Here is the Dynamic Headroom review of the Synology DS416j NAS drive. A NAS drive is an important part of a hi-fi streaming system, read the review of the Synology DS416j to find out why.
Hi-Fi & Technology
There has always been a close relationship between hi-fi and technology; as technology progresses so does the quality and availability of recorded music. Over the years there have been many music formats such as vinyl, 8-track, tape, CD, MP3, FLAC and may other digital file formats. Each of these have promised increases in functionality, quality or portability. Hi-Fi hardware has also progressed: amplifiers have become more powerful, speakers more accurate and of course players are required for all the music formats themselves.
Streaming is one of the latest hi-fi technologies and can also be one of the most technical and tricky to get right. There are essentially two types of streaming: internet streaming, from services like Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal and then there is local streaming where you play music from your own collection stored on a hard disc.
Streaming offers many benefits over traditional methods of playing music: it doesn’t wear out (like vinyl and tape does), it doesn’t take up much space (compared to shelves of records or CDs), it is portable (you can listen using a phone while on the go) and it offers increased functionality such as playlists, genres, moods, etc..
The Synology DS416j Diskstation NAS
When using local streaming it is entirely possible to rip all of your CDs to a computer (PC or Mac) and then access those files from a hi-fi streamer. The computer needs some simple software installed which allows the streamer to “discover” your music library. Hi-fi streamers come in all shapes and sizes from Apple TVs to the Naim ND5 XS.
I find it much more straight forward and reliable to use a NAS drive. NAS stands for Network Attached Storage and, at their most basic level, are just a hard drive connected to your local network. They are useful for sharing, storing and backing up your files whether they are music, photo, video or whatever else. Modern NAS drives are more like computers in that they can have multiple CPUs, operating systems with a graphical user interface (GUI) and can perform a wide variety of tasks.
The Synology DS416j is a budget level NAS drive from the J Series with space to fit 4 hard drives. The DS416j has a 1.3 Ghz dual core CPUs called Marvel Armada 388 (no I hadn’t heard of it either). The NAS also comes with 512MB RAM installed. The name of the game here is low cost, low energy usage and value for money.
My DS416j has all four drives filled with a 4TB Western Digital RED in each, giving a total usable storage space of around 11TB once formatting has taken place. That is a lot of space by the way! I went big! I store movies, photos, TV programmes as well as my music. In truth most people probably don’t need that much. To that end, you should also consider the DS216j from Synology, which has 2 hard drive bays instead of 4.
That being said, you don’t have to fill all the hard drive slots in one go, you could buy the DS416j but only add 3 drives initially – be sure to check the Synology website to see how to do this.
Hard drives for a NAS
NAS drives protect your data from loss due to hardware failure through the use of a technology called RAID which stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. What a RAID system does is make sure that your data is replicated across all the drives so that if you hard drive breaks down, you will not lose any data. The replication of data takes up space which is why I have (only) 11TB of space even though there are 4x 4TB disks.
Its pretty standard technology that has been used for years; I consider it essential for any home system. I would never recommend the use of a single-drive NAS because when the disk fails you lose everything.
There are various NAS drive manufacturers around, but Synology is widely considered to be the best due to the operating system installed, DSM (DiskStation Manager). The operating system is accessed through a web browser and behaves a bit like a basic version of Windows – its easy enough to pick up.
In terms of which drives to use I would recommend the RED series from Western Digital. They come in a variety of sizes to suit your needs. Why WD RED? I find that disks from Seagate are a lot noisier – you hear a lot of clicking / grinding / etc when they are being accessed. My NAS drive sits inside a TV cabinet in my living room – I didn’t want to be distracted by the noise from the NAS when listening to music or watching the gogglebox.
On the subject of noise – the DS416j isn’t the quietest NAS around. You can hear the drives spinning and accessing and the case is a bit creaky / plasticky. However, for the price it is not an issue. You may be able to place the drive somewhere where it can’t be heard (e.g. in a cupboard). The drive doesn’t give off much heat so I am comfortable locking mine away where it can’t be heard.
Setting up the Synology DS416j
The supplied instructions are very straight forward – anyone with an understanding of how to use a computer can do this. Plus there are plenty of How To’s and YouTube videos covering the subject online, so I won’t dwell on it here. The hard drives just slot in then you connect an ethernet cable and a power cable and off you go.
It will take a few hours for the NAS to format the drives (depending on the number and size of drives) and you will need to install some software updates but thats it. You should have it up and running within a day.
Once the DS416j is setup and music files have been copied to it, the next step is to install some UPnP software. The best one I have found is called MinimServer. Before you install MinimServer to the NAS, you first have to install Java – its all very straight forward to do (idiot proof!). Next you need to install a small app called MinimServer Watch onto any computer you have at home – this is how you configure the UPnP software.
I have used both a Linn DS and a Naim SuperUniti with MinimServer on my DS416j and it works like a treat! The best and most reliable setup I have ever had. I have has no issues with metadata or track naming either.
There is a lot of other software you can get too; the DS416j can form the heart of a small office system in your house! You can use it for home security (by hooking up webcams), for cloud sharing of files, for mail servers, backup servers, etc.
For me, a solid reliable NAS drive is an essential part of a modern hi-fi system. I don’t rely upon internet streaming services because I prefer to own my music and the quality is generally better. The Synology DS416j (or even the DS216j) represents excellent value for money in my opinion.