Musical NAS Drives

General HiFi discussion, using the Tune Method to evaluate performance

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MisterH
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by MisterH » 2019-12-28 17:13

I use Tidal occasionally but have to say I don’t find it as good as playing music stored on the network. I have recently moved from using a QNAP NAS to using a Roon Nucleus type box with in built SSD, which I have found to be an improvement over the QNAP, and running Roon on IMac.

Overall a big improvement from QNAP and Minimserver

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by u252agz » 2019-12-28 19:20

I have a feeling that these NAS drives , including audiophile ones vary from being excellent to just ok - maybe dependant on its installation or perhaps even unit to unit variation.

I have listened to one truly awful high end audiophile NAS and will never forget when we switched to an old Ripnas.

As there is no way to try out these things at home - and I seem to be very happy with Tidal - I will probably stick with this for now.

The ability to try out new albums in CD quality , without having to pay for each one means that music is so much more accessible now.

I have a feeling that with Tidal - my listening, which has been mainly vinyl recently ( especially since upgrading the Majik LP12) May go back to a more even mix between Digital and vinyl.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by macrotech2 » 2019-12-28 19:58

Has anyone a remotely scientific explanation for why NAS drives / routers etc can sound different? I’m not disputing people hear differences, and I’m very pleased with my EtherRegen, but how can they make a difference?
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Catweazle » 2019-12-29 00:11

Possibly, this has to be attributed to Electro Magnetic Interference. This would also explain, why the same piece of equipment is sounding better or worse in different homes. I commented on my own (poor) Melco experience above. Many trustworthy people speak very positive about their Melcos, and I don't think they all need listening aids. ;-)
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by macrotech2 » 2019-12-29 13:32

EMI is a very general term. Exactly where is this EMI and how does it affect the output of the DAC?
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Catweazle » 2020-01-01 20:44

Happy New Year!
Where is EMI? Everywhere. I'm not a true EMI expert, but I worked in the defense industry for 15 years. We had our own EMI lab, and I have seen quite a few measurements on all kinds of equipment. Unwanted energy is transmitted via signal and power cables, and radiated through the air. Part of it will eventually find its way into the equipment downstream, causing unwanted effects.
According to my understanding, this is also the reason, why we hear differences between different types of LAN cables, which trustworthy transmit data all the time.
As for the DAC, you might cause harm in different ways, e.g.:
- compromising the reference voltage
- compromising the clock signal
- compromising the analog output signal directly
Just my 0,02 €
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by sunbeamgls » 2020-01-01 23:04

I'm surprised at the positive comparisons for Tidal in this thread.

I've made comparisons between local NAS FLAC rips and Tidal in 4x systems:
Innuos / Chord Hugo / Naim amp / PMC
Melco N1ZA (but with self installed SSDs) / Linn Klimax Exakt full system
QNAP / AEDSM / Exakt / Lejonklou amps / PMC
Melco N1ZA / AEDSM / Exakt / Lejonklou amps / PMC

In all of these comparisons, Tidal seems lacking in life - flat and a little compressed - compared to all of these NAS options. In fact, in the Innuos fronted system, before we made the comparison the owner, who had pretty much converted over to Tidal for convenience and catalogue reasons, had almost stopped listening to music because of lack of engagement. When we made the comparison with rips on the Innuos, he realised what he'd been missing and has been listening much more to his music ever since. There's something missing in the vocals on many Tidal tracks too - something grainy and irritating about them. Research suggests this is something to do with watermarking on many tracks.

Just trialling Qobuz now to see how that compares to NAS and Tidal.

I'm not down on Tidal - I've had a subscription for over 3 years and like it for exploration and deciding if to buy an album or not. Its great for that and less focussed listening time. But it just hasn't been anywhere near as engaging as a local copy.

FYI my Melco N1ZA is on the same mains spur as the rest of the system (including the power amps) but the sources (AEDSM and the Exaktbox) are fed by a PS Audio PS5 regenerator, so perhaps that make a difference to any potential interference over the mains side of things.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Spannko » 2020-01-02 01:39

Thanks sunbeam. I’m hoping that by sharing our experiences we can come to some conclusions about just what’s happening and why people are getting different results.

Like you I’ve been streaming music for a number of years and never found it engaging. It was ok for checking out new releases, but that was about it. It was if the sound and music both left a lot to be desired. Sometimes, a month or so would go by without me even listening to it.

