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AudioLinux NUC
#1
A little history. I bought a Devialet 120 because I liked how it sounded and looked - and in particular, I liked the 'one box' solution. I fed the Dev from a Macbook Air through a mRendu for several years with great results. Later I added ROON and HQPlayer - also with great results. Somewhere along the way I substituted a 1000Pro for the 120. I was a happy camper.

Then the problems (tweaks) started. 

Having read that the best input on the Devialet was XLR I added a Mutec MC3+USB, bought a XLR cable, and enjoyed a sound quality boost. Then, reading way too much on DevialetChat and CA (Computer Audiophile - now Computer AudioStyle), over the course of a year or so, I added a SOtM 200ULTRA (now a Neo), and then a SOtM tX-USBULTRA, and then a SOtM MODDED Switch, and then (of course) a Mutec REF-10 Master Clock. The three SOtM components required separate power supplies (SOtM 500, PH SR-4, and Uptone LPS 1.2). All of this sounded great, but my goodness - what a lot of boxes!

I had been following discussions about the dCS NETWORK BRIDGE and arraigned to demo one in my system. I also was following the NUC thread on DC and Computer Audiophile. I am not a computer person so much of the discussion was over my head and, quite frankly, confusing - Linux, BIOS, Commands, etc. Much of it seemed to be for the DIY crowd - which I am definitely not a member of. But, I was intrigued because the sound quality was supposed to be great (here we go again..). So, I kept an eye on the discussion while I awaited the NETWORK BRIDGE demo.

In the meantime I was reading one of @Confused great posts here on DC. In it he referenced NUCkleheadaudio.com as someone who was building NUCs (for non-computer people). Still not fully understanding what a NUC is and what it does I contacted NUCklehead, explained my system, indicated I was about to demo a NB, and asked what NUCklehead could offer instead. Larry got back to me right away. After multiple emails - mostly me asking many questions about how a NUC would work for me - I decided to go for it. Basically, in my system, it would replace the SOtM 200ULTRA, and if it really sounded great, maybe a few other boxes???

10 days later (and before the NETWORK BRIDGE demo) Larry actually hand delivered a NUC to my house (not sure he does this all over the world...). It requires a power supply so I used the SR4 that had been powering the SOtM 200. The first time you power up the NUC you insert a USB stick provided by NUCklehead - either one for ROON (if you are only listening to ROON) or one for NAA (if you are listening to HQP through ROON). After a couple of minutes - the NUC shows up as a Zone in ROON - and you are good to go. (NUCklehead can also set the NUC up so you can skip this step)

My word it sounded great. "Clearness', 'Bigness', come to mind (if those are musical words) - in particular, voices and the bass were outstanding - and this was all with only the NUC in play - an ethernet cable in and a USB cable out to the DEV. His work done, Larry left and I continued to listen and enjoy the music.

The next day I decided to put the other components (minus the 200) back in the chain. I found it continued to sound great which made me think the NUC was really bringing something different to the system. So, one by one I removed the other components. Still a great sound. So, I have improved the sound (I cannot think of any other tweak that improved the sound as much as this move) and  I have removed the following from my system:

tX-USBUltra with Master Clock input
tX-USBUltra Power Supply (SOtM sPS 500)
SOtM sPS 500 Power Cable
SOtM sPS 500 DC Silver Power Cable
1 USB Cable
1 BNC Master Clock Cable
Mutec MC3 USB
Mutec MC3 USB Power Cable
XLR Cable
1 BNC Master Clock Cable
Mutec REF-10
Mutec REF-10 Power Cable
1 BNC Master Clock Cable (had gone to the 200Ultra)

I am very happy with the sound quality first, and second, the simplification of my system. So much so that I asked Larry (NUCklehead) to build me a NUC Server that has now replaced my laptop - once again with a bump up in sound quality. The Server concerned me a bit because it is 'headless' but so far - no issues.

This is what I have in place now (for those who, unlike me, know what they mean):
 
NUC End Point (replaced the SOtM 200ULTRA)
1.9-4.2Ghz Turbo Intel Core i7-865OU Quad-Core Processor/mother board
4 Gb low latency ram
Akasa X7D Fanless Case
Audiolinux Headless Ramboot installed with NAA

NUC Server (replaced my laptop)
1.9-4.2Ghz Turbo Intel Core i7-865OU Quad-Core Processor/mother board
8 Gb low latency ram
32 Gb Optane SSD
Akasa X7D Fanless Case

To be clear, I have no relationship with NUCklehead - just a very satisfied customer. And I can't say enough about Larry's level of service. At one point he emailed me that he thought he found a setting in the BIOS that improved the sound. So he called in and talked me through the change in the BIOS - who knew I would be in the BIOS???

