I thought I’d share my thoughts about my new build music player and using a HD Plex chassis. I confess right from the start that I am by no means an expert, I just enjoy fiddling around with electronic bits!
This build is based around the HD Plex H1 chassis – http://www.hd-plex.com/hdplex-h1-series/
It costs 132 Euros and I used it to replace my Streacom Evo 8 I had built previously as I don’t need an optical drive. It has a lower profile and is brushed aluminium (as opposed to blast sanded). Both of these are quality products, being well built & machined with all the screw holes matching & working! However, whilst Streacom are available from a variety of resellers quickly, HD Plex are not so I had to wait 2 months for mine. Other models are out of stock too and the recently introduced linear power supply is unavailable for order currently.
When it arrives however, the packaging and contents instantly hit you as being classy. For something just over a hundred quid, this is excellent value for money. Putting it all together is fairly straightforward. I used a thin mini-ITX mainly so I would have room for other bits. The problem with this was this board does not have SPDIF out. However, I wanted a 3rd party solution anyway. My full height RME AIO PCI Express card doesn’t fit but I thought instantly about a HiFace. Marco sent me an extra washer & nut for the HiFace free of charge – what a lovely chap! It didn’t quite work out as the nut is slightly too large for the slot but I will eventually find something. The HiFace is connected to an internal USB header.
The instructions are fairly easy to follow but as a newbie doing this, I did get a bit confused about which screws to use where. The only problem I had was one of the copper cooling pipes which I had to trim by 1 cm to fit. However assembly was pretty simple. The main parts of the player are:
Gigabyte GA B75TN
INTEL I3 processor, 4GB RAM
128GB mSATA memory (for OS – Windows 7 running Asset PnP & JRiver)
2TB 2.5″ Toshiba HDD (for media)
I purchased the internal AC to DC power supply as well but I wasn’t 100% sure about the wiring plus it was quite cramped inside so I have deferred fitting until a later date.
I control the desktop remotely with VNC client & music control is with JRiver remote (JRiver 19 OS the medial player). I can mount the HDD as a share on my Mac & use FolderSynchroniser to update the files. I currently have both the SPDIF & USB plumbed into the 851D just really to see which one I prefer. I suspect there won’t be a lot of difference. I am also going to be comparing it with a digital feed from the Cambridge Audio SM6 which is receiving its files from a Windows Home Server running Asset PnP. Again I will A/B but I suspect it should all be fairly similar in SQ plus it’s not blinded (Serge would be proud of me!).
For the future I might try a foo USB card or the linear PS. I suspect neither will make a difference but if one crops up second hand, it would be worth trying.
In summary, this is a quality chassis which proved easy to assemble. It feels more sturdy & heavier than the Streacom but ultimately it comes down to aesthetics. I think the full width H5SODD looks lovely & there is a V2 coming out. For me however the brushed aluminium front goes beautifully with my ModWright. I just need an 851D in black! The downsides are the non-availability of the products which is frustrating. HD Plex are obviously victims of their own success.