Then Anthony just happened to mention that he was getting better results by streaming directly into his DS. He’d been using an Innuos, rather than the Melco I was using, but I thought I’d still give it a try, and to be perfectly honest I’ve been astounded by how much more enjoyable the system is by removing the Melco. It’s not just a little bit better, it’s hugely better, and as u252agz has also said, it’s the best upgrade we’ve both heard for years.

Unfortunately, Christmas and new year have taken up all my time, so I haven’t been able to do any experiments to try and understand why I’m getting a better sound without the Melco, but I’ll be getting right back on it next week.

My current hypotheses are that the Melco is injecting noise into the system, or the system is injecting noise into the Melco, or using the Melco creates some kind of a ground loop in the system. I find all of them improbable, but I need to start somewhere and see what happens when I change things. It’s possible that your power conditioner is eliminating any potential noise problem and the fact that the Melco N10 uses a linear PS suggests that it could still be a PS noise problem though.

Would you be prepared to experiment on your own system? I’d be really interested to know how you get on with Tidal and Qobuz with the Melco disconnected and the DS fed directly from your network switch. You could try it with the Melco both powered and unpowered too.
Last edited by Spannko on 2020-01-02 11:41, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by u252agz » 2020-01-02 11:33

As there is so much variability on the forum with peoples experiences with NAS drives and streaming - I have come to the conclusion that the feed going to the streamer must:

A. Be as important if not more , than the Streamer/ DAC itself.

B. Vary from system to system , depending on the specific software versions in all the boxes and all the attached hardware and cables.

And that is assuming the recordings themselves ( ie CDs vs the Streaming companies source data) are comparable.

Is it any wonder Fredrik put his streamer project on ice pending a major breakthrough in delivering a consistently excellent signal to his prototype streamers.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by donuk » 2020-01-02 16:29

I agree that the way digits are served up to a streamer is a complex one, and a bit of a black art.

What I do know is the regular question I get "what sounds better, a ripped CD or Qubuz" has very variable answers. I think it depends on the history of the CD. Also - a similar dilemma - do high resolution files sound better than CD ones? Answers vary - I tend to prefer 192. To my ears bit rate is more important than frequency, i.e. 24 nearly always has more "air" than 16. Some 192 recordings can sound over-detailed and unmusical.

The issue of how recordings can vary is particularly true of classic old recordings - take Don McLean's American Pie. I have investigated a few of these - some ripped CD's sound thin and bassless. Qobuz is preferable here. But some local rippings of other CDs outperform Qobuz. There is not a clear winner in my experience.

As far as digital tweaks - cables &c, I have heard it said by those who know more about the subject than I do, that the better the streamer is designed, the less it will benefit from external treatments of the signal. For example some systems benefit from transcoding FLAC to WAV before the file reaches the streamer - "to ease the work on the streamer". Some streamers do not need this assistance and therefore show no benefit. Strangely I prefer the sound of FLAC files in my streamer to WAVs.

As other correspondents have said, it is not clear why any of this might be true, if indeed it is. On the other hand I am not of the community which says "If you cannot explain why it happens, then it must be rubbish". This would also exclude music, art and love for me. On the other hand the fact that a Qobuz file has to come from abroad can sound better than some files I have just ripped proves the matter is not simple. I suppose a bit like the mains lead argument": how can the last two metres of cable between me and the power station make much difference.

I suspect we will never know some of these answers. The main thing is that this forum continues to function in its friendly way - egos are not a priority, and our friendship is more important than whether we are right or wrong.

And to make this post relevant - "I suppose NAS drives add to this debate".

Happy new year from beautiful downtown York.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Spannko » 2020-01-03 04:06

OK, I think I’m beginning to understand a little bit more about what’s going on now.

All of the following thoughts are subject to change due to me having to use an unknown mains cable on the Melco.
  • The “Ethernet purifier” on the Melco seems to be better than the Cisco, but not as good as a GS108. That is, when streaming Qobuz, the GS108 when placed between a GS108T (30m away) and the DS produces a more musical sound than when using the Melco between the 108T and the DS
  • The Melco appears to be better playing a local file than streaming at 320k from Qobuz providing a good network switch is connected locally to the Melco
I’m going to have another play tomorrow, but with a decent mains lead this time.

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by u252agz » 2020-01-03 10:05

donuk wrote:
2020-01-02 16:29
I agree that the way digits are served up to a streamer is a complex one, and a bit of a black art.

