Home network music / audio server solutions

PK0001

Novice Member
Hi all - I've posted this on the hi-fi forum but thought it might be sensible to cast the net a little wider and post here too.

I am looking into solutions for setting up a server for local music files; but here's the thing: I don't want to consider a NAS drive. Why? Well I have some experience with NASs and I feel that they are essentially very underpowered units which take up space and have very limited versatility (unless, of course, you are prepared to spend mega-bucks for a powerful model - and I'm not). I have the following solutions which go from very crude to somewhat more sophisticated - I would appreciate some thoughts on them.
  • Simply sharing a networked music folder on my Windows 10 laptop (keeping the machine from sleeping to prevent disconnection and far away enough to mitigate fan noise). This one is a crude solution - but it's simplicity will surely work without hitch?
  • Simply installing specialist audio UPNP server software (MinimServer, Asset, other suggestions welcome) on the Windows laptop and stream to PiCorePlayer. I actually already have this solution up and running; but I would be interested in your thoughts as there may be glaring issues which are not apparent to me.
  • Turning a Raspberry Pi into a cheap NAS drive to serve music - is this possible? My thinking here is that the cost would be so low (compared to a standard NAS) so as to make the solution attractive and other functions (like Roon Core) can be undertaken on my Windows laptop.
  • Use an Intel NUC or other small PC to function as a NAS. Unlike an actual NAS, my thinking here is that the NUC is versatile enough to be used for other functions too. For instance, whilst at the moment I'm somewhat undecided, I may wish to use the NUC as a Roon Core device and music file server (the NUC would give me such an option, a NAS wouldn't). Just a couple of queries on a NUC/small PC setup:
    • Would using a Linux OS be preferable to installing Windows on a NUC? I'm not versed in Linux so I acknowledge that I would be on a steep learning curve here. Is serving music over the network using a NUC with Linux OS reasonably straight forward?
    • Is there a way of controlling a NUC with Linux heedlessly, so over remote desktop or something so avoiding the need for a monitor and keyboard to be always connected?
  • NUC running Roon ROCK - this is probably the "best" solution but it does turn the NUC into a single-purpose device.
I realise that this is perhaps not the most sophisticated of posts but I got to start somewhere. I would really like to hear some thoughts on the above and happy to consider any alternatives.
 

mickevh

Distinguished Member
I have some experience with NASs and I feel that they are essentially very under powered units which take up space and have very limited versatility (unless, of course, you are prepared to spend mega-bucks for a powerful model - and I'm not). I have the following solutions which go from very crude to somewhat more sophisticated - I would appreciate some thoughts on them.

That is "the point" of a NAS - it's a computer (like any other) which has been stripped down to the bare necessities needed to store files and serve them over a network. This makes them simple and cheap. There's been a lot of "function creep" in the NAS market over the years as vendors have "added back in" lots of things which then drives the requirement for higher specification and more expense. For some of them, about the only distinction between and NAS and a full fat server (technically, a NAS is a server) is the operating system they run.

[*]Simply sharing a networked music folder on my Windows 10 laptop (keeping the machine from sleeping to prevent disconnection and far away enough to mitigate fan noise). This one is a crude solution - but it's simplicity will surely work without hitch?

Most versions of Windows since V3.11 can share files onto a network. But using an old laptop to do it is probably a bit clunky and OTT when it comes to power usage and so on. It should "work" though.

[*]Simply installing specialist audio UPNP server software (MinimServer, Asset, other suggestions welcome) on the Windows laptop and stream to PiCorePlayer. I actually already have this solution up and running; but I would be interested in your thoughts as there may be glaring issues which are not apparent to me.

You don't actually need uPNP (or DLNA) to stream media - most media players will stream from CIFS/SMB Shares, though the presentation might not be as pretty, but that's more an attribute of the client not the storage medium.

It's important to understand the paradigm of media streaming - the playback device (client) "pulls" the data from the media store as required, the storage medium isn't "pushing" the stream to the client. This is fundamental to most "client-server" applications.

[*]Turning a Raspberry Pi into a cheap NAS drive to serve music - is this possible? My thinking here is that the cost would be so low (compared to a standard NAS) so as to make the solution attractive and other functions (like Roon Core) can be undertaken on my Windows laptop.

I cannot see why that wouldn't work, though I've never done it. Others here have. Music is pretty low bandwidth.

