Category Archives: CD

Qsonix Q110 Digital Music Management System


Qsonix Q110

Behind a very long name lies a sleek, if somewhat conservative looking music server split in two – a desktop chassis with a CD-drive and a 15” or 17” touch screen. It supports 4 distinct zones that can be controlled separately, either from the touch screen or from a 3rd party remote [presumably via uPnP]. The server comes in 4 flavours from 250GB to 1.5TB. Files can be stored in lossless format and there is a digital output for attaching an external DAC at a resolution of up to 24bit/192KHz.

From the more unusual side of the feature set, we find not only CD burning but downscaling for iPod playlists and direct purchasing and download from Music Giants at full resolution. Not to mention the ability to play 1-second samples of arbitrary songs without interrupting whatever else is playing [except, of course, for the played sound sample].

Avoca VIP Music Edition

Avoca The Avoca VIP Music Edition sports some pretty nice specs in a pretty case accompanied by a slightly less pretty PDA based controller. The media center rips CDs to Flac onto an internal disk, optionally mirrored, and serves files at up to 24bit/192KHz resolution depending on your choice of output, although it appears to support only 96KHz sampling rates, possibly upscaling from there. Could be a spec glitch, though.

One of the more curious aspects of the Avoca is the controller. You get to point and click your way through your music selection but that is not all; you can actually talk to your music system. Now how about that? “Hey! Turn down that racket, son! – Can’t hardly hear myself think!”… and sonny boy can rebel all he likes.

Pioneer PDX-Z9 SACD Receiver

[prodccat level=4 cd=1 flac=1 digital=1 upnp=1]

PDX-Z9 Pioneer have outdone themselves mating purist zen like styling and an outstanding feature set in this new SACD receiver. SACD receivers are not exactly one by the dozen in the first place and one that can receive audio streams certainly less so; not mentioning that it supports Flac albeit not the wildest of surprises since, after all, this is a SACD player. With a continuous 40W at 4Ω it is definitely no power station but it appears that Pioneer are signaling a new digital world order with this nice little device. They do have a new surround beast called SC-LX90 that does roughly the same as the PDX-Z9, only its 5 extraneous channels has caused some rather severe swelling, drastically impairing the zen stuff.

By the way, what is it with these product names? Do you remember Franquin’s comic series Spirou et Fantasio? Z comme Zorglub anyone? Ring a bell?

Sony NAS-SC55PKE

sonynas This is a complete system with zone system serving up to 5 rooms, ripping from CD and lossless streaming [LPCM, not Flac]. But like the Arcam or the Colorado vNet and unlike practically everybody else, this thing supports recording and streaming of analogue sources. Damn that is cool! It even support finger print recognition of analogue sources making it possible to tag tracks. Other strange analysis features include a 12 tone analysis-gizmo which can distinguish between talk and music. I wonder where the line is drawn between rap and sports commentary? Not to mention why you need to distinguish?

One thing that makes this device stand out, however, is what appears to be support for runtime conversion – the very thing I have asked for. It can publish tracks to a USB device. Since it can save tracks in LPCM when ripping and the publishing appears to be unconditional this must be the conclusion. Well done!

It has an FM radio and in some versions a DAB. The device supports recording from all sources onto the harddisk and can do it at set times.

The NAS-SC55PKE is the bigger brother in a duet of devices, with a heavily crippled smaller sibling. Big brother comes with a wireless client so you will have something to stream to. I shall refrain from mentioning the speakers that come with system.

Yamaha MCX-2000

Yamaha Like a bunch of other devices here, the Yamaha MCX-2000 offers CD ripping, storing and streaming. A total of 16 playback clients, including the server, is supported, letting you access music from its 160GB upgradable harddisk from just about every conceivable location. While it does not appear to support Flac it does support raw PCM letting you record and stream lossless audio.

Unlike most others it can write CDs as well.

