HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server

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S Clark

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I liked it.  A lot.  :D  It has significantly enhanced detail and imaging compared to a Virtue Piano playing through a Dodd Battery/Twisted Pear Buffalo DAC.  Interestingly (to me) CD's ripped through Exact Audio Copy to this server played cleaner through the server than through the original cd.
Very bravely, fellow AC member HAL (Rich) sent me one of his Windows 7 based Music servers to try out.  You see, he understood that I have just become comfortable with Windows XP. Unlike most of the folks on this circle, I use computers until I can't, then haul them to someone to fix it.  When they finally tell me it can't be repaired because they don't make the stylus/clay tablet operating system anymore, I buy a rebuilt Dell and move on. 
In spite of my computer ignorance (or possibly because of it), Rich decided to have me do a test drive. 

The very small computer arrived, and in short order all things were hooked up and set up.  A few songs were pre- loaded, and I got them playing quickly. Downloading HD files was a bit of a challenge.  I had never ripped a cd before.  It took a significant amount of Rich's time to bring me up speed, but finally, I could sit in my listening position, access the server though a laptop, and listen to music.  Sure it would have been faster if I'd had a teenager in the house, but I managed, even at 59.

There are lots of systems here in AC land fancier than mine, but mine isn't shabby.  Moscode 401HR with Mundorf caps, Dodd battery pre, Silkworms, GR-Research LS-9 kit with a properly deadened cabinet and quality xover, and a fair amount of room treatment.  The Music Server USB was run to Musiland and to the Sabre Dac. 

Well, the HD stuff was excellent- to be expected.  But ripping some of my top Redbook cd's to the server, and playing them back was unexpectedly much different- improved detail (some never heard before), tighter imaging, more real vocals, better defined bass.  I don't know what creates these improvements- although no spinning hard drive is supposedly quite important to eliminate jitter as well as other computer stuff.  But I know when I have heard an improved product, and it usually cost me $$ when I hear it.  So now I have to send Rich a check, because he isn't getting his semi prototype back. Fortunately it isn't a great big check.  I don't know if Rich is ready to get into production, but watch for it.
I think the bit of feedback that Rich most liked was when I told him that my LS9's finally matched the sound of the prototypes in Danny Richie's living room.  Danny has a heck of a rig, and moving to that level is quite an achievement.

I almost forgot to mention, this thing is tiny... think small cigar box. The wife likes it.

If, like me, you have seen that computerized music is coming, but have been reluctant to jump in, this may be what you have been waiting for.  This is a very high quality way to move to computers.  Congrats, Rich.  :bowdown:

Scott
« Last Edit: 11 Sep 2011, 02:03 pm by S Clark »

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #1 on: 10 Sep 2011, 09:04 pm »
Scott,
Thanks for the very nice write-up!

Glad that you like the HAL Music Server and we got all the functionallity going that you wanted! 

I am building these for friends at this point that want to get started in Music Servers.   It has been a fun process learning and building these and finding out fun stuff along the way in HiRez music. 

The unit Scott has is a modified PC to make it very low noise.  This was key to getting one for my room as it has a very low noise floor.

One thing that Scott did not mention is that the unit can be run off a 12VDC battery.  I am experimenting with one of the PI Audio Group's BatteryBUSS setup for this system.   Dave has been great to work with on modding the unit. 

Will be using my unit with Gary Dodd's Battery Buffer and my DIY battery powered DAC.

Edit:
Here is the link to Larry Borden's Dagogo.com review of the MS-1

http://dagogo.com/hollis-audio-labs-ms-1-music-server-review

« Last Edit: 18 Jan 2013, 04:59 pm by HAL »

jtwrace

Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #2 on: 10 Sep 2011, 09:11 pm »
What about some pics and specs?   :D

poseidonsvoice

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #3 on: 10 Sep 2011, 09:16 pm »
What about some pics and specs?   :D

Count me in as well, I'm curious.

Great review Scott...

Anand.

S Clark

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #4 on: 10 Sep 2011, 09:21 pm »
Pics? We don't need no stinkin' pics- not when you have a wordsmith like me!!
 Its a black box about 5"X 8"X 2.5" with some holes for wires.
Rich will have to chime in with specs.

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #5 on: 10 Sep 2011, 09:23 pm »
No pics yet until the new wood top is completed!

