Saturday, 9 May 2020

MUSINGS: Windows Server 2019 update, RSC performance issues with Aquantia 10GbE AQC107, and expensive audiophile server computers (like the Wolf Audio Alpha 3 SX)...


Hey everyone, as mentioned last time, this past week I've been updating my Server computer (Intel i7-7700K based, 32GB machine) over to Windows Server 2019 Standard. It has been a few years since updating to Server 2016 which was an upgrade from Server 2012 R2 before that and Server 2012 initially installed in 2013! I figure it was about time to back-up all the essential data and totally start fresh. Some of the hard disks are 10 years old (a couple of Western Digital Greens and Red drives) and also on my list to be replaced soon. As you've probably experienced, while Windows has improved significantly, over years of use, it can bog down with inefficiencies from old installs hanging around. While maintaining IT stuff is generally not much fun, like "spring cleaning", it's necessary...

My choice for the Server operating system is due to some work related functions (web serving) I needed for this machine - stability, speed and security are more important than application compatibility. In that regard the Windows Server family has over the years proved to be reliable. For my audio and video server needs, as a platform to run RoonServer and as a fast NAS, the speed is certainly appreciated.

As you've probably seen, over the years, I have been agnostic about operating systems. I've talked about Linux, Mac OS X, and of course Windows in these blog posts with relevant audio measurements as well. Overall, unless you need some specific server feature, I would not suggest that Windows Server has any audiophile significance. Likewise, I do not believe computer software including the OS makes any kind of sonic difference during playback to a good DAC - so long as there are no significant bugs and bit perfect, you can't go wrong.

Over the years, Microsoft I think has done a good job with OS upgrades; this is to be expected with maturity of the product. In fact, the Server 2019 install went completely smoothly. These days, it's efficient to use Rufus to create a bootable USB drive with the OS .iso file as it's much faster than booting off a disk. Since Server 2016, Microsoft has unified the Server and Windows 10 code base and as a result, we can consider this a specialized version of Windows 10. Much of the OS will be completely familiar and it'll feel like a typical Windows 10 machine if you install Server with the "Desktop Experience" option.

While Windows Server 2019 did not present any issue, I did run into a snag with hardware and drivers...

As I posted a couple years back, I've been using 10GbE (10 gigabit/s, 10GBASE-T) networking at home for the "backbone" of the system which runs from my main Server machine to the Workstation.

For some reason, my 10GbE machines were having difficulty connecting to my router for maintenance of settings. Interestingly, send and receive speeds were fine between the devices connected to the same 10GbE switch, but the moment I tried to transfer data between WiFi devices and the Server or access the router for changing configuration, the upload speed from the Server slowed to an unbearable crawl! Not good especially for an audiophile as WiFi Roon Remotes like my Android phone/tablet trying to access RoonServer became unusable. (I don't know why, but the Roon iOS app for the iPad was slower but still usable!)

After hours of trying out different static IP configurations, changing cables on the NETGEAR GS110MX switches, wondering if I had erroneously reconfigured a subnet, it all finally came down to the Aquantia AQtion AQC107 chip-based ASUS XG-C100C ethernet cards!

Basically, I needed to update the firmware on these cards to the latest 3.1.109 found here (or here). For the ASUS card, I needed to edit the updatedate.xml code as discussed here so it's recognized by the flash tool. And then install the newest Windows x64 drivers version 2.1.21.0 from here. Afterwards, the cards worked as expected.

One further wrinkle was that if I went into the ethernet card's Advanced setting in Device Manager, and increased the "Receive Buffers" (max 4096) and "Transmit Buffers" (max 8184) values, upload speed slowed down again to the point where I would run into speed issues even streaming 24/192 FLAC in Roon to my endpoints. To overcome this, I needed to turn "Recv Segment Coalescing (IP4)" to "Disabled" (by default "Enabled"):


Receive Segment Coalescing (RSC, also known as Large Receive Offload or LRO) should reduce risk of CPU saturation with large amounts of data transfer by coalescing up to 64KB blocks instead of the computer dealing with multiple individual 1000-1500 byte packets; a good feature for 10GbE speed servers.

