Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server

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Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« on: 30 Jul 2021, 12:39 am »
Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server

It was time for a new music server. I built my first music server in 2011 based on the original 2011 Computer Audiophile C.A.P.S. v2.0. The build used an Intel Pine Trail Mini-ITX with integrated Intel Atom D525 (1.8 GHz) and 4 GB ram. Low powered and fanless it worked perfectly for years but was now slowing down due to age and Windows 10. JRiver 26 ran great but glitches were becoming more numerous. Still, I considered the sound a solid A.

The new retail high-end music servers I have seen run around $4000, my plan is to build a comparable server for much less. I will re-use some parts, JRiver 26 is paid for and I don't need to buy a new OS because the Windows 10 license will transfer to the new box.

What to get? Luckily there are plenty of music servers, pick a brand and somebody loves it. The HAL MS6 looks sweet and also uses the Intel Atom processor. Since I have been building computers since 1997 starting with the 486-133 processor, this time I wanted something with more oomph.

Motherboard and Processor

Asus motherboards are solid and last forever. The Prime B365M-A ($78) is perfect, it has both D-Sub(VGA) and DVI-D display ports for older monitors (not all mother boards have legacy ports) plus the board is compatible with both Intel Gen8 and Gen9 processors. The Intel i7-9700 ($290) is only $58 more than the i5-8400, has the recommended TPD of 65w needed for a fanless design, includes integrated graphics and is Windows 11 ready. I keep computers on the average of 10 years (W10 end-of-life is 2025, that's 4 short years folks) so upgradeability is important. Windows 11 requires either 8th Gen or later processors.

Case and Power Supply

The Streacom FC10 with the ZF240 fanless power supply are beautiful and what I used. One of the problems first time builders run into is not enough power; stalling, lockups, spontaneous re-boots are not fun things to try to diagnose in a new build. The i7-9700 ruled out using power bricks that connect to a 160w Nano ATX converter. HDPlex has nice cases and a larger range of power supplies, unfortunately their H5 2nd Gen Fanless PC Case, 400w and 200w power supplies are out of stock. The HDPLex setup is designed for building a quiet gaming computer, for a music server it is a bit of overkill. Why a big case? Because we need to install a USB card.

USB - Part 1

An audiophile grade USB output is necessary for a high-end music server. The motherboard USB will work just fine but it is not designed for audio. The computer's switching power supply is noisy. The plug-in USB filters were invented to solve this problem but they can effect the sound negatively. I posted a review of the Uptone Audio USB Regen:

Our Tucson Audiophile Group tried out the Audioquest Jitterbug, Uptone Regen and Intona in different homes. In the final analysis we discovered that the cleaner the power supply and electronics, the more harm these devices do. As our members upgraded their power supplies and music servers they ended up selling their filters. Nobody in our group are using the filters anymore.

Hardware with a lot of line noise like laptops, computers and music servers using the motherboard USB output would probably benefit from USB filters but in my experience adding another layer to a tuned system mucks things up. My recommendation is try before you buy.

USB Part 2

The current selection of new USB cards has exploded to the point that it is no longer like going down a rabbit hole, it's like falling into a giant Mexican sink hole.

Femto and OCXO are casually tossed out terms and then there is the Taiko Audio Extreme USB card that is only available when you buy their SGM Extreme Music Server ($28,246 - $37,686)

The USB card thread on Audiophile Style has a nice list of cards currently available

I am still using the Paul Pang USB 3.0 V2 card I bought in 2013. The card uses the NEC uPD720202 chip along with a low jitter TCXO audio grade silver digital output transformer. The NEC uPD720202 chip is still used in curent expensive cards.

Linear Regulated Power Supplies

The best way to clean up the noise from a switching power supply is with a linear regulated power supply. Yes batteries will work but they are a PITA, they always seem to run out of juice just when you need them. HDPLex sells a 300w ($685) and 500w linear PS. Some USB card manufacturers are coming up with expensive filters on their cards, the $350 SOtM tX-USBexp has a switching noise filter.