Sorry for the long post but, bottom line is my system sounds the best it ever has - and @Confused - I owe it to you.

Dan
NUCklehead Server  -  NUCklehead Endpoint  -  Devialet 1000Pro  -  Magico S3
New England
USA
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#2
Dan

with few exceptions that was my route as well and I can't agree more regarding SQ.

christian
1000 Pro, Wilson Audio Sophia 3, SOtM-200 Ultra Neo, Mutec REF10/MC-3 + USB, NUC/Audiolinux, Phantom white & gold
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#3
A nice story, @Dan, and gratifying to hear that minimalism won out in the end!
Roon (Mac Mini), Wilson Benesch Full Circle, Sonos ZP90 (Cullen modified), Expert 1000 Pro CI, Kaiser Chiara
Warwickshire, UK
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#4
A fascinating post @Dan !  I would just like to check that I have interpreted your observations correctly.  With the NUC end point in play, you added in the tx-USBultra, Mutec MC3+USB and REF10 etc., and basically the sound quality was much the same as just the NUC end point on it's own?  Quite remarkable.  Although this is consistent with some other NUC observations I have read, for example, someone who reckoned an Audio Linux NUC 7 sounded better without a tx-USBultra than with.  I have to say that it is excellent to read about such good results from something relatively low cost.  There are so many "solutions" that cost an absolute fortune, then get superseded within a year or two, so it is refreshing to see something this simple delivering the goods.  I am sure that the SR4 is helping to the end result also, from what I have read elsewhere these NUC's do respond to decent power.

And what an honor to have Larry hand deliver the thing!  Although I somehow doubt he would offer the same service to someone in the southeast of England.

All of this gives me a bit of inspiration.  The sMS-200Ultra that I am running is supposed to be roughly equivalent to the (much cheaper) AudioLinux NUC 7's, assuming SOtM's latest V04.5.1 firmware is used.  So something I could try is to run my sMS-200Ultra direct via USB, rather than via the REF10 / MC3+USB.  Easy enough to try, and I am not sure what the end result might be.  

I am slightly curious as to what you will spend all that free cash on assuming you sell the SOtM and Mutec kit?  How about an upgrade to a 220Pro?  Which, as it happens, is supposed to be a little better via USB than your current 120, as well as being a better amp all 'round.  Of course, you could just book a nice holiday or buy a second-hand sportscar.

Just out of interest, what speakers are you running at the moment?

Meanwhile, all I can say is congratulations and enjoy the tunes! Shy
1000 Pro - KEF Blade - SOtM sMS-200Ultra Neo - tX-USBultra - Mutec REF10 - MC3+USB - Pro-Ject Signature 12
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#5
Very interesting ! Where can I buy this service in Europe ? Is it necessary to run 2 Audio Linux Nucs (one as endpoint, one as server) ?
Devialet 220PRO CI, Magico A3, 2 Gold Phantoms, Dialog, ROON Rock NUC8i3, Raspberry Pi2 Digi+, Audirvana
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#6
Wow, that’s quite the result Dan, very nice!

For anyone who missed it Confused started a topic about the NUC’s running AudioLinux that people at the Audiophile Style forum are testing with. Confused’s topic is here: https://devialetchat.com/Thread-%C2%A320...o-%C2%A35K

The people at AS are currently trying to find the sweet spot (balancing computing power with energy efficiency/low noise) for the server part in a dual setup.

I’ve also build one of the NUC’s mentioned at AS which I can’t share final details on SQ about yet because of some issues in my system (my Hynes PSU and P3 Power Plant have hardware defects waiting to be fixed). Nevertheless I will probably sell mine a little below cost (250 euro’s probably) in about two weeks from now to also try the i7 one (that Dan’s using also) which should be a little bit better sounding. It is a NUC7PJYH in an Akasa Newton JC case built by me and since I’ve built dozens and dozens of computers in my life (also thanks to a job I had back in my student days) it’s done right. Its BIOS is tuned, one would just have to plug in his AL USB stick and that’s it. I could even send one USB stick with AL pre-installed and tuned with it but I can’t give support as I’m simply to busy for that but it would be fair to buy a license from audio-linux.com anyway which comes with one year support.
PS Audio P3, Shunyata ΞTRON Alpha Digital and HC/Furutech power cables, Paul Hynes SR7EHD-MR4, DIY Roon Server & Roon Endpoint running AudioLinux Headless, Phasure Lush^2 USB cable, Audioquest Diamond RJ/E ethernet, Mutec MC-3+ USB, Shunyata ΞTRON Anaconda Digital XLR AES/EBU, Devialet Expert 250 Pro CI, Nordost Tyr Reference LS cables, Von Schweikert VR-5 SE Anniversary Edition, Anti-Mode Dual Core 2.0, JL Audio Fathom F112. More detail here.

