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THE HOST – a more affordable media server from CLONES Audio

  • First came the excellent 25i – CLONES Audio’s commercial take on the Gaincard circuit – then a pair of 55pm monoblocks for those who wanted more control and transparency. After that, two DACs: Asher replaced Sheva. Then the POWER STATION – a linear PSU for the Mac Mini.

    Evident from the company’s product release pattern, designer ‘Funjoe’ is working backwards up the signal path, from loudspeaker output to digital source.

    This week CLONES Audio announce the HOST music server for which the press release does quoth thusly:

    “The HOST is the first digital music server of CLONES audio. Equipped with a high performance USB digital audio output, Ethernet port, solid-state drive for music storage, full linear power supply with the super low noise regulator modules.”

    One key point to tease out a little further is the HOST’s linear – not switching – power supply. One Power Station board fuels the mainboard, the other the SSD drive and SHAAR USB 3.0 output.


    SHAAR? That’s Funjoe’s take on “an audiophile grade PCIe to USB audio gateway”. It sports “ultra low noise regulators for digital chips, power input noise filters, an extreme low noise master clock module with a precision 1ppm TCXO.”

    On the software side, HOST runs a customised Linux operating system complete with Roon Core (server); BYO Roon license. A Daphile option is offered for those who don’t Roon.

    Pricing on the HOST starts at €1377 (~US$1500 at press time). That’s right into souped-up Mac Mini territory. However, the final invoice amount is dependent on one’s choice of SSD size: 256Gb, 500Gb, 1TB or 2TB.

    Insufficient for your needs? The inclusion of four non-audio USB ports suggests that user-supplied external hard drives can augment the HOST’s storage capacity.


    Specifications ‘n stuff:

    • Measurements: 322mm (W) X 260mm (D) X 90mm (H)
    • Weight: 7kg
    • Digital Output: 2 x USB
    • Gigabit Ethernet, 4 x USB
    • 2 year warranty

    One final thought: if every manufacturer insists on an all caps naming convention then ultimately no-one stands out.

    Further information: CLONES Audio




    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. will you be looking at it? wonder if it is in the same league as the antipodes (or should it be ANTIPODES) DS assuming a version with similar SSD.

    2. Wonder if it’s possible to have both Daphile and Roon on the same OS and switch between them?

      • Daphile is a tailored Linux distribution, aimed at the Squeezebox crowd (, so I think it’s unlikely …

    3. You’re kind to let them keep the caps John. Many subeditors simply whack them down, even if they try to come up with a tenuous acronym!

    4. Oooh, the SHAAR USB 3.0 looks interesting. Might give my iFi iUSB a run for it’s money.

    5. I assume you’d just hook it to any monitor, right? Or does the item have a built in screen?

    6. While I’ve not heard their stuff, they seemingly make interesting products.

      Saw they make their own version of the (in)famous Schumann Resonator. I have one and can hear no difference with it turned on or off and I carefully following turning and placement instructions.

      While my question is outside the remit of your posting, have you any experience with this type of product?

      • Possibly because the motherboard was primarily chosen for its (low) noise profile. I guess if you don’t need this port or that port, don’t use them. And if you want only the ports you need then a consumer PC is probably the better choice.

    7. So, an off the shelf Asrock integrated board, with a custom USB output card, and a LPS feeding what looks like a Pico style PSU to the motherboard’s PSU header. No offense to Clones, but I would expect something a bit better than that for $1500.

      You could build the same thing at home in under an hour, with nothing more than a screw driver.

      • And if interested parties think they can build one like this themselves then they should absolutely do that.

    8. I have to tip my hat to Funjoe with this one. I am typically leery of the media servers because its usually an overpriced, poorly spec’d audio PC but this is a different animal.

      I built my server using an MSI board that comes with a low noise regulated 5v USB, with a fanless PSU and a RW Blu Ray drive in an origen AE case for right around $1k but it sure as hell took longer than an hour.

      And even with the purpose built USB port in the MSI MB it’s pretty clear he’s engineered something a little more robust. If I had added the SOTM card my price would’ve been near exactly the same as this deck. And Funjoe included a Toslink port (options baby!) and HDMI and DVI (because not everyone wants to control their server from a smart device). I personally like having a monitor with my album art displayed. Maybe a spectrum analyzer for playback ambiance.

      Not too mention he’s designed his PSU right down to selecting a decent sized toroid with a CRC filtered PSU and discrete diodes. And I assume an optical drive can be mounted to rip music onto the SSD.

      Looks like you’re getting your money’s worth to me.

      • I’m honestly not sure how you managed to spend that much money, unless the Origen case added hundreds of dollars to the build cost. Even if you don’t want to build anything at all, you can buy a pre-built Logic Supply CL100 for $350, add an excellent TeddyPardo linear power supply to replace the stock switch-mode brick for another $370, and add a comparable, squeaky clean USB output with the UpTone Regen for $175. So $895 for everything, and Daphile is free. You don’t even need the screw driver. You could even go nuts and add a *second* TeddyP linear supply just for the Uptone, and still come in below $1300.

        • Not saying it can’t be done.
          Just saying Funjoe’s solution is pretty solid and priced pretty fairly, it packs a lot of punch for $1500.

