We’ve been covering the advantages and disadvantages of the Network Attached Storage (NAS) as a means of both storing music as well as serving over a network. It’s time to summarize all that we’ve covered and learned.
NAS provide hard drive storage accessible over a home network. Instead of the requirement USB hard drives have, being tethered to a computer and only accessed by that computer, what’s stored on a NAS is available to any device connected to the home network.
NAS have a computer built in. The only difference between a USB attached hard drive and a NAS is the computer built into the NAS – not found on a USB attached hard drive.
NAS deliver isolated data. Unlike any other method including USB, and S/PDIF, packetized data from NAS are unaffected by the transmission means. The beauty of this is that the server, the hard drive, the wires connecting them to your DAC do not matter. They have no affect on sound quality. Packetized data can be sent around the world or around the corner and remain identical. No other data transmission format I am aware of can do this.
NAS are slower. The internal computers of NAS are typically a bit slow, relative to our desktops. That lack of speed, coupled with slower connection speeds over home networks, means that the time it takes to load data onto a NAS can range from hours to days. This is only a problem initially, when we first populate the hard drive. Once the hard drive is full, reading individual files happens in perfectly adequate time.
NAS have built in servers. Usually a program called Twonky, but increasingly others as well, the majority of consumer NAS have DLNA servers installed that obviate the need for an external computer.
A network music system can be built without a computer. One of the beauties of NAS is their built in computer, which can act as a standalone music server.
The quality of the NAS makes no sonic difference. Something completely untrue when it comes to computers connected to DACS.
NAS based systems are limited by the quality of compatible controllers. Because NAS are nearly always DLNA based music servers, they require a DLNA based controller. There are no outstanding DLNA based controllers on the market. There are many adequate ones, some are even good, but none, in my opinion, are great.
Lastly, I want to reprint a comment made from the post NAS, controller. In that post I list the available controllers and suggest my favorites, with the caveat none are great. One of my readers, Jonny, posted the following comment. Yes, it is critical of us, but his summary is excellent and his conclusions spot on. It’s worth sharing with the community. I have added the links to each he mentions.
I have Qnap Nas with Twonky and use this now with the Directstream with Bridge2 but initially started with PWD2 and Bridge 1 and have upgraded step by step in recent years.
The lack of of a decent controller for me has always been the weakest link and still lets the PS Audio brand down compared to my friends who have Linn and Naim setups. The majority of third party controllers out there can do the job of playing an album straight off but I look for more. E.g creating a playlist on the fly when you have a party on the go or simply passing the IPad round the dinner table to have easy ability to play next track instantly or queue at end or start random play etc. I have yet to find the perfect controller but give some thoughts on what works below:
McConnect – good for playing an album straight off but poor at creating playlists.
Plugplayer – not sexy but was the most reliable with Bridge 1 but with Bridge 2 keeps skipping tracks in playlist so have retired that one now.
Creation5 – lovely user interface does most things well, volume control bit fiddly and clearing playlist needs app reboot.
Songbook HD – bit pricy but closest to perfection at moment, user interface with album artwork very good. When playing random playlist it has habit of cutting last few seconds off track but otherwise very stable.
Songbook lite – loses connection regularly and can lose playlist entirely.
Linn kinksy – I know it well as my brother has Linn Accurate system. Doesn’t work with Bridge 1 or Bridge 2 In that it doesn’t move to next track in playlist automatically.
8 player – like Mconnect only good for playing an album and user interface is basic in extreme.
When you have a high end system having to tolerate these limitations is ridiculous. Using Paul’s analogy it is like taking delivery of your new Ferrari but they didn’t include the steering wheel. The Elyric app, previously supported by PS, was as good as things got but to drop it with no replacement was a poor decision in my mind.
I see Meridian have outsourced their Sooloos controller to Roon and PS Audio have suggested a similar hook up in these page. The sooner you achieve this the better, to give the PS Audio brand full credibility and to deliver a user experience your brand should be setting out to achieve.
I have a few closing comments referencing this great summary.
When it comes to controllers, the only great one I have found is Roon, but Roon is not compatible (yet) with NAS. And, even if it were, Roon requires a computer in the mix. We’ve worked with Roon and are working with Roon because we love the interface, but Roon requires its own server that must run on a separate computer or computer in a box. And, Roon costs a lot. $500.
eLyric. eLyric was started and created by PS Audio a few years ago in response to all the miserable attempts of making a controller that worked. eLyric was the best out there, and in many ways, still is. But we abandoned it after it nearly killed us. If memory serves correctly we dumped over $350,000 in development to get the program to where it was before we left it. It was unstable, it had too many problems for us to keep the PS brand on it. And so I made the command decision to abandon it. It was like letting one of my children go. Toughest decision this CEO ever had to make.
The future looks good. We are working hard on a long term solution that will make everyone smile, including me – the harshest critic of them all. But I emphasize the words: long term. For now, we have to tolerate quirks and stupid stuff to enjoy a wonderful experience with network audio.
Let’s have fun and enjoy the music.