Streaming Music… Drobo FSAfter a few months of waiting for HD prices to fall to reasonable levels - remember the flooding in Taiwan last year - I finally succumbed to my inner most desires and ordered 3 2TB Western Digital drives for my long overdue Drobo FS NAS.
So far, so good. After much research, I decided upon the Drobo NAS due to its simplistic, set it and forget it type setup and maintenance routine. Plug the drives inside the drive bay, install Drobo's SW on your Mac or PC, connect Drobo to network hub and voila, off you go. Brilliant. Simple. Easy! After Drobo configured the drives, I had a total of 3.4TB at my disposal, Drobo and the RAID 5 setup taking some overhead. Of course, the Drobo isn't the fastest NAS by any means: there are much, much faster options available, albeit, at far greater cost. In the end, for my purposes, ie. streaming music and Blu-ray rips (oh no!) across my house, this Drobo does just fine. So far, I have had no issues streaming 4 separate music sessions whilst watching a Blu-ray rip, all at the same time.
Highly recommended! A+++
Newport 2011: Evolution Acoustics, Playback Designs & darTZeel
24bit 384khz, double DSD 6.1mhz via USB? Yep, Playback Designs has it.
Review: ModWright Truth Transporter
Salagar @ CES
If You Must Do Windows
I’ve found the Mac Mini’s evil twin! The Nexus Psile 10. It’s got the looks of the Mac Mini… perhaps even a little nicer. It’s skin-able. It’s supposedly very quiet being lined with noise absorption material and smartly laid-out innards. It runs Windows Media Center (or even Vista if you’re a daredevil). However it ain’t cheap… the one US seller has them for $1599. Guess you have to pay a premium to get a copy-cat interface wrapped in a wanna-be Mac package.
Usually Macs are nowhere near the cheaper alternative. I’ve been using a Mac Mini, and LaCie Mini Hard Drive as my transport feeding the Hagerman Chime DAC. The musical combination of the Mac Mini and iTunes with Apple Lossless ripped music feeding the Chime DAC via USB stands up very well to stand-alone CD players I’ve auditioned upwards of $3500. The Mac Mini costs $600, the LaCie drive $200 and the Chime DAC $1750 (total system: $2550). The convenience and flexibility of a hard-drive based music system is unbeatable… and in this case WAY cheaper than an aesthetically comparable PC. Is the Psile sticking its tongue out at us?
No-brainer Audiophile Holiday Gifts (in the $1,000 to $2,000 range) by Sandy Greene
Sarcastic… a little. But if you look at the average cost of approved audiophile fare, you’re looking north of $2k easily.
I’ve got some gear in house now and have just started writing reviews of them for SonicFlare. I didn’t want you all to miss the opportunity to get these pieces on Santa’s wish list.
The Red Wine Audio modded Olive Symphony (base unit: $899 + RWA mods: $649 = $1,548). This is an iPod in a box that also includes a CD player/ripper/writer, analog-to-digital recording capabilities and even a Squeezebox to get other music on your wireless network including internet radio. Red Wine Audio does some audiophile part upgrade magic, but more importantly takes the AC line out of the sonic picture as the unit run off a battery. Unbelievably silent. Combined with the part upgrades, this unit has a really musical, revealing and organic character that competes with CD players that cost the same and more and offer no where near the functionality and fun. A great swiss-army knife audio gift that adds fun to the listening experience.
What better to take advantage of all that quiet battery-powered sonic goodness than another battery-powered piece of kit? That would have to be the Red Wine Audio Signature 30 amplifier ($1,399). Golden-eared Srajan Ebaen from 6moons.com just loves this amp as it makes his “Best of 2006” list. I’m also a huge fan of this amp. It’s physically smaller than average, very well built with a very clean and classic visual design. It sounds fantastic running the Omega Super 3 XRS’s, the Audio Note AN-E/Lx’s and the recently arrived...
Duevel Planets ($1,195 pair). These super cool little guys just arrived this week and I can’t stop listening to them. They sound so much bigger than they are for many reasons. This omni-directional experience is new to me. It’s surround sound without the extra speakers. Listening to “Via Chicago” from Wilco’s live, Kicking Television cd, it’s like you’re in the middle of the audience. That’s “you are there” if there ever was! Couple the enlightening musical experience with an attention grabbing cosmic product design: chrome atoms floating above a grey monolith, and you have the ultimate living room entertainment conversation starter. Even better, they let everyone in your listening room enjoy good sound no matter where they sit.
Now make sure you’ve been nice... or if you haven’t, then make nice. Ah... Give or get the gift of gear.
