HDPLEX Fanless PC Case

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC case Keeps the CPU cooler than a fan! (feedback from Amazon)

Original Amazon Feedback

This is an exceptionally good case. I was absolutely blown away by how well it is designed and built, and the function is absolutely phenomenal.

I have had several Niveus fanless PC’s. They were great cases and had excellent thermo-regulation. The downside to the Niveus was cost – they were thousands of dollars. As they are no longer in production and several years old, I was looking around for a new fanless case. this was the only one I could find that looked like there was even 10 minutes worth of thought put into the design and function. It turns out that this is bar none the best thermo-regulating PC chassis available on the market today.

First, look at these numbers- I ran Prime95 stress test on three chassis: The HD-Plex H1.S, another Mini-ITX system with a CPU fan and case fan, and a Dell Precision M4800 laptop (workstation quality laptop). After 5 minutes, the processors in both the Dell and the Mini-ITX chassis were at 180 deg. F. Contrast that with the H1.S which was at only 170 deg. F after nearly 2 HOURS!!!. The ability of this chassis to move heat away from the processor and radiate it from the case fins is clearly superior to a standard CPU fan. I continued to run Prime95 for nearly 4 hours and the chassis stabilized at around 174 deg. F and never went higher.

This amazing thermo-regulation coupled with the fact this the computer was SILENT (no fan noise) really blows me away. I can not believe that there are not more fanless PC cases being built…This case should be marketed to more than just the high end media server crowd! After seeing these results I am considering switching my every day use desktop to this chassis.

The build spec I used follows:
HD-Plex H1.S fanless chassis w/ 120w AC/DC converter and 160w power supply combo
ASRock z97e-ITX mobo
Intel i3 4130T
Crucial Ballistics Sport RAM (2x4gb)
Samsung 850 1TB SSD

Geekbench 32-bit score of 6340

HDPLEX H10.SODD fanless PC case review from Russia

Original Russia Review link from ixbt Forum

Здравствуйте. Вот и я похвастаюсь. Наконец-то все собрал,HDPLEX H10.SODD,i5 4590, gigabyte z97n-wifi, 16gb ram, ssd 256 gb. bd привод еще не подключил, не могу найти переходник питания minisata . В простое температура cpu около 30 градусов, при запуске стресс теста поднимается до 60 градусов. В общем все отлично . Радуюсь полной тишине.

Hello. So I brag about. Finally all gathered. HDPLEX H110.SODD, i5 4590, gigabyte z97n-wifi, 16gb ram, ssd 256 gb. bd drive is not connected yet, I can not find the power adapter minisata. In simple cpu temperature of about 30 degrees, when you run the stress test rises to 60 degrees. In general, everything is fine. Rejoice in complete silence.

HDPLEX H10.SODD fanless PC case review from Russia

HDPLEX H10.SODD fanless PC case review from Russia

HDPLEX H10.SODD fanless PC case review from Russia

HDPLEX H10.SODD fanless PC case review from Russia

First glimpse of HDPLEX 2nd Gen full size flagship H5 fanless PC case

The second gen HDPLEX H5 fanless computer case will be HDPLEX’s new flagship full size case and will have many exciting features.

The first feature for 2nd Gen HDPLEX H5 fanless pc chassis is its eight-heatpipe passive heatsink system for CPU and graphic card.
The HDPLEX eight-heatpipe heatsink system for CPU and graphic card will be the best and most capable passive fanless PC heatsink system on the market.
Others similar solution only offer only 4- heatpipe which is lacking for high power TDP CPU such as intel core i7 4770k with 84W TDP.
The new eight-heatpipe HDPLEX CPU passive heatsink system could support 90W TDP CPU and use the right side panel of the H5 fanless chassis.
The eight heatpipe HDPLEX Graphic card/GPU passive heatsink system will be able to cool low-mid range graphic card such as GTX750.

HDPLEX 2nd Gen H5 fanless PC case eight heatpipe heatsink system

HDPLEX 2nd Gen H5 fanless PC case eight heatpipe heatsink system

HDPLEX 2nd Gen H5 fanless PC case eight heatpipe heatsink system

HDPLEX fanless H1.S pc case with ASRock Z97 ITX Intel i7-4790S Build

Build pictures from Facebook

Configuration
My newly built PC. No moving parts, small, completely silent and FAST.

Based on HD-Plex H1.S fanless pc chassis
Asrock Z97 MB,
Intel i7-4790S,
16GB RAM,
250GB SSD.
Fully boots in less than 15 seconds.

