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Windows 2012 R2 - Audiophile PC

Wharfedale EVO4.1 Bookshelf Speakers

manniraj

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At last I took the plunge to setup a dedicated Win2012 R2 based music-pc using this barebones kit PDF guide. Setting up the OS using a 16GB USB pendrive was a tiring task as sometimes the system used to boot and sometimes after installation it used to get hanged. Looks like there are bugs in this PC's BIOS. I even flashed the BIOS using the in-built EFI shell script and I think it got stabilised after that as I was able to load the OS and start the system.

Also I encountered issues related to the installation getting stuck at the "Getting devices ready". When looked over the net it looks like the issue is related to both the 2012 R2 package as well as the PC. So after couple of days fire fighting I was able to install the OS successfully after removing all peripheral devices like the USB keyboard, pendrive and LAN cable during the final setup. I followed this link Highend-AudioPC to tweak the OS by switching off some of the services/BIOS settings.

Now I encountered the most difficult and curious case of my Audio-GD NFB15.32 DAC not getting detected in the PC. After couple of night outs the issue was related to the USB ports (this PC has 2 USB2.0 and 1 USB3.0 ports and none were able to detect) of the PC where if I connect either a powered USB hub or a non-powered hub the DAC is getting detected. It seems that this problem is there for most of the DACs but everybody has pin pointed the issue with the onboard USB ports of the PC (not necessarily this particular PC but other motherboard based PCs of Gigabyte/ASUS/MSI etc.) which I am afraid I cannot change as this is a barebones :mad:. So currently I am using a small unpowered USB hub for connecting my DAC which I am not happy being an additional device in the chain :mad:.

I was using a dedicated Foxconn based PC for music playback with Win 7 Ultimate OS (4GB RAM) + Foobar2000. I was pretty happy with the setup but wanted to check out the glorious reviews of using Win2012 R2. Hence I decided to get a small factor PC with 8GB RAM and reused the 64GB SSD from old Foxconn PC. Now look out for my sale thread for the Foxconn + 4GB RAM stick which I am planning to dispose it off. I took the backup of the Foobar2000 folder from the "%appdata%" from the old PC and just copied the contents of this to my new Win2012 PC and viola all the settings along with the components like WASAPI/ASIO/HTTP Control etc were available and I was able to start playing the music. I loaded only the Standard GUI package and not the Core edition during the OS installation.

I also looked at this site for optimization settings for Windows 8 which is applicable even for Win2012 as both the OS use the similar kind of binary components.

Listening impressions in one word awesome with the basic settings in the OS and not using the paid Audiophile Optimization script (I think its Euro 115) as per the high-end PC website. The soundstage is wider and the vocals are clear and neutral. I can feel the openness of the sound and very nice crisp bass without any harshness in the upper end. In word its effortless and pleasing to listen to. I just setup this last night successfully and I am listening to it right now while making this post :clapping:

And now some pictures taken after the setup is done.







 

dheerajin

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Hi Manniraj,

How much you spend on this new venture...just curios, because I might go for the same thing in future..
 

manniraj

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Hi Manniraj,

How much you spend on this new venture...just curios, because I might go for the same thing in future..

Hi dheeraj, the barebones PC from Amazon.in is around 10k and the 8GB stick I got it for 5k but you can find at lesser price in ebay. I reused the 64SSD from my old PC. So you can add another 3.5 to 4k for the SSD not sure about the price. I would suggest that you can find another barebones kit which is compatible with 2012 R2 as I have encountered some BIOS and USB port issues. But I found that at this price its a very good deal even with some nagging issues.
 

manniraj

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I just installed Process Lasso and it has some slight changes to the overall sound but not significant. Unfortunately I had the free license the last time they had some campaigns but this license does not work when I install the new package.
 

Naturelover

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Congratulations! Thanks for the detailed write up. Happy listening.
 

jls001

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Thanks for sharing!

Is there some other way to resolve the USB issue that you're yet to try out? After my music PC died, I did a fresh install of Win 7 Pro 32 bit but couldn't get the correct display driver. After a long search and trying out drivers for Vista, driver for XP actually worked for my mother board :sad:

So may be you can also try other drivers.

BTW, what is the bare minimum configuration for a PC to be able to run Server 2012? My music PC is old and tired and of fairly basic configuration, but I have ambition to try out Server 2012. One area I'm willing to spend on is a new SSD, and may be additional RAM.
 

manniraj

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Thanks for sharing!

Is there some other way to resolve the USB issue that you're yet to try out? After my music PC died, I did a fresh install of Win 7 Pro 32 bit but couldn't get the correct display driver. After a long search and trying out drivers for Vista, driver for XP actually worked for my mother board :sad:

So may be you can also try other drivers.

BTW, what is the bare minimum configuration for a PC to be able to run Server 2012? My music PC is old and tired and of fairly basic configuration, but I have ambition to try out Server 2012. One area I'm willing to spend on is a new SSD, and may be additional RAM.

Thanks Joshua will try my luck at XP drivers. This barebones is a bit tricky as before you install 2012 we have to set the OS compatibility via BIOS as Windows 7, by default it is Windows 8. If this is not set I cannot go ahead with any OS other than Windows 8. No luck so far with the specific USB drivers as I even tried generic drivers for 2012/7/8 and none seems to work with the DAC. But I am still not able to understand how come my DAC gets recognized if I connect via a hub and not directly as the hub is unpowered basic "Lappy" branded one :).
Coming to the configuration for 2012R2 I think you need a compatible 64bit PC as this OS does not come with 32bit and bare minimum 4GB RAM should be sufficient but 8GB will be ideal. I think any older generation processor like Pentium/Celeron (my barebones has this) should also work without any issues. You can try it and I think you will not get disappointed with this OS even in the stock form.

