High-Rez Music Server
I'm interested in building a music server for high-rez audio files. I'd like something such as a Mac Mini but with more drive space and lower cost. Dell Zino perhaps? Most importantly, I need a player that will handle all music file formats, including lossless. Also, I need a DAC for under $1000. Any suggestions on how best to pull this off?
I don't know that much about Windows-based music servers, so I asked Chris Connaker, founder of ComputerAudiophile.com, a great resource for this subject. He says the Dell Zino computers are very good, but for high-resolution audio, you should probably use USB rather than the built-in S/PDIF output, which is likely limited in its supported sample rates. He also recommends using eSATA rather than USB hard drives, because eSATA doesn't share the USB bus; using USB hard drives with a USB DAC can cause frustrating problems.
Then there's the software. Connaker recommends J. River Media Center as the best Windows app by far.
As for DACs, Connaker says there are many choices under $1000. He thinks the Wavelength Audio Proton is a great choice with support for resolutions up to 24/96 and a built-in analog volume control that can be adjusted via software. Other options include the new DAC*iT or iDAC from Peachtree Audio. Stereophile editor John Atkinson recommends the Cambridge Audio DacMagic, Rega DAC, and Musical Fidelity M1DAC.
If you have an A/V question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.