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC case with ASRock Z97 ITX and i7

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC case with ASRock Z97 ITX and i7

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC case with ASRock Z97 ITX and i7

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC case with ASRock Z97 ITX and i7

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC case with ASRock Z97 ITX and i7

HDPLEX fanless H1.S HTPC Case – Review from The Baker Blog

Original review from Chris Baker blog

I decided to build a new HTPC. I have been using the Zotac Zbox ID41-U for years as my HTPC which was working great except for the tiny CPU fan that had a high pitch whine that I couldn’t get rid of. I adjusted the fan thresholds in the BIOS which helped a bit, but not enough. The Zbox was turned on 24/7 so the sound could be grating when it was quiet in the living room. So I decided to seek out a completely silent solution. After doing some research I decided on the HDPLEX H1.S – a completely fanless case capable of housing a Mini-ITX or Thin Mini-ITX motherboard. I chose the Gigabyte H97N-Wifi because it has dual ethernet ports so if I retire the box as my HTPC it could make for a very beefy and silent router/UTM. The Intel Core i3-4130T consumes 19W less power than the regular i3 4130 and doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of performance. It will create less heat and with the Intel integrated graphics on the chip it can easily handle 1080p video playback and more.

SPECS:

Case: HDPLEX H1.S
Additional Case Components:

120W Internal 19V AC-DC Fanless Power Supply
160W DC-ATX Converter
Internal IR Receiver
CPU: Intel Core i3-4130T (35W low power model)
Motherboard: Gigabyte H97N-WIFI (Mini-ITX)
RAM: Crucial CT102464BA160B 8GB DDR3
HDD: Mushkin Enhanced Chronos MKNSSDCR120GB 2.5″ 120GB SATA III SSD

PROS:

Completely Silent
Nice minimal design – no annoying LEDs or obnoxious logos.
The case disperses heat from the CPU well – temperatures consistently range from 45-50 degrees Celsius. There is very little temperature fluctuation from idle to load. (The max recommended operating temp for the Intel Core i3-4130T is 73 degrees Celsius.)
The customer service from HDPLEX was very good, I would often get a courteous response in a few hours to my support requests.
Quality parts – the case is all metal and sturdy. No scratches, blemishes or poor workmanship anywhere to be found.
Case comes well packaged with the multitude of screws and other parts in several different zip bags. Each bag appears to be logically separated by assembly step – although I’m just speculating as there was nothing stated in the manual to indicate this was the case.
Also included is a velour bag filled with various parts.
Comes with an injection tube of thermal paste – enough for the whole project and then some.
I was surprised to find a small hex screwdriver included as some of the screws are hex bit.

CONS:

The instructions aren’t detailed enough. The instructions would just say assemble this or assemble that without any details about which of the various included screws or parts to use. There are included pictures, but they are too small or at the wrong angle to help with figuring out the screw types. I’ve built a lot of PCs before so it wasn’t too difficult to figure out. For someone new to building though this might be an exercise in frustration. What didn’t help with the screw confusion was there were a lot of left over parts – for many of them I have no idea what they are for. I was often left wondering if I had used the right screws or not and in some cases I hadn’t, so I had to rearrange them after the fact. Some of the instructions in the installation manual were very vague making for some perplexing head scratching moments. For example on page 5, there is a picture that says, “Use bottom holder to avoid conflict with motherboard components”. I have no idea what that means or what the picture is supposed to indicate. There is an arrow pointing to a bare silver mounting peg(?), but in the same picture in same type of hole is the standard backplate rubber mounting peg – so which am I supposed to use? There is only this one picture and one sentence that references this peg. I went with the rubber pegs as they had the sticky double sided backing on them for easy installation.
For such a streamlined case, the internal IR receiver stands out as it isn’t tightly integrated into the case. The receiver sticks out of the bottom on a small circuit board. After installation, it interfered with my Microsoft MCE USB IR receiver. I would get double presses or it would seem to steal my remote presses and nothing would happen. So I had to uninstall it, which is not a big deal to me as it might be handy in the future if I use the PC for something else where I want to use the internal IR from HDPLEX and not the USB IR receiver. Also, the screw that came with the IR receiver to mount the chip to the bottom of the case was way too long. When screwed in, it prevented the front plate from being able to attach to the case properly. So it had to be removed and put in as the last step which was a hassle when disassembling and reassembling the case multiple times. If the screw didn’t jut into the body of the case this wouldn’t be a problem.
Another instructions annoyance were the directions to spread thermal paste on the side grooves of the case where the CPU heat pipes will contact. The grooves run the entire length of the case sides. The heat pipes from the CPU will only touch one third of the side panels on either side so I ended up wasting a bunch of thermal paste. Luckily, I had just enough left for the CPU plate. Since everything inside the case is so compact, cables and other parts started to get mucked up with the excess thermal paste. I had to use cotton swabs with rubbing alcohol to clean the thermal paste out of the unused groove space. The instructions only tell you after you spread the thermal paste where the heat pipes will actually sit.
The 4 pin cable for SATA power from the DC-ATX converter didn’t seat properly because the connector’s plastic clip (that holds the connector in securely) would hit against some other cable shielding. For my initial assembly the SATA power cable came loose and my HDD wouldn’t power on, so I had to disassemble, force it in, and clip little bits of the shielding off the other cables to get it to fit correctly. These were all parts supplied by HDPLEX so they should all fit together without modification.

