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All your questions on Music Servers and Music Renderers answered by LP Revivalist


What is a Music Server?

The Music Server is the source of your music. A Music Server is made up of three main components:

Storage media; used to store your music in digital form. The most common storage media used are hard disks.

Computer hardware; In order to make a music server work you need a CPU, memory, in other words a computer. Historically this would be a PC or Mac but it is now possible to use the hardware built into some hard disk systems and not require a computer at all. An excellent example of a network storage device that can keep your music safe and also act as a Music Server is a Netgear ReadyNas Duo.

Media server software; software is required to catalogue the music so you can choose the right track to play. There are many examples of media software, iTunes and Twonky Media Server are two common examples.

What is a Music Renderer?

A Music Renderer receives the digital files of your music from the Music Server and converts the digital files to analogue format and then outputs the analogue signal to your amplifier and loudspeakers. These come in many forms, examples are such common pieces of consumer hardware such as a Sony Playstation 3, most PCs can act as a Music Renderer. For the best sound however one should choose a special purpose piece of hardware designed solely as a Music Renderer. One of the simplest examples and one that provides great value for money is the Logitech Squeezebox series of products. See here for more details. However for the best results we would suggest you look at the products produced by some of the quality hifi labels. In particular we recommend the DS series of products from Linn. See here for more details.

How do the Music Server and Music Renderer communicate?

They are physically connected via ethernet or via a wireless network. They communicate via a communication protocol that can either be proprietary or open such as UPnP. Sounds complex but all it really means is you plug in an ethernet cable to both ends or set up the devices to connect to your wireless network. For best results we recommend wired ethernet as this removes a possible source of problems namely wireless interference.

What's so good about a Music Server/Renderer?

For the reproduction of music from digital sources we believe a music server/music renderer system sound best. Note we said "from digital sources", this is because here at LP Revivalist we are firmly of the view that a good vinyl system sounds better than any digital sources. However if you play CDs, and let's be honest, the majority of us do, then a music server based system will surpass the performance of a CD based system where the quality of the components are comparable. The reasons for this are simple. In a music server based system you remove on primary element of a CD based system that introduces flaws into the sound reproduction - the CD mechanical reading processes. Although CDs are promoted and are widely believed to be a digital source in fact they are not. CDs are an analogue representation of digital data. The 0 and 1s inherent in digital are represented by little pits or absence there of etched into the surface of the CD. These pits are read by laser and the reflection of the laser is interpreted as either a 0 or a 1. However misalignment, scratches and dirt can fool the reader and data can be misinterpreted. The CD contains Reed-Solomon error correcting code to try and correct these errors, nevertheless such errors do affect the quality of the sound. Furthermore the mechanical systems, motors, servos, power supplies and associated electronics all introduce interference into the signal path degrading the sound reproduction. In a music server/renderer system all one is doing is turning the digital data into analogue. This is a much simpler process and hence the electronics can be optimised for this purpose.

Another reason a Music Server / Music Renderer can outperform a CD player is also simple. Most Music Renderers can play music in high resolution 24bits rather than the 16bits used by CDs. Un till you compare the two formats you do not realise how much you are compromising the sound by using CDs as a source. More on 24 bit sources later.

But hang on a minute, the Music Server still gets the data from CDs?

You may be asking if CD players have trouble extracting the data on the CD then doesn't the same issue exist for the music server. The answer is that the methodology for putting the data onto the music server hard disk is quite a different process to that used when a CD is playing music. For obvious reasons when you play a CD in your hifi then the CD is read once only in real time, any errors have to be dealt with on the fly there and then. On the other hand when you rip a CD into the Music Server then you use a computer. Computers are designed to read and process data. Thus the CD reader can read the disk multiple times to try and extract the data rather than relying on one read and then error correction. Furthermore there are some sophisticated programs to read CDs ( such as Exact Audio Copy ) that correct for misalignment of the laser and use checksums to ensure a perfect bit copy. All of this means that the digital tracks on the hard drive are the best possible source possible. Remember for the best music production the source must be of the highest quality.

Note that the tracks must be stored either as an uncompressed format such as Wave or AIFF, or more usually as a lossless compressed format such as Apple Lossless or FLAC ( An open format ). We recommend FLAC which can be reproduced by both products such as the Logitech Squeezebox and the Linn DS services of products. Do not store the music as MP3 or AAC as that simply throws away the information contained on your source CD.

Where can I get 24 bit music?

Not from CDs. CDs contain 16 bit data. No matter what you do that is it. So ripped CDs while sounding better than a played CD still are 16 bit. There are two possible sources of 24 bit music. Firstly quite a few web sites now offer 24 bit downloads. One excellent example is Linn Records www.linnrecords.co.uk that has downloads up to 24 bit 192khz. The second source is LP Revivalist. We can provide 24 bit recordings of your vinyl and also of your SACDs. The 24 bit versions of your records are not going to be as good as playing the record on a really top range turntable, but they are the next best thing, you are playing a clean recording at 24 bit resolution played on our top of the range turntable. SACDs are not actually 24 bit recordings but use a quite different encoding technique, but they are high resolution and we can record them at 24 bit for you. They are the next best thing to vinyl.

Can you advise me further?

Yes we can. We acknowledge that the world of music servers, renderers can seem complex. We can help steer you through this world and help you design your ideal system. We do not sell hifi so are independent and as such can provide you with advice based on what we think sounds best rather than what we sell. Call us on 02 9572 7005 to discuss further.




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