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Music Server Newbie Experiences and Questions

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LuvMyQuad

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I see the writing on the wall. I think we all do. For years now outlets for physical media have become increasing rare. I really think that Hi Res downloads will become the method of choice for obtaining music in the future, both stereo and multichannel. I decided it was time. So I took the plunge into PC based audio universe and purchased a QNAP server/NAS with the intention of using it in conjunction with JRiver Media Center, of which I’ve read a lot of good things in the audio related corners of the web. This thread is an effort to document how a 40 year audio veteran with very limited experience with home networks makes his way in the new frontier of network connected digital music servers. I hope it answers some of my questions, as well as offering guidance to those who follow this path in the future.

The NAS is a QNAP 451+ upgraded to 8GB RAM. Right now, it is loaded with two 4TB Western Digital Red HDs configured as RAID 1. This leaves me with two empty bays to expand the total storage in the future. You can also buy expansion modules for this unit. The QNAP device is somewhat unique because it includes a quad core Intel processor and an HDMI port. You can plug in a USB mouse and keyboard and use it as a functional PC with a large amount of attached storage capacity. The embedded OS is Linux based. It includes the option to load a variety of applications for backups, virtualization, surveillance, etc. But its primary market strategy seems to be aimed at the home entertainment enthusiast. It even comes bundled with its own remote for set top control. QNAP and JRiver have recently announced support for their associated products.

Here is a link to the QNAP product if anyone is interested.

https://www.qnap.com/i/en/product/model.php?II=196

This seemed like a perfect product to use for my initiation into the media server arena. I’ve only been at it for a week or so now. Well, it’s not perfect, but it is moving along. Progress is somewhat slowed by the fact that I am starting out with no prior experience with NAS storage, home servers, or JRiver. To go one step further, I am going about this without having an audio processor with an HDMI input with which to judge the result (I’m in the market for a new Pre/Pro though). I have the QNAP plugged into one of the HDMI inputs of my LG plasma monitor.

So what they don’t mention in the marketing hype is the fact that the version of JRiver MC that loads onto the QNAP has no 10 foot interface to control JRiver. Theatre View is not available on JRiver for QNAP and as yet, I have not found a decent 10 foot view to use. Even if there were one, it really cant be controlled with the small remote bundled with the system. This often leaves you standing 2 feet from the monitor with a USB mouse and keyboard as you maneuver through the software. Not a good situation for me.

When I inquired about this at JRiver , the support group suggested using JRiver Tremote. This is a method that uses two copies of JRiver , one on the server and another on a “client”. The client can be any of several types of connected devices. In my case, it is my wifi connected laptop (maybe a tablet in the future). The client links to the server library and controls playback of the server. The server display only shows what is being played. It does not reproduce what is shown on the client screen. This works reasonably well. There still is no 10 foot interface, but there is full control of JRiver from my couch potato spot with a GUI I can actually read and easily operate. Also, to continue doing this once the 30 day Jriver trial period runs out, I will need to purchase a master license instead of a less expensive Linux one to allow installation on my Windows based laptop as well. Maybe $25 bucks or so. Not a big deal, but a fully functional JRiver interface out of the box was what I thought I was getting. So buyer beware. There are a lot of other aps available for the QNAP. I have not explored them. I do not know if they also offer only limited functionality.

Another option might be to set up a windows based virtual machine on the QNAP, which it purports to be capable of. I haven’t looked into this yet. For me it would require purchasing a valid copy of Windows. I’m not familiar with any other OS.

Oh, lest we forget the “Turn off” bug. JRiver has been aware of this for only a couple of weeks, and I believe they are working on a fix. Here it is in a nutshell: If you reboot the QNAP NAS, JRiver will no longer load. You have to reinstall it on the QNAP server. It’s an issue… especially for a system that is being set up for the first time. But I’m not worried yet. After spending some time on the JRiver interact support forum I have to say the company is very responsive to its users and seems to have a history of addressing problems like this in a timely manner, not to mention the continual improvements and functionality they impart to their product. Other than that there have only been a few instances where I would try to play back an album I had just loaded into the library directory and got some other album coming out. I think it just needed more time to update the library and it got a bit wonky when it was rushed. It’s nothing that a restart of the software couldn’t fix.

I have been getting into what I consider the fun part of this endeavor and have begun the process, of setting up my multimedia directory. I got a copy of DVD extractor for DVD-As and a copy of ISOtoDSD for my SACD ISO conversions.

This leads me to my first couple of questions. I found out that JRiver supports direct playback of ISO files. I had read that most of you were converting to your SACD ISO files to DSF files for playback. Is there any advantage to making that conversion as opposed to letting JRiver handle the ISOs directly? I did use the ISOtoDSD software. It has some limitation on where to build your output files, but it does the job. It’s also free and the only way I have found to make a DSD to DSF conversion so far. As yet, I see no advantage to making the conversion for use with JRiver. Remember though I haven’t been able to do a real evaluation of the audible difference, if any.