What I do know is the regular question I get "what sounds better, a ripped CD or Qubuz" has very variable answers. I think it depends on the history of the CD. Also - a similar dilemma - do high resolution files sound better than CD ones? Answers vary - I tend to prefer 192. To my ears bit rate is more important than frequency, i.e. 24 nearly always has more "air" than 16. Some 192 recordings can sound over-detailed and unmusical.

The issue of how recordings can vary is particularly true of classic old recordings - take Don McLean's American Pie. I have investigated a few of these - some ripped CD's sound thin and bassless. Qobuz is preferable here. But some local rippings of other CDs outperform Qobuz. There is not a clear winner in my experience.

As far as digital tweaks - cables &c, I have heard it said by those who know more about the subject than I do, that the better the streamer is designed, the less it will benefit from external treatments of the signal. For example some systems benefit from transcoding FLAC to WAV before the file reaches the streamer - "to ease the work on the streamer". Some streamers do not need this assistance and therefore show no benefit. Strangely I prefer the sound of FLAC files in my streamer to WAVs.

As other correspondents have said, it is not clear why any of this might be true, if indeed it is. On the other hand I am not of the community which says "If you cannot explain why it happens, then it must be rubbish". This would also exclude music, art and love for me. On the other hand the fact that a Qobuz file has to come from abroad can sound better than some files I have just ripped proves the matter is not simple. I suppose a bit like the mains lead argument": how can the last two metres of cable between me and the power station make much difference.

I suspect we will never know some of these answers. The main thing is that this forum continues to function in its friendly way - egos are not a priority, and our friendship is more important than whether we are right or wrong.

And to make this post relevant - "I suppose NAS drives add to this debate".

Happy new year from beautiful downtown York.
Black art is a good description of the enigma that is Digital music .

The one thing I know is that when people on this forum have different opinions regarding seemingly identical digital sources, it is highly likely that these 'identical sources' ( depending on installation of networks, software versions etc etc ) are actually delivering quite different 'music' to the streamer and we are all correctly interpreting the end result it as more or less musical.

I'm going to enjoy Tidal for now and when there is an inevitable change in one of the software settings in one of my network components, or a forced change in the hardware which makes an impact, I am going to pray very hard that it changes it for the better.

There is always the option of an Innuos Zen Mini III if streaming fails to hit the spot.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by fatjulio » 2020-01-04 00:13

I've been playing with where the NAS is powered from. I have it plugged directly into a twin wall socket, with a power strip coming off the second socket to power the rest of the network gear. I've tried it on the power strip, in first place, but it's quite dull and dead. Digital is so fragile that it needs all the help it can get, so giving the source (NAS) the best power possible seems to help.

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Spannko » 2020-01-04 02:06

Yes, it’s crazy just how easily digital replay is affected by stuff. I’m currently using a GS108T as a home hub, into a GS108 in my HiFi room, into a Melco and then finally into the DS. The GS108 and Melco are both powered off a different power circuit to the HiFi (which has a dedicated radial circuit). I’m finding this to be the best setup so far and I’d say that locally stored files (on the Melco) are now sounding better than Qobuz 320k. However, I was struggling to get a good WiFi signal tonight so I plugged a WAP (a usb powered tp-link) into the GS108 and it immediately killed the musicality. It was if I’d taken one step back again. I’ve no idea what the WAP was doing, but even the “Ethernet Purifier” in the Melco couldn’t clean the stream up again.

I’m now wondering if I should put another GS108 next to the GS108T (home hub) to do whatever it does before sending the signal to a GS108 in the HiFi room. Where will it all end?

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by u252agz » 2020-01-04 23:13

Your system sounds quite a bit more complicated than mine -

I have a GS108T to which the router, the NAS drive and Three streamers attach via Cat 5 cables ( running through various bits of the house.)

The fourth streamer runs via over the mains Ethernet - the original house ring mains kills the music - the newer extension is much better , but direct hard wire is definitely the best -

I have had to run One cat 5 cable from the front of the house to the back internally, and then around the outside wall to get to one of the streamers, so as avoid the rubbish ring mains!

A Netgear FS108 switch also killed the music and had to be immediately exchanged to the GS 108T.

I have not looked at power supplies, or shelf supports but might do if I get a new NAS drive.

The LP12 is so much easier in many ways, and to be honest so is Tidal.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Spannko » 2020-01-05 00:24

Actually, your LAN sounds very similar, it’s just that I’ve got a second GS108 next to the HiFi too.

I’m finding it hard to find the time to make some videos, but when I do, you’ll be able to hear the effect of adding another GS108 next to the HiFi.

