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Why LMS in AAMS

Since the beginning of Covid-19 lockdowns in early 2020, we started our journey to build affordable and good-sounding digital music playback system. We spent our time and money on music players software licenses, not to mention huge spending on music server hardware. In this post, we share our experiences and why we ended up using LMS.

Various music players we tried

We did not try all software, but only those which can be run in a headless Windows or Linux operating systems. Over time, some software went through major improvements while others stopped making progress such as HYSOLID and Daphile.

Linux music players we tried

We tried Volumio, Daphile, and Euphony. Volumio started as an open-sourced free software but is now a paid software for its full functionality. Daphile remains free but is no longer updated. Euphony v3 started as paid software with perpetual license, but later since v4, they changed to paid subscription. We liked Euphony v3 initially and purchased 2 perpetual licenses when our prototype music servers were sent to local reviewers.

We are aware the Pink Faun music servers use Euphony v4. Most likely this is the best headless music players available for Linux. However, in Audiophile Style forum, we read that user-reported issues take time to be fixed. Also, different Linux kernel versions give different sound. This is no longer something we like.

Volumio is good for its simplicity and is supported very well, but its sound quality is not competitive.

Windows music players we tried

We never tried JRiver and Foobar since both are not headless. We tried Audirvana previously but did not like it. HYSOLID sounds impressive, but it’s a “dead” free software. JPLAY FEMTO impressed us so we sold a few units of full-LPSU AAMS with JPLAY FEMTO licenses. Unfortunately, being a UPnP music player, different UPnP control app on tablet/phone gives different sound, and JPLAY iOS is supposed to be the best-sounding UPnP control app. We bought an iPAD just to try JPLAY iOS. It is far from being stable even after released for more than a year. Once during setup of AAMS+ at a reviewer’s system, JPLAY iOS misbehaved and embarrassed us. That’s the end of JPLAY FEMTO for AAMS.

We tested LMS for Windows 10 and learnt the tricks to get its best sound. We tried AAMS LE (with built-in Audio Note sound card) at a friend’s house who uses Infinity IRS V speakers. We compared JPLAY FEMTO vs LMS, and LMS sounds closer to his analog system while JPLAY FEMTO sounds very different.

Since then, we decided to use LMS for our music servers. It’s free and open-source. We use the standard LMS but with updated SqueezeLite local player PlugIn which we need to download and install manually.

Other music server makers took LMS source code, modified for their own commercial use, but never shared the codes they modified back to the community, breaking GPL agreement.

No TIDAL for LMS in Feb 2024

In Dec 2023, a new CEO took over Logitech, a Swiss company making accessories for computers. In late Jan 2024, Logitech decided to shutdown mysqueezebox.com server (which is the proxy server used for TIDAL streaming) by end of Feb 2024. It surprised us. Unfortunately our customers were very unhappy.

The TIDAL plugin for LMS will no longer work after mysqueezebox.com shutdown. The community panicked. We dropped what we do and tried to work with LMS community to resolve TIDAL streaming issues. The interim solution was to enable UPnP PlugIn for LMS and then use BubbleUPnP as the TIDAL control app. It works very well when BubbleUPnP server is installed inside Windows 10. We were able to stream TIDAL up to 192k 24-bit, unlike previously only CD quality with the original LMS TIDAL plugin. We like TIDAL sound quality using this approach.

The LMS community was not happy with the interim BubbleUPnP solution – it’s complex for regular users. 2 senior LMS developers decided to develop a new TIDAL plugin inspired by reversed-engineered TIDAL source codes in GIThub, and they finished the prototype in 2 weeks! The original scope was CD quality only.

We played a very small but important role reviewing the prototype TIDAL plugin source code in Perl and suggested to the developers where to change 2 lines of codes to support hires. Viola, the new TIDAL local plugin is now able to stream up to 48k 24-bit MQA streams.

LMS Community is active and alive

We are very impressed by how the community, especially the 2 senior LMS developers, developed replacement plugins for TIDAL and Deezer. A newbie quickly developed Pandora plugin. In less than 2 months, LMS was rewritten successfully so that the dependencies on mysqueezebox.com is removed. We don’t see such speed and spirit with paid software like JPLAY and Euphony.

Our goal is to review and rewrite SqueezeLite for Windows so that it’s optimized for the best audio quality, focusing on the renderer, add native DSD playback, and have DAC auto detect. We don’t have the resources to do it today, but we will eventually.

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Upcoming NIAV 2024 @ Amari Penang

This is a sneak peak of new AA Audio USB Audio cables which we will launch during the Northern International Audio & Video Show at Amari Spice Penang on 26-28 April 2024. We will be at Peridot 2, Level 4 at Amari Spice Penang.

