Think about adding a Melco

We are thinking of swapping out our Qnap NAS in favour of a Melco - undecided which model but tending towards the new N1Z as our music library currently sits just shy of 2TB. I believe one of the N1A’s offers internal storage up to 4TB which would allow us comfortable room to grow in the future.

I know from earlier posts that Pete Rogers has a Melco in his set up and keen to have any feedback. Sound quality improvements? Ease of use?

We currently rip cds to the hard drive using CD Ripper on our PC. Tags are added/altered if necessary using MP3Tag. Once the files are in order they are transferred across from the PC to the Qnap. The Qnap is connected to our router which in turn is connected to the Rossini by a lengthy run of ethernet cable from the study downstairs. Playback is by Mosaic.
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Hello Archie. Yes I do indeed use a Melco N1ZH/2. The new one is actually the NIZ EX. However the EX suffix mainly ( wholly) refers to the incorporation of the SongKong music library metadata administration system. That would seem to mainly affect the N17 when used as a USB streamer ( using the Melco controller rather than Mosaic) so that probably moves far enough away from IMO the best way to use it in a dCS context, using ethernet connection to the dCS streamer ( or network player if you prefer), for me to make a comment. I am confident enough about my metadata ( after huge amounts of work given my library is mainly classical music) to think SongKong has less relevance for me.

I have been running the N17 as a NAS for around 18 months and have found it totally reliable and simple to use. A main advantage is that to connect the Melco to the dCS network player ( in my case Vivaldi upsampler) you do not use the router. It is a direct connection. This has SQ advantages in practice even if it is not that easy to deduce why from a theoretical standpoint. However the internet connection is, of course, via the router or (preferably IMO) using the Melco S100 switch but that is an additional expense and controversial ( though the controversy seems to disappear on the part of those who have actually tried it).

Additional advantages are that it is styled as an audio system component rather than a stray piece of IT equipment and is silent. No sound at all of discs spinning unless to put your ear to the case when you can hear a very faint swishing. So you can place this NAS alongside the rest of your audio components.

I am very happy and if I needed to I would buy one again.

Ripping will be a similar procedure to the one that you currently use although I use dbpower amp with Perfect Tunes meaning that much of the metadata and almost all of the artwork is automatically entered. I do need to edit here and there but the overall work is reduced. There may be case for the SongKong application in this respect but as I do not have an EX version of the N1 I again have no comment.

You will need a subscription to MinimServer 2 and download MinimWatch to your PC. There is a dedicated Melco version of MimimServer which Melco will have pre-installed on a new piece as it is now their default UPnP server software . However I suspect that running the basic version without a subscription may prove of short term interest only as you will probably prefer to have some of the extras available.

One tip which I have read both in reviews and have heard from a Melco engineer and can verify , is to use the option of RAID 0 for best sound quality. That also allows use of the full storage capacity of 6TB ( N17), way in excess of my ( or presumably your) current needs.

Thank you @PAR That is really helpful. One of the amp packs in our ATCs is back with ATC to investigate a repair. In the ensuing silence your mind turns to other things!

I think this will be the way we will move forward - my husband is a classical music buff, church organist and choir master so has amassed a huge collection of classical music - we both pay exact attention to tags using MP3Tag. His music is often missing tags entirely which is a pain to manually insert but something he has become used to doing.

His concern is that he is able to import his music with all tags in place to the Melco. He uses the genre tag a lot so would want to see Classical broken down into subsets eg Choral, Organ etc.

We also in most instances have excellent album art - I joined a US site years ago and their selection of hi res art is second to none - particularly for my musical tastes which tend towards vocalists, rock and jazz.

We’ll pursue this with our hifi guy when he returns the amp which hopefully will not be too much longer.as He is a Melco dealer and happy to let us home demo.

Again thank you Pete, it really is much appreciated.

I guess that I now need to add something about tagging.

The Melco is basically a specialised computer so the music library is effectively simply held as a 1:1 copy of whatever you have on your current music drive plus any that you subsequently add directly to it. BTW I don’t add directly as I use a master copy of the library which is held on an external HDD. So I rip or add downloads to that then copy those modifications across to Melco, then make secondary backups and automatically load the modifications to cloud storage. I am a big believer in backups! Note one thing that Melco has decided is necessary for the best SQ is slow writing to the discs so the initial loading of your music library will take longer than just a normal computer to computer transfer.