I use the Acopian linear regulated power supplies, they are industrial quality with utilitarian styling and exposed AC and DC connections. The PPA USB card uses an Acopian 5EB200 5v 2amp linear power supply. The SSD is powered by a Acopian B5G400 5v 4amp linear supply. The Kingrex UC384 USB/SPDIF converter uses an Acopian P015MX300 adjusted to 7.5v. All the Acopian power supplies were bought used on eBay, the 5EB200 was $20 and lists for $195, these are not the cheap Chinese power supplies found on eBay, these are high quality Made in the USA power supplies.

One way to check the qulity of power supplies is the regulation and ripple specifications:

Acopian BEB200 Load 0.25%, Line 0.05%, Ripple 1 mV RMS
Acopian B5G400 Load 0.3 %, Line 0.1%, Ripple 1.5 mV RMS

The HDPlex 400W AC-DC and 400W HiFi DC-ATX combo ($213) is a good alternative to builders not wanting to mess with the Acopian, ripple is an excellent 10 mV.
The HDPlex Linear Power Supplies have ripple down to 1 mV but cost $780.00 with a DC-ATX.

For comparison the Streacom ZF240 power supply ($175) has 50 mV ripple on the 5 volt line and 100 mV on the 12v line.
The Streacom Nano 160 has 180 mV ripple.

I like the idea of having the USB and SSD power supplies completely isolated from the motherboard ps, it does make a difference sound-wise, about the same as changing USB cables.


Streacom FC10 Alpha Fanless Chassis Black (no optical slot) $325.00
Streacom ST-ZF240 ZeroFlex 240W Fanless Passive PSU $175
Asus Prime B365M-A LGA-1151 Support 9th/8th Gen Intel Processor Motherboard $77.99
Intel Core i7-9700 Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 4.7 GHz LGA1151 300 Series 65W $287.07
Crucial RAM 8GB Kit (2x4GB) DDR4 2666 MHz CL19 Desktop Memory CT2K4G4DFS6266 $48.99
DEVMO PCI-Express 1X Riser Cable Premium PCI-E Port Extension Extender Card $10.99

Total $925.04


The i7-9700 is fast! Windows 10 takes 2 seconds to boot even with "Fast Startup" disabled. JRiver takes 1 second to load. This music server has enough speed to do anything, DSD with DSP - no problem. Digital software is evolving quickly so I will have fun keeping up.
My system is the same as in the Hapa RCA Interconnect Review

Sound quality is now an A+ but there a could be a few reasons why:

The Asus motherboard is better designed with less interference.
The Streacom ZF240 is much quieter than the power brick that went with the old Jetway JNF96FL-525-LF motherboard/processor combo.
Or it could be the new, cutting edge Hapa Ember USB cable I have here for review.

Stay tuned.



Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #1 on: 30 Jul 2021, 12:40 am »
The Music Server Build Photos

Will Rogers said "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression."

Streacom packaging makes a good first impression. The parts inside the box follow through with impeccable fit and finish, an easy to understand manual and enough screws to build a battleship with some left over. The assembly went perfectly and smoothly, a Class A act all around. The Streacom ST-ZF240 ZeroFlex 240W Fanless Passive PSU has all the connections you will need, just as many as wires as my full size PC Power and Cooling ATX power supply. The only potential glitch is Streacom's home office is in the Netherlands so the ZeroFlex PSU ships with a Standard European Type F - AC cable, the ZeroFlex web page is very clear but I missed it, I have a inventory of plug-in AC cables so it was not a problem.

Inside the box

The Paul Pang Audio Grade V2 USB 3.0 Card

Acopian linear regulated 2 amp PSU for the Paul Pang USB card

Bench test layout. The small white box with the two rocker switches are the USB card and SSD on/off switch. The Acopian B5G400 for the SSD (on end) is a stand alone box that is tucked away in the equipment rack, it's too big to fit in the case.

