An audiophile music server, no holds barred, must play music exactly the same as a high quality CD player. Agreed? To do this I started with a high quality CD player with a digital input, such as the Sim Supernova. I then put music onto an XP running pc in WAV format loaded with 2 500 gig drives. Next I connected the PC via a coax digital cable to the Supernova and compared. That is, I compared the music played through the server to the same CD played through the Sim. The sound was good, very good to most ears, but the server was definitely brighter sounding with the richness and some of the presence gone. To make a long story short, I read all of the stories I could find out there and tried FLAC, Linux, Vista, M-Audio sound cards, new drivers, new external transports / burners and, of course new cables and new ways of making the connections with some of the best cables available. While things improved, none of it was perfect and without that, I knew I would be back listening to the Sim directly. In the end, what did the trick was a Plextor external burner, an iMAC with 2 external 500 gig drives (plus two more 500 gig drives for backing up) running iTunes having all songs recorded in AIFF format, 3 Kimber USB cables, a USBHAG usb to coax converter, a simple metal converter to directly couple that to a Monarchy DIP de-jitter / up sampling device, and a Cardas Digital Neutral Reference cable to the digital in of the Sim. That is an all out system that makes music exactly like the cd player alone. Overboard, yes, but it does what it should. That said, Wavelength audio now makes some excellent stand alone DACs that would eliminate the need for the SIM and some cables, but not the iMac. If you have a high end CD player with digital in or want to be able to play a single disc through a stand alone player, then the Sim is an excellent choice.
Nothing else that I have heard, and I have have heard several of the high end servers out there and made several others using a lot of other PC knowledge, are as good, yet many, including the Transporter and Arcam do an excellent job if not being directly compared to a high end cd player. Also remember that using an iMac gives me a large screen with a remote that lets me scan through songs, artists, albums, etc. from my listening position.
I had a blast doing this, but a 3 week project turned into a 10 month one to get it right. In the end though, it is pretty darn perfect. a dozen
Now I am attacking my analog system.
That is my 2 cents and then some.