Build A Basic Audio Server

17 May 2014 at 00:31

I built a very simple and upgradeable music player which sounds rather nice for those on a budget. The advantage of custom building a PC instead of buying off the shelf are flexibility and cost. I spent roughly £200 not including an SSD and OS which I had already. This was my first PC build and it was surprisingly easy.

My research led me to two configurations. First I looked at the C.A.P.S v3 Carbon implementation. Whilst looking for parts I came across a company called Item Audio which is a U.K supplier of the SOtM USB audio card. They also provide the T1 Transport pre-built or cheaper as a DIY kit for £429. The more powerful Celeron processor in this build attracted me, however I didn’t have the cash to get the whole kit. Mark at Item Audio was very helpful and supplied me with the processor and motherboard, both part of the T1 recipe, which can be found here.

Here are my components:

1. Intel DH61DL Mini ITX Motherboard

2. Intel Celeron G550T Processor

3. PicoPSU-80 DC-DC Power Converter, 80 W

4. LGX MC500 Mini ITX Case

5. Seasonic Power Adapter DC 12 V, 60 W

The advantages of the processor and motherboard are outlined in the T1 recipe link above. I also bought a 4 Pin P4 Power Cable to 4 Pin Female ATX Connector to feed power to the processor, and some DDR3 RAM. I missed the connector initially and was disappointed when I couldn’t get any power on my first attempt without the part!

I ran the Computer Audio Design optimisation script which disables a number of services so the computer can operate uninterrupted for superior timing. I also installed JRiver Media Center to connect to my NAS, and Spotify.

How does it sound? Well, it’s a match for my Marantz CD player and can only sound better with future upgrades.

The convenience of having a dedicated PC connected to my DAC cannot be overstated, also the promise of clean sound coupled with the joy of the hobby is very pleasing.

Where does this basic setup fall short? I have crammed a 2.5” SSD in the chassis which is probably not very sensible for heat considerations, also there is no passive cooling. The fan’s noise is annoying for quiet pieces of music. The T1 build has a larger case for almost twice the price plus a cooler which would have alleviated these pains but I was on a budget. Lastly there was no hole to thread the power cable on the case so I had to hack the back panel for this.

So what next? A larger case with in-built cooling, one of the Streacom chassis’. A linear bench power supply, then tri-linear. SOtM SATA filter. Stillpoints fabric. Lastly a USB audio card, either SOtM, Adnaco, or PPA.

Let me know if you have any questions or want instructions putting this together.