The music server does not have any screen. How to control music playback?
AA Music Server is a headless computer-based music server running Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC and JPLAY FEMTO UPnP playback software. JPLAY FEMTO runs as background services. Windows 10 does not need to be logged in. Without Windows login, there are less processes running in the background. About 30 seconds after boot, playback control can be done through phone or tablet app – BubbleUPnP (Android) or mConnect (IOS, Android).
Any needs to connect keyboard, mouse, and monitor/tv through HDMI?
No. AA Music Server has been configured to boot at customer’s house while being headless. A LAN connection with internet is required. The LAN should be connected to Wi-Fi router. Both server and phone or tablet should be connected to the same home network.
For troubleshooting, RD Client phone / tablet app (Android / IOS) should be installed. For first time RD Client use, need to search and connect remotely to the music server. RD Client can be used to install USB DAC driver or troubleshoot connection issues, JPLAY license validation issues, Windows 10 security updates and other patches/upgrades which need to be triggered manually (no automatic updates).
What about music streaming services?
The design philosophy of AA Music Server is to put your collection of digital music files into the music SSD for local playback. This is the way to get the best sound quality – local playback and true to the source. The digital music files can be ripped from your own CD / SACD collection or purchased and downloaded online (WAV, AAF, FLAC, DSF).
JPLAY FEMTO supports TIDAL and Qobuz streaming services selectable through BubbbleUPnP or mConnect, but Qobuz is not offered in some countries. Spotify is not directly supported by JPLAY FEMTO, but can be played through Android’s HIFY app. More details here. But seriously, if you only play MP3-resolution music through Spotify, AA Music Server is not for you.
What about MQA support?
Please say NO to MQA. As explained above, the design philosophy of AA Music Server is to put the original ripped CD / SACD files or purchased and downloaded high-resolution music files into the music server’s SSD for local playback. If you already have the original files (not adulterated), why bother with MQA?
Can Roon be used with AA Music Server?
Since AA Music Server uses JPLAY FEMTO, the answer can be found in JPLAY’s website (see links below). Roon Bridge should be installed assuming AA Music Server connects to the USB DAC and Roon Server is another PC. In the Roon Server PC, select JPLAY as the endpoint.
Based on our experience, using JPLAY FEMTO as server and renderer (local SSD playback) gives better sound quality compared to Roon Server -> JPLAY endpoint.
Where can I get more information and support about JPLAY FEMTO?
Windows 11 was already launched. Why use Windows 10?
Windows 11 does not have the LTSC (long-term servicing channel) version yet. AA Music Server uses Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC version 21H2.
Enterprise LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel) is a long-term support variant of Windows 10 Enterprise released every 2 to 3 years. Each release is supported with security updates for either 5 or 10 years after its release, and intentionally receive no feature updates. Some features, including the Microsoft Store and bundled apps, are not included in this edition. This edition was first released as Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB (Long-Term Servicing Branch). There are currently 4 releases of LTSC: one in 2015 (version 1507), one in 2016 (version 1607), one in 2018 (labeled as 2019, version 1809), and one in 2021 (version 21H2).
Is the Windows 10 legit?
Yes, we signed an agreement with Microsoft through their Enterprise reseller. We purchased Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC version 21H2 licenses and need to wait a few weeks for Microsoft to ship envelopes with license sticker through their reseller. Microsoft license sticker will be at the back of FC10 case for units sold to customers.
However, there are restrictions how Windows IoT can be used. This music server is a PC, hence many other software can be installed. The agreement we signed with Microsoft stated the IoT device is single purpose, hence for music streaming and playback only. Using Windows Media Player for ripping CDs is okay since is it related to the said purpose.
Is JPLAY FEMTO legit?
We purchase JPLAY FEMTO as an OEM customer at slightly lower price compared to consumer price.
Is JPLAY FEMTO the Best Music Server & Renderer?
During the early phase of our music server development, we started with Euphony v3 which is based on Linux. We have also tried the other free Linux-based software like Volumio and Daphile, but Euphony is way ahead in ease-of-use and sound quality.
What surprised us was that when we tried standard build Windows 10 with HYSOLID, a free software from Japan which is no longer getting any updates (last update was in 2016), the sound quality is better than Euphony v3. The trick was to setup password in Windows 10 and not login after power up. HYSOLID runs in the background as services. Without login to Windows 10, many unnecessary processes are not running.
JPLAY FEMTO has some similarities like HYSOLID but a lot better and is currently being supported. JPLAY FEMTO is not free but the license cost is reasonable given its sound quality.
JPLAY FEMTO has some limitations. Selection of DAC and its setting can only be done after login to Windows 10. We address this by using RD Client to connect to AA Music Server, hence can still operate headless.
Once you have heard AA Music Server with JPLAY FEMTO, it is going to be very difficult to listen to other music playback software including Roon.
Why use a low-powered Pentium SoC, not Xeon processor?
The CPU usage of Pentium Silver SoC at fixed 2.0GHz (with Turbo Boost and SpeedStep Technology disabled) is only about 2-4 % when Windows is logged in and music being played back. In normal use case, Windows is not logged in, hence less processes are running.
Music servers with Xeon processor requires high-current power supply, beyond the ability of most LPSU. DIY enthusiasts use Taiko DC ATX (£1,250) to power XEON motherboard. A separate unregulated DC power supply needs to be purchased from Sean Jacobs (USD3k) or DIY-built. Music servers with Xeon processor is suitable for those who like to do real-time up-sampling by CPU using software like HQPlayer.
Our preference is NOS (no oversampling). Installing additional upsampling software into AA Music Server will void its warranty.
What if I build my own Music Server?
Of course you can do this (it will be an interesting journey) if you
- are computer literate
- have experience building desktop PCs and know what components need to be purchased
- are well-versed with operating system and playback software options
- understand power supply selection and its effects to sound quality for computer-based audio playback
- have unlimited funds
However, if this is the first time you try to do such thing, then you may end up spending more than what’s necessary without getting the expected results.
Please note that in most DIY Music Servers using off-the-shelf components, there will be multiple cases (computer, power supply, USB card high-quality power supply).
Another challenge for DIY music server builders is how do you know whether the music server is giving the correct sound. For example, do you have a DAC or CD/SACD player which can render from USB drive or network? You need to compare rendering by music server versus internal rendering / playback by DAC or CD/SACD player. Is the component quality good enough to be called reference-grade?