The heat pipe layout

JRiver is up and running and sounding great, another successful build!

« Last Edit: 30 Jul 2021, 02:03 am by WGH »


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #2 on: 30 Jul 2021, 03:39 pm »
I use the Acopian Series B - General Purpose (model numbers begin with the letter B) Gold Box power supplies, they are always available on eBay.

Builders who want the very best can go for the Acopian Series A - High Performance (model numbers begin with the letter A). The regulation and ripple specifications beat any computer PSU available.
Load + - 0.005%
Line + - 0.005%
Ripple 0.25 mV RMS

1.5v - 200v DC power supplies are available

I go to the Acopian website and look up the model number of the power supplies that will work and then paste that number into an eBay search. The ps are built like tanks, they never hum or buzz and run cool. I never had one fail.

Tech Mecca, Inc.

“I have been specifying and installing Acopian power supplies in professional audio applications since 1979 or 1980. Gold Box Linear "A" supplies are the best I have come across for demanding audio applications such as analog recording and mixing consoles. Their regulation is very tight and they are conservatively built.”

John Klett, President and Owner

Georgia Tech Research Institute
Aerospace, Transportation and Advanced Systems Laboratory

“Without question Acopian is reliable. We've tried several different brands of power supplies, but sometimes they would just die for no apparent reason, even though we tried to oversize them as a safety factor. Then, we tried Acopian, and you just can't kill them - they just last forever. And that's what we need, because we build a lot of support equipment for electronic systems in military tracked vehicles that go out into harsh environments, get shook up, get hot, cold, dry, dusty all sorts of environmental challenges. We don't hesitate to put Acopian power supplies into rugged environments because they just last. If Acopian made automobiles, I'd buy one without question.”

David A. Price, Research Technologist (research engineer)

« Last Edit: 30 Jul 2021, 09:11 pm by WGH »


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #3 on: 30 Jul 2021, 04:49 pm »
Thank you for sharing.  I find music server pricing outlandish as well. 

I just rebuilt my audio pc after I accidentally fried my motherboard by trying an under powered LPSU.

Mine is:
i5-9500t $150
CPU passive cooler: $30
8GB RAM $50
WD 500GB Black PCIE3 $60
PICOPSU 160W $60
AC Adapter for PICOPSU $40
Matrix Element H USB $120 (used)
LPSU for Element H $130
Goodisory A02 Case $70
Total $810

Still have room for improvement.  Was wanting a HDPlex300 but price just went up from $600 to $700... HDPlex can, however, power my PC, USB Card and amp (LTA MZ2 which uses 12v 3a) hence leaving my system with fewer power cables and LPSU boxes.

My PC was passively cooled but temp was sometimes reached 90c so added a Noctua case fan and temps dropped to 60c.  If I had to do it again, I'd go with a case with heat pipes such as PHT FLS04 which is similar to Streamcom but slimmer.

Lastly, I am using an Asus VT168H 16" touchscreen monitor in place of a mouse.

« Last Edit: 30 Jul 2021, 10:27 pm by viggen »


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #4 on: 30 Jul 2021, 09:58 pm »
My PC was passively cooled but temp was sometimes reached 90c so added a Noctua case fan and temps dropped to 60c.  If I had to do it again, I'd go with a case with heat pipes such as PHT FLS04 which is similar to Streamcom but slimmer.

The PHT FLS04 looks very similar to the Streacom, I wouldn't be surprised if they were both fabricated in the same factory in Foshan (the birthplace of IP Man), China.
The heat pipes and Intel only CPU mounting bracked look the same. Streacom has since updated the mounting bracket to a universal Intel/AMD style. Short heat pipes may not work on all motherboards, mine fit but just barely. Streacom sells 4 different heat pipe lengths and an AMD CPU bracket.
Cheap at $99.00 with free shipping


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Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #5 on: 14 Nov 2021, 04:09 pm »
Your write-up is fantastic.  This can be an incredibly confusing topic but you made it much easier to understand.  Thanks.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #6 on: 14 Nov 2021, 09:24 pm »
You are welcome. I recently made the move to Windows 11 and can happily report JRiver 26 is running flawlessly. I didn't notice any change in the sound which is also good.