[*]Use an Intel NUC or other small PC to function as a NAS. Unlike an actual NAS, my thinking here is that the NUC is versatile enough to be used for other functions too. For instance, whilst at the moment I'm somewhat undecided, I may wish to use the NUC as a Roon Core device and music file server (the NUC would give me such an option, a NAS wouldn't). Just a couple of queries on a NUC/small PC setup:
[*]Would using a Linux OS be preferable to installing Windows on a NUC? I'm not versed in Linux so I acknowledge that I would be on a steep learning curve here. Is serving music over the network using a NUC with Linux OS reasonably straight forward?
[*]Is there a way of controlling a NUC with Linux heedlessly, so over remote desktop or something so avoiding the need for a monitor and keyboard to be always connected?
[*]NUC running Roon ROCK - this is probably the "best" solution but it does turn the NUC into a single-purpose device.

I realise that this is perhaps not the most sophisticated of posts but I got to start somewhere. I would really like to hear some thoughts on the above and happy to consider any alternatives.

The latter seems to be a cross purposes: On the one hand you don't want a consumer NAS because they are too powerful, but the latter option suggests you want a full fat OS because you want something more powerful and flexible.

You might want to "go round the loop again" a few times to consider what you goals are and rank them in order of priority; For example, is it low cost, low noise, ease of use, headless operation, number of discs you can host, application you want to run, redundancy (RAID,) ease of install, etc. etc. etc. That'll help you hone in on what you want.

Again, I haven't done it, but I cannot see why you couldn't run Linux on a NUC. However, a NUC might mean you have limits on the amount of storage you can host (ie size of it's internal storage, or what you can attach using external devices.) Of course, if you buy a NUC with as SSD, it'll be silent and not too hot, but isn't the cheapest solution.

I run Linux on my media tank (it's an HP micro server) and run it headless using XRDP to administer/control it and a command line interface via SSH. It's not for the feint hearted though - choosing which Linux to install, installing it, customising it and getting everything "just so" is a steep learning curve if you've never installed an operating system before. You might even consider a Linux distro which is "turnkey" NAS solution such as FreeNAS et al (there's a few of them.)
 
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mtenga

Distinguished Member
I use a cheap and low powered Celeron PC as my server. 8Gb, Windows Home and an NVMe. You could use an i3 NUC but would be twice the price. Some Roon setups require quite powerful hardware dependent on the type and volume of media you are pushing e.g. multi channel DSD.

There are currently 15 drives attached externally to it by way of powered hubs, around 60Tb of media though I’ll soon run out of USB3 endpoints, which is not so much a problem on AMD architecture. I access the media by both SMB and DLNA (Serviio).

Never had an issue so far using various client devices.

Amazon product
 

oneman

Active Member
Not sure why you consider NAS underpowered for serving files and running sharing services ?

You laptop idea is fine, obviously your laptop will need to be on in order to serve data. If the laptop is spare and not worth much then its probably your cheapest solution especially if you already have it running.

How much data do you have and where is it currently stored ?
 

cjed

Well-known Member
If you "just" want something to host music files for a client player, then a low-end NAS seems ideal. It's small, cheap and usually low maintenance. It's also designed to be on 24/7, which not all laptops are.

The Raspberry Pi NAS is certainly possible. There are lots of projects on the web about building one, and they're more powerful than a low-end NAS, slight disadvantage of having to roll-your-own on the software side.

The NUC solution will also work. Many NUC type mini-PCs allow both an SSD (M.2 or mSATA) and a 2.5" drive to be fitted, so storage for music won't be a problem. Not the cheapest solution though, but probably the most flexible.

Linux is certainly an option for OS (and usually what's powering the NAS and Pi solutions).

As usual, mickevh has covered most points. I'd also suggest thinking again about exactly what your use-case is for the device, the cost you're prepared to budget, and how much tinkering you're prepared to do.
 

next010

Distinguished Member
That roon server software is windows/osx/NAS only for GUI so your stuck with those options only if reliant on roon (their generic linux version has no UI).

For the R-Pi there is the Pi Music Box it runs headless, can be configured via web browser, you can store music on USB HDD and it can stream over DLNA etc. I'd give it a try.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
You do realise that all of the solutions that you suggested are all NAS? Any device running on your network capable of serving files to a client is a NAS. I run or have run pretty much all of your suggested solutions at one time or another, but for me my old Synology 214 Play is still a fantastic, reliable and most importantly, low power music media server. It just works. Doesn’t need anything else and it’s secure. Has Plex, has DLNA and is much more stable than my NUC running Win 10 Pro, which seems to have weekly windows updates which need reboots to install. A NAS appliance (Synology etc) compared to a generic NAS mostly have an OS optimised for the purposes of being a NAS and are therefore 10x more efficient both processor and power wise compared to the other solutions that you describe.
 

jimscreechy

Active Member
I think a lot of the final decision depends on how much storage space you want to serve up these music files. I have an HP Prodesk 400 G2.

it is very small, really low power since it drives no monitor or USB devices, and just servers as home, shared, and temp folders for my 'crew'. Most importantly for me it is virtually silent. It does a few minor things like software distributon, but primarily is a Domain controller, DHCP server, DNS server, file server, and does a bit of Group Policy restriction for my younger clan.