Specs:

Windows 7 x64
Intel Atom 330 CPU
NVidia ION GPU
2GB RAM
64GB SSD
802.11 B/G WiFi or no WiFi
Gigabit Ethernet port
eSATA port
HDMI and DVI video output
Will do 1080i Blu-Ray video and multichannel sound via the HDMI output
5 USB 2 ports
12VDC power input with external AC power supply
Power consumption 24 watts

Cost $699 + shipping USA only

Note: HDMI video resolution info updated after mfg info was received.
« Last Edit: 16 Sep 2011, 11:51 am by HAL »

dBe

Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #6 on: 10 Sep 2011, 10:54 pm »
Cool deal, Scott.  Rich has been slaving on a Windows based mini music server for a while.  Looks like he has done a good thing.

Great job, Rich!!!   :thumb:

<><

Dave

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #7 on: 10 Sep 2011, 10:57 pm »
Dave,
And thank you for the inspiration to keep going!   :thumb:

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #8 on: 11 Sep 2011, 11:35 am »
The Music Server is optimized for external USB DAC's.  I use mine with an M2Tech hiFace Evo and drive my DIY DAC via the I2S Bus.  The Evo also provides Toslink, Laserlink, Coaxial and BNC S/PDIF outputs.

The MS does have a Toslink S/PDIF output for external DAC's.


JEaton

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #9 on: 11 Sep 2011, 06:59 pm »
The specs look a lot like the fanless PC I have in my car, which runs off of 12V DC. Biggest difference is that I run an AMD Brazos (Zacate E-350) platform motherboard, which offers a bit more CPU power and better video performance for the nav system.

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #10 on: 11 Sep 2011, 07:17 pm »
Here is a picture of the Music Server prototype with solid wood top.  This has been modifed for improved cooling. 

Will post new pictures once the final version of the top is completed.



 

richidoo

Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #11 on: 11 Sep 2011, 07:42 pm »
That's a computer??   Super nice Rich!

Can you post a rear panel pic in your next batch of pics? Thanks
Rich

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #12 on: 11 Sep 2011, 07:46 pm »
Rich,
Will do once I have the new tops.   :D

jtwrace

Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #13 on: 11 Sep 2011, 07:51 pm »
I think I've figured out what that 30' of Cat 5e is worth.   :wink:

 :lol:

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #14 on: 11 Sep 2011, 07:55 pm »
Jason,
I promise if you want one you get a special deal for past help!   :thumb:

PhenomeNhan

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #15 on: 11 Sep 2011, 08:39 pm »
It looks great, Rich!!  Congrats!

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #16 on: 11 Sep 2011, 09:34 pm »
Nhan,
Thanks!  It has been a fun project!

eclein

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #17 on: 11 Sep 2011, 10:42 pm »
That looks very cool...really sharp....So is it like a Vortexbox without the hard drives??? It could run Squeezeserver for a SB Touch and also provide USB output for a DAC and run like JRiver Media Center for an onscreen interface when having a party or family over for fun....am I on the right track, if so thats exactly what I was going to try and make for myself to run those two apps and maybe netflix if I could squeeze a video card with HDMI in it??? I just don't have the experience to know enough about what I'm doing to feel comfortable pulling the trigger on the parts and not end up with some I can't use. Let us know if you decide to sell some of these, I may be more than casually interested. Nice stuff HAL!!! :thumb:

OOps....I didn't see post #5 before I wrote all that...Good luck with them!!!!

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #18 on: 12 Sep 2011, 12:58 am »
Ed,
On my prototype setup, I run Squeezeserver for my SB Touch and Foobar2000 for my USB DAC tied to the Music Server.  JRiver should also work as I tried the trial version.  I still like the Foobar2000 interface as it is simple. 

It has a 64GB solid state hard drive and an eSATA port to attach external high speed drives.  There are also two unused USB2 ports if three are used for keyboard, mouse and USB DAC.

I also set mine up so that I can use a web browser on another Netbook to remote control Foobar2000.   Have not worked with JRiver enough to know if it will also give that function.  For the remote function you can use either WiFi or hard wired Ethernet as long as both devices are on the same network.

The PC has both DVI and HDMI outputs for monitors.  There is no display, USB keyboard or USB mouse supplied as most folks already have those peripherals.

I will sell them if folks are interested for the price I listed.  It will be about 2 weeks for a build due to getting all the parts. 

PM me if you are interested.

Best,
Rich
« Last Edit: 12 Sep 2011, 02:02 am by HAL »

HAL

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Re: HAL's Amazingly Incredible Nearly Prototype Music Server
« Reply #19 on: 12 Sep 2011, 01:33 am »
Ed,
Also if you would like, I can load Squeezeboxserver 7.6.1. before shipping.