          In my case (hehe case) yeah the Origen case did add a grip to the tune of $380 but therein lies the rub that Funjoe solved. Its next to impossible to find a class A (ATX) power supply that will fit in anything short of 120mm height chassis. So I had to bump up to the Origen S10 to get my supply to fit. Otherwise you’re running low power 180 watt or less with a pico board and a SMPS or buying outboard supplies that are ridiculously priced in their own right.

          And I didn’t see the Uptone as a real USB implementation. It’s more a quantization noise filter in my eyes. I wanted a regulated static 5v supply inside. The MSI board gave me that but Funjoe’s looks more beastly like an SOTM or RME card.

          I just think in the larger market, The Clones solution is pretty fair when guys are running around selling lesser spec’d decks with switching supplies and forcing you to control it with smartphone for north of $2k

          • The price isn’t outrageous, but at the same time, something like the Auralic Aries has 100% custom hardware and software built by Auralic for a similar cost. The Clones on the other hand is using a completely off the shelf board, that was NOT designed to be an audiophile product. Make no mistake, Asrock built it to be a general purpose computing board, and used parts speced for that use.

            Outboard linear supplies are really not that expensive given the power requirements of the ULV Celeron processors used in that Asrock board and other similar boards. A Celeron N series for example will likely never exceed 20W, and a $370 Pardo 16 or 18V/2A supply can provide more than enough juice for that application. Pardo supplies are VERY good – Naim users routinely replace HiCap/SuperCap power supplies with the TeddyP equivalent because they are BETTER than the Naim versions, despite the fact that they cost like 1/4 as much. You can spend a ton of money on a LPS if you want, but you certainly don’t have to.

            In what way is the UpTone not “real”? Do you really think that MSI’s USB port will provide a better USB output than the Regen? The Regen strips the jittery incoming clock and creates a new one, and cuts the incoming 5V entirely, creating its own 5V supply. This new 5V is normally supplied by the included DC power brick, which works but obviously isn’t ideal. That’s where the second 7V or 9V Teddy LPS would come in, providing an ultra low noise, ultra clean 5V, that is NOT heavily contaminated with EMI by being placed inside the computer case. I’ve seen no evidence that a product like the SoTM USB card is better than external products like the Regen, or W4S Recovery, or iFi iUSB. If anything, the external products should have the advantage by being away from the most direct source of noise.

            The MSI has a gold plated connector… and what, exactly? There is no direct source of 5V there, nor is there even a direct connection to the power supply at all. The incoming DC would first go through the onboard DC-DC converters that step down the 12V from the PSU into 5V for accessories and 3.3V for memory. These converters are in no way audiophile grade. At least with a dedicated USB card like the SoTM, or the JCAT, you have the option of giving them a direct external power feed via the DC-in jack, and thus bypassing the inferior main power supply and DC conversion step. Products like the Regen or Recovery don’t need to worry about that, because they throw out the PC’s power supply regardless.

            • I agree that an outboard Pardo LPS is a good solution, just wasn’t what I was looking for. And I can always clip an Uptone on anytime, but I had different goals and different gears on hand.

              I have legacy SPDIF dacs I am not ready to give up on so most all my USB stream is gonna get reclocked by an outboard SPDIF converter anyway. So USB noise isn’t that critical, most all my data is galvanically isolated by the trafos in the converter, but at least MSI gave it some thought.

              So the MSI solution is ‘enough’ for me. I’m not saying its best… (Stand down man!) Just what I needed in my system. They put enough thought into it to use a low noise voltage regulator. No the parts probably aren’t ‘audiophile’ but I don’t know that voltage regulators fall in that category.

              But I do think that between an Uptone regen, which is (as best I can tell) a USB hub built with noise filtering in mind vs. an onboard USB implementation like Funjoes or SOTM or RME or JCat that actually is built for low noise and reclocks the data stream. I’d rather have that than an Uptone, specially since you can always slap an Uptone on later.

              Hundred ways to skin the media server cat. I wanted mine to be able to play good music through dacs both old and new, and act like a computer from time to time with a monitor ( I don’t like smartphone Hifi, not sure why, I just don’t.) and have it look like a piece of Hifi kit and I’ve got mine tethered to a touchscreen monitor so its a Sooloos for 1/10th the spend.

              I get what you’re saying… The media server market is a bit obscene. Its a PSU, a hard drive (or two) a motherboard, a processor and an OS in a metal box with some wires. But I think the Clones version is one of the lesser offenders. There isn’t another player out there offering a server with a custom PCI-E usb implementation, linear power supply, onboard SSD storage and peripheral flexibility like Toslink, a monitor etc… for this price.

              And I actually appreciate that he left the ASRock solder mask on his MB vs. Other OEM’s who let you think they engineered the whole rig.


    9. Hi guys!

      I know my Devialet 200 is willing to “host” this newbie, but is that enough to run Roon? Or do I need to invite another “client”?

      Thanks in advance and best regards 🙂

    10. CLONES definitely have some issues in general. Quality control is one. Myself, along with two other people I know have purchased products from CLONES, and there were issues with the construction (irregular gaps where the side and top plates of the outside box meet, different screw types being used on the same unit, scratches on the unit, open holes on the back plate because they used the same back plate for many different unit models/types, etc).

      I believe the ideas they come up with are fairly good and most of their stock model photos look good, but if you don’t have a dealer in your country to order from – especially where you can go look and touch the unit you are buying, I would highly advise to think again.

    The bare necessities

    All terrain USB audio with the PS Audio LANRover