n-Serve; image retrieval & tagging

Hi, It’s a bit strange that you are getting so many rips with no artwork showing, although the occasional one is not unusual. Usually obscure albums tend to get the wrong artwork rather than none at all as long as the internet connection is working properly. A few issues to be aware of:

There can be a short delay before a ripped CD becomes fully visible with all metadata and artwork displayed. If you rip one CD after the next, a queue can build up as they are processed one at a time. If you save the rips as FLAC, which I would strongly recommend, this delay is longer. Wait until the process is complete before you start checking and editing any metadata.

Editing metadata is very quick and easy, and I find that using the N-Serve app on my iPhone is as easy ans any of the desktop alternatives. Obviously it’s good practice to look over each ripped album, and it only takes a few seconds to correct any editable fields, which include album, artist, track, genre and artwork.
There are other visible metadata fields if this info is provided by the online lookup, including composer, conductor, performer (which are searchable, but strangely, not editable) and any other field that might be found such as vocalist, performer, producer, bass player, etc. etc. Unfortunately this can be a long, and not always meaningful list.

If you can’t arrange things to your satisfaction an alternative is to use a third party metadata editor. To do this you MUST make a copy of the album, edit it, and put it in the Unitiserve Downloads folder, and you will then want to delete the original from the Music folder.

When an online lookup is performed you cannot choose which service the Unitiserve uses, but if it gets no results from one, it automatically goes to the next provider. You can’t alter the provider yourself but this shouldn’t matter as it will try all providers itself automatically.

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Hello Chris - thanks for your reply. It does indeed take a few minutes for a rip to be encoded to Flac, and I’ve discovered that this can be tracked using the Maintenance / Encoding Monitor utility.

The CD and metadata recognition is a bit odd;

  • Montaigne, Leo and ezz-thetics CDs are not recognised at all, and are ejected. (This is a bit annoying, as I have about 150 Montaigne CDs, including the complete Arditti Quartet series - I’ll have to rip these separately and put these in the ‘Downloads’ section, as you have indicated).
  • Braxton House CDs will be ripped, but linked to entirely the wrong metadata - so all data needs to be overwritten after rip & encoding
  • BIS CDs are partially recognised, with inconsistent metadata between discs in the same box-set (e.g. Carl Axel Dominique’s recordings of Messiaen’s piano music), and some discs not recognised at all
  • Impulse CDs are generally recognised correctly, but not Coltrane’s ‘One Down, One Up’, which is rejected. However, A Love Supreme did come with artwork - the only one so far!
  • Only the most basic metadata fields are available. I’ll see if this changes when I get into the core classical material.

I guess this is one way of rediscovering your CD collection! The good thing is that the Naim Unitiserve / DAC V-1 / NAP100 stack is very good to listen to, and that the idea of having one source for most of my music collection remains viable, even if the tagging will be more laborious than I’d anticipated. I guess that streaming subscriptions have largely overtaken the idea of having your own collection digitised.

Given the large number of rogue CDs you have, I wonder if a different ripper would give you better results. I used to find that iTunes was as good as any when my US struggled, or you could try DBpoweramp.

I do wonder if the quality of these online databases will decline as both CD and local music storage decline in favour of streaming subscriptions. You may just have to accept that checking and editing tags yourself is going to be a little more time consuming than you had hoped. Ultimately there’s no escaping the fact that this curation of your collection will, in the long term, make browsing your collection easier, so perhaps it is time well spent, albeit rather boring.

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That’s probably a good future overview living with the U-Serve, Chris.

Those of us still living with the U-Serve will surely soon need to assess our options for replacing it, but it’s also nice to hear that DJH is enjoying it with his two other boxes. Despite its technological age, it still delivers on the music front.

My Unitiserve still works well, although I don’t often rip CDs these days.
My backup NAS has a UPnP server running on it, so I already have an alternative running in case the US dies. With a 2nd gen streamer there’s also the option to connect a USB drive and use the built in server, so I think I have it covered. Whether I would spend cash on an Audiophile grade server to replace the US, I’m not sure. I would certainly need to be thorough convinced by a demo before parting with any cash.
Slightly different for the OP as he uses the US as an SPDIF transport.