Edit: I just checked the Gigabyte website and unfortunately they do not have drivers for this PC older than Windows 7 :(.
 
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manniraj

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Still looking out for a solution on the DAC not getting detected without a usb hub. Unfortunately all the solutions available online either does not work in the 2012 R2 version or not compatible or does not resolve the problem. Looks like I have to live with the USB hub in the chain or else the DAC needs to be changed :sad:
 

sound_cycle

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Still looking out for a solution on the DAC not getting detected without a usb hub. Unfortunately all the solutions available online either does not work in the 2012 R2 version or not compatible or does not resolve the problem. Looks like I have to live with the USB hub in the chain or else the DAC needs to be changed :sad:

from all the schiit i was reading last week

maybe of some value

Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up - Page 50

The vast majority of problems with audio over USB come about from:

1. Power-saving measures such as Windows' port power management and Mavericks' App Nap. Holy crap, do we really need this standards-destroying, arbitrary crap to save another minute or two of battery life? And it's not just USB DACs that are affected. Google "Windows USB Port Power Management" for more info. If the manufacturers simply made this draconian crap completely and easily defeatable, we'd have a lot less problems.

Schiit Modi works via USB Hub, but not directly to onboard USB.

use that two headed cable

ciao
gr
 

manniraj

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from all the schiit i was reading last week

maybe of some value

Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up - Page 50

The vast majority of problems with audio over USB come about from:

1. Power-saving measures such as Windows' port power management and Mavericks' App Nap. Holy crap, do we really need this standards-destroying, arbitrary crap to save another minute or two of battery life? And it's not just USB DACs that are affected. Google "Windows USB Port Power Management" for more info. If the manufacturers simply made this draconian crap completely and easily defeatable, we'd have a lot less problems.

Schiit Modi works via USB Hub, but not directly to onboard USB.

use that two headed cable

ciao
gr

Thanks I have read that of the Schiit DAC not getting recognised but the problem was with the drivers I think. Even I have tried a DIY tweaked USB cable of less than a meter from which I disconnected the power cable and insulated it. But even this did not help out.
I am now thinking of either getting this dual headed cable or get a USB jitter filter like the AudioQuest Jitterbug ($49) which could resolve this problem as this I am presuming functions similar like my current USB hub. Its low cost and I can try it but before taking this plunge reading it online where similar cases are being faced by many other people. I am suspecting this could be related to the USB power management as you listed from the Schiit thread restricting the power drawing by the Audio-GD DAC. This DAC has a dedicated power supply, hence I thought this could not be the root cause of the problem. The Audio-GD site clearly mentions that the +5V power supply is not being used for the DAC chip for improved sonic abilities. Hence the manufacturer suggested to switch on the DAC once the Windows system is loaded. I did try that but looks like more of a Gigabyte PC onboard USB port issues rather than OS related.
 

Kannan

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What is the essential difference in SQ from your earlier music PC. I am running windows 7 ultimate on my music PC (which is actually a laptop) that I recently upgraded to windows 10 user preview.
I am tempted to go your way but wonder if it will support my hardware. It is an old 2006 Dell Inspiron laptop with 4GB RAM.
I am not having any latency issues or jitter but the sound borders on the brighter side which in a way could be the issue with the DAC aswell or could be a pitfall of running completely active with the JRiver DSP feature.
 

manniraj

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What is the essential difference in SQ from your earlier music PC. I am running windows 7 ultimate on my music PC (which is actually a laptop) that I recently upgraded to windows 10 user preview.
I am tempted to go your way but wonder if it will support my hardware. It is an old 2006 Dell Inspiron laptop with 4GB RAM.
I am not having any latency issues or jitter but the sound borders on the brighter side which in a way could be the issue with the DAC aswell or could be a pitfall of running completely active with the JRiver DSP feature.

As I quoted in my opening post I feel the sound stage has improved and getting a crisp bass with no shrill highs which I use to experience with my earlier PC setup of Windows 7 Ultimate + Foobar2000. Also I can see that the CPU load has reduced considerably as I disabled some of the services as listed in one of the sites which I quoted. I think with the Audiophile Optimizer script the sound should be far better as it automates and disables/switches off many of the unwanted windows services with one click rather than manually doing it one by one.
Regarding the compatibility of your existing hardware you can check it online and I think the only aspect to take care will be that your hardware should support 64bit OS as the 2012 server comes only in 64bit version and no 32bit.
 

Kannan

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Regarding the compatibility of your existing hardware you can check it online and I think the only aspect to take care will be that your hardware should support 64bit OS as the 2012 server comes only in 64bit version and no 32bit.

Yes, my cpu supports x64 and I am presently running a 64 bit version of the OS only.
I have my own doubts about the audiophile optimizer priced at around 100 euros, and the improvement it professes. With so much memory at our disposal and such processing powers and with implementation of ASIO or WASAPI to bypass windows mixer, I doubt shutting down processes will improve the audio quality by releasing resources.

Unless one experiences lags in streaming, I don't think it affects audio quality. Also jitter which is a DAC specific issue has nothing to with background processes.
 

manniraj

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Yes, my cpu supports x64 and I am presently running a 64 bit version of the OS only.
I have my own doubts about the audiophile optimizer priced at around 100 euros, and the improvement it professes. With so much memory at our disposal and such processing powers and with implementation of ASIO or WASAPI to bypass windows mixer, I doubt shutting down processes will improve the audio quality by releasing resources.

Unless one experiences lags in streaming, I don't think it affects audio quality. Also jitter which is a DAC specific issue has nothing to with background processes.

Yes thats one of the reason I have not purchased the script and trying to search online in disabling the unwanted services and I think more than happy with the current settings except the DAC not being recognised if connected directly which I think could be a OS as well as the PC motherboard issues.
 
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