Advanced CPU-offload features like RSC are known to cause issues sometimes so if you ever run into unexplained network problems, it's worth turning these off to debug. Looking into this further, according to this Lenovo tech note: "Starting with Windows 2019, Microsoft is supporting RSC in the OS and performance issues have been seen when RSC is enabled in the OS and in the X722 driver" (the Intel X722 is a 10GbE-capable network card). It looks like this is something we should all keep in mind. My latest Windows 10 update as well seemed to benefit from turning RSC off; I wonder if this is the "new normal" to disable ethernet driver RSC going forward. BTW, one can open a command line prompt and look at Window's settings to see if RSC is enabled with:
     netsh int tcp show global

With this change, the network has been stable and fast since (easily >900MB/s large file transfers across the 10GbE network between SSDs on both ends, low CPU utilization). Hope this may be helpful for those running into issues with Windows Server 2019 and in particular for those with Aquantia AQC107 NICs.

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These days, with "end point" DAC/streamers and Raspberry Pi-like low-power devices being more common, IMO, it's good that we have evolved beyond the point of needing to have laptops, Intel NUCs, Mac Minis and MacBooks in our listening rooms as we might have done a decade back. I would recommend doing whatever is possible to keep more complex devices (like full computers) with fans or spinning drives out of the sound room.

But what about server computers for our music and other media connected to the network from other rooms in the house? Let's just spend a little more time talking about those expensive "audiophile" server computers and being reviewed in the press. Stuff like this recent Stereophile review of the Wolf Audio Systems Alpha 3 SX with trimmings asking for around US$10,000.

First, notice that at least this computer seems reasonably well endowed in terms of speed and features with an Intel i7-8700 hex-core CPU at 4.6GHz, 32GB DDR4 RAM, a 1TB system SSD for the OS/apps, and 2TB SSD for audio files (you can see the specs here). The software is Linux-based which likely can be had for free although companies like these want you to believe their optimizations have resulted in sonic improvements (unless evidence shown, not likely possible). The audio server software in the review machine is JRiver 24 or Roon. It's got a TEAC-based slot load laptop Blu-ray transport for ripping disks.

Suppose we take out much of the audiophile "woo" which I consider a form of "snake oil" anyways (show me evidence that Stillpoint/eXemplar Audio products, or that "Audience copper" make any difference), we can price out a similar system with the same Streacom case - thanks to the comment from JohnG with the link to the product. Furthermore, we can see in the picture on page 2 of the review that it's a mini-ITX motherboard they're using. Let's use prices off Amazon and QuietPC I found this week in US$ and select great branded components for use in our hypothetical build:

1. Intel i7-9700 CPU LGA 1151 300 Series, 65W, 8-cores ($370)
   - Notice I'm recommending an upgraded CPU here. Feel free to underclock this to save electricity and keep the system cooler since in reality music servers don't need much CPU power unless you're doing lots of DSP as discussed previously.

2. Streacom FC10 Alpha Fanless Chassis ($335) (here's a nice review from 2016)
   - mini-ITX/micro-ATX/ATX motherboards supported, can handle up to 95W CPU. Looks like a fine case but since it's passively cooled, make sure plenty of ventilation and reasonably cool ambient temperatures when running!

3. Gigabyte Z390 AORUS Pro WiFi, mini-ITX motherboard ($170)
   - Pretty well top of the line motherboard of this type. We'll need the heat sink riser, add $35 extra. Has WiFi, Intel gigabit ethernet, M.2 connector, Optane ready, a better quality onboard DAC (Realtek ALC1220-VB), and a TosLink S/PDIF audio out like Wolf Audio's.