The Netherlands


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#7
@Confused 

Yes - I found that when I connected the other components back in - the sound was the same - very good. I have to say the sound quality wasn’t degraded by having, together or individually, the SOtM tXUSB and Mutec MC3 and REF-10 in the chain. And I want to be clear I have really enjoyed the SQ these components brought to my system. The surprise to me was that when I added these components with the NUC the sound quality didn’t get better. Being greedy I guess....

Low Cost - you mentioned low cost - I read about how one could check out this audiolinux approach for $30 US dollars - that definitely caught my attention. Why not eh? However, I’m not sure how that works at all - my experience is this is not accurate for those of us that need help implementing a AL NUC.

Hand Delivery - I agree that Larry is not coming to the UK to hand deliver NUCs - but I’m sure he has a post office near by.

In terms of you trying a USB direct - in the past I understood the XLR input was the best, I feel like recently Devialet have indicated that the USB is a very good input. You should give this a try - why not?

In terms of the cash windfall - I have begun selling my previous components - I do think they are great components and indeed people have been buying them. Some of the cash is going to buy the NUCs and the rest is there for the next purchase. You may not have noticed in my post but I did go from my 120 to a 1000pro a couple of years ago - kind of like 0 to 60 in a British sports car. Most damning of all though, the NUC was a bigger improvement than the move to the 1000 pro CI....sorry.

In terms of speakers - I have Magico S3 speakers.

Additionally, so far, I have been l been listening to music through ROON and not HQP - and it sounds really good. Previously my go to was listening to HQP through ROON with Convolution by Thierry. The magic I am hear now is just through ROON (up sampled to 192). No HQP. No Convolution. The NUC Server has a trial of HQP Embedded that I will try in a few days.

I have followed your posts with interests because we seem to have had similar approaches. The NUC approach is very interesting.

@midi
It is not necessary to do both an Endpoint and Server. In fact, I upgraded to the End Point for a few weeks before upgrading to the Server. I would definitely do the End Point first. There may be people providing the same products/service that NUCklehead provides near you but if not contact Larry and see if he can help you. 

Dan
NUCklehead Server  -  NUCklehead Endpoint  -  Devialet 1000Pro  -  Magico S3
New England
USA
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#8
@ Dan, I don’t really understand the endpoint/server differences, but do you have two different nucs in your system now? Or is the one nuc acting as both the Roon ep and server? Or did you start with the ep, then converted it to the server?
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#9
@Dan  - Yes, sorry, I had missed the upgrade to 1000Pro.  Although this does make sense versus your observations.  I believe the USB module is the same between the Pro and Expert models, but there does seam to be some difference in the USB implementation, so the previously reported differences between USB and AES/EBU seam to have vanished with the Pro.  This was something we asked Mathieu Pernot about at the Oxford Audio event last year, I think he said something along the lines of all inputs now being technically equivalent from a signal path point of view, but different in terms of the protocol (synchronous versus asynchronous) and for the fact that the USB can accept 32bit.  Also, seeing that you have the 1000pro and Magico S3's makes your SQ observations even more compelling, a pretty transparent system I would think!

Anyway, all of this makes the prospect of trying my SOtM kit (with the latest firmware) via USB even more compelling.  Hopefully I will have time to try this at the weekend.  

One point to note re low cost is that I stated relatively low cost, that is relative to 3k to 10k products, I am sure that Larry's time does not come for free!

@Antoine I remember reading about your PC music server build, and indeed the seeing the pictures of the build.  It was top class work, so this makes your Euro 250 NUC look like a bargain for anyone looking to try this, assuming you do decide to sell.

@midi - not quite an answer to your question, but you might want to take a look at this:

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/q...amer-r762/
1000 Pro - KEF Blade - SOtM sMS-200Ultra Neo - tX-USBultra - Mutec REF10 - MC3+USB - Pro-Ject Signature 12
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#10
@mmorrison55 Not sure how you listen to music but simplistically I had ROON (Core) on a laptop that sent music to a SOtM 200 Ultra (Endpoint) that then passed it on to the Devialet. I started with 1 NUC that replaced my SOtM 200Ultra and then, based on the nice sound improvement, added (a few weeks later) a second NUC that replaced my laptop. Having 1 NUC does not mean you have to have the other. For sound quality it is recommended to separate these two functions. Does that make sense? 

@Confused I'll be curious to hear your thoughts on the USB input. On the relative costs issue, I wasn't trying to put you on the spot, just wanted to be clear these are not 'inexpensive'. But you explained it well.

Dan
NUCklehead Server  -  NUCklehead Endpoint  -  Devialet 1000Pro  -  Magico S3
New England
USA
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