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Peter Lanky » 2020-01-05 11:03

My own two penn'orth.

Unless anyone knows something I don't, Tidal 'Master' does not work with Linn streamers which will only stream at 'HiFi' level, i.e. CD quality. I questioned Linn technical dept about this, and it is some very technical issue about the way Tidal master is streamed which would require a modification that Linn is unwilling to make to accommodate it.

On using Tidal itself. I have a free 12 month trial of it that came with my car, so plenty of listening opportunities. I can't decide on whether there is any reduction in quality from my own streaming (QNAP TS-253A), but Tidal is certainly not better.

Other than the high price, if I was to subscribe (which I never will), I get fed up with all the crap that I have to look at that is pushed at me before I can get to what I want, and I still find a lot of the music I look for is not available. My own trick for finding new music is to look at Music Magpie and filter out the bargains within the genres I like, and then try them out on Tidal before buying the Cd from Music Magpie. The strategy has worked well so far, but too many are simply not on Tidal.

One thing I do like about Tidal are the 'My Mixes' based on what I have been listening to. Useful if I am undecided at what I want on, or if looking for inspiration.

I will stick with my QNAP. At this time of life, trying to squeeze something more from music by trying different NAS boxes is a step too far for me.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by David Neel » 2020-01-05 15:49

Peter Lanky wrote:
2020-01-05 11:03
At this time of life, trying to squeeze something more from music by trying different NAS boxes is a step too far for me.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Defender » 2020-01-06 19:31

you for sure have tested it but are you really sure to put the Melco and the GS108 at different power rails sounds better?
do you use ethernet cables shorter than 1.2meters?

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Spannko » 2020-01-06 20:27

Defender,

I’ll record the Melco on the same circuit and on a different circuit so you can have a listen for yourself.

All my Ethernet cables are either 2.5m long (bjc) or 3.0m long (Meicord). Is 1.2m signicant in some way?

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Defender » 2020-01-06 20:57

no this is a rough number - might be that 1.1meter is also sufficient but I remember reading an article from someone who was working in the digital signal transmission industry who got into audio later with his own business. he stated that digital signals create a reflection at the receiver and bounce back - than they are reflected at the other side again - if they arrive at the receiver again at the rise time from 0 to 1 or at 1 to 0 they can create some interferences. A longer cable has enough damping effect. That could be also one reason why shorter Cat cables even though sold as CAT 5/6/7 most of the time dont pass that particular specification.

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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by u252agz » 2020-01-07 12:49

Peter Lanky wrote:
2020-01-05 11:03


I will stick with my QNAP. At this time of life, trying to squeeze something more from music by trying different NAS boxes is a step too far for me.
I can relate to this - It can be a lot of hassle and there is no guarantee the new NAS will be better.

There are just so many components in the Digital chain before the streamer ( the NAS itself just being one) that it would be a huge amount of effort to try and optimise each and every one. And then some software change/hardware replacement somewhere in the system may well change everything again.

At the moment I am enjoying the honeymoon period with TIDAL - £5 for 5 months at the moment.

When this runs out I will make a decision re continuing with TIDAL (HI Fi) and my existing NAS drive ( my original back up which is not as good as Tidal at the moment) , or getting an Innuous Zen mini III and perhaps continuing with TIDAL ( premium ) just to have the ability to try out new music, and keep other family members happy at a more resoanable cost,
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by ThomasOK » 2020-01-07 23:32

The reason Tidal Masters doesn't work with Linn streamers is that it uses MQA which Linn doesn't like (nor do I). MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated and is a lossy compressed version of high-res music files. It is supposed to give you the same quality as true 24/96 files but it doesn't. I have not been impressed with the musical quality of the system and it appears to mainly be a way for the record industry to get copy protection back into high-res files (the reason so many labels have signed up for it) and to make its designer, Bob Stuart of Meridian, a lot of money. Since Qobuz is now streaming uncompressed files it is questionable bothering with a lossy compression scheme such as MQA, IMHO.
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by Catweazle » 2020-01-10 19:32

Just to second ThomasOK: there is a blog post by Linn on this topic
https://www.linn.co.uk/blog/mqa-is-bad-for-music

Or is it a topik 😜
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Re: Musical NAS Drives

Post by ThomasOK » 2020-01-10 21:04

Linn is not the only one thinking this way. Stereophile, which in the early days was a booster of MQA, has reversed its position with time and more experience with the format. This editorial echoes some of what is in Linn's article and points out some other possible problems.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/mqa ... -and-costs
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