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Network Dropouts
19-07-2014, 16:40
Post: #1
Network Dropouts
I'm experiencing highly intermittent dropouts in streaming audio. Setup is Windows i7 PC with MinimServer, wired Ethernet, Simaudio MiND, Auralic Vega DAC. This usually works great up to 192/24, but every few days, there are episodes of brief dropouts (heard as clicks) in playback. This happens at any data rate, even though I've switched the Clock setting on the Vega to "Auto".

Also complicating troubleshooting is that the system is in a new room and the Vega is a new acquisition. Seems to me it could be (1) a defective DAC or MiND, (2) bad network cabling or switch, or (3) increased network latency because the PC is downloading updates or doing some other thing I don't want it to do.

Does anyone have suggestions for tracking this down? It is frustrating, because so highly intermittent. I've made several "fixes" that seemed to work, but didn't. I've thought of moving the music library to an NAS to eliminate (3), but I hate to throw money at the problem without firmer evidence.

I may have a window to return the DAC for a refund, but it's closing fast. AND it sounds wonderful when it works.

Thoughts appreciated!

Mike

Mike
Portland, Oregon, USA
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19-07-2014, 19:54
Post: #2
RE: Network Dropouts
(19-07-2014 16:40)Mike48 Wrote:  I'm experiencing highly intermittent dropouts in streaming audio. Setup is Windows i7 PC with MinimServer, wired Ethernet, Simaudio MiND, Auralic Vega DAC. This usually works great up to 192/24, but every few days, there are episodes of brief dropouts (heard as clicks) in playback. This happens at any data rate, even though I've switched the Clock setting on the Vega to "Auto".

Also complicating troubleshooting is that the system is in a new room and the Vega is a new acquisition. Seems to me it could be (1) a defective DAC or MiND, (2) bad network cabling or switch, or (3) increased network latency because the PC is downloading updates or doing some other thing I don't want it to do.

How long does it last when it's happening? Does it last long enough for you to go into Windows Resource Monitor to see whether some resource-intensive activity is happening on the PC at the time? For example, an antivirus scan or update might cause this.
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19-07-2014, 21:12
Post: #3
RE: Network Dropouts
(19-07-2014 19:54)simoncn Wrote:  
(19-07-2014 16:40)Mike48 Wrote:  I'm experiencing highly intermittent dropouts in streaming audio. Setup is Windows i7 PC with MinimServer, wired Ethernet, Simaudio MiND, Auralic Vega DAC. This usually works great up to 192/24, but every few days, there are episodes of brief dropouts (heard as clicks) in playback. This happens at any data rate, even though I've switched the Clock setting on the Vega to "Auto".

Also complicating troubleshooting is that the system is in a new room and the Vega is a new acquisition. Seems to me it could be (1) a defective DAC or MiND, (2) bad network cabling or switch, or (3) increased network latency because the PC is downloading updates or doing some other thing I don't want it to do.

How long does it last when it's happening? Does it last long enough for you to go into Windows Resource Monitor to see whether some resource-intensive activity is happening on the PC at the time? For example, an antivirus scan or update might cause this.

Simon -- Great suggestion. Sometimes the clicking goes on for a while, but not always. Next time, I'll try Resource Monitor. I am willing to switch to a NAS, but I hate to take the plunge without knowing whether it will solve the problem.

Is it possible when starting MinimServer to specify high priority?

--Mike

Mike
Portland, Oregon, USA
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19-07-2014, 21:27
Post: #4
RE: Network Dropouts
(19-07-2014 21:12)Mike48 Wrote:  Simon -- Great suggestion. Sometimes the clicking goes on for a while, but not always. Next time, I'll try Resource Monitor. I am willing to switch to a NAS, but I hate to take the plunge without knowing whether it will solve the problem.

Is it possible when starting MinimServer to specify high priority?

No. I've done a few experiments with this and these have convinced me that it's a bad idea.
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20-07-2014, 03:07 (This post was last modified: 20-07-2014 03:28 by Mike48.)
Post: #5
RE: Network Dropouts
Not long after I sent a support email to Auralic, I heard from Wang Xuanqian (the principal), who noted that if the DAC's sample-rate display didn't flicker during the clicks, the issue was network latency, not too much jitter. They didn't flicker. This is the push I needed to move my audio server from my PC to an NAS, which I've been contemplating for some time.