4. Corsair CMW32GX4M2C3200C16 Vengeance RGB Pro 2x16GB DDR4 3200 RAM ($175)
   - This looks like what Wolf Audio might be using with funky RGB lighting! Remember this is a Linux system which typically needs less RAM than Windows. As just an audio server, 32GB is also overkill and you'd be perfectly fine with 16GB of slightly faster DDR4 3600 like these Corsair Vengeance LPX (2x8GB) sticks at $80 - absolutely no need for pimping the rig with RGB lighting especially since you won't see it inside the case. :-)

5. Streacom ST-ZF240 240W power supply ($150)
   - Streacom's own fanless power supply, >90% efficiency, meant for the FC10 chassis (no ATX motherboards). Should be more than enough power for CPU, motherboard, RAM and storage. Looks like it only has 2 SATA power outs; get a Molex --> SATA cable for $5 since we have 3 SATA devices in this build.

6. 1TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD as system drive ($170)
   - Seriously guys, 1TB for the OS & apps is overkill even if you have a huge Roon library and keep many backups of that! The $90 500GB Samsung 860 EVO would be enough.

7. 2TB Samsung 860 EVO SSD for audio data ($330)
   - This 4TB Samsung 860 QVO SSD looks like a good deal if you want an upgrade in capacity for <US$500.

8. Panasonic UJ-265 Slim 6X Blu-Ray writer SATA 12.7mm slot load drive ($120)
   - I see no indication that a TEAC branded laptop slot drive would be any better. Remember that the main job for this is simply to rip CDs. The Panasonic drive is also a disk writer. Unless you really need a Blu-Ray drive, a cheaper DVD drive like this $45 LiteOn DI-8A4Sh-01 might be fine. Oh yeah, you'll need a Slimline SATA Adaptor for <$10. These days, I don't even have a disk spinner on my server; the point of a server is NOT to spin disks in real-time. Do the ripping with a laptop or on another computer and copy the files to the server.

9. Streacom PCI Express 1X Slot Riser Adapter ($7)
   - Get this if you need to stick some PCI-E cards inside as Wolf Audio did with the "Flux Capacitor".

   - While I don't believe sticking an OCXO clock on a USB card will make any audible difference, let's "drink some Kool-Aid" and say we want one of these as a nod to Wolf Audio...

11. Software: Linux (get Ubuntu 20.04 LTS 64-bit free), JRiver 26 ($60) for DLNA streaming, Roon lifetime license ($700).

Total price even with the "Flux Capacitor" USB card, JRiver 26, and lifetime Roon - <$3500 + tax/shipping.

Notice that I "shopped around" and found that QuietPC has the Streacom case cheaper than on Amazon. Here's the Streacom FC10 case manual. It'll take some time to put together but doesn't look too hard if you're handy with time on your hands (good pandemic isolation project?). You'd be saving more than $5000 for what I believe would be a higher quality machine, plus you'd have the latest JRiver version and a lifetime of Roon!

In these troubled economic times, heck, one could be generous and find a local IT geek, pay the person $1000 and get him/her to assemble the hardware, install the software, and personally make sure it runs well on your local network.

This is not the first time I've talked about expensive "audiophile" servers. We discussed the Melco N1ZS20/2 a few years back. While we can appreciate the extra engineering audio companies put into specialized components like speakers, amps, top-of-the-line DACs, isn't a server computer like this essentially built with off-the-shelf parts with a brand name sticker slapped on the front?

Statements like:
"In my opinion, the OS that runs all the apps is as important as the apps themselves, because how it is run and configured is absolutely critical to good sound. Our extremely low latency WolfOS is absolutely tuned for audio and has a big impact on sound quality."
How in the world is latency linked to "sound quality" for a server machine? Where's the logic? Where's the evidence? Perhaps there's some value in having "support"through the company. Suppose the hardware costs a total of $3500 as above, add $1000 for the company to put this together for us, that's still "just" $4500. If we buy this even at a price of $9000, is "support" worth the other $4500? Where's the added value? Oh yeah... Must be in those hyped Stillpoint standoffs, eXemplar Audio something-or-others, and Audience wires with supposed grounding / RF/EMI rejection / vibration management 'technologies'.

