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Old 15th February 2013, 08:37 PM   #1
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Default Spec-ing the ultra-cheap PC "server"

I would like some help "spec-ing" or getting ideas for my next PC "music server." My requirements are more or less (in most to least important).

1. Must be dead silent, or very nearly so. In practice this means "no fans!" The closest I have gotten is a gutted desktop PC with only its cpu fan and a questionable fanless (formerly with fan) PSU. Due to costs, a CPU cooler the size of a microwave oven, or a reputable fanless PSU will probably violate constraint (2).

2. Must be cheap. As a benchmark, a new Win7 notebook can be had for well under $300. However, all have fans. Sometimes noisy fans. See requirement (1).

3. Not required, but strongly desirable that it runs Windows. I play music both from local files and streaming via (usually) a web browser. Also, some existing accessories may only work with windows drivers.

4. Must have USB ports. Note that I will be using an outboard DAC so fancy audio is not required.
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Old 16th February 2013, 01:35 AM   #2
ttan98 is offline ttan98  Australia
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Hi,

I mean to start a thread on this subject. You beat me to it. The good news is I have made an audio server based on a laptop. My experience is as follows:

1. Laptop based on AMD E-450 such as HP modelM1 costs me about $400 new, second hand you can buy for $200. The laptop can play music for over 6hrs fully charged, with LCD off when you are playing music. You can buy similar laptops from Toshiba and Asus based on this processor. The processor is much better than Atom based laptops, much faster and battery lasts longer. I fully recommend this processor.

2. Comes with 2G memory you must upgrade to at least 4 G. Better still 8G even with base OS, windows 7 64bits. The upgrade memory is cheap, $15!!(new) for 2 G upgrade.

3. Comes with window 7 64bits home premium, you can upgrade to windows 8, not really necessary.

4. Download Fidelizer to optimise laptop for Audio use, i.e. it is free and do a search.

5. Can use a variety of Audio players ranging from J. Rivers ($50) and to those that are free, eg. Foobar, Media monkey, etc. I use Pureplayer you can download it from PC based forum, do a search. It is very good I use very often even though I also own J. River.

6. It has 3 USB ports, one for DAC, one for CDROM for playing CDs, one spare.

Needless to say the sound is very good.

If you have any questions leave your questions here.
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Old 16th February 2013, 02:11 AM   #3
i2k92 is offline i2k92  Indonesia
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I recommend PC based on intel DN2800MT mobo + 4gb RAM + small SSD for OS only + used laptop power supply, cheap & 100% silent. If you use USB DAC, add a Renesas based USB-3 PCI-e card to improve the sound further. I use mine with Win 7 64 bit + Jplay v5b, the sound is awesome. Depend on the enclosure, it can go below 300$.
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Old 16th February 2013, 09:23 AM   #4
JLOP is offline JLOP  France
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Default The cheapest and possibly the best.

If it is for music only, get rid of windows and you Will have additionnal savings

Am using mpdpup on my daugther's retired Asus eeepc, with Wave IO USB to SPDIF/I2S devoted to music. Remote with iPhone / iPad ...
Free, easy to install, very small footprint, runs from CF, no bugs, no virus, excellent SQ - the best I got until now with dematerialized music.
And I rip, search for covers, organize my library from my Windows Server or my professionnal Laptop

The only reason I would change would be if I wanted to go to digital multiway crossovers/DSP on a computer that would require high CPU performance, with a pro sound card. But there are plenty of BSS / Lake / DCX...

Just my 2 cents ( of )

BR
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Old 16th February 2013, 09:46 AM   #5
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Buy an HP Microserver.
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Old 17th February 2013, 03:07 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies so far. Ttan98, you give me an idea! Rather than spend money for a laptop ("yet"), I am going to swap out the noisy old (ca. 2008) laptop -- a Compaq F762NR -- for a newer CQ56 that has (somewhat) adjustable fan speeds. I can do this on a test basis anyway. The ancient PC can serve as my university PC, except it has about 15 seconds of battery life
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Old 17th February 2013, 08:00 PM   #7
ttan98 is offline ttan98  Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soldermizer View Post
Thanks for the replies so far. Ttan98, you give me an idea! Rather than spend money for a laptop ("yet"), I am going to swap out the noisy old (ca. 2008) laptop -- a Compaq F762NR -- for a newer CQ56 that has (somewhat) adjustable fan speeds. I can do this on a test basis anyway. The ancient PC can serve as my university PC, except it has about 15 seconds of battery life
I am not sure about the CPU used in your old laptop, you can sometimes find software to control the speed of the fan. My CPU, AMD E450, I can use a software to adjust the core voltage from 1.1V to 0.9 volt by lowering the core voltage it runs a lot cooler hence prevent the fan from coming on more often. Also the battery lasts a fraction longer.

If I just run the audio software on my laptop, my fan on my AMD E450 almost never comes on.
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Old 17th February 2013, 10:21 PM   #8
JLOP is offline JLOP  France
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The fan may be eventually replaced by a more silent one; it may also have been damaged too or be too dusty.
BTW, old PCs are often running many many useless processes, so uninstalling everything useless and come back to a clean install may be efficient, or even restore.

Did you check ?

Last edited by JLOP; 17th February 2013 at 10:24 PM.
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Old 19th February 2013, 12:51 AM   #9
BFNY is offline BFNY  United States
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This guy is a widely available for $25. Has 4 USB ports, and ethernet.

You can put Linux on it and go to town. It works fine as a music server. I'm using one now.
Pogoplug v2 (Pink/Gray) | Arch Linux ARM
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Old 19th February 2013, 01:43 AM   #10
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Hmmm....I have tried to vacuum the old laptop. No change. I am too lazy to try a fulll restore...I have things the way I want on it. Pretty sure the fan was variable even when new. (e.g. this model has a fan that the user has little control over.) I might try a fan speed adjuster if I can find one. HP/Compaq lock down their BIOS so .... ?

As for Linux, amazing how cheap they are getting. I will pass for now. I have ancient Unix skills, probably older than you are! I don't have the time to hack Linux at the current time.
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