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #7 on: 15 Nov 2021, 02:15 am »
WGH thanks for your write up.  I built a custom computer 3 years ago for my music.  I bought a higher end MOBO with good capacitors, I-7 7700K cpu, 16gb 3200mhz RAM and very low ripple power supply with an on demand variable speed fan.  No GPU.  I put it all in a Define R5 modular, silent case.  All the fans are Noctua silent fans.  Used M.2 and SDD drives as well an 8tb WD red.  Sata cables are shielded.  I remote in with a laptop using windows remote desktop, so no monitor is involved.  I bought all the parts on sale and with $40-50 rebates on many of the parts the week before Thanksgiving for about $1100.

The improvement from my high end laptop was astonishing.  Black background, more detail and resolution.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #8 on: 15 Nov 2021, 04:04 am »
Looks interesting. Just gave me a future project to add to the list. My 4 year old NUC still runs, but it will be unable to transition to Windows 11 when Windows 10 gets EOL.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #9 on: 6 Aug 2022, 11:22 pm »

Is the heat pipe cooling working on your i7? Looking at either an i5 or an i7. Thought the i5 would be less taxing on the heat pipe cooling in the Streacom cases.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #10 on: 7 Aug 2022, 12:14 am »
Core temps are perfect. I have been using the server all afternoon and monitoring temps using the free Core Temp app. Room is 78°F and the i7 cores are 36°C. The processor idle temperatures not playing music is exactly the same, the processor is not working at all. Power is 2.4W, only 1 core out of 8 is doing the work, the other cores are loafing at 1% load, they are hanging out just listening to the music. An Intel Atom processor will play music if that is all you want to do.

I got the i7-9700 because it didn't cost that much more and I wanted to play. And boy howdy am I playing.

My DAC is the HoloAudio May KTE and it will play anything at any sampling rate so I have been playing with HQPlayer, both upsampling 44.1kHz to 384kHz and/or 44.1kHz to DSD128 or DSD256.

I found the limit of a fanless design. Upsampling 44.1kHz PCM to either DSD128 and DSD256 pushes the processor to the max. Everything is stable with no crashes but core temps eventually reach the Tj. Max of 100°C. Regular upsampling staying within either PCM or DSD is no problem and processor temps are in the acceptable range.

No loafing here - upsampling PCM to DSD

I have a running review of the HoloAudio DAC and HQPlayer if you want to get into the weeds.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #11 on: 7 Aug 2022, 02:37 am »
Good to hear.

I was looking at the FC8 enclosure which is smaller than the FC10 you used. I was looking at the 12th gen processors since the prices are not that much more and you can actually get the motherboards for less than the older ones. FC8 only takes the mini-ITX size of which there are less options. Difference between an i5 and i7 is $140. I will be playing music with the computer and probably applying DSP/crossovers for 2 channel music and maybe for 5.1. Don’t think I will do much upsampling, but you never know. That core monitoring app looks good, will need to check it out.

The Nano 160 PSU seemed like it may not be enough, so I found another option of the same kind that could go up to 300W. I will get an Element H card and build a linear PSU for it. May build one for the SATA also, depending on the power draw.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #12 on: 7 Aug 2022, 03:44 am »
I have been trading PMs with another AC member who is building a fanless music server using a 12 Gen processor. He emailed Streacom about power requirements, they replied:

"The CPU ( ) is rated at 65W but it can boost to 180W which is well above both the cooling limit of the FC10 and the power delivery of the Nano160."

" should be possible in the BIOS to limit the power of the CPU so that it doesn't go over the 65W base power."

