Anybody use Innuos Zenith or similar server with Bartok or Rossini?

I just ordered a Bartok today which will be my first streamer/DAC, and now I am starting to build the network side of the system. For those of you who use an Innuos (or similar server) as a server paired with a DCS dac, did it improve the sound quality or user experience compared to having either a cheap network setup with NAS/router, or an optimized one with switches/regenerators, associated PSUs, and nice cables?

I inquired with DCS and the local retailer if the Bartok would sonically benefit from a fancy server like the Innuos, and they both said no and that the network inputs were almost totally impervious to outside influence. However, when I demoed the Bartok playing Qobuz at the local retailer I could tell something really wasn’t sounding right to me coming from the digital inputs, kind of a noisy glare that I’m not used to with current USB/I2S PS Audio setup. Right now it seems to me that the ethernet game will turn out to be a lot like the USB game, a supposedly invincible format that ultimately requires switches, regenerators, fancy cables, etc. to sound great.

If ethernet optimization is needed for the lowest noise sound, the fewer boxes, less fan noise, and software tinkering, the better. The alternative is a not inexpensive “silent” NAS+linear PSU, Shunyata Alpha and Sigma ethernet cables and Uptone Etherregen. (I have a small living space so I need a server that I can have in the same room as the DAC. I’m also a big Shunyata fan.) This is why I’m looking at the more expensive option with Innuos, but I thought it would be wise to ask some other DCS owners for feedback.

(I know what the engineers would say about ethernet as a format, but at this point I’m unconvinced that it’s a free lunch in terms of sonics)

Yes, I use a Melco N17H/2 ( which is a full USB streamer with storage) as NAS only but in my case with a Vivaldi.

Why? The NAS for my local files has to be in the listening room and I could not guarantee that any of the general computing NAS options would be quiet enough even when using discs with a reputation for quiet running such as Seagate Iron Wolf. The Melco is silent ( unless you put a stethoscope on the case - and why would you do that?) . Secondly I was aware of a lot of discussion on the relevant forums about the effect of network switches. Melco has what may be a unique feature in that when used in NAS mode it can connect direct to a network streamer without passing through a switch. My hope was that would save me a lot of trial and error.

The Melco turned out to be an excellent choice ( if a bit costly) but it still did not relieve me of needing to find good ethernet cabling. For the latter there are many recommedations in other threads on this forum.

There are also still issues about network switching for non local things like Qobuz or other types of network configuration and I have to say, rather controversially, that although any basic knowledge of how ethernet works when considered as a data model will “prove” that fancy network switches can make no difference ( I hear you Anupc), the practical result of installing the Melco S100 switch on audition produced a large level of improvement that it was way beyond the low expectation that I had and, indeed according to their reactions, for anyone else who has heard it here compared with it out of circuit. Reader, I bought it :grinning:

So you are right, it isn’t just effectively simple plug 'n play and there is no free lunch. At least if you are trying for the best result you can get.

Just as an aside as you appear to be new to this; to use a NAS successfully with any dCS component having network connection the server software needs to be MinimServer. So whatever you buy be sure that it can run this and that you are not stuck with the manufacturer’s pre-installed selection.

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Oh dear :nerd_face:

(watch this space)

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Thanks for your very informative and helpful reply! This is really good info. I will also check out the Melco servers as well.

Read what I wrote very carefully again first :grinning:

One question for you, Pete: Did you find that the cable from the Melco to the router or wall made a significant difference, or just the one from the server to your Vivaldi?

Well I’ll have to leave the scale of the importance and whether or not it is significant to your judgement. However I did check this and as far as I was ( and am) concerned they are all equally important.

Of course only the cable from the Melco NAS to the Vivaldi Upsampler is important when playing local files due to the Melco direct connection but for Qobuz and internet radio where the router/switch comes into action then both. With the S100 switch that means a requirement for three good cables : Router to Switch. Switch to NAS. NAS to Vivaldi Upsampler, which is the network streamer. All permutations using other cables have been tried by me.

Ok, thanks.

One thing that has me leaning towards the Innuos is that it seems like I can connect one end to the router and another to the Bartok, so the stored files go direct from the server, and streaming is passed through onto the DAC, using the server as a switch. Only two cables in this scenario and no extra switch.

Does this configuration make sense? Is that something you can do with the N17H/2?

Yes , I have checked the user manual for the Zen Mk3 and it is very similar to the Melco in what it can do. For both there is a direct connection by ethernet cable to a streamer e.g. to the Bartok and both can connect directly to a router. But you do need to check if the Innuos can install and run MinimServer. There is a dedicated version of MinimServer available for Melco though new stock will have it installed in any case as the default.

The Melco ( or Innuos) does not have to be configured using a separate network switch. Either the Melco or the Innuos can be connected directly to the router ( the router being a modem and switch in one box). The separate switch is a further refinement and it is not essential for you to get going.