Don't forget that I consider the "Flux Capacitor" USB card a bit of voodoo as well (just like the JCAT USB Femto, and SOtM tX-USBexp). If you have something like a Raspberry Pi streamer or maybe a Roon-ready ethernet endpoint, don't bother with that "Flux Capacitor" USB card and knock $750 off the above price.

While dressing it up as some kind of special "audiophile" device might impress some and this could be of luxury value as a non-utilitarian benefit, remember there is no evidence anyway that modern bit-perfect servers or USB connections make any difference! (For evidence see here and discussions here.) I call BS on Jason Victor Serinus' "Sharpening" golden ears listening skillz... In fact, if the Wolf Audio server actually made an audible difference with the dCS Rossini DAC and EMM Labs DV2 DAC he used, this would suggest that dCS and EMM Labs make bad DACs for being so sensitive to the upstream equipment!

Finally, what to make of John Atkinson's measurements?! As you can see, he had to use the AudioQuest Dragonfly Red DAC (at least he used the best of the Dragonfly DACs) to show the minute squiggles down below -125dB and admitted that a good DAC like the Mytek Brooklyn showed no difference. Isn't that hilarious? Using a $200 headphone USB DAC attached to a $10,000 computer in order to find a J-Test difference down close to the noise level!?

Atkinson then summarizes the measurements with "I have no idea what they mean, especially as they are very small in absolute terms." Come on man. You know exactly what this means. There is absolutely no audible difference. Why so pretentious when we can all see that the emperor is full-frontal stark naked?

Honestly, as one of audiophile's "elder statesmen" who thankfully has held on to the importance of objective testing, why is there even any room here for mystical speculation that these results might suggest anything potentially audible!? Just because JVS and the manufacturer said so? Perhaps at near-retirement, it's time to channel one's inner J.G. Holt and remind audiophiles as he did:
"Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal."
The huge difference now is that as consumers we can explore for ourselves using easily-accessible tools that would not have been available even a decade back. The Wolf Audio server is consumer computer technology built on commodity parts and understood as such by hobbyists. How do you think this hobby is supposed to grow and achieve any kind of respectability if you can't simply read those FFT graphs and call it for what it is? How do you think audiophiles are supposed to have confidence in the mainstream media if obvious truths are seemingly inexpressible?

By the way, isn't the subjective attribution of a "metallic edge" to the server while using >$100k of gear in a listening room with "slap echo" doing a disservice to Wolf Audio? Let's be honest. In all likelihood, I bet in a blind test, Mr. Serinus would not be able to differentiate this computer from his Roonlabs Nucleus+ at all. What a mess... Companies selling expensive products with no evidence for benefit. Subjective reviewers claiming to hear things that are questionable in admittedly suboptimal rooms. And objective testing without the courage to take a stand!

Regardless of whether the "mainstream" audiophile media addresses the plain truth, IMO, the "gig" is up with overpriced, snake oil ridden, "audiophile" computers like this. One might as well be reviewing USB cables if you believe otherwise bug-free software, bitperfect computers "sound different".

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Big thank you to the 67 blind test respondents to the "Is high Harmonic Distortion in music audible?" test! Result submission is closed. In the weeks ahead, let's take a look under the hood at the data. :-)

Thanks to David S for suggesting that I have a listen to Christopher Parkening's In Spanish Style the other day - amazing classical guitar work, and yes, sounds fantastic on the big rig!

Stay safe and hope you're all enjoying the music...

18 comments:

  1. My music player/server computer is a ex-lease, Dell Optiplex 990, i7-2600 machine I paid ~$200 for a few years back. Beside putting a SSD in it to speed up boot and access times, and installing a WiFi and Bluetooth card, I've done nothing special to it. I merely attached a USB cable from it to my integrated amp and away I went.