He limited the power in the BIOS to 65W, the computer runs but he is waiting on different cables before he actually uses it. I have no idea how a power limited i7-12700 compares to a i7-9700.

Note that the i7-12700 has the graphics processor but not all motherboards have a DVI port for a monitor. I would hate to try to set up a computer without a monitor.

A long time ago I used an Anker 1300mAh external battery to power the internal SSD and noticed an improvement in sound quality, but the battery was a PIA to keep charged. Since then I have used Acopian power supplies, they have excellent ripple and load specs, are cheap on eBay, built to last forever, and I'm lazy. I doubt I could built a PS with lower ripple and load. Want lower? Get the "A" series Gold Box.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #13 on: 7 Aug 2022, 04:11 am »
That was the same response I got from Streacom. That was why I reconsidered using an i5 instead of an i7. The boost in power only comes to 117W max, so it seemed more manageable. It is also significantly less expensive. I will monitor the chip to see if I need to throttle it. I would be getting the i5 with the imbedded graphics which would use the HDMI and Display Port on the motherboard. I have 2 1080p monitors that I will be using. It is at my desk, not my AV rack. It will do some light duty computing tasks, but mostly music and DSP tasks. May send the HDMI across the room to my AVR to play surround music of which I have a fair amount, but very little video to speak of and no movies.


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Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #14 on: 12 Aug 2022, 07:46 pm »
Hello Wayne,
I have finally finished building my i7 fanless server with the Streacom FC1o Alpha case.
I use Foobar2000 and convert FLAC (PCM) to DSD 512. I have set the Short and Long TDP to 65 Watts and have not seen Core Temp touch 60 Celsius till now. I have tried to open multiple apps simultaneously, but it has not taxed the server more than 20%. I should mention that I did use the HT4 Thermal Riser in my build, instead of the normal heat sink that came with the case.

I love the headless configuration and can access the server via my home desktop or the Remote Desktop app on iPad. I was able to install Fidelizer, Amazon Music app and Spotify app on the machine remotely. Absolutely no need for a monitor. Even if I were to do browsing on this machine, I an do it remotely without connecting a monitor/keyboard/mouse. I like the fact that even if Tidal and Qobuz "Connect" do not work like Spotify Connect, it does not matter now. Because I am using remote desktop to play the music via these apps directly on the server. That is what I do with the Amazon Music Unlimited that I got for free for 3 months.

My entire build with pictures is listed at:


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #15 on: 12 Aug 2022, 09:02 pm »
Nice clean looking build, congrats!

I didn't know foobar had plugins to convert PCM to DSD512. Looks like the combination of the Intel i7-12700 with foobar upsampling keeps the power and core temperatures low. The i7-12700 wasn't available a year ago when I built my server, based on benchmarks the i7-12700 is twice as fast as the i7-9700.

I looked for reviews comparing HQPlayer to foobar upsampling and haven't found much yet. I have a feeling HQPlayer is a lot more processor intensive, the music servers talked about use a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 or higher graphics card to convert PCM to DSD.

poseidonsvoice built a music server using a i7-12900 with a NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080

He wrote:

"Every file in my server or from Tidal/Qobuz is upsampled [using HQPlayer] to DSD, regardless of format. With Windows 11, DSD 256 is highly stable and DSD 512 is mostly stable. My colleagues who have the same configuration running on a Linux platform seem to have less glitches on DSD 512. So I may switch to Linux in the near future."

Jussi Laako, HQPlayers developer wrote:

"Note about the new sinc-L filter (in HQPlayer Desktop 4.6.0); to use this one especially to higher DSD rates you'll likely need a GPU. To DSD256 it requires about 8.3 GB of GPU RAM, so my RTX2080 runs out of memory and thus doesn't play. However, on RTX2080Ti plays fine to DSD256 with a bit over 10% GPU load. For DSD512 (not tested) you'll likely need TITAN RTX with it's 24 GB of RAM should be enough for the ~16 GB needed."


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Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #16 on: 12 Aug 2022, 10:21 pm »
Thanks Wayne!