SUMMARY:

I would definitely recommend this case to an experienced case builder. If you’re new to case building I would think twice – it’s not a standard build due to the CPU heat pipe installation and the instructions certainly don’t hand hold you through the process. Once I had it all put together I was very pleased with the aesthetics of the case, the thermal dissipation, and silence.

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX Fanless H1.S HTPC case review

HDPLEX fanless H1.S PC Case Kaveri Build

Original Review from HDPLEX fanless Computer Forum

Hi there! Just sharing this build for your inspiration. I played a while with the idea of trying an AMD kaveri apu, but was sick of whirring fans and cases that are bigger than my screen. Therefore, after some research for components, the HDPlex H1.S seemed perfect for my needs:

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless mini ITX PC case
Gigabyte F2A88XN-Wifi
AMD A8-7600
4GiB GSkill RipJawsX (leftover from previous build)
64GiB OCZ Vertex3 (idem)

The gigabyte motherboard has it 24pin on the side, so I went with the 2/4 heatpipe configuration instead of 3 each way. The USB3.0 cable of the HS.1 had a soldering fault, but HDPlex is sending a new one and I have no haste since the motherboard also has two. Btw: I used some Arctic Silver MX4 instead of the paste that came with the case. The “barbell” for applying it isn’t very convenient, but does the job. Remember to put good pressure on it, both when applying as when fastening the heatpipes.

For power supply I ordered the 120W internal AC-DC converter and the 160W DC-ATX adapter, which would seem to suffice since I did not need any extension cards. However, halfway through installing the OS, the converter failed (blown capacitor?). Whether this was overloaded or a fabrication fault I don’t know, but HDPlex was so kind to refund it. Now I’m using only the DC-ATX adapter and provide power with an old 19V laptop psu. Works perfectly!

Haven’t been doing 3D rendering, but day-long work playing music and video doesn’t heat the case above touching-ability. I wonder if it can be put under de foot of my screen; perhaps with some room above the air gaps in the case top? Anyway, here are some pictures:

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC Kaveri Build

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC Kaveri Build

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC Kaveri Build

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC Kaveri Build

HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC Kaveri Build

HDPLEX released the first Internal AC Power Adapter solution for Intel NUC and Thin-ITX platform

HDPLEX, a fanless computer manufacture, released the first Internal AC Power Adapter solution for Intel NUC and Thin-ITX platform
The HDPLEX Internal 80W AC Adapter with 19VDC output is available for sale at HDPLEX webstore.
Customer can also purchase it from Amazon.

HDPLEX Internal 80W AC Adapter with 19VDC Output for Intel NUC and Thin ITX has the following unique features.

Fanless Internal AC-DC adapter with 19VDC output for Intel NUC
Support Thin ITX with Molex 2PIN Male output
Sealed Aluminum shell working with HDPLEX chassis to dissipate heat and ensure max safety
Support International 110V-240V 50/60hz AC input
High Quality IEC C14 Socket with EMI filter
High Efficiency and Completely Silent

The HDPLEX internal 80W AC adapter has 2PIN male molex output which could plugged onto the NUC and Thin ITX onboard 2PIN 19VDC input.

HDPLEX Internal AC adapter for Intel NUC

HDPLEX Internal AC adapter for Intel NUC

HDPLEX Internal AC adapter for Intel NUC

HDPLEX Internal AC adapter for Intel NUC

The HDPLEX Internal 80W AC Adapter could also work with HDPLEX 160W DC-ATX converter to became an all-in-one internal power supply solution/combo for ATX PC platform.

HDPLEX Internal AC adapter with HDPLEX DC-ATX Converter combo

The HDPLEX Internal 80W AC Adapter has very small footprint and ears on both side of easy installation.

HDPLEX Internal 80W AC adapter dimension

HDPLEX Internal 80W AC Adapter package content:

HDPLEX Internal 80W AC adapter package content

Last, HDPLEX H1.SODD fanless computer case supports HDPLEX Internal 80W AC Adapter.