Mike
Portland, Oregon, USA
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21-07-2014, 19:04 (This post was last modified: 21-07-2014 19:05 by magister.)
Post: #6
RE: Network Dropouts
Mike,

This network stuff is tricky. I run a Synology DS213 with MinimServer, and in general it works very well for me. But I do get occasional dropouts, usually on hi-res (192 or DSD) material. It happens rarely enough and randomly enough that it's hard to pin down. It could be a network issue, or a limitation of my hardware. (I have a PS Audio DirectStream DAC with PSA's Network Bridge installed. The latter is known to be a little underpowered.) I have cat6 ethernet cable and an Apple Airport Extreme switch, which should do the job.

I guess what I'm saying is that going to a NAS is not a guaranteed solution to your problem. I am not trying to discourage you; I think that using a NAS is a good way to avoid some potential sound quality issues with computer playback, and I personally prefer holding a tablet to handling a laptop while listening to music. But everything has to come together perfectly. I don't know anything about the DAC you have. It might be worthwhile trying to find out from other Vega owners about their experiences with streaming. Good luck and let us know how you make out!
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21-07-2014, 19:42
Post: #7
RE: Network Dropouts
Thanks, Magister. It's good to know of others' experiences. There is nothing special in my setup that would make it exempt from those issues.

I agree: I prefer to have a tablet at hand than a computer in the audio room. But after listening to USB audio from my laptop through an all-Bryston system and Ariel 7T speakers at a local dealer, I am beginning to rethink that. That system sounded wonderful, and there wasn't a click, pop, or dropout of any kind. It seems that right now, network streaming is not yet sufficiently perfected, and that makes it a black hole for the customer's money. There are those who say "it works for me", but it should work for everyone.

It is troubling that, even through wired Ethernet, one can't stream high-res audio reliably, which requires a small fraction of the available bandwidth. To me, that points to under-engineering of the stream receivers and/or DACs involved. Perhaps much larger buffers are needed. That should be trivial, given the low cost of memory today.

Mike
Portland, Oregon, USA
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21-07-2014, 19:51
Post: #8
RE: Network Dropouts
(21-07-2014 19:42)Mike48 Wrote:  It seems that right now, network streaming is not yet sufficiently perfected, and that makes it a black hole for the customer's money. There are those who say "it works for me", but it should work for everyone.

It is troubling that, even through wired Ethernet, one can't stream high-res audio reliably, which requires a small fraction of the available bandwidth. To me, that points to under-engineering of the stream receivers and/or DACs involved. Perhaps much larger buffers are needed. That should be trivial, given the low cost of memory today.

I am not having any issues doing this. It sounds like there is some problem with your streaming setup.
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21-07-2014, 20:07
Post: #9
RE: Network Dropouts
(21-07-2014 19:42)Mike48 Wrote:  To me, that points to under-engineering of the stream receivers and/or DACs involved.
It seems like it should be a simple thing. But consider this example. PS Audio is coming out with an updated version of their Bridge. In a discussion on the PSA forum, a couple of people said (to paraphrase), "What's the big deal? It's only a network streamer. Why can't you make it do double rate DSD?" Paul McGowan, the CEO of PSA who is very honest in his discussions on the forum, said that nothing in streaming is easy and that making the new Bridge play gapless reliably even at single-rate DSD has been a difficult engineering challenge. Maybe it's not so simple -- yet it works perfectly for some people, as Simon said. Ah, life on the cutting edge of audio.Confused
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21-07-2014, 20:29
Post: #10
RE: Network Dropouts
(21-07-2014 20:07)magister Wrote:  It seems like it should be a simple thing. But consider this example. PS Audio is coming out with an updated version of their Bridge. In a discussion on the PSA forum, a couple of people said (to paraphrase), "What's the big deal? It's only a network streamer. Why can't you make it do double rate DSD?" Paul McGowan, the CEO of PSA who is very honest in his discussions on the forum, said that nothing in streaming is easy and that making the new Bridge play gapless reliably even at single-rate DSD has been a difficult engineering challenge. Maybe it's not so simple -- yet it works perfectly for some people, as Simon said. Ah, life on the cutting edge of audio.Confused

I think a lot depends on what streamer you have. Mine is a Linn DS. It would be interesting to hear about people's experiences with their streamers.
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