Dedicated music servers vs NAS

Hi all,

Currently I have a single bay Synology NAS DS118. I have bought it because heard that my laptop could generate nasty noises in my small audio network. Later I added a Sbooster LPS for this NAS and yes sound was altered in a positive direction but only to a small extent.
This is where audio music servers (Core, Melco, Innuos ect.) come into play. Personally, I never heard one so far and I am just wondering if it is worth dealing with the idea.
What could we expect in terms of purely sound quality when changing an IT NAS (Synology in my case) for a sophisticated audio NAS ? Since these audio file servers/libraries’ prices are usually high they should provide quality leap in SQ. But many say not worth investing in such a unit because SQ improvement is relatively small/incremental and money better spent on changig boxes/loudspeakers.
What is your experience ?
I have an NDS. Pls recommend me some models to take into account to try out.
Any advice/opinion welcomed.
Thx in advance.

I once owned a UnitiServe; the predecessor to the Core. I used a Synology as backup. As an experiment I loaded MinimServer on the Synology and tried streaming direct from that. To my surprise I preferred the Synology so I sold the Serve. The ripper/servers’ ace is their convenience. If you are happy with the Synology and using your computer to rip then I’d stick with it. Presumably you are running Asset or Minim and are transcoding to WAV for best sound quality with your NDS and that you have both the NDS and nas connected via a switch.

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Does transcoding to wav on the NAS really make much difference to the sound compared with letting the streamer (ND5XS2 in my case) handle the conversion? I’m running minimserver on a QNAP NAS. Files on the NAS are all flac

I understand that it’s less significant on the new platform but with the legacy streamers such as the 272 and NDS it is a very audible improvement. It’s always worth trying anyway.

OK I’ll give it a bash and see what difference if any it makes

I used a Qnap NAS for some years to feed my NDS; first I used Twonky then Asset. Last year I bought a music server after listening to examples from Naim (a Core), Moon and Innuous. In the end I went for a server from the Audiostore, as I considered it offered value for money (you can use Minimserver or Roon).
I noticed an immediate improvement in SQ in terms of clarity; but it also gave me access to Roon, plus ripping capabilities. Thus the server replaced my ageing laptop too.
I now use my NAS as a backup to my Audiostore server.

Thanks replies posted so far.
Yes I have a small audio network consists of a Lynksys router a 8 port CIsco switch and a Synology Nas. All of these LPS-ed wich caused minor chnge in SQ for better. All cables are Meicord. My Nas has Asset installed on it and feeds my NDS by transcoding flac to wav. Tried to play flac files without transcoding but transcoded wav somehow sounds a bit better to these ears.

Well it doesn’t sound any worse but I’m not convinced it sounds any/much better. No harm in leaving it switched on for now I guess.

I use my NAS for audio using BubbleUPnP and Asset but it’s purely a backup so I can get my library out of the house. I use Roon so have a dedicated fanless pc using their OS called ROCK and this is my primary music server it’s all it does. I added an LPS but really can’t say it added much at all. I have used many different units as servers and can’t say I noticed any difference in any of them other than speed of browsing also tried Nas with my Naim and can’t say it sounded any different either.

Never been inclined to buy a purpose built audio server as there is absolutely nothing wrong with what I hear now and they tend to be vastly overpriced for what they are. I see the appeal of them as they are generally plug and play. I would look as AudioStore they are generally well built , have good operating system that’s easy to use and have local UK support and not silly money.

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I have NDS+555PS+ 282+SCAP+NAP250 + Spendor D7 (first generation).
All PS + NAP 250 DR-ed. Full loom Lumina cable.

I would always chose a NAS from Qnap as I find their hardware and software superb.

I started off by ripping all CDs to WAV on my UnitiServe. As I began to run short on space I converted them all to FLAC. I have compared both and I genuinely cannot tell the difference. Some say they can, and who am I to dispute their claims.

I started with a UnitiServe, but like @hungryhalibut tried out MinimServer on the nas I was using for backup and found it in my case no better or worse than the UServe.

I know people whose musical judgment I trust very well who absolutely insist that a Core sounds better to them than anything else including Melco. Others say the opposite. There is no consensus. I’m now using a Roon Nucleus; it sounds fine to us, and we enjoy the Roon UI. I still have the nas box running and when I use that, it sounds fine to me.

My experience is so similar that I can pretty much copy and paste:

I once owned an HDX, which was a bigger version of the UnitiServe; the predecessor to the Core. I used a QNAP as backup. As an experiment I loaded MinimServer on the QNAP and tried streaming direct from that. To my surprise I preferred the QNAP so I sold the HDX.

I now steer away from proprietary, non user serviceable equipment. I want DIY disaster recovery, a server tweaked to do exactly what I want, how I want it done and open ended scalability and redundancy. Naim rippers can’t even tag WAV files properly. Many downloads have poor tags. Again, I prefer to do them myself. Then I know they are correct.

If the network and NAS is properly set up it will take a lot of beating. If a proprietary ripper/server/isolator/etc can beat it, there is likely something that needs cleaning up on the network. Audio optimisation is more marketing than engineering, although I will always be open to the possibility that something else might work better. It’s not a priority at the moment for me, given how much I am enjoying my system as it stands. And have been for some time. Maybe if something was niggling at me I would be inclined to look at other options.

The history of audio is arguably largely one of quality versus convenience. The latter mostly wins out except perhaps for audiophiles :slight_smile:

I think what tends to escape some people with a NAS or similar is that digital audio requires a level of knowledge which will simply never exist for the majority and thus convenience, which has also often been associated with lesssr cost, is now a premium item; not least because a genuinely high quality UI is harder to achieve with digital audio and certainly harder to achieve a consensus as to what it looks like.

So, yeah, some of these all in one devices may indeed cost more. They may indeed offer no noticeable increase in sound quality (although many patently do) but the price people are now willing to pay for convenience and a half decent UI has much increased.

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Cheers Harry, you may recall that it was your experience that prompted me to try it. When I started with steaming I didn’t know what Metadata was so when my dealer suggested a UnitiServe I went with that. The most I ripped was 80 in one day. It would have been much more arduous to do it with dBpoweramp. However, eight years later I’m still finding rips with dreadful cover art. The Serve seems particularly inept in that are.

Actually Nigel, I thought it was you who went first. Seems a long time ago but isn’t really.

I used to buy a lot of imported CDs, mainly Japanese, some limited runs. The metadata that the HDX came up with was hilarious. Not the HDX’s fault, but it got me doing tags at an early age. And alerted me to how the Naim rip engine tagged WAVs - or rather how it didn’t!

I’d 2nd that. I used a Qnap NAS for several years (with a Uniti) before my dealer persuaded me to try a Unitiserve. I was skeptical (isn’t it just 0’s and 1’s?), but there was an immediate and not unsubtle improvement. The next change I had was trying some Chord C-Streams - more skepticism, followed by more surprise, and subsequent purchase. My system has evolved a lot over the years since, but I still have my Unitiserve and C-Streams! Your experience may differ, but I’m inclined to go for a dedicated server if you have the opportunity. There are a few to choose from…

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May I ask you if you tried to stream music with JRiver from your computer?

I have a NDX 2 and a Chord C-Stream cable as well. I wonder if you noticed any difference.
As far as I understand, it’s basically a matter of grounding and isolating electrical noise.
However, generally speaking, the result is always system dependant.

What struck me from your original post was that a single bay NAS means you don’t have an automatic back up so I hope you have created at least one one copy somewhere and preferably several. If you upgrade your NAS I would suggest two drives that continuously mirror each other.

Maybe you already do all this, just thought I’d mention it!

Bruce