HDPLEX Internal 80W AC adapter for H1.SODD Fanless Computer case

HDPLEX fanless H1.S PC case Review from Hungary(A médialejátszótól a HTPC-ig -2. rész- Az összeszerelés)

Original Review for HDPLEX fanless H1.S PC case from Logout HU Forum

Csütörtökön végre befutott minden alkatrész. A ház és a táp Németországból érkezett és 4 nap alatt ideért. Külön érdekesség, hogy a HD-Plex 20 dolláros pénzvisszafizetést ad azoknak a felhasználóknak, akik lőnek 3 képet a kész vasról és felteszik bármilyen nyilvános oldalra (Facebook, fórum, blog). Kedves gesztus. Ehhez mindenképp szükséges egy PayPal számla. -reward program-. Már az alkatrészek becsomagolásán is látszik a mákára jellemző nagyfokú precizitás és igényesség, mivel még arra is figyelnek, hogy a csavarokat és alátéteket egy bársony szütyőbe tegyék. Nem mintha ez létfontosságú lenne, de maga a hozzáállás példaértékű. A házat megfogva is érezhetjük, hogy nem valami olcsó, gagyi anyag került a kezünkbe. A tömege 2.5 kg. A megmunkálás, a kidolgozás pontos, szép és tekintélyt parancsoló. A dobozba mindent mellékeltek ami az összeszereléshez szükséges, csak egy csillagcsavarhúzót kellett pluszba elővenni, azt is csak azért, mert kényelmesebb, ha az ember a saját eszközével dolgozik. A weboldalon fellelhető szerelési útmutatót nyomtatott formában, munkafüzet szerűen mellékelték. Bár azt megjegyezném, hogy egy-két helyen az ábrák igen csalókák.

Mivel a hardveres dolgokban nem vagyok teljesen otthon, így megkértem egy tapasztalt, szakavatott fórumtársunkat (jim bcs), hogy rakja össze a HTPC-t és avasson be a műhelytitkaiba. Utólag belegondolva, nem döntöttem rosszul, mivel nagyfokú szakértelmet, precizitást, magabiztosságot kíván meg ez a munkafolyamat. Jim bcs kifejezetten élvezte az összerakás (vagy ahogy ő nevezi a “Legozás”:) ) minden pillanatát és mind a ketten egyöntetűen megállapítottuk, hogy a 2014-es év referenciamunkája van előttünk az asztalon. Talán a legnehezebb pillanat az volt, amikor a kábeleket kellett elrendezi úgy, hogy azért mutasson is valahogy, arról nem is beszélve, hogy amikor már minden a helyén volt, nem egyszerű hozzáférni az egy-egy részhez. Kicsit megizzadt a homlokunk, de az eredmény magáért beszél:

A beüzemelés kellemes mosolyt csalt mind a kettőnk arcára. A hőelvezető bordák tették a dolgukat, a gép pedig néma csendben beindult, minden a legnagyobb rendben. :)

Második hátrány a Popcorn A400-hoz képest: Nem “plug and play”, vagyis össze kell szerelni vagy legalább is szereltetni. Kezdő gépszerelőknek nem ajánlott.

3. rész: A HTPC lelke: Kodi és egyéb szoftverek (hamarosan)

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

H1.S Fanless Computer case review from Hungary

HDPLEX H1.S fanless PC and HDPLEX 100W Linear PSU for Micro Zuma CAPS v3 Build with JPLAY SOtMtX USBexp

Original review could be found at Enjoythemusic
Micro Zuma C.A.P.S. v3 Audio Server, JPLAY, SOtMtX-USBexp,
Audiophile PCI-E To USB Audio Card, And HDPLEX Linear Power Supply.
With be a million ways to enjoy computer audio, here’s an excellent setup to enjoy the music.
Review By Jonathan Lo

Introduction: The Why and the How
Anybody who has delved into computer audio has likely gone through phases of frustration, hope, and frustration again. A large reason for such confusion is the seemingly infinite set of software and hardware combinations, not to mention program settings, which can influence the final sound. Combine that with often-conflicting user experiences and observations on the internet forums, along with unexplainable hardware and software quirks and glitches, it can be a maddening experience, enough to cause one to fantasize about throwing the computer out the window at times.

The situation is a little better for Mac users, as the hardware choices are much more limited and predictable, which can be confirmed by various audiophile companies that modify and sell audiophile servers based on the Mac Mini, for example. But what about the vast majority of people out there who use Windows? Having fully converted into computer audio around 10 years ago, with Windows no less, I can personally attest to both the evolution and aggravation involved in that endeavor. So why do this? Some may bring up reasons such as improved sound quality, but then others will chime in saying how their traditional audiophile CD transport sounds better, which often degenerates into bitter on-line battles. This is almost a moot point in my view, since it is almost impossible to properly compare traditional transport vs. computer due to the lack of “comparable” configurations and price points for two completely different approaches.

Personally, the single largest reason for enduring all the tribulations of computer audio is due to one thing: instantaneous access to your complete music collection any time in any order, even the old forgotten tracks. There is no going back, thus enter the C.A.P.S. v3 Micro Zuma, the “how” of the journey.

