HERE IS A LINK TO THE HI-FI CHOICE REVIEW BY JASON KENNEDY
The MCRU Music Server proves computer audio is a force to be reckoned with at the very highest level, Jason Kennedy, Hi Fi Choice
A copy of the MCRU Musc Server Brochure is here.
The MCRU Music Server stores music files on an internal SSD drive (no moving parts and totally silent). It needs to be connected to a display such as a Plasma TV, LCD TV or PC Monitor, it can also function as a DVD player and you can also watch on-line videos such as youtube. The server is simple to operate and because we use it every day in our demo rooms we can guide you through initial set up and answer any questions you may have.
There is enough storage in the server for 1000's of CD quality files, rip your CD's to the internal drive and then store them away forever. Download music from the web straight onto the server. Watch youtube videos or any other web videos with ease. Listen to on line radio (1000's of free stations) and stream music from spotify or lastfm. The server allows you to set up free radio stations such as Linn Radio in favourites to be accessed in seconds.
The server has jriver media centre pre-installed which will categorize all your music and download album artwork automatically allowing you to browse your music via artist, album, genre or year. Simply insert a CD into the drive and jriver copies it to the servers storage drive in lossless format, you can then eject the CD and store it away, the files on the server can even sound better than lsitening via a CD player.
THE FILES ON THE SERVER CAN BE STORED IN ALL POPULAR FORMATS SUCH AS FLAC, ALAC, WAV ETC, ETC We configure the server to store FLAC by default. The servers sound quality surpasses 90% of CD players and it will play hi resolution files up to 24/192 which is far higher than a CD and it also plays DSD with a suitably equipped external DSD DAC. DSD is a new music format just gaining popularity, the server plays DSD music if connected to a DSD ready DAC.
SERVER STANDARD CONFIGURATIONS
64GB SSD drive to store windows and jriver, 256GB SSD drive to store your music, the drive is big enough to store 1000's of songs. Windows 8 / JRiver Media Centre pre-installed. (Windows 7 available if required). Built in DAC to connect the server straight to your amplifier or pre-amp. Supplied wireless keyboard with integrated mouse. Built in DVD drive which plays and rips cd's and allows you to watch DVD's. The server can be controlled with an i-pad, i-phone or android device (not supplied).
64GB SSD drive to store windows and jriver, 512GB SSD drive to store your music, this dribe will store 1000's of songs and some movies if required. Windows 8 / JRiver Media Centre pre-installed. (Windows 7 available if required). Digital output to connect to your own external DAC using s-pdif (digital rca) or asynchronous usb. We recommend usb for the very best sound quality using an external DAC. The server will work with most DAC's and may require you to download drivers. Supplied wireless keyboard with integrated mouse. Blu ray drive which plays and rips cd's and allows you to watch DVD's and Blu Ray films in 2.1 sound.
128GB SSD drive to store windows and jriver, 2 x 512GB SSD drives to store your music, these drives are large enough to store 10's of 1000's of music files and also some movies if required. Windows 8 / JRiver Media Centre pre-installed. (Windows 7 available if required). Digital output to connect to your own external DAC using s-pdif or asynchronous usb. Built in DAC should you decide to use that instead of an external DAC. The server will work with most DAC's and may require you to download drivers. Supplied wireless keyboard with integrated mouse. Blu ray drive which palys and rips cd's and allows you to watch DVD's and Blu Ray films in 2.1 sound. LDA audiophile filtered power supply which is housed in the same width of case as the server and provides improved sound quality.
Here is a review of the Music Server by a satisfied customer................
I have been a customer of David since he opened the MCRU business, and in 2012 met him 'face to face' at his stand in the Bristol Hi-Fi Show. Always full of helpful advice David's attitude of 'sell the customer something they actually need not just the most expensive' has always gone down well with me.
Also at the stand was Nick Gorham designer of the Longdog Audio LPSUs and DAC. This year (2013) they were also joined by Gary Jamieson, designer of the Music Server, who, over my couple of visits, demoed what a Windows-8 based server running JRiver software was capable of. JRiver ( now v18 ) is very versatile and has won many awards.
A couple of years ago I purchased the Marantz NA7004 Network player but scoffed at the idea of computer audio streaming being a primary hi-fi source but this year some rooms at the show sounded very good using streamed music instead of cd players. This and Gary's demo let me to later order the MCRU Server. I choose this option of a Windows-based server because I thought it would be easily upgradable in the future and the display of JRivers on the screen is very practical and impressive. Of course in the future if I don't fully utilise it as a server it will always be an excellent truly silent computer.
This consisted of the Windows 8 System with two 120gb SSDs, including the Normal and USB soundcards fitted in the back case, matching the rest of my system. The case on its rubber isolation feet is attractive, hi-fi component size and of very good quality.
