Bartok - what server?

Hi

I had a demo of the Bartok in comparison to a few other DACs. Overall I liked a lot of what the Bartok did except the fact that it was tonally a bit dry - perhaps that was a reflection more of the amplification.

I just wondered what server people used with the Bartok and if they had experimented with different servers and what gave the best results to them.

I did not try a USB flash drive in to input 2. Does this give a noticeably poorer sound?

Many thanks

I’ve settled on an Intel NUC running Roon as the Server, local files on a QNAP NAS, Qobuz. Feeding the Bartok via Ethernet. I tried a fair few combinations into the Bartok, USB and SPDif before deciding I preferred Ethernet.

The network gubbins, switch, router, nuc and nas are all in a comms cab in the garage away from the AV room, whole house is network cabled.

I’ve tried a few Servers over the years, Minim, LMS, Twonky and find Roon preferable.

ATB

Gus

dCS only recommend one UPnP server software, MInimServer:

What hardware it is run on is down to you. Obviously QNAP or Synology are popular. There is a lot of information online about choice of disks which can be important if, for example, noise may be an issue if the server is in the same room as the audio system. Partly for this reason some of us ( like me) use a Melco streamer ( has inbuilt storage and is totally silent in operation) but only as NAS using its network connection. MinimServer provide custom versions for all of these options.

If you are seriously considering one then I would advise downloading the User Manual now to familiarise yourself with its operational attributes:

dcS do not “voice” their products which are as neutral as possible. Yes, this could sound dry in combination with some amplification. Some prefer to use it in combination with a preamp rather than directly connected.

Hi @Desertium,

I’m using an Innuos Statement with my Vivaldi stack with delight. Now it is like common audiophile sense would suggest - local music is more enjoyable than internet streaming. The difference between streaming and local music in my setup is subtle and not so easy to describe. The telling thing is when I prefer one source over another most of the time. Which is the case here.

I first tried a Synology NAS running MinimServer and the sound didn’t convince me. The music was closed up. Harder to listen into the non-verbal meaning and intent - an insight the Bartók can provide given a good source. The Statement might be too expensive relative to the Bartók. But the Innuos range starts with the ZenMini Mk III at an affordable price. It can be upgraded with an external power supply (which I recommend) and it has a Roon core option. I heard it with power supply in a dealer system and believe it is a competent source. Like the Melco it is developed to be a hifi device, no fiddling around with internal IT issues necessary.

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Many thanks for all the replies. Very helpful.

The demo I had used the Innuos Statement and it did give great results with the Bartok.

I don’t think I can spend that much on a server right now. I wonder if there is anyone on the forum that has matched Bartok with the Melco N50 which costs around £5k.

Also would the preferred cabling from the server be ethernet or USB ?

Many thanks

I Desertium,
I walked the same line months ago…what I found out so far:

  1. LAN sounds better vs USB (I tried USB vs LAN with roon direct, Melco, Innuos, macmini) on dCS Bartok and Rossini
  2. Melco N50 is fantastic (the Melco line plays a little more open vs Innuos but it’s a matter of taste…)
  3. Melco and Innuos have dedicated “streamer ports”- but I recommend an external switch. Tested switches from Ansuz, Cisco, Melco and Innuos finally and bought the Innuos PhoenixNet. Again, it’s a matter of taste- BUT you must use the switch in your home setup please! So don’t buy blind because networking can be a can of trouble…
    Have fun!

To add to what has been said: I don’t know how you want to set up your system, @Desertium. I had Melcos in the past and liked the sound. The Melcos are not a Roon core though. If you like to use the Roon interface and streaming system, you need another box. Personally I try to set up my system with as few boxes as possible and am not interested in diving into configurations of systems when it comes to music listening. Fewer boxes, less can go wrong, less admin stuff.

The Mosaic app controlling the dCS DACs is very functional, stable and unfortunately also very basic. It doesn’t really provide a value added interaction with ones music collection. I tried for a long time to get away with using Mosaic and now gave up. The Roon app is only “98%” stable on my iPad, but the user experience is so much nicer. It feels like a collection again. Browsing the album covers, only showing locally stored goth music, or classical music in the Qobuz library, and so on.

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Hi Marco

Thanks for the reply.

I have no experience of Roon coming from CD replay but I hear a lot of good things about it.

So I presume you use some Roon box like Nucleus + ? Through what type of cable do you connect it to the Bartok?