Micro Zuma vs. Via Nano Netbook vs. Silent Windows XP Server

Micro Zuma CAPS Build with HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC and HDPLEX Linear Power Supply

Micro Zuma CAPS Build with HDPLEX H1.S Fanless PC and HDPLEX Linear Power Supply

Micro Zuma C.A.P.S. v3 Audio Server

Those who follow computer audio are likely already familiar with C.A.P.S. (Computer Audiophile Pocket Server), designed by Chris Connaker, meant to be small, fanless Windows music server providing high-quality sound quality. They come in various size and hardware configurations, which can be replicated at home by DIY’ers by following the recipe on the website. Those who are fearful of building a computer like this themselves can buy pre-made models from vendors like Small Green Computer.

Micro Zuma C.A.P.S. v3 Audio ServerThe Micro Zuma was chosen for this review because it sports the most powerful CPU (Intel i7 Haswell) in the smallest form factor without fans, which was achieved via use of copper heat pipes for cooling. Another cool feature is the use of an mSATA card for the operating system and programs, resulting in lightening-quick Windows start-up times. The package can be ordered with the SOtM audiophile PCI-E USB card for high quality USB output, and the most interesting feature is the ability to configure the server to be used with an external linear power supply, also available from Small Green Computer. If so, one can specify that an Aerospace GX16 power connector be installed on the Micro Zuma for use with the linear power supply. What’s even nicer is the fact this configuration does not require the ubiquitous PICO DC-to-DC converter, so the linear power supply directly powers the motherboard without the extra step.

Micro Zuma was compared to two different audio servers in house, one being a Via Nano processor based netbook employing Windows XP, the other being a purpose-built silent music server with all hard drives removed to external location with separate power supply via eSATA connection. The audio netbook is based on the low-power-consumption Via Nano processor with larger RAM upgrade, powered by its own battery. This is a very nice, quiet, compact music server, running the simpler Windows XP OS, still felt to be the best sounding Windows by some users. Sound quality is excellent. Microsoft has stopped supporting Window XP, but as long as these XP machines are not used to surf the web, they still serve beautifully as music sources.

On the other hand, Micro Zuma is a purpose-built music server with no fans or moving parts inside, utilizing heat pipes for thermal management, with Windows 8.1 OS residing on an m-SATASSD card, all processed by the mighty Intel i-7 processor. To further make the fight unfair, the SOtM high-end USB card graces the Zuma with its mighty presence.

Micro Zuma C.A.P.S. v3 Audio ServerUsing a DAC with asynchronous USB input that is self-powered by the DAC and not by the USB bus, e.g. Eastern Electric DAC Plus modified with full complement of DEXA discrete op-amps, means the computer source should not matter anymore…right? We wish computer audio was that simple and predictable, but alas, the audio gods do not make it easy for us.

Micro Zuma has a much, much quieter sonic background, allowing the space between musical notes to be much more noticeable by the lack of grungy texture present. Voices and instruments are allowed to “pop” much easier against a silent and clean background, which allows tiny micro-details and inflections to come alive and titillate the ears. Each note appears more fully developed, rich, detailed, and solid. We are not talking about thrusting false detail by tipping up certain parts of the audio spectrum, ultimately leading to long-term fatigue. It’s rather the case the existing detail is allowed to be more clearly heard due to less grit, dust, and mist obscuring it. One can focus on an instrument or voice, for example, and follow its decay much longer and deeper into the background without losing the harmonic information and instrumental detail. Round one goes to Micro Zuma.

Round two with a full-size silent music server with all hard drives moved outside the case with eSATA connection and external power supply is closer than with the netbook. The music server seems to present a level of detail resolution somewhere between the netbook and Micro Zuma, an excellent sound quality really, fully competitive with many high-quality traditional CD transports, albeit with a different “mien” to how music is presented, a matter of taste almost. Micro Zuma, on the other hand, just presents another level of darker background, clarity of small intonations, and naturalness. The fact it has no moving parts, drives, or fans is a big plus, even against the music server with its “silent fans.”

This is all with the stock switching power supply brick for Micro Zuma, mind you, even before the arrival of the linear power supply.

SOtM PCIe Audiophile USB Card Versus Motherboard USB Output
SOtM USB card is a purpose-built audiophile card whose whole purpose is to output low-noise, low-jitter digital output the outboard DAC, and Micro Zuma can be ordered with the SOtM card installed. The card utilizes Ultra-low noise regulators (ULNR) for its digital, clock, and USB power circuits. Noise is further reduced by power input noise filters and PCI express slot noise filters. As if that was not enough, “Xtremely Low Jitter clock” and active noise canceller is used for the card’s clock power.

Gigabyte MSH81TN inside Micro Zuma is a well-built consumer motherboard, but it has no special audiophile aspirations for its mobo USB outputs.

SOtM USB output sounds more robust, solid, and richer with almost liquid, creamy textures and instrumental tones compared to the Mobo USB output. The already-clean audio background seems to drop into darker black space. The presentation is similar to what many would call “analogue” or vinyl-like. Truth be told, many audiophiles strive for years to build their systems to sound like this.

