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Experiments with file storage

Wharfedale Evo 4.2

AmK

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Sorry, if this is the wrong thread. This post is about file storage, thus I thought it is applicable here. If the forum administrators think that it should be posted in another thread, please do move it.

I wanted to see if I could further optimize sound quality by making changes to where/how my music files are stored.

I use an Oppo-103 as the digital source/transport/renderer/streamer.

The Oppo is quite heavily modified (upgraded power supply, fuses, internal cabling, footers, furutech NCF power inlet etc.), so it functions as a pretty good sounding transport - enough to hear changes made by tweaks. It feeds a Rega Dac-R via coaxial spdif.

- Scenario 1: files stored on a regular Transcend 1TB external hard disk, connected to the Oppo via USB (controlled using the Oppo app on my android phone).

- Scenario 2: files stored on a Seagate surveillance 4TB HDD, in an aluminium external hard drive enclosure (photos below). Connected to the Oppo via USB (controlled using the Oppo app on my android phone). The hard drive enclosure is externally powered with a stock 12V wall wart. So the hard drive is not "bus powered".

- Scenario 3: files stored on the same Seagate surveillance 4TB HDD, in a Synology NAS. Connected to the Oppo over the ethernet network. Oppo as "streamer", "pulling" files from the NAS server (controlled using the Oppo app on my android phone)

- Scenario 4: Same as Scenario 3. Oppo as "renderer"i.e. files "pushed" to the Oppo from the NAS (using BubbleUpnp control app on my android phone)

My home ethernet network is not optimized, but it is wired and it is stable. There is a 24-port netgear switch.

I've been listening to the same music files for a while now, and am quite familiar with how they sound in my system.

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Scenario 2 is the best sounding. The sound is more effortless, more in my room. More clarity, better separation in the soundstage. I know - audiophile cliches :), but I really do think the sound is the best with Scenario 2.

Scenario 1 is next best.

Scenario 3 and 4 sound different to each other, implying that method of file transfer (push vs pull) also makes a difference.

This was not a controlled scientific experiment. But just a guy tweaking! The results could be due to lots of reasons, and of-course there are so many different variables.

But I do think this is interesting, and worth noting that how you store your files, makes a difference. Small changes do matter. You could have an expensive digital front end, but you still can get better sound by tweaking how you store your files.

Look forward to hearing what others have experienced in this area?

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Now, my audiophile brain wants to take this further :)

- Upgrade the USB cable that connects the external hard drive to the Oppo. Am thinking of the solid core Neotech USB from Ghent Audio with JSSG360 shielding.
- Upgrade the power supply to the hard drive enclosure (either a 12V li-ion battery bank, or an LPS)
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Photos of the hard drive enclosure used in Scenario 2:

20200722_103346.jpg

20200722_103405.jpg

20200722_103424.jpg
 

rikhav

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I have always got better sound from nas or drive directly connected against files being accessed by upnp/dlna.
For some reason the upnp/dlna sounds very inorganic.

I was expecting the self powered drive to sound the best but surprisingly the external powered harddisk working better , but do believe your ears.

You can try powering the drive with external psu with those battery banks which even support laptop charging. I think they support 12 volts. Have not used it so not very sure
 

sid0710

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Hi @AmK , in my mind, it should not make any difference at all to the sound itself. The only thing file storage device is altering is the speed of retrieval of the file. Everything else is being done by your other devices(internal and external). I may just be unaware here so I would love to know the reason from you for this happening?
 

spirovious

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this is interesting, and worth noting that how you store your files, makes a difference. Small changes do matter
I found similarly with pen drives.Same song song sounds different when used another pen drive .Rest of the system was same.
 
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AmK

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I have always got better sound from nas or drive directly connected against files being accessed by upnp/dlna.
For some reason the upnp/dlna sounds very inorganic.

I was expecting the self powered drive to sound the best but surprisingly the external powered harddisk working better , but do believe your ears.

You can try powering the drive with external psu with those battery banks which even support laptop charging. I think they support 12 volts. Have not used it so not very sure
I think the separation of the power and data is probably why it sounds better

Am in the process of trying out a LiFe battery pack. Will be interesting to see the results.

Hi @AmK , in my mind, it should not make any difference at all to the sound itself. The only thing file storage device is altering is the speed of retrieval of the file. Everything else is being done by your other devices(internal and external). I may just be unaware here so I would love to know the reason from you for this happening?
Hi Sid,

Your guess is as good as mine :)

I am trained as an engineer, and try to apply first-principle frameworks to explain things or solve problems. But I think in audio, empirical evidence and your individual/subjective perception is the correct framework.

If you spend time on the computer audiophile forums, it will become apparent that every small change in any variable seems to have an impact. It seems that the digital signal is very sensitive to electrical, mechanical, electronic, software etc. etc.

See the thread there on the Euphony OS and Stylus playback software. Very interesting. All reports show that it sounds much better than Roon, which is considered as the gold standard by most audiophiles. I am tempted to give this a try.

Aman
 

AmK

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Did you try scenario 2 with an external SSD?
No

Scenario 2 was with a 3.5" HDD (Seagate, surveillance grade, 4TB), in an external self-powered enclosure

USB cable was a generic cable that came with the external HDD enclosure
 

thedude

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I guess you could copy few tracks you know well, into an SSD and try that...(if possible with a better USB cable)

This way you could see if lack of HDD vibrations has any positive effect on the sound
 

AmK

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This way you could see if lack of HDD vibrations has any positive effect on the sound
This would be a good experiment to try. I have read reports of people preferring both options.

Maybe sometime in the future. I don't own an external SSD at the moment.
 

shyamv

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I have always got better sound from nas or drive directly connected against files being accessed by upnp/dlna.
For some reason the upnp/dlna sounds very inorganic.

I was expecting the self powered drive to sound the best but surprisingly the external powered harddisk working better , but do believe your ears.

You can try powering the drive with external psu with those battery banks which even support laptop charging. I think they support 12 volts. Have not used it so not very sure
Interesting findings. I had performed similar experiments in my past and I found the overall sound quality to be in the following order

1) External SDD connected over USB
2) External HDD connected over USB
3) External HDD connected over USB and mains powered.
4) File over a Samba Share
5) Delivered via UPnP/DLNA

As you have also noted UPnP/DLNA was noticeably behind in terms of sound quality. Surprising SDD sounded slightly better than a HDD
 
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