It is permanently on, but unlike a NAS an It typically uses 10-25 watts depending on what it's doing, "which is about 1/10 of what a normal fridge does).

It originally came with a 250gb drive which I swapped out for a 2tb crucial SSD. Now I don't use it for music storage, but considering my whole music collection is just over 900GB, I could very easily do so. These things are knocking about for next to nothing these days since they are end of life, I got mine free in an office clearout. If your not looking for large storage, this could be ideal. You're only really limited by the size of the SSD you want to stick in it.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
It is permanently on, but unlike a NAS an It typically uses 10-25 watts depending on what it's doing
According to HP's spec sheet it actually uses 65w compared to something like a DS214 Play with 2xHDDS pulls 25Watts on heavy throughput. Neither are particularly high, but NAS Appliances tend to pull much less power than even a very basic Micro PC
 

oneman

Active Member
The spec sheet says it comes with 89% efficient 65w PSU. oddly same power PSU as DS214. Having a quick look through the hardware list, about 25 to 30w under normal load would be in the right ballpark, probably about 5 to 10w more than the Synology unit but much more capable.of course for performance.

You are stuck with USFF factor meaning space for a single 2.5" drive and potentially a M.2 NVMe depending on the model. Any other storage would need to be external.
 

jimscreechy

Active Member
According to HP's spec sheet it actually uses 65w compared to something like a DS214 Play with 2xHDDS pulls 25Watts on heavy throughput. Neither are particularly high, but NAS Appliances tend to pull much less power than even a very basic Micro PC
Sorry not to get into power consumption figures, but 65w is a maximum which is what the external PSU is rated at. I am telling you what mine is using because my smart meter tells me. So there is no leverage for debate.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
but much more capable.of course for performance.
Not really. Once you put in Win10’s massively inefficient use of x86 processors and its overhead for general NAS duties it’s probably somewhere the same. Both are around 6 years old. Plus if you want to add ‘extra duties’ then that 65W becomes very real.
 

oneman

Active Member
Not really. Once you put in Win10’s massively inefficient use of x86 processors and its overhead for general NAS duties it’s probably somewhere the same. Both are around 6 years old. Plus if you want to add ‘extra duties’ then that 65W becomes very real.
First nobody is saying you have to use Win10, but a lot of people would because its a very familiar interface and there is a lot of support available for it. And I have no idea where you get the idea that it would run the system hard doing file serving or other light weight services.

As for power consumption, based on the fact it pretty much has no expansion and uses 35W CPU it would be physically impossible for it even get about 50w even with
 

mtenga

Distinguished Member
Why does everyone try so hard to reinvent the NAS when you could just...get a small NAS?
Cost and size are two reasons. My PC solution posted above cost me less than 200 quid and the unit itself fits in the palm of your hand and moreover is silent.
 

oneman

Active Member
Not really. Once you put in Win10’s massively inefficient use of x86 processors and its overhead for general NAS duties it’s probably somewhere the same. Both are around 6 years old. Plus if you want to add ‘extra duties’ then that 65W becomes very real.
First nobody is saying you have to use Win10, but a lot of people would because its a very familiar interface and there is a lot of support available for it. And I have no idea where you get the idea that it would run the system hard doing file serving or other light weight services.

As for power consumption, based on the fact it pretty much has no expansion and uses 35W CPU it would be virtually impossible to hit 65W unless you decide to hand a bunch of power hungry USB devices. In case you are wondering a 2.5" spinning disk is around 2.5W.
 

mushii

Distinguished Member
Cost and size are two reasons. My PC solution posted above cost me less than 200 quid and the unit itself fits in the palm of your hand and moreover is silent.
Then why not use a RPi, less power, and 1/4 of the price
 

mtenga

Distinguished Member
Then why not use a RPi, less power, and 1/4 of the price
No reason why anyone should not. I just prefer a slightly more powerful PC, albeit still low powered and silent. Plenty of ways of doing this cheaply.
 

jimscreechy

Active Member
Its quite amusing, sometimes conversations continue meandering down avenues quite outside the original question. I quite like these as sometimes they can throw up interesting notions of their own, but Moderators seem to have far less latitude in allowing threads to continue outside their original intention ... Boooring!
 

wizball1974

Active Member
Its quite amusing, sometimes conversations continue meandering down avenues quite outside the original question. I quite like these as sometimes they can throw up interesting notions of their own, but Moderators seem to have far less latitude in allowing threads to continue outside their original intention ... Boooring!
Prompted by your comment, it opened my eyes to how the two parallel threads have meandered quite different paths due to the context in which the question was posted, with this conversation (understandably) exploring the 'tech' side of the question far more.
 

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