The configuration of MinimServer defines how the music library is then displayed in Mosaic. It will display by various criteria as you select from the options in the menu. So you can display all album tiles in A-Z order. Or everything with a date of 1975, or everything by a selected composer or artist etc.

It also displays by genre. So if your husband has used the genre field in MP3Tag for, say, a non-standard genre unique to him like Baroque Choral (1650-1725) then it can display in A-Z order every album tagged as Baroque Choral (1650-1725). You can also use options via MinimWatch to change things to suit to quite an extent. For example I modified A-Z so I can select by, say, an artist, but showing only albums that I have in my collection with a title that begins with "F"or “M” etc.

So you can more or less get it to reflect how you want things to be so long as you got it right in the original tagging using ID3 ( which is what MP3 Tag is).

PS: You do know that I am an ATC user too ?

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Good morning Pete @PAR . That sounds ideal and just what we are after.

Yes I do recall you referring to ATC in earlier posts. For the longest time we were Linn boys - you can’t come from Glasgow and not do Linn at some point :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. Latterly we had a Klimax system though neither of us were ever really happy with the speakers - Klimax 350s. At the point Linn started to go down the road of Exakt we rather fortuitously heard ATCs and the rest is history.

We started with active 100s which after a couple of years were replaced with 100SEs. We both love what they do - irrespective of whatever type of music is offered to them and the marriage with our Rossini took them to greater heights. We are extremely happy with the system though were the proverbial lottery win to happen I really do have an itch to hear Dan D’Agostino’s Momentum integrated or separates with Wilson Sasha DAWS. I think that is the nature of this hobby :joy:

I think that you may well like what you hear but I would be surprised if you found it to offer significantly more than what you already have, especially given the additional costs involved.

I think you have it exactly right, the ATCs sound great irrespective of type of music. In fact I listen to speech quite a lot through my pair of 50s. It is remarkable how many speakers cannot render a speaking voice convincingly. That’s why one of my speaker tests is to listen to The Archers :smiley:. Another is to play the worst sounding recording that I can find in my collection. Often surprising how much that can tell you.

Ah, Linn and Glasgow. I remember from the mid 1970s being so frustrated having to get my dealer to reset the springs on my LP12 once a month that I got the train up from Euston and went to their old factory in Castlemilk to have a masterclass in LP12 fettling so that I could do it myself in the future.

Ah Lord yes, the old Drakemire Road premises in Castlemilk. I didn’t ever visit there as I was an impoverished student in the 70s and was unable to afford an LP12 or indeed any Linn kit. I did get one eventually. Linn finally had a fine outlet in Glasgow in the early 80’s called Stereo Stereo initially managed by Peter Novicki - lovely guy - succeeded by Allan Gibb who went on to bigger and better things marrying Mrs Chord! Many a Saturday I was in SS while Ivor Tiefenbrun held court. I recall him rather aggressively - what a surprise! - demanding I agree with him that the Keltiks which were then playing sounded truly amazing. They didn’t and I said so. Happy days!

Archie and Pete,

Great discussion here. I have a Synology NAS and ever since I subscribed to TIDAL and now Qobuz I find I hardly use my local NAS. I’m curious if Redbook and/or hi-rez titles on your local NAS sound better then the same track and same bit rate on Qobuz?
Or do you use your NAS for hard to find tracks that you’ve come to own?
Thanks in advance, Brian …

Brian, this is not a straightforward question to answer.

The barrier to a simple yes or no is that you have no idea if you are comparing identical items with the only difference being the transmission method or carrier.

The fact is that what appears to be exactly the same on , say, Qobuz and on your NAS may not be. The obvious thing to exclude are rips from CD. What is on the Qobuz servers are digital files sent to them by the record companies or perhaps from the studio where the master is kept after an order from the record company. Or by some other service provider to the record company. Whatever the supply chain there will not have been a CD involved. And CDs do not normally sound exactly like the production master even if they are supposed to.