I am less than 50 albums into this process. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t start categorizing files in a more intelligent way. Maybe a directory for SACD, another for DVDA conversions, another for RB CD, etc. In spite of the availability of JRiver’s smart lists, the method I’m using now of creating a directory for each separate album and dropping everything into a single “Multimedia” directory is at odds with my audiophile OCD. What file hierarchy works best for you? And where does JRiver get stuff like cover art for the albums? Is it embedded in the files themselves? Over time it just seems to appear.

DVD extractor seems to do what its supposed to well enough, although it can be slow process with high res 5.1 tracks. I’m ripping the MLP layer of DVD-As to 24/96 Flac files. I haven’t attempted any video, DVD-V or DTS yet. Is it wise to rip the stereo and multichannel titles to different directories?

So as I’ve been building this library I’ve been checking on the sound part the only way I have right now, that being HDMI into my flat screen TV. To my surprise everything I’ve tried plays through. Even the SACD ISO files play. A stereo ISO comes out as stereo while a multi channel ISO produces only the front L/R channels (I assume). So what is decoding the SACD stream? I assume JRiver is transcoding the output to something the TV can handle? I’m glad, because it allows me to play verify the audio throughput of the system. I know there is an audio setup screen where output mode can be selected and this will probably need to be changed once the server gets connected to a Pre/Pro.

That’s my entry in this journal for now. If you have any suggestions or comments, please jump in the conversation. I’d like to hear your thoughts and any help would be greatly appreciated.
 

Kal Rubinson

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I have no experience with running JRMC on a NAS but I do have running JRMC on a PC/server with my files on a QNAP NAS. I am well aware that versions of JRMC, other than on a WinPC, suffer from some limitations.

That said, i have been playing SACD ISOs for about 2 years now but I am beginning to convert them to DSFs in anticipation of getting to explore options other than JRMC. When you play the ISOs, JRMC is converting them to PCM for output but you can see and control these operations by going to Tools > Options > Audio.

As for file storage, I created a new directory on the NAS called "Recordings" with new subdirectories for Classical MCH, Classical ISO, Classical CD, Rock/Pop/Jazz MCH, etc..
 

LuvMyQuad

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I have no experience with running JRMC on a NAS but I do have running JRMC on a PC/server with my files on a QNAP NAS. I am well aware that versions of JRMC, other than on a WinPC, suffer from some limitations.

That said, i have been playing SACD ISOs for about 2 years now but I am beginning to convert them to DSFs in anticipation of getting to explore options other than JRMC. When you play the ISOs, JRMC is converting them to PCM for output but you can see and control these operations by going to Tools > Options > Audio.

As for file storage, I created a new directory on the NAS called "Recordings" with new subdirectories for Classical MCH, Classical ISO, Classical CD, Rock/Pop/Jazz MCH, etc..
Kal,

What do you use to control JRiver from your listening spot?
 

JanBakker

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I'm not Kai :), but jriver has 2 apps (android) called JRemote (€10,88) and Gizmo which is free. I use Foobar and its remote app and it works great so I guess the JRiver apps may be good as well.
 

LuvMyQuad

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I'm not Kai :), but jriver has 2 apps (android) called JRemote (€10,88) and Gizmo which is free. I use Foobar and its remote app and it works great so I guess the JRiver apps may be good as well.
I was aware of both options, but I don't use a smartphone. Gizmo, is a possibility and I will have to try it out. Either way though, it still comes down to controlling the system via my laptop. I also do not know if Gizmo offers full functionality like you would get with a full windows version of JRMC.
 

JanBakker

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I was aware of both options, but I don't use a smartphone. Gizmo, is a possibility and I will have to try it out. Either way though, it still comes down to controlling the system via my laptop. I also do not know if Gizmo offers full functionality like you would get with a full windows version of JRMC.
Probably not, I don't think any app will do that, not sure what you mean by controlling JRiver fom your listening spot then, but then again I'm not Kai and I will keep my big mouth shut :violin.
 

Kal Rubinson

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I'm not Kai :), but jriver has 2 apps (android) called JRemote (€10,88) and Gizmo which is free. I use Foobar and its remote app and it works great so I guess the JRiver apps may be good as well.
I am not Kai :rolleyes: either but JRemote is pretty good. I use it occasionally because I do not need to control JRMC from my listening seat. My preference is use a full monitor/keyboard/mouse control at the equipment rack than to try to find and fiddle with my iPad.
 

JanBakker

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I am not Kai :rolleyes: either but JRemote is pretty good. I use it occasionally because I do not need to control JRMC from my listening seat. My preference is use a full monitor/keyboard/mouse control at the equipment rack than to try to find and fiddle with my iPad.
Think I need glasses, sorry Kal :confused:
 

quicksrt

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I am not Kai :rolleyes: either but JRemote is pretty good. I use it occasionally because I do not need to control JRMC from my listening seat. My preference is use a full monitor/keyboard/mouse control at the equipment rack than to try to find and fiddle with my iPad.
Oh but of course. But kicking back in your favorite chair or couch position "listening spot", a large tablet might work more comfortably, it might work really well for basic search and play functions, I don't know yet.