The funny thing is, for a lot of my music selections, the Gigabyte’s USB output provides a little more sheen and raw energy. Its’ output certainly sounds less refined and robust. Tonal hues are not as authoritatively deep or vinyl-like. However, it has a bit more of what I can only call “life” or raw sparkle.

SOtM card can smooth out those rough edges and as a byproduct a bit of the sparkle as well. This effect is similar to when adding more and more shielding to interconnects, for example. Having experimented with many DIY cables, I have noticed in past that more and more shielding is not necessarily better for a given system, as a sense of raw energy and “twinkle” tends to decrease as more shielding is added. One could argue, probably correctly, that RFI and EMI is giving that false sense of life, but the trick seems to be finding the right balance of the system between overly raw vs. overly smooth.

No Need For SOtM?
This story would have been nice if it stopped here, so that everyone could save some money and not require the SOtM USB card. However, as usual with all things audio and especially computer audio, things took an unexpected turn once the HDPLEX linear power supply arrived for Micro Zuma. This linear power supply transforms the sound signature coming out of the SOtM USB output. The previous observation about how the SOtM perhaps helps to smooth out some raw energy is no longer true, as singers and instruments took on an added dimension of liveliness and energy via the SOtM card, all without playing tricks with the frequency curve or chrome-plating the image outlines. One would have thought the linear power supply would make the sound even more quiet, refined, smooth, with less rawness; however, while the refinement and robustness increased, so did the sense of life. One of the major factors seems to be that the linear PS presents each note even cleaner and more separated out from the background while increasing dynamic contrasts, both macro and micro. Voices, instruments, and drums seem to rev up and down freer, as if the musician came to work after a good breakfast vs. working hungry. More dynamic freedom and clarity seem to have freed the SOtM card from the previously observed reticence, to the point that the linear power supply should be considered almost mandatory if one intends to use the SOtM card. There is definitely a fantastic synergy going on with this combination.

HDPlex Linear Power Supply Versus Switching Power Supply
After getting used to the linear power supply, going back to the stock SMPS betrays a sense of paleness and edginess. Micro Zuma with SMPS sounded great previously, but everything is relative as usual. When the power supply arrived, initially my inner alarm went off since the words “linear power supply” usually means hefty price tags in the world of “audiophile” music servers. After looking at the relatively low price tag of $295, my thoughts then questioned how good it could possibly be. Once it arrived, its hefty weight, build-quality, and overall sound quality easily exceeded previous expectations.

This linear power supply is reportedly built around a high quality R-Core transformer, Linear Technology LT1083 low dropout positive fixed regulators, and ELNA capacitors to provide low ripple and noise. There are no super exotic custom regulators, silver wiring, or Teflon film capacitors in site, but solid, sensible parts have been wrought together in a solid chassis. What’s even more useful is that it provides dual outputs, 19VDC and 12VDC, both of which can be used simultaneously. The 19VDC output powers Micro Zuma, while the 12VDC output can power any audiophile device that requires 12VDC. Aerospace GX16-2 connectors provide DC output, and conveniently, the power supply comes with different size barrel connectors to GX16 cables.

Micro Zuma C.A.P.S. v3 Audio ServerOther than the previously noted dynamic freedom linear PS supplies, both micro and macro, the other major attribute seems to be increased resolution via dropping of noise. Subjective perception is very much akin to listening to the audio system with room windows wide open to the outside vs. all windows closed. While the outside ambient noise may not have been intrusive or bothersome previously, once the windows are closed, the system’s detail resolution, intimacy, and involvement go up a notch or two, and this is the power the linear power supply brings to the table. Everything takes less effort to hear, with much more richness and directness.

While the degree of difference may not be “audible-from-another-room” variety, once used to the extra clarity, refinement, and dynamics, it would be very difficult to go back to the old switching power supply brick powering the Micro Zuma and the SOtM USB card. This is hearty endorsement, since the Micro Zuma with stock SMPS already sounds better than any other computer source I have used in the past. The USB output from SOtM card powered by the linear power supply provides extremely rich, solid, detailed, and smooth voices seemingly anchored in a sea of blackness.

JPLAY Versus ASIO4ALL
There are two sides to computer audio that must be optimized for musical success: hardware and software. Micro Zuma does an admirable job on the hardware side, but some ink must be spilt regarding the software side. While the Micro Zuma ships with Windows installed, it does not come with any music software installed. It is still up to the user to test and choose the music playback software that will yield the best results. I chose Foobar due to several reasons: I am intimately familiar with its operations and sound due to years of use; it is free shareware; I have consistently preferred its sound signature over other free software programs over the years; and it supports JPLAY.

One of the ingredients that makes the Micro Zuma experience so successful is JPLAY, which is a music playback software with audiophile tweaks even in the Windows operating system and BIOS with the goal of improved sound quality. One great feature is its ability to be used as audio output engine with any playback software that supports ASIO, which means Foobar’s convenient user interface can be used with JPLAY audio output, with all the Foobar playlists accessible at the touch of a button.