@DJH you might want to look at this and keep an eye on what transpires.

Another issue is the failure of n-serve to handle compilations correctly.

These are sometimes ripped with each track as a separate album, in which case I create a playlist.

However n-serve does not allow for an album to have tracks by different artists. For example ‘Azure Ellington Blue Note Plays Duke’ rips as a single cd, and the 15 different artists cannot be entered separately (you have to use something like ‘various’) and are thus lost, short of checking online each time you play the disc.

Unitiserve/n-serve was always like this and I doubt that Naim will want to invest to fix that now.

A work-around is to copy the files concerned into the US downloads folder and then sort it out with a metadata editor. You obviously would use n-serve to delete the original rip after you have copied it across.

As someone who gave up on their UnitiServe back in about 2015 . . . there will be no end to the self-flagellation for so long as you use it.

There are so many other options in 2023 for an in-home music server. IMHO there really aren’t too many worse choices than the UnitiServe if you want it to do things like grab metadata and album art from an online lookup, manage compilations, and other metadata-intensive tasks.

My best advice is to simplify what you use the uServe for. As already stated in the thread, copy rips you make over to a laptop, add/edit metadata and images yourself with something like dbPoweramp, and then copy the files back to the uServe into the Downloads folder. If you do this, it’ll work pretty well as a music server unless/until the hardware gives up.

Naim has abandoned the 1st gen digital devices and, sadly, is not supporting any future software/firmware updates (eg metadata databases, SMB protocols, etc).

I think that is wrong actually.

The specific issue of SMB1 version required by Unitiserve and HDX is not something Naim can do anything about as Microsoft never patched Windows XP to use SMB2 or 3 and Windows XP is long out of support by Microsoft now. You cannot expect Naim to rewrite a licensed Microsoft Operating System.

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I thought about that but I have a lot of compilations. Easier now to try and find them on Tidal.

I do not know N-Serve as this is an apple-free household, but did you ever try the Desktop Client? It makes editing relatively easy.

Thanks again for everyone’s input.

I think the best solution is, as suggested above, to rip my CDs using a separate process (I’ll probably use Rogue Amoeba’s Fission to tag the files, as this is what I use to edit other recordings), and to load these separately into the Unitiserve’s ‘downloads’ folder, with a backup held elsewhere. Given that this is a 7+ year old device, where most of the functionality still works fine, I’m OK with that. (In fact, I think the US/DAC V-1/NAP100 stack is a real bargain at current secondhand prices). Software isn’t generally supported for an indefinite period of time, and there might be more risk than benefit if changes were made to the n-Serve app now.

Having said that, I do think that there is a problem with some of the metadata databases (as mentioned in davidhendon’s post above), and it would be good to see if something can be fixed here.

Do yourself a favour and compare the rips before you do too many. I had my entire collection ripped with a PC, the rips of Unitiserve were so much better I did the whole excercise again.

@DJH Naim did find a problem with MusicBrainz metadata lookup and it is part fixed. They are still working on the issue. See the other thread I pointed you to.

Thank you David for following up on this. I did notice some improvement in the ripping capability, and wondered if something was being fixed in the background. Regrettably, my Untitiserve began to behave erratically and ended up not being able to boot up, so I am in the process of returning it to the seller for a refund. It did work well initially with the DAC V-1 & NAP100, and I’m thinking about what might replace it - perhaps a Mac mini/NAS/Roon approach might work, or perhaps another dedicated music server?

Well I’m sorry but I don’t really know about alternatives. Except that if you need help with a UnitiCore, then don’t hesitate to @ me.

your money is best spent on PC or servers from the likes of HP (microserver) If you dont mind getting your fingers a bit dirty. NAS’s are typically way under specced for the price.

I personally wouldn’t spend money on hifi company servers. But thats my personal opinion.

If you want something that works out of the box my choice would be an Innuos Zen Mini which is hugely more versatile than any Naim server. It’s a similar size to the Unitiserve so might be a good physical fit.
A headless Mac Mini, Intel Nuc or similar could be another good option if you are prepared to set things up yourself.