All digital copies are supposed to sound the same. Do they? No. Try ( as I have) two CDs of exactly the same album, one from the USA the other from Europe. Chances are that they will have been manufactured ( including glass master preparation) at different factories with different equipment ( with different jitter profiles) and , very importantly, different house rules as to how they master ( for example the factory may normally only master to XdB maximum dynamic range ). They may sound different.

Similar things can relate to the digital files. There may be a supply to Qobuz by, say, Sony Music France as opposed to the file of the same album which was supplied to Presto Classical by Sony Music UK ( and which you have downloaded to your NAS).

There are many other slips between cup and lip to be aware of like remasterings ( some publicised, some not) where one version is on Qobuz and the other on your NAS but they appear from the artwork and metadata to be identical.

So, is there any sort of answer? Only very generalised. Broadly speaking my feeling ( no more than that) is that playing from my NAS is marginally better then from Qobuz. But as the difference is so slight another listener may choose the reverse as preferable.

BTW while writing this I have been listening to the “same” 24/96 album from Qobuz and from my download of it purchased from Presto Classical. The download sounds a little richer, the streamed version perhaps a little more transparent. Which is better?

Basically what I listen to from my NAS is my legacy collection. I use Qobuz to listen to new music either newly released or just not familiar to me. Some pieces I will return to on Qobuz but not purchase for various reasons. If , however, the piece is important enough to me then I will buy a download and add it to my legacy collection on the NAS.

Best Wishes

Pete

Hi @Cycles2 - Brian I think Pete has set out a comprehensive answer. For my part, and this is entirely subjective and down to the two ears stuck on my head, I prefer the sound from the NAS.

We’ve had subscriptions to Qobuz and Tidal. Both were allowed to fall as I didn’t think over time that I enjoyed the “sound” as much as I did from the NAS. I’ll go further and say that for me, the streaming sound was more lightweight.

That said both platforms, as Pete mentioned, afford you the opportunity to listen to a very broad spectrum of music - whatever your fancy desires - there will be many unexpected pleasure to be found there which for my part were turned into either a cd purchase or hi res download where available.

On that last point I have just taken out a subscription to a VPN provider - I liked HD Tracks but increasingly found the selection of downloads available here was very limited indeed.

@PAR @ledcam
Pete and Archie, thanks for your replies. Makes sense for your legacy recordings to be on your NAS. I have some titles I’ve never seen on any music subscription service that are on my NAS. And Pete, over the years I have noticed that SQ can differ for the same CD title from different countries.

Something I noticed last night on Qobuz is that they recently added one of my all time favorite albums from Andreas Vollenweider called ‘Book of Roses’ in hi-rez format - 44.1kHz, 24-bit. The sound quality is noticeably better than my ripped Redbook version. I checked HDTracks and they don’t carry any Vollenweider titles. There may be other sources to purchase hi-rez albums from but I’m not sure I would hand over $20 when I can access from Qobuz as part of my monthly subscription. I used to purchase from HDTracks all the time until TIDAL and now Qobuz offer a great selection of hi-rez titles.

However, sometimes the pendulum swings the other way with Qobuz. I noticed they’re no longer carrying some Al Di Meola albums that were recently there such as the Beatles tribute, ‘All Your Life’. A quick e-mail to Sebastien of Qobuz should help clarify what happened. I have noticed that the Qobuz search feature can be a bit wonky with its results.

Thanks,
Brian …

I just checked and it is certainly still available on Qobuz UK. Of course you may have a Qobuz service for another territory ( I am assuming Qobuz USA) where licensing conditions vary.

You are indeed correct about the search engine and If I really want to find something I will always try a number of feasible search terms until I strike gold: album title, artist, composer , label etc.

BTW the fact that the catalogues of streaming services cannot remain constant means that I always buy a download of those pieces important to me. So I have Qobuz Sublime+ to take advantage of their discounts. That Andreas Vollenwider album is available over here via Sublime+ for , um, much less than $20. :grinning:

I was speaking with our hifi chap yesterday and he is bringing back the repaired ATC amp module for our speaker on Monday.