New USB Audio Cables

It took us about 1½ years to tweak our USB Audio cables to another level since we launched the earlier ones during Northern AV 2022. The main challenge for us was declining Ringgit Malaysia value and higher materials cost for AA Audio USB cables. We experimented with various materials (pure silver versus others), twisting geometry and USB plugs. We are lucky enough that a key high-end hi-fi industry player allowed us to use their showroom to test our USB cables and compare with their mega-buck reference USB cable. During the many tests, we heard the differences between our own cables and the mega-buck reference. We are very determined to narrow the gaps.

SiG : Silver Gold alloy instead of Pure Silver

Our new Signature USB Audio cable uses silver gold alloy instead of pure silver. Due to import tax structure, we are able to reduce the main material cost, but unfortunately, the rest of the materials used like shielded braided sleeves and teflon tubes cost higher. While the Signature USB cable can be considered as the no-cost object version, the introductory price will be very competitive.

CoS : Updated Copper Silver Alloy cable

The previous entry-level USB cable was enhanced by experimenting with different wire sizes and insulation materials. The use of copper silver alloy gives its own unique sound, especially with weight and mid-range. The CoS is priced as the middle tier version and may appeal to certain customers who prefer analog-like sound when playing digital music.

SG : Entry-level Silver Gold alloy

Since we like the new Signature cable so much, we want to offer its trickled down version as the entry-level. We use smaller gauge silver gold alloy and surprisingly it still sounds good. We are confident this cable can beat many other USB Audio cables which are priced higher.

USB Audio Cables Shootout during NIAV 2024

We are in the process of making and sending AA Audio USB Audio cables to reviewers in Australia and the USA before NIAV 2024. Coincidently, both reviewers use Tubulus Concentus USB (from the Netherlands) as their reference USB cable.

We are making arrangement with local and international reviewers for a closed-door USB cables shootout during NIAV 2024 in Peridot 2. Some of the reviewers will bring their own reference USB cables for comparison. We look forward to hear the differences ourselves.

Our System

During NAV 2022, we used Harbeth M30.2 speakers driven by McIntosh MC452 stereo power amplifier in our room. This time around, we will use Focal Diablo Utopia III bookshelf speakers with a JL Audio f113v1 active subwoofer. We will use MSB Discrete DAC courtesy of Statement Systems. Our favorite CD/SACD player, Marantz SA-10, will also be used to demo transport versus AAMS+ sound.

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New AA Music Server Models

A year after AA Music Server (AAMS) was launched during Gelombang 2022 (5-7 Aug), in Aug 2023 we add new music server models, including the barebone version for cost-conscious customers.

The rising cost of components and services post Covid-19 and the fall of Ringgit Malaysia are double whammy for small manufacturers like us. Cost of tantalum capacitors have increased more than 3 times compared to pre Covid-19 price and at its peak right now due to material shortages. International shipping costs (when importing parts) have doubled post Covid-19 and also due to the Ukraine war.

Instead of simply increasing the price, we explored creative ways of improving our music server performance. We also learned from other industry experts. The results are simplified power supply with reference-grade components for the new flagship model (AAMS+) and another for barebone entry-level model (AAMSb). We also allow IT-literate users to buy and install their own SSDs and software. Just buy the hardware from us – barebone music server with all components inside 1 box.

Features and Price Comparison

AAMS-price-list-KLIAVS-2023

Please read more about our new music servers AAMS+ and AAMSb. Demonstration can be arranged or you can also visit us. We will participate in KLIAV 2023.

The full linear ATX power supply version of AAMS which was launched last year is still available for purchase until we run out of the Nichicon UKW smoothing capacitors. Nichicon has decided to exit audio business and no longer makes capacitors for audio market.

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Roon Options for AA Music Server

We tried installing and running Roon Server and Roon Bridge in AAMS. Here are some updates for those who cannot live without Roon.

AAMS is an Open System

Being a PC-based music server running Windows 10 means the software options are pretty open. Our preferred software for local playback and streaming is Logitech Media Server (LMS). Roon Bridge can coexists with LMS.

Roon’s Recommendation

The recommendation by Roon is using high-powered PC for Roon Core. Roon is available in various operating systems. For DIYers, they can build their own PC like Intel NUC and select the O/S and Roon version they prefer for Roon Server.

PCs with high-powered CPU are more noisy. Normally Roon Core will output the audio to another device within the same network, called Roon Endpoint.

AAMS can be used as Roon Endpoint. We don’t recommend using AAMS as Roon Server. From our testing, Roon Server is CPU heavy. Having separate Roon Core and Roon Endpoint is the way to go unless the server PC has dual CPU.

Please leave your comments here.

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New 300VA Transformers

We received 26 units of 300VA toroidal transformers. The early builds used 250VA toroidal transformers. For these new transformers, the secondary voltages were tweaked for lower LPSU heat. There is a dedicated rail for 5V USB Audio output. It is also switchable for 115 and 230 VAC.

More updates after new builds using these transformers are completed.

3 boxes
Secondary voltages
It’s Toroidy