) and finally which recommendations may be sound for bit perfect low-jitter music playback over USB but are irrelevant for UPnP streaming (external LPSU?)

If I go with pre-built NAS, which is the direction I’m leaning since above all I want reliability and I don’t really know a lot about configuring Linux, it looks like QNAP HS-453DX is the way to go. However, for the same money it looks like a can get a more performance from a fanless build from QuitPC or Compulab, plus I’m reading that the fanless QNAP runs hot.
 
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somebodyelse

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#14
Fanless limits your options a lot. If you have to have it in your listening area it makes sense, but if it's just a network server that you could put somewhere less noise sensitive then you can widen your options and probably reduce your costs for equivalent performance. I assume you're also going SSD-only too, to avoid HDD noise. Fanless is usually synonymous with running hotter and/or much higher prices for a given system spec.

UPnP/DLNA is a minefield I've opted to avoid for anything that matters. I'll leave suggestions on that front to others and stick to LMS (which can do UPnP/DLNA...)

If you don't know much about configuring linux and don't want to do a lot of learning then stick with a NAS, or one of the NAS-style or music server OS versions. This should avoid most of the major foot-gun opportunities. If you want a major learning experience with maximum flexibility and opportunity for mistakes then roll your own with Gentoo.

Putting the OS on a different drive depends somewhat on how the system's put together. I don't see a longevity issue unless you've got a configuration problem like excessive logging or swap use. If you're using RAID and a filesystem with snapshotting and file integrity checks (btrfs, zfs or similar) it's arguably more reliable to have the OS on the RAID not on a separate drive. If you're using one of these filesystems then ECC may be worth considering too, but if you aren't then you probably shouldn't bother. As I understand it a bit flip is more likely on the drive than in memory, and if the filesystem can't detect the bit flip on the drive then you're wasting your money detecting the ones in memory. Someone with experience in enterprise storage may correct me, and be able to point to statistical calculations behind it.

You shouldn't need much memory for reliable audio streaming if it's only an audio server. I can only think of a couple of reasons you might need it - certain filesystem options such as deduplication, and compiling software if you're customising heavily or went with Gentoo.

For CPU again you probably don't need much for streaming, but there are some reasons that you might. If you're doing transcoding or DSP on the server you may need a faster CPU. I gather transcoding DSD to PCM can cause heavy cpu load. More simultaneous streams means more CPU usage.

For reference I'm running LMS and a bunch of other stuff on a J1900 with 4GB and an HDD, and even when Gentoo is compiling I haven't had audio streaming problems. It rarely needs to transcode, and isn't running any local DSP though. PSU is a 60W 12V brick feeding an internal DC-DC board.
 
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#16
@somebodyelse Thanks for all of this great info. Extremely helpful.

yes, fanless is very important to me. I don’t have a place to put the computer that is isolated from a location where I listen to music. Currently I’m using a Mac Mini with an external RAID, and the fan plus sound of rotating disks drives my nuts. I understand that there is a lot of extra expense associated with a fanless case and SSDs, but it’s worth it to me. I am concerned, however, about the heat.
Gentoo is probably a bridge too far, but I’m trying to do my research on how to configure Ubuntu. I have a copy of VMWare Fusion Pro for my Mac, so, I’m creating some VMs to mess around with. However, I’m fairly sure that the installation procedures are different on a VM being spun up in VMWare versus bare metal. I guess I just to find a clear, detailed step by step tutorial for installing an OS on a clean build. (I’m sure one exists.)

if I opt for one of the music server OS versions, is there one you’d recommend specifically for streaming?
 

somebodyelse

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#17
Given the limitation on location I'd be going fanless/ssd too. Heat is a good reason not to overspecify the cpu, memory etc. There are some very hifi-looking fanless cases around if that's a consideration - Streacom spring to mind but there are others. The bigger ones can keep a fairly powerful cpu cool, but probably push the limits of your budget. Power supplies start at the 90W PicoPSU end and go up.

There's not a lot of difference between the installation process on hardware and a VM. I guess the main thing is sticking the installer image on a USB stick instead of just pointing to the file, and perhaps having to hit the right keys to boot from it. There used to be some tricky bits around Secure Boot, but I think even those are sorted in the recent versions.

The only music server one I've any experience with is Daphile, and it does what it does very well, including being a player. It uses LogitechMediaServer so might not be what you're after, although I think it does a fair job of UPnP interoperability if you enable the plugins. What it doesn't do (and that may apply to the others too) is more hardcore NAS functionality like RAID management. If you're keeping good backups this needn't be a problem. I had a brief look at VortexBox but wasn't sure of its development status so didn't try it.

If you want a cheap way to try things and make mistakes then get a thin client off ebay. You'll need to do a little research for quirks, and maybe whether you can mount drives internally - somewhere like https://www.parkytowers.me.uk/thin/ - and make sure it's not _too_ underpowered! Add a USB SSD (or an internal one if it'll take it) and you can get a better idea of what you really need without spending much. I found a Wyse R90L for ~£15 - 1.5GHz Sempron, 2GB RAM, 2GB flash drive and room inside for a SATA or perhaps NVMe flash drive - Daphile installs on the small flash drive and uses the big one for music storage. Other linux varieties work too. If it turns out to be a bit underpowered for your needs, or you decide you need the NAS features, then you've learned without spending much.
 
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#18
I just bought a Synology DS720+ and added 16GB ram and 250GB ssd cache. I found Roon run very smoothly on it and can upsampling DSD256 at about 50% CPU usage.
 
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#19
Ok, OS/software-wise I think I’m going to go with OpenMediaVault and ran the machine as a NAS. Several reports indicate it is compatible with both Asset UPnP and BubbleUPnP Server. Posters experienced a few quirks setting it up but there are enough suggestions for how to resolve them that I think I can figure it out. (Plus, I can do a dry run on a VM with VMWare.) I don’t need full RAID support at this time (I’ll keep the Mac Mini around and use it for general data backups), but I’d like to be able to use rsync to update the music library, which I think rules out Volumio and Daphile (please someone tell me if I’m wrong about that). And down the road I may dec

I still haven’t settled on the hardware. Those Streacom cases are gorgeous, as are some of the Akasa cases, but as I priced out my builds on quietpc, totallysilentpc, and a few others, I can’t seem to keep costs under control — or really any build that’s based on a recent gen core i processor. The one exception is using a thin mini-ITX board inside of an Akasa Euler S case, but that case appears to support a single 2.5in drive with no leftover space for an m.2, which doesn’t work for me.) Similarly, a NUC inside a fanless case would probably take me to right around 1000 when I get done adding RAM and storage, which is in budget but barely.

@yejun thanks for the data point. While that NAS fanless, it’s great to know that you’re able to easily upsample DSD256 using a J4125 processor with 16GB RAM. On a routine basis upsampling is the only DSP I’m likely to do (though it’s hard to say that’ll always be the case).

I’ve seen quite a few fanless mini PCs using Celeron J41xx and N41xx processors for under $200-300 depending on RAM, so there are some low cost options if those processors suffice, which it sounds like they will. After adding storage, I’ve saved ~500 compared to the lowest cost recent gen core i options in fanless cases with same RAM and storage. Finally, I’m looking into whether an Odroid H2+ SBC would work for this purpose. I believe it also uses a J4125. But although the SBC is fanless, all of the cases I see for it contain fans, which makes me wonder.

I’ll keep you posted. Thank you all for the information and suggestions.
 

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