However if the points that I made earlier about potential mechanical noise etc. are not of primary importance to you then you would probably save money by using a standard NAS solution e.g. Synology or QNAP. Remember that both the Melco and the Innuos are full USB streamers and you will be disregarding that facility even though you have paid for it. BTW there are cheaper Melco components than what I have that will do pretty much the same job but without the thick aluminium panel construction.

From what I understand the Innuos runs Minimserver. Mechanical noise is a big concern for me, as is digital noise, and having a compact setup that I can move easily without a lot of boxes. I’m not a guy who owns a big home with CAT5 running through all the walls, but someone who lives in small spaces and moves frequently. But correct, I don’t need a USB streamer, just a quiet, high sound quality downstream server that I allows me to forgo an extra switch+psu.

It seems like an S100 in a setup like this might benefit Qobuz or Tidal, but not playback of stored files. Is that right?

I was originally looking at silent NAS solutions, and when switch, PSUs, etc. were included the price was actually pretty high, plus the personal labor of having to set it all up, install drives etc. It seemed like it would be worth it to pay a little more if I could consolidate these into a simple plug in play-type unit.

The answer to both points depends upon the configuration of the system.

As I have already said there is no free lunch with computer ( or non-hard copy if you prefer as we are ditching use of a conventional computer) audio if you are aiming high. In my system set up the switch does indeed only affect online sources and this seems feasible too with the Innuos. However most computer audio systems have the NAS attached to the local network via the router or other switch so locally stored files are then also subject to the switch.

It looks to me like your answer to all of this is pretty much like mine was originally. Forget IT solutions and get something made for the job as although it costs more initially it saves a lot of bother.

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Ok, thanks for taking the time! I’ve worked with digital audio professionally for years, but always in the linear world of USB and AES. Networks are pretty new to me.

Have you tried connecting Vivaldi to S100? My understanding is that the S100 even improves upon the server’s player output.

Not sure to understand the reason of buying a innuos. To store music and install a server, a NAS or NUC should be more convenient and less costly. My 2 cents…

That would mean adding a switch where with a Melco as dedicated music server none needs to exist or does. If I connect both the Vivaldi and Melco via the S100 then I would be replicating a conventional system configuration where streamer and NAS are connected to each other via a router or other network switch. In the latter circumstance then I could imagine that an improvement to locally served files may result from using the S100.

However there is no need for me to do this as there is currently nothing between the server and streamer other than a single short ( 2m) length of cable.

I guess I could try it if I have an empty afternoon to fill.

The answer is that a conventional NAS is actually less convenient often being prone to mechanical noise ( unless one is able to site it outside of the listening room), normally requiring all data served to pass through a network switch and generally complicating things for the user ( choosing and installing discs, deciding RAID configuration etc.). However you are quite right about the additional cost of using an Innuos or Melco as the NAS server. Plus you get a nice looking box that looks part of an audio not office system :slightly_smiling_face:

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For a player/server i understand tour point but we are talking about music played over network. You can put ssd in your nas, you can even put a good power supply. Raid does not make sense and will not replace any good backup strategy online or with other nas/ssd.
I agree on the nice looking.
If you want to run something more elaborated to use transcoding or filtering a nuc is perhaps a solution.
Last topic, potential evolution : I used to have a innuos Zenith mk2 SE and when I had a look to move from 2To ssd to a 4to ssd, innuos asked me to send back the device and asked for 2600€ while the ssd at this period was costing around 1000€. And the ssd was a standard Samsung.
Few other topics to take into account :slight_smile:

I looked at a conventional NAS setup. For what I wanted to accomplish I needed a silent SSD NAS+SSD drives+power supply, regenerator/switch+power supply. This amounts to a total of 4 boxes, 2 noise-isolating power cables, and 3 or 4 high quality ethernet cables, with the whole setup totaling well over $2000. It would also involve work setting up the NAS.

An Innuos or Melco is more money, but instead I need just one box, one power cable, and two ethernet cables, I don’t have to program it or install the drives, and my suspicion is that for stored files I will get better sound quality connecting directly to the streamer instead of NAS-router-switch-streamer chain, and won’t have to rely on extra devices to clean up noise upstream. I’d also not consider buyer any server without enough disk space for long term use.

I would have agreed, this seems like the ideal arrangement. Yet I’ve seen multiple accounts of people preferring the sound through the S100 instead. Melco even explicitly recommends it. In the diagram I believe the “Music Player” is your Melco and the “Network Player” is your Vivaldi. Seems worth a try.

In this case a MELCO should fit more your requirements than a Innuos (value for money). Think about evolution, especially storage) and evaluate the cost of storage increase for both companies.
The ethernet bridging offered by MELCO and INNUOS makes sense even if i have been more impressed by MELCO than INNUOS on this topic.