Arcam FMJ|MS250 Music Server

Arcam MS250 A household name in hi-fi circles and it can hardly surprise anyone that Arcam too have a media streamer. It supports lossless encoding, even if it is unclear which formats. The MS250 contains a 400GB harddisk and ripping capabilities. Add to that streaming to 4 simultaneous zones and that in itself should be a nicely equipped addition to most audio systems. What makes this apparatus truly stand out is not its digital connections but its analogue input. It can actually record or stream from an analogue source – nifty! Really; consider streaming from your turntable to 4 different rooms… nifty!

Sooloos

Sooloos

The Sooloos system consists of three different components. The Store which is the actual disk, the Source which streams the music to up to 32 zones and the Control which is a 17” touch screen with a built in CD drive [“Music isn’t all zones, terabytes, and signal-to-noise ratios”, they say]. Additional controls in the form of a 7” remote or a 7” satellite are available.

The Sooloos is the second system I have come across that uses mirroring on its datastore. Considering that hopefully more and more music will be downloadable in lossless audio formats the backup implications become more challenging; in case of a disk crash, how do you get your music back? A CD is straight forward. Buy it again and rip it once more. With music from, let’s say the B&W Music Club, you are in a jam. You cannot simply redownload music from previous months. A backup is actually a very good thing to consider in these days of digital distribution.

An interesting and rather important point with the Sooloos system is that CDs are ripped as one large file rather than individual tracks. This ensures that when songs or, perhaps more importantly, musical movements are played in order, they are played with exactly the gaps they were supposed to. If you play individual tracks they are seeked at runtime, so the obvious shortcoming of this method has been taken care of.

Pinnacle Audio athenaeum

athenaeumI think the guys at Bel Canto may have had a finger in the soup when Pinnacle Audio named this raw beast. House of Athena? Whichever way you look at it, it is a beautiful name for a device that would more aptly be called a machine.

The athenaeum holds up to 4 750GB harddisks for a total of 3TB of disk space and unlike any other streamer I know of [at least of the type befitting this blog] supports RAID1. Supported file format include Flac and Ogg-Vorbis but it can rip to MP3 and AAC as well. The device is managed from a web interface or from the included [wifi enabled] remote control with colour touch screen.

The athenaeum has a smaller sister called folio. The folio has roughly the same specs but has only 2 fixed disks instead of 4 replaceable. It comes in 2x250GB, 2x500GB and 2x750GB flavours. Ample space for most, even in Flac.

Oh, and guess what?! The brochure for the athenaeum quotes Henry VIII… “In sweet music is such art”. Could it be an ode to miss Capulet?

Harman/Kardon DMC 1000

harman Like a couple of other devices mentioned here, this is one of those almost-need-to-have things. It rips, plays and serves. There is a CD/DVD transport that supports ripping a CD to the internal 250GB harddrive. It can serve up to 4 concurrent streams and it can play DVD videos. Stylishly concealed on the front there are slots for memory cards and USB sources. It has it all… but why in the fury fires of marshmellow meltdown have they omitted lossless fileformats? It supports MP3 – that’s it.

Colorado vNet Vibe Audio System


audio_server-CD_tray This is an awsome implementation of a dead simple concept. The Vibe Audio System consists of a media server with ripping capabilities. Depending on model, the server can handle 3 or 6 concurrent streams and thus serve 3 or 6 independent clients. The clever bit is the peripherals that all connect over ethernet. That includes an iPod dock, an AM/FM radio tuner, an analogue source decoder [complete with IR relaying] and a amplifier with a 7” touchscreen panel. Add to that software that installs on PCs in the network, letting you manage playlists and content, and you have a fairly impressive system.

wiring-diagram-vibe

There is nothing fancy about the specs; suffice to say that streams are uncompressed PCM and the only supported file format is WAV. But it is not specs that should propel this device into legend – it is sheer interconnectivity elegance. It even rack mounts if you so choose.

As for the amplifiers they appear a bit crammed in their wall flush mounts; but man, do I love the appearance.

What I miss most in the specs is not surprisingly Flac support.  It could have helped save a bit of disk space but at least it uses PCM over MP3.

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