He is also bringing an ex-dem Melco N10 to let us hear. I can see that this is a two box model with a separate power supply. I don’t think it is the new EX version which actually suits us fine - we like the idea of retaining control over tags and art work. The very brief exposure we had to Roon a few years back I recall resulted in unasked for changes to tags and album artwork which caused some consternation at the time.

I don’t think we really got Roon. I know that there are a lot of people who are passionate about it but we were left unpersuaded. I suspect a crash course in its abilities as it related to our system would have helped a lot but we were left floundering and left to our own devices and I suspect left largely unaware of its charms.

Very keen to hear what the Melco brings to the table.

I don’t think that the Song Kong element of the EX version of Melco works in at all a similar way to Roon. From what I have gathered it works more like an editor i.e. you ask it to suggest the metadata for a given item which you then accept, reject or refine. At least that seems to be how the stand alone version works. Should you change your mind at some point I understand that pre-EX versions can be upgraded. However its main use is if you are using the Melco as a USB straemer with the Melco control app which I doubt will be the case.

I have not upgraded my own N17H nor have I been attracted to Roon. Like you and your husband I have slaved away getting the metadata right in the first place. On the occasions when I want to find out more about the artist or the music I find that the Web will usually provide what I am after.

It may take you a small amount time to become familiar with the menu of the Melco but this is really set and forget for the items that will be of interest to you. You won’t need to use it very often once you have initially configured your preferences. Download the user manual from the Melco website.

The most important thing is to remember that the ethernet connection from the Melco goes directly to your Rossini and not via a router like a conventional NAS. There is a connection from the Melco to the router and this provides the path for streaming services , radio and online updates for the Rossini/Mosaic. So it requires two ethernet cables.

I hope you enjoy it so do let us know.

Best Wishes

Pete

@PAR Thanks Pete. Will do.

The ATC speaker amp was returned and installed on Monday and is working perfectly. A fault was traced to a capacitor on the mid amp which was where we had identified that the buzzing was originating.

We also had a dem of the Melco N10. We had prepared a USB stick to download a few favourite tracks to the Melco hard drive.

It took all of ten seconds to agree the Melco was staying. So we have bought it.

Transferring the files from the QNAP to the Melco is another thing altogether. We have both a MAC and PC in our study where the QNAP also resides. About 7 hours into the transfer on Mnday it stopped having identified a file with a DS Store tag. Unsure what this was we spoke with our computer chap who remotely installed a download programme on the PC. Start again. Same problem tho’ this time the transfer stopped because of a rights issue on a file. The problem is this causes the Melco to freeze, it loses all connection to the download programme and you start from the beginning after the Melco is rebooted.

We are currently having our kitchen ripped out and replaced so the electricians have turned off the power in the house. We are itching to get back into this but Lord almighty I remember why I hate computers.

You can safely remove the .DS_Store files, they are Mac helper files for the Finder to remember icon positions and the like in Finder windows. No great loss if you delete them. Strange though that the Melco chokes on them…

Great that you liked the Melco. I have to say that I never had a second’s problem with the transfer of music files to the onboard library storage. However mine may have been more straightforward consisting only of FLACs, .wav or .dsf files.

I would say though that if you do need help the guys at Melco are very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. Although the European part of the company is based in the Netherlands I am under the impression that these guys work from the UK, maybe because they are Brits.

Good luck with your kitchen and hope that you don’t run into a typical problem that added time to the installation of mine - the fitters doing 2-3 jobs simultaneously so some days you see them, some not.

Our files are almost all Flac with a small number of .dsf.

The kitchen work was scheduled to take 2 weeks - we are now approaching the end of week 5. Highly unlikely it’ll be finished on Friday but hope springs eternal!

I’ve also got a Melco N1Z feeding my Bartok and copying files has never been a problem. Although, if you’re not already doing it, I’d suggest copying them in small batches to avoid waiting 7 hours to find out it failed. Once you’ve got everything across, new additions should be simple.

The thing that took a while for me was editing the metadata (I hope I’ve used the right term) to get rid of the error messages at startup on minimserver. But that’s now sorted and everything runs like clockwork.

Regards, Mike.

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