The Server came well packed in two boxes inner and outer, with an external power supply and power cable. Also included is a Logitech wireless keyboard which was paired with its Unifying receiver to fit in the rear usb2 slot.Placed on the Blok Duo Stand, under my Plasma,it looked very smart, and as it is a fanless build this gave it good ventilation staying only warm to the touch when in use. You only hear the drive when ripping, if playing a disc it is not heard.
In use -- With the Analog/Dig Sound Card
Setting up was quick and for sound I used the sound card analog and digital outputs to my Preamp with HDMI for vision only. The Router, NAS drive and Server were connected with Meicord Ethernet cables ( from MCRU ). With SSDS the startup takes less than half a minute. Included onscreen were useful links to help you get started and understand Windows 8 if you are new user. The JRivers software can be set to automatically rip a disc when one is inserted in the drive. It provides the song list with Album cover display taking about 7- 10 mins to compleat rip and eject disc. The drive is a slot loading type and I was apprehensions at first use.This is not an issue, however it takes 5 or 6 disc loadings to get the confidence that you are not going to damage a disc. When the disc is in the ejected position you can clearly see it does not touch the case slot and at no time did I have a disc marked. As with all new software it takes time familiarise yourself with it, but help is always available if you should run into problems.
JRiver can be set to save the disc files to the internal SSD or load them to a NAS drive. If you choose the NAS then it has to be on as well as the Server for playback as well as ripping. Spotify is in the setup and I have the Premium account already. This is best as it uses the higher bit rate (320) for better play back sound. Dig out is required for Spotify.
You use the supplied keyboard to imput to the W8 or JRiver and I found with my IPad the JRemote app ( £6.99 ) worked very well to control playback. Best to disable the 'touch an tap' on the keyboard if you not used to it ( press fn + left mouse keys to toggle this ). Internet Radio stations can also be set as files and played via JRiver.
My NAS drive file system was in disarray and here I called on the services of Gary Jameson to help me out. He spent time sorting out the NAS, setting JRiver to load the disc files by default to it and gave me extra tips in using the JRiver software ( by far above and beyond the call of duty ) This is what service is all about and why I deal with MCRU. Gary is very enthusiastic about his craft and regularly partakes in forums exchanges.
Note that my main system, the AV Pre, DVD and Amps is well to the side of the room and need cables of 3-4 m to connect Server to Pre. I used a Supra dig cable made up by David.
The sound quality has improved over at period of time which came as a bit of a surprise considering its computer based. Base is very snappy, midrange ok with better soundstage then the Marantz network player, but the treble is sharper than the laid back sound of the rest of the system I'am used to.
One of my friends who still retains full range hearing called over to view the Server and I include his impressions ;
" The overall quality of the sound can only be described as musical, the base is firm without being overbearing allowing supple details within it to be heard. Midrange is fluid and engaging that draws you into the music with voices (depending on the disc) showing emotion and feeling. The treble is crisp and clear however it can be a bit splashy at times as is experienced when playing some ripped CD's. The soundstage is quite wide however it is not quite as deep as the original CD. Carrying a listening test with ripped version against the original CD I found in some cases there was very little difference and others it was noticeable."
Continuing the running in period I mounted the Server on a Bass isolation board with Black Ravioli double pads under the Server which I feel improved the sound quality ( and ventilation ) The Centre speaker is on the top of the Blok stand and although isolated on its Talk Audio platform I think the extra isolation for the Server is a beneficial must.
Replacing the analog cable with a 4m Vermouth Red Audio pair ( previously bought from MCRU ) also helped improved the treble etc. I say this also to shows that the MCRU Music Server is good enough to show up these changes and help in getting the best system match to suit you. Playing 24/192 download files of the Album of Fleetwood Mac 'Tango in the night' I had to check it was still in stereo as it seamed 3D soundstage.
I have better dig and analog sets of cables which may tune it better but they are only 1m long and putting the Server in the hotter area of the main setup would not be suitable for it.
To put the sound of the Server in perspective in is completing with the Marantz Universal player UD9004 which not only has an excellent vision but the sound quality to go with it an of a smooth nature which suites me. This is achieved by sitting it on a Starbase stand with amps and pre and using mains and connecting cables to tailor the sound. The cost of the cabling being more than the cost of the Server 1 configuration.
I think the best next step would be to explore the use of the fitted USB Sound Card Asynchronous output to a DAC where the DAC could be placed with the main setup using the shorter cables between DAC and Pre. --- Something for a forthcoming review perhaps
Overhaul the Server has changed by view of storing and using a computer to store and listening to musicals it gives me a lot of enjoyment, is easy to master and I am looking forward to putting some movies my NAS drive along with more music. This a product I would recommend for any one looking for a music server with a Windows interface.
MCRU state " We provide a 30 day money back guarantee on everything we sell. "
But this unit is NOT going back
-- Enough said.
BRIAN J.LAKE | JUNE 2013