    There's no way I'd spend over $700USD on a music server. With a master's in Computer Science, and nearly four decades of professional experience in it, as well as a basic understanding of electrical engineering, I'd have to be pretty foolish to allow someone to talk me into spending more... ;-)

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    1. :-) Art,
      Agree. Obviously alot of this talk about servers meant for the audiophile purpose is smoke and mirror meant to hype up devices that make no significant difference to the sound; companies and magazines need to move the product.

      Like every other component in the audio chain, whether it be speakers or expensive DACs, I can appreciate that there will always be that element of "luxury", "pride of ownership", esthetic "beauty" which add to those "non-utilitarian" perceived benefits.

      So be it. Having said this, I do like fast machines and the newer CPUs and SSD storage devices are not that expensive so am happy to spend money upgrading over the years. I think the next step for me is to look for bigger SSDs to migrate the terabytes of music and video data I have on the NAS! As that happens, it'll be like direct access speed to the data over the 10GbE LAN without slowdown plus better reliability than spinning hard drives. Looking forward to it :-). In fact, might begin now as I have my eyes open for a good deal on 4TB SSDs...

      Delete
  2. I'm using a mini-itx ASRock3455 with 4GbRAM, a 60gb SSD for the OS, and 4 disks for data and redundancy.

    The OS is Linux but the trick is to use the low-latency kernel config to get flawless performance from home TV and other clients. Using Jriver25 as media server.

    It's all I need for media home server and, eventually, able to implement some simple services.

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    1. Hi Gedeon,
      Thanks for the comment on the low latency kernel config. Yeah, it's great to get things running smoothly! Low latency is of course important to make sure there's no sense of lag when we "press play" and certainly to make sure there are no synchronization issues between video and audio.

      I think it's rather silly when audiophiles talk about low-latency as if this will affect sound quality. Obviously latency can be very high (eg. using a large tap length filter), but this doesn't necessarily have any direct correlation with sound quality!

      Looks like you've got a great little system there without too much cost and probably keeping power demands in check!

      Delete
    2. Low latency kernel isn't related with audio. It's just about balance the system towards services and network. So each request which comes from network/hardware will get way more priority and resources than any user interface request. That's way you get smooth and good performance in your lan clients even from low end hardware. This kernel config it's usually the best for most server configs.

      Delete
  3. My server is a $299 Dell Power Edge R620. OS is Windows 10 Pro x64 on SSD. Spinners in a RAID 5 for data.

    I added a 4 port, 2 GBe Copper, 2 SFP+ 10GBe, daughter card for $19!

    My playback machine is based on a passively cooled Celeron 3150 with a dual SFP+ 10GBe Solar Flare NIC ($25).

    Cisco 2360 48 Copper GBe, 4 SFP+ 10GBe.

    For $210 between NIC's, Switch, OM3 fiber patch I'm doing 10G and zero electrical connections for stereo networking.

    These 'audiophile' servers, usb cards, switches is just getting out of hand.

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    1. Holy smokes Matt,
      What a deal! Nice enterprise-level machine there man. You'll have to let us know where we can get in on these sale prices :-).

      Delete
  4. As other people here comment, an old PC dubbing as server will be sufficient in 95% of cases.

    Although your server specs are overkill, regarding SSDs i recommend "CRUCIAL MX500 2TB SSD" ($250) for the data, as it is almost as good in all benchmarks as Samsung EVO, but quite cheaper.

    Regarding primary drive in any and all new machines do not go for SATA as the port is capped at 600MB/s. Instead go for NVMe M.2. Those can reach over 4GB/s sequential read/write speeds and are even cheaper than SATA drives as they do not need enclosures.
    I recommend "Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1TB" or similar. New models are getting out each month and those will push out everything else in time as they are superior in every aspect.

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    1. Great point on the improved M.2 interface speed Turrican. I certainly noticed a difference when I built my Ryzen machine back around September 2019:
      http://archimago.blogspot.com/2019/09/upgrade-to-amd-ryzen-9-3900x.html

      Hmmm, maybe that's the next big thing. Let's hype up M.2 SSD drives because they sound better :-).