I have a friend who has ADHD, and likes to get up out of a chair and walk over to system and then return to chair and then back again. I have no such inclink.
 

Sixtyten

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I use Jriver from my PC. All my music is stored on a NAS drive. The Jriver licence allowed me to install another copy on my Windows tablet. From the tablet it is possible to connect to my Jriver music library on the PC. Once I do this, I can then use my Tablet as a remote control. I've a Denon 300 DAC which supports DSD, so it decodes the SACD.ISOs I have directly. They sound all but indistinguishable to those I play through my SACD player. I used to split the ISOs into DSF files, but I was a pain in the arse, so now I just import the ISO's themselves into Jriver. I do strip out the multi-channel versions of the files though. As my DAC is stereo, I don't see the point in having duplicate MC versions in the library
 

HomerJAU

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I keep my stereo and MCH files in different root folders but that's only to allow me to organise by type since once the media files are scanned (imported) into my media library it doesn't matter where the are.

I would imagine a single sub folder per album is the way to go as that allows for easier management and for separate album art if you have different versions of same album.

My media player software (Kodi - freeware), like many other media players, needs metadata 'tags' to identify artist, albums, year etc so I always add something to differentiate versions of the same album, for example: Pink Floyd's WYWH album versions are in 3 folders in my MCH root folder:
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (SACD)
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (Quad BDA)
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here (5.1 BDA)

The song files are all tagged with the source type (in brackets) like the folder names so the media player shows 3 distinct albums. Incidentally, Kodi ignores anything in brackets so it still automatically downloads additional data about the WYWH album.

My NAS root folders are:
Stereo
Surround
Music Videos
Classical Surround

I have split every disc (audio and video) into individual files per song. Mainly so I can create playlists of my favourite songs or to make playlists for specific music such as Seventies Acoustic Guitars, Reggae, Eighties Hits, 70s Singer/Songwriters, Classic Rock Videos, etc
 

Kal Rubinson

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I used to split the ISOs into DSF files, but I was a pain in the arse, so now I just import the ISO's themselves into Jriver.
I have been keeping them as ISOs but I envision making the conversions eventually because I do not see newer apps supporting ISO.

I do strip out the multi-channel versions of the files though. As my DAC is stereo, I don't see the point in having duplicate MC versions in the library
I do strip out the stereo versions of the files though. As my DAC is MCH, I don't see the point in having duplicate stereo versions in the library. Mebbe we should share?
 

LuvMyQuad

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On the "how to control it" subject, I did check out the JR Web Gizmo interface. It worked well. I ran it on my laptop. Basically its a local network connected page that works through a browser. It offers just the basics for playback. I don't see any real advantage to using it in place of the full interface I can get by using another copy of JRMC on my laptop in Tremote mode. I'm also considering a wireless mini keyboard with touch pad to leave connected to the NAS.
 

LuvMyQuad

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One of the reasons I'm using Kodi is it's great support for remote control on phones and tablets. I use this one on my iPad:

http://kodimusicremote.com/apps/kodi-music-remote-pro

$2.99 to allow live creation of play lists for both audio and music videos.
Kodi is also available as an AP on the QNAP, as is PLEX and a few others. What drew me to JRiver was what appeared to be a really nice interface and the ability to handle multi channel ISO files. The "nice interface" feature is only partly there on the QNAP incarnation of JRiver, and Kal (and apparently his twin brother Kai) is making me reconsider not converting the ISO's. So i'm very much open at looking into other media controller solutions.

Right now i'm pretty busy just building the library. It takes forever to process some of these files, especially on a network. And lets not even talk about the metadata stuff yet.
 

DuncanS

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How do you get FLAC albums to play via DNLA in the correct album track order via a media streaming Blu-ray/Amp etc., rather than alphabetically as seems to be happening?

The reason I ask!

I took my good old Denon DBP2012UD for repair as it won't recognise any disc from power up apart from Blu-Ray, but after playing a bit of it, the player will recognise CD/SACD/DVD-A/V, odd. So into Richer Sounds I went with it and left it for repair, so off to the Denon hospital with it (Richer have a good pay 10% extra and get an extended 5yr/6ys guarantee). They offered to lend me a suitable player until mine was fixed as well - excellent service. However, they had an unused open box Panasonic DMP-BDT700 at a discount, this won't play SACD or DVD-A not sure about BD-A yet. But it will play 2.0/4.0/5.1 FLACs from my NAS or PC. So I kind of thought, well it is knocked down from £599.99 to £379.99, and as I had joined their VIP customers club previously I got a further 10% off, as it so happened off the original list price so only £341-ish (I got the extended guarantee as well). A cheaper way of getting surround FLAC playback. So I emerged from the shop poorer but happier!
 
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