How does it compare to Melco in terms of sound effect?

Much appreciated.

You probably know, but I thought it might be helpful nevertheless. The first step in creating your offline library would be to rip your CDs. While doing so you select initial metadata (data about the music) from online music databases and then edit the metadata (tags like artist, composer, genre, etc.) to your liking. You need the metadata for the software that displays your collection and also for the player that plays the music. Both need to know what belongs to an album, which song is first, second, etc. And for advanced browsing it is useful to have good ‘genre’ tags or even ‘year’ tags. It’s nice to see which albums I have from the nillies or from the sixties.

Some tag editors that work well are DBPoweramp and MP3Tag. Together with DBPoweramp you can use PerfecTunes to further optimize your offline library. This initial work is tedious and worth the effort. Especially classical music needs upfront time. Roon can gloss over issues with metadata, because they reference their own extensive database. Relying on that however has issues. If you use your music library with other front ends (e.g. Sonos, an USB drive in your car, portable players, etc.) you don’t have the luxury of Roon’s polish. You will for example see every typo in artist name. ‘Armin van Buuren’ and ‘Armin Van Buuren’ are two artists in that case. Only the ‘V’ is different.

I used to own a nice vinyl collection and really enjoyed browsing the shelves for that one album providing the most enjoyable moments. Browsing a collection digitally can be as satisfying with a suitable user interface. Roon have built a very useful interface for interacting with a (large) collection. It surpasses the experience of browsing CDs or LPs by giving you many ways to ‘focus’. A focus could for example be ‘local storage’ + ‘no classical’ + ‘no audiobooks’. That would display all genres of offline albums except classical music and except audiobooks.

And then it has Roon radio, which can set in when your current album ends and play related music. Also the information around artists and albums is presented well. If your taste is more at the fringes of the music universe though, those information pages are less populated.

Yes, Roon Nucleus, Nucleus+, audio server with Roon core option like Innuos, and then more IT oriented solutions like Intel NUC, Windows PC, Mac (mini), RaspberryPi. You can go from turnkey to full on hobby project.

The Nucleus can have a hard drive inside and then is a one box solution. So is Innuos (if you have an external power supply it becomes two boxes). The Melco developers deliberately chose processors with lower processing power for sound quality reasons. Those can not handle Roon Core duties.

The majority opinion here appears to be ethernet sounds better than USB. I just followed that lead. Use a network switch between the server and the Bartók. We have a long thread on switches here. Ideally the server is far away from the player. A good start are the Blue Jeans unshielded and certified CAT ethernet cables. Unshielded ones from Designacable in the UK are a good start as well. And then you can experiment.

My experience was that sound quality slightly improved swapping out an expensive shielded high end cable and swapping in a Designacable ethernet cable between wall socket and the dCS system. In the basement I kept the high end cables not because the value for money was good, but because they gave me the last bit of analog sound. Small but significant effect for me. What also yields improvements in sound quality for some are improved power supplies for the networked components (e.g. by Ferrum, Teddy Pardo, Keces, Paul Hynes).

My experience now was switching from dCS Vivaldi Upsampler direct access to online streaming services (Qobuz + Tidal) to Innuos Statement with Roon Core accessing the streaming services. And for offline music going from Innuos serving a UPnP protocol stream to the dCS Upsampler to Roon Core inside the Innuos serving stored music via the Roon protocol. I know, lots of technical terms. I couldn’t do better… :blush:

Whether the Roon transport protocol sounds different from other transport methods is a contested issue. I had to wrestle with the setup quite a bit before I enjoyed what I heard. Others report no difference whatsoever. So it seems to be an individual matter. I am now content with the slightly lesser sound quality as a trade-off for a good user experience. If I sit down to seriously listen to an album and want 100%, then I browse with Roon and play with Mosaic, the dCS app and streaming platform.

The Roon community forum is a very large one, but there you find threads on sound quality for various setups. My gut says, if you’re starting out and want a hassle free experience try the Nucleus with internal hard disk and see how you like it. If you want to compare it to something in that price range, try the Innuos ZenMini MkIII. You can upgrade both with a power supply. If you use a Melco and a Nucleus plus the Roon user interface, if I’m not mistaken the Melco is reduced to a well built network storage device. If you go Melco only, you will use the Mosaic user interface that is provided by dCS in the app. Works well, is limited.

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Hi

Many thanks for your detailed reply and effort. That is really helpful a lot to digest there.