      Looking at the parts above, for a simple server machine like this in that compact fanless box, I would actually probably just keep it as straight forward as possible.

      Get a 4TB SSD, partition 512GB for OS/apps, and use the other 3.5TB for music data. This will leave another drive bay open for future expansion or since we're spending this kind of money, maybe buy an external 4TB SSD in an enclosure and use that as portable backup.

      Delete
  5. "Consider John Atkinson, the subtle and highly articulate editor of Stereophile. Don't you think he knows? Of course he knows. But if he admitted that $3000-a-pair speaker cable is a shameless rip-off or that a $7000 amplifier sounds no different from a $1400 one, the edifice of high-end audio would begin to totter-or so he thinks (and may quite possibly be right). Consequently, he spouts convoluted scriptural arguments and epistemological sophistries, just like Doctor Zaius, in order to pervert the obvious, uncomplicated, devastating truth. Note: See the original Plant of the Apes.


    There is a perfect illustration of this process in the August 1994 issue of Stereophile, where Zaius-Atkinson once again bashes blind listening tests in an "As We See It" editorial. Such tests are of course considered extremely threatening by a publication that reports night-and-day differences in sound which absolutely nobody can hear when the levels are matched and the brand names concealed. He brings up all kinds of intricate flaws and drawbacks that may very well exist in some blind tests but turns his back on the large number of blind tests in which all of his objections have been anticipated and eliminated and which nevertheless yield a no-difference result every time. He knows very well, for example, that no one has ever, ever proved a consistently audible difference between two amplifiers having high input impedance, low output impedance, and low distortion, when operated at matched levels and not clipped-but like Doctor Zaius he conceals that knowledge. He'd rather collect rare case histories of screwed-up blind tests than deal with the vast body of correctly managed blind tests that undermine the Stereophile agenda. (Just for the record, I'll state for the nth time that there are only two unbreakable rules in blind testing: matched levels and no peeking at the nameplates. To eliminate "stress," take a week or a month for each test, send everybody else out of the room, operate the switch yourself at all times, switch only twice a day-whatever. The results will still be the same.) The Audio Critic

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    1. Good one from the late Peter Aczel :-).

      It's amazing how things have been for decades. Over the years, we have seen legitimate technological progress with speed of devices, size, and capability. Yet there are all these ongoing efforts of boutique companies like Wolf Audio simply adding fluff, prettying up the box, exacerbating the "woo", aided by folks like Serinus and "Zaius-Atkinson" with a magazine for the purpose of serving the Industry rather than honestly educating hobbyists funded by ad revenue extraction.

      I do hope after all these decades, in the twilight of his long career, maybe Atkinson can finally look back and even if just for a brief moment - like the "green flash" of a sunset - perhaps let go of all pretense, free himself of Industry expectations, and simply speak truth. Probably too much to ask even though I think his legacy would be richer for it.

      Delete
  6. Nice article, thanks! I can't really believe that article in stereophile, it's absolutely crazy.

    If people stopped storing and streaming 24bit/96kHz and higher, basically already a 75% waist of storage and bandwidth compared to 16bit/44.1-48Hz they wouldn't need such powerful hardware. But that opinion is very unwelcome in discussions among audiophiles what computer is needed. How dare I suggest their music needs anything but the most powerful hardware on the planet?

    If we take audible factor away from the review, it looks quite bad. The computer is basically a roon nucleus plus CD ripper. I already think the nucleus is expensive for what it is, but at least you can argue that they offer convenience and that can be worth a lot to some. So what else do you get other than a CD ripper? Well, the need to reboot the thing after using roon, after that everything worked fine, _most_ of the time (quoting the author, I wish I had made this up). Yes, the OS _is_ very important if you don't want your music to just stop.

    If you publish articles talking about the musicality of a server, then don't even bother with measurements.

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    1. Hey Steven,
      Even 24/96 doesn't need this much computing power! As you noted, this thing basically adds a CD ripper so clearly they're expecting the end user to have good ol' 16/44 ripped and stored.