The older Foobar 0.8.3 version is still used here for various reasons, one of which is a certain signature of analogue-like immediacy and purity when used with the OtachanASIO compilation that is subtly different from other version of Foobar. As usual, these things are highly system and user-taste dependent, so experimenting first-hand is highly recommended.

Using Foobar 0.8.3 as the music player, under ASIO output module, either JPLAY or ASIO4ALL can be chosen with the Eastern Electric DAC Plus with DEXA discrete op-amps. Comparing them can be an ear-opening experience, especially if one is coming from the “bits are bits and everything bit-perfect sounds the same” school of thought. Going from ASIO4ALL to JPLAY was akin to turning up a photo’s sharpness and contrast setting a notch, or two. All the little musical notes and soundstage cues are lit better, even into the darker corners and nooks, leading to the listener having to concentrate and strain less to hear the details. This leads to a little freer and easier listening experience as less effort is expended to “see” things clearly in all their glory. Going back to ASIO4ALL almost feels like taking off one’s eyeglasses, albeit ones with mild prescription.

Immediately, the concern comes up whether the extra light results in brightness, hardness, and other unpleasantries. Carefully comparing music tracks with somewhat problematic sound quality at places, the worrisome sibilants and forward instrumentation do not result in significant extra pain. That is, while the imperfections in recordings are clearly audible, they do not strike the auditory nerve with significantly worse bite or amplification, a neat trick indeed.

JPLAY KS Versus JPLAY WASAPI
Within the JPLAY contol panel, either KS (Kernel Streaming) or WASAPI mode can be chosen. Both are bit-perfect ways to route audio bits through the operating system, expected to sound the same by some. The difference here is not nearly as great as using JPLAY vs. not using JPLAY, but still significant. At first, WASAPI is felt to sound nicer, more pleasant and rounder in presentation. There is a lovely bloom and air about the whole affair, which is definitely not a bad thing in music reproduction. Digging deeper into the music collection with subtler details and contrasts, KS pulls ahead slightly with more authoritative detail retrieval and just a sense that one is half a step closer to what’s on the original master tape.

Still, the degree of difference here can be estimated to be on the order of less than 10 percent, it would seem, which is the type of difference that can easily go unnoticed. In fact, depending on the music being played, one’s preference for KS vs. WASAPI can easily flip-flop. In the end, it’s nice to have choices to tune the system to one’s liking. There are many settings within JPLAY one can play with, and some seem to make more subjective difference than others. One should devote a good amount of time to tweak the particular system to reflect the listener’s preferences, but there are no “wrong” settings in the absolute sense.

JPLAY Hibernate Mode
There is something called “Hibernate” mode within JPLAY which is an extreme playback mode, shutting down dozens of system processes and hundreds of threads in the operating system. While stripping down playback to bare minimum will inevitably reduce system noise and give the highest possible priority to music playback, the problem is that not all systems will work in hibernate mode. For example, if you have an antivirus program running, hibernate mode will most likely crash the system, which is the reason JPLAY recommends a dedicated music server. Then there are dozens of drivers and other processes that may or may not be compatible with hibernate mode, so one will not know until hibernate mode is actually tried on a given server.

Another big issue is that your computer screen will literally go blank as the graphics card is hibernated. One cannot see the playback software control panel, playlists, or anything else. The way to come out of hibernate mode is to disconnect a USB stick from the server, which is inserted before hibernate mode is activated as a “key.” It does not matter what the USB stick holds at all. Obviously one main appeal of computer audio takes a hit: convenience and instant access to any music at any time. People who have dozens of playlists set up and like to jump from playlist to playlist, from song to song will feel the pain the most, whereas those who just load an entire album and listen to the whole thing will suffer the least. Luckily, foobar’s keyboard shortcuts still work, so basic functions like volume, next, stop, pause, etc still could be used from the keyboard while the screen is blank. When a global hotkey for “stop” or “pause” is pressed in foobar, hibernate mode playing stops and one can see the desktop again, which helps to choose the next playlist or song before screen goes blank again.

It was hoped that hibernate mode would not make any sound quality difference due to convenience reasons above, but as luck would have it, it surely did make a difference. The difference is not massive, but it is still likely in the neighborhood of 5% to 10% improvement in terms of increased clarity, purity, and have bass tunefullness. The effect is similar to removing a high-class tube preamp from a system that does not require a preamp. The system sounds fantastic with the preamp in place, but its removal would demonstrate it was adding a small bit of veiling blur, a hint of rosy “air” in the soundstage, and a teeny roundness to basslines. Ignorance is bliss, but once heard, it is difficult to go back.