Yes, Foobar can do pure DSD and also DoP. I do not convert my 150+ DSD albums to DSD 512. They remain DSD 64. This is because the Foobar processor would first convert them to PCM and then convert them to DSD 512. So it is only the FLAC files that are converted to DSD 512.

Here is the link to the Foobar2000 DSD setup:

Yes, I saw Anand's build. It looks fantastic. But I needed a server that had to match the following requirements:
1. looks like an audio component
2. does not have fans
3. does not have additional components like GPU
4. headless

Hence when I saw your thread with the Streacom case - I was sold. Some of the RAM now-a-days comes with lights. I tried to keep the hardware and software components to least minimum. On top of that Fidelizer PRO shuts down additional services that are not required. I run this in the PURIST mode. Also the power supply is converted from AC-DC outside the main case. That again reduces the signal noise contamination. I know that my build is an overkill for my requirements. But all-in-all I am very happy with the build and the way it has elevated my listening experience.

I did not know that a GPU is needed for HQ Player.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #17 on: 18 Sep 2022, 09:25 pm »
Well I spent most of yesterday putting my computer together.

What I bought:
Streacom F8 Alpha
Asrock H670M-ITX/ax mother board
Intel i5 12th gen with integrated graphics
32 GB of RAM
RGEEK DC-DC 300W converter
12V 250W Power brick

Moved from previous computer:
EVO 860 250MB SSD
keyboard, mouse
dual monitors
external drives
external Bluray drive

In all I spent $750. Still plan to get an Element H USB card and make a power supply for the card.

Physically it went together pretty easy. Issues I had were of my own making. Spent some time looking up how to connect the SATA drive. I got no documentation on the DC-DC converter, so from looking a photos on amazon I figured out the SATA power and then couldn't find a SATA data cable. So I borrowed one from my son (later found some in the Motherboard box when I was cleaning up). No boot up when I first turned the computer on. After a bit of online research, I determined that I had to connect a 4 pin 12V PS so the chip has power (who knew  :scratch:). I had just moved the SSD over and hoped that it would just work. No such luck.

After plugging in the power cable, I could get into the bios. Everything look good in the bios settings, except that it couldn't find a boot drive. So I found my Windows 10 USB stick and inserted that. There was an issue with how Windows had formatted the drive previously in the old computer. So after a bunch of troubleshooting, I shut down the computer removed the SSD and reconnected it to the old computer. Backed up a few datafiles to another drive. Put the SSD in the new computer and reformatted it. Installed Windows 10 and the asrock drivers. Had to go into my Windows Account to authorize this version of Windows 10 on the new drive. The heat sink got a bit warm doing all the windows updates, but not too bad.

The computer is quiet except when I am ripping CDs.  :)

Running low on space on my 4 TB external drive, so I probably will get an internal drive soon with more capacity.

I plan to use it as mostly a music server (2 channel and multichannel), but I will also do some general computer tasks on it, since it is my only personal PC. I have a work laptop that I use most of the time, but there are some things best done on a computer where you have complete control over it. Will post pictures later once I have it all situated. It is currently a mess.

Thanks WGH for this thread. It started me thinking about building my own computer.


Re: Building an Affordable High-End Silent Music Server
« Reply #18 on: 18 Sep 2022, 11:04 pm »
Congratulations WC, there is a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction only a computer builder gets when that boot screen pops up and "It's Alive!"

That 4 pin 12V PS connection fools everyone. I've had that disk formatting error, the MBR is different with different Windows versions. What you did is the easiest and safest solution, there are free programs that will change the MBR but one mistake and all your data is gone.

I really like the new Windows Account registration process, no more having to buy an authorized Windows version when you build a new computer. You could have installed the Windows 11 ISO from the thumbdrive, registration is the same. I've used W11 for 14 months on both of my builds, it is solid, glitch free and has never blue screened. It's not too late.

Looking forward to pics.