      Regardless, this is a waste of money for just serving audio. The box would make a good fanless HTPC for 4K streaming, video playback, and some gaming though limited by the CPU's integrated graphics abilities.

      Delete
  7. I can by a prebuilt server, with case and fans designed to make it especially quiet, with more storage and and a faster processor than the Wolf, for $1400. Add in software, including Roon lifetime, and we are at around $2100. No special USB card, though.

    As far as JA, is he unwilling or unable (editorial policy) to say that the expensive server does nothing for SQ?
    Danny

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    1. Agree Danny.

      With a lower cost enclosure, we can easily build a nice, fast machine, maybe use an AMD processor, more storage, faster M.2 SSD, Roon lifetime, etc. for much cheaper. Forget the USB card of course.

      For these extreme subjective-only audiophiles, a core dogma is "everything matters". The mere idea that USB cable, audio streamer, CD transport, Windows vs. Linux vs. Mac OS, player software, etc. might "make no difference" is anathema!

      To dare consider that there might be truth in the blasphemous idea of "Bits Are Bits" automatically leads to excommunication from this faith they subscribe to. Thus sayeth the priests among whom JA appears to be seated rather high up within the hierarchy!

      I don't know about the (perhaps unwritten) editorial policy, but to say otherwise (ie. makes no difference to SQ!) and deviate from this fundamental statement of faith would clearly punch holes in the cult and perhaps question his place as one of the leaders.

      First things first, I want to hear JA recant his "feeling" after experiencing MQA as "the birth of a new world".

      https://www.stereophile.com/content/ive-heard-future-streaming-meridians-mqa

      Maybe then he can explore his other "feelings", experiences and perhaps come to terms with what's real, what's not, and where objective measurements fit in this worldview.

      Delete
  8. As I believe I've mentioned here before:

    A while back I switched music servers from my trusty old itunes/mac streaming my ripped CD collection to a raspberry pi/logitech server system. (I was sick of being stuck with the limitations of the itunes system).

    I did not expect different sound with the new server (no technical reason to expect it). But against my expectations, I perceived the new server to sound more brittle and bright. This bummed me out somewhat. "How could this be? Why? I want to use this new server but not if it's changing the sound."

    But having done blind testing before and knowing the issues around sighted bias, I had a pal come over who helped me do a blind test shoot-out between the servers. (Not hard to achieve - the servers were in a separate room from my listening room, it involved just a quick cable switch in to my DAC, and we randomized the switching via a coin-flip pattern before-hand).

    Well, guess what? When I didn't know which server was playing there was ZERO detectable audible difference between them. No brightness nor brittleness. My guesses were completely random.

    Another lesson in sighted bias. (And another lesson that the common refrain among many audiophiles "I wasn't EXPECTING to hear a difference but I did, so therefore it wasn't sighted bias" is a naive understanding of the breadth of how bias can happen).

    That put my fears to rest and afterword I never did perceive again my system sounded different or wrong.

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  9. Thanks for putting together this article. I built my first music server several months back. It was a bit of a misadventure because I tried following a recipe I found on a YouTube video, "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwgoPr34L3o", that had listed all the components needed to build a high end music streamer. Wound up having to use a different mother board and buying the CPU separately since the spec'd motherboard was no longer available. Turned out that what I put together had enough power that it is now my music server so it all ended well.

    What I learned through that process is exactly what you've written in several articles on your site. With my system I don't hear any difference between my fancy Matrix audio USB outputs, my PC (ASUS thin mini ITX) native USB ports, or my Raspi 4 streamer (also built thanks to articles on this site) when streaming to my Chord Qutest DAC.

    Hopefully folks will find this article and use it as a recipe for their home system. For me the various articles claiming better audio with different streamers, servers, operating systems, USB, ASIO/WASAPI/ALSA, and ethernet doohickies just created a ton of unnecessary confusion. It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive.

    Cheers and happy listening!

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