Battery Icing On The SoTM Cake
There are various products out there that can be used to power the SOtM USB card directly, bypassing the power from the mobo. The external DC jack on the SOtM card can take 6.5V to 9V DC, which can be supplied by linear power supplies or battery power supplies. SOtM itself sells an “intelligent” battery supply as well, but at $400, it costs even more than the SOtM card itself, and the bad news for strapped audiophiles is that quality linear power supplies and battery supplies tend to cost quite a bit.

The DC input jack on SOtM is a standard 2.1 mm (ID)/5.5 mm (OD) affair, and looking around the house, I found a broken computer power supply with the same jack, which was cut off and rigged up to a DSLR camera Lithium battery, which supplies 7.4V.

The effect of this simple and cheap DIY experiment is surprisingly large, with the type of change predictable from previous experiences powering USB devices from battery. Sound becomes at once both smoother yet more defined, presumably from further dropping of noise. The most appreciated effect is how it becomes easier to hear subtle inflections, textures, therefore emotions of the singer, who now takes on a more harmonically wetter and denser 3-dimensional shape in a calmer, gentler sonic backdrop.

The first time I hooked up the battery, I literally could not get ouf the seat for hours and hours listening to mesmerizing music. Battery powering the SOtM card and linear power supply powering Micro Zuma is a fabulous combination to let music just wash over the soul.

Caveats, Odds And Ends
One caveat of this audio server setup is the fact the JPLAY cannot play high resolution files when using Foobar 0.8.3. After trying every combination of settings unsuccessfully, I contacted JPLAY, and apparently this is a known issue due to the ancient Foobar 0.8.3 internal configuration. High res files can be played with more recent Foobar versions via JPLAY without any problems, and JPLAY Mini can always play hi res. Any current music playback software that supports ASIO should be able to play hi res files via JPLAY. The pros and cons of JPLAY Hibernate mode has been discussed before as well; not everyone will be able to utilize this mode. Interestingly, when battery power supply and JPLAY hibernate mode are added to the chain, the current Foobar version 1.3.3 goes through several steps of evolution sound-wise, now becoming extremely capable-sounding, still with a different sound signature from Foobar 0.8.3 but perhaps not inferior in absolute terms.

Another observation is the fact that despite using a DAC with asynchronous USB input, which is not powered by the USB cable from the computer, sound still changes significantly with different USB cables, DC cable between linear power supply and Micro Zuma, and the power cord that powers the linear power supply. There really is no proven explanation for this subjective finding, and I can even sympathize with those objectivists who will undoubtedly dismiss such results without even trying these variables first-hand. Well, I did not believe it when Sony proclaimed “perfect sound forever” with the compact disc, and I still do not believe it when someone claims “bits are bits” in computer audio.

Perhaps the largest caveat is the fact one cannot expect to drop the Micro Zuma into an existing system and automatically expect perfection, or even acceptable results at times, especially if coming from traditional CD player or transport. Basic sound signatures of traditional disc spinner tend to be very different from audio servers, especially USB-based, such that one may need to change a few cables, tubes, or even entire components in order to adjust the sound to a new balance. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to prefer one approach over the other, but among all the hardware and software choices, computer audio is definitely not plug-and-play.

What Does It All Mean?
With music playing with gorgeous sound quality, as I gaze at the Micro Zuma, linear power supply, battery, DAC, and various software and cabling chosen for maximum synergy, a sense of awe takes over. I could change one cable, one program, or one other something right now and lose this magic that is clearly present in the listening room. As wonderfully warm, clear, lithe, resolute, and lovely as the sound is, one change could ruin it all very easily.

This sentiment applies to audio in general but especially more to computer audio. The balance and synergy among hardware and software seem so fragile, so fleeting, it is utterly amazing that anybody is able to attains magic and live happily ever after. Choice is usually a good thing, but in computer audio, there seems to be almost too many choices. Why would anyone choose to endure the time and effort required to sort through the myriad of choices, in hopes of one day reaching something satisfying? The thought of setting up a one-box CD player with a simple 2-channel integrated amplifier into bookshelf speakers seems extremely enticing, especially when one is in the middle of troubleshooting some strange computer behavior.

Well, without attempting to answer the “why” for everyone involved, one can suggest the “how.” While there must be a million ways to enjoy computer audio, one fabulous way is to utilize the C.A.P.S. v3 Micro Zuma with HDPlex linear power supply and JPLAY. Given the appropriate effort, this combination is capable of delivering awesomely involving, immediate, pure, rich, and detailed view into one’s favorite music, and that should be a soothing thought for the weary traveler.

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers
Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise
Value For The Money

Specifications & Company Information
C.A.P.S. v3 Micro Zuma with SOtM USB card
Price: $1759

HDPlex Linear power supply
Price: $295

Small Green Computer
shop.smallgreencomputer.com

JPLAY High-End Audio Player for Windows
Price: €99
Website: JPLAY.eu

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HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

HiXPower BMS Control Unit-Fanless Server HDPLEX H1.S fanless Case from Cool Project Italy

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