Headphone Clarity with the Headroom Desktop and Beyer DT880 by Sandy Greene
I’m sitting in my 11x17 living room listening to the Red Wine Audio Signature 30 ($1299) and Red Wine modded Olive Symphony ($649 mod) through Audio Note AN-E/Lx speakers. The speakers are set up along the 17’ wall. The house is quiet, the kids are asleep. I’m not listening too loudly, but certainly not quietly. I’m listening to REM’s “Monster” and the sound, even at this moderate volume, is filling the room. I feel it in my body, I hear the reflections around the room and I am experience the why of this hobby… being immersed in the moment...
Apple Media Server to Rule Them All
Danny says: Ok, what would you rather own for your music / media system?
A new 24” Apple iMac loaded with all the latest goodies, Intel’s new Core2Duo, Blueooth 2.0+, Airport Extreme, remote w/ Front Row, Superdrive for $1999 or Esoteric’s X-03 CD/SACD player for a whopping 7k?
Hrmmm… let me see here… full blown computer or a disc player to play my 7 SACD’s… I think I’ll go for the Mac, thank you very much! Add a USB dac and you are set baby! Of course the existing 17 and 20” iMacs dropped in price too, while also being upgraded to Core2Duo and the same gizmo’s as big daddy. The killer? The new 17” iMac with most of the goodies for $999!
Imagine having that sit on top of your rack as a transport running Front Row with a gorgeous 17” display?! Note to Esoteric (all others): I don’t think you’ll fit that 17” display in there... All euphoria aside, Esoteric will no doubt continue to sell their super players, but let’s face it: the times and days of standalone disc players are certainly numbered.
Josh adds: Remember, computers don't face the jitter issues that plague CD players. iTunes Lossless ripping and ExactCopy (the best available) perform slow reads to pick up every last nug of information. So the bulk of the sound quality of a hard disc server -- like the $5k McIntosh, cheap Olives and wildly expensive ReQuest -- is found in the DAC. Here's our roundup of the current USB DACs for plug-and-play simplicity with your computer.
ReQuest Music Servers
ReQuest is blazing trails into the promised land of high-performance music servers with their new "S" and "F" series jukeboxes. The big S4.2500 gives you 1.5 terabytes of storage which is claimed to hold roughly 2500 CDs ripped in WAV format as well as a swanky touch screen controller, multiple zones via integrated web server and digital outputs for connectivity to outboard DACs. Price for the S4.2500 is a healthy $18,500 which is assuredly high enough to gain audiophile respect.
Below the big silver S4.2500 sits two F4.800 servers. At $7000, the F4.800 cuts down on the storage space and multi-room capabilities, though more units can be added in different areas of your ducal palace for musical distribution. As with the S4.2500, the F4.800 gives you pure digital outs or use the 192kHz internal DAC. And like all music servers, just pop in your CD and you're good to go.
Also new is the ARQIVE, A $2500 black box that simply acts as a backup for all your music in case, ahem, your hard drives crash, which they're known to do. The ReQuest servers don't offer support for the Apple's proprietary AAC and Lossless formats, just like every other music server out there. But WAV, FLAC, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis are kosher.
Red Wine Olive Mods
Vinnie Rossi, he of battery-power fetish, brings his extensive modding skills to the highly publicized $800 Olive Symphony music server. If you don't know what a music server is, it's a computer-in-a-box with music ripping and playback capabilities (aka jukebox for your living room). Read the Stereophile review and Design Technica cover for more. And if you're interested in Vinnie Rossi's Red Wine modding pedigree, check out our coverage of his iMod iPod hot rod.
The $649 Red Wine mod gets you complete battery power conversion for total isolation from the noisy grid as well as analog input and output stage and digital output mods. Vibration dampening is also added. How does all this change the sound?
The modified analog line output provides highly resolving, spacious, rich and warm sonic qualities that will rival some of the best dedicated CD players and external dacs on the market. Gone is the strident, “etchy” sound that is so typical in many costly CD players. Expect a warmer, more musical tone that emerges from a very silent, black background that only an all-battery powered source can orchestrate.
If you have already found the perfect external dac for your system, you will still need a first-rate transport to supply to it a clean digital signal. Count on the Red Wine Audio modified Olive Symphony or Musica to provide you with the very best digital audio output quality that only an all-battery powered transport can provide.
There you have it. Check it out.
Bang and Olufsen BeoMedia 1 Media Server
The Black Box inside jet airliners? Nope, it's the Bang and Olufsen BeoMedia 1 Media Server. Personally, I'm very disappointed. If you're going to come out with a digital media server, you could have at least slapped some lipstick on it like you do everything else. If I wave my hand in front and something magical doesn't happen, what's the damn point?
No prices yet, but check out their site for 160g HDD, music, pictures, etc. etc. You know the drill.
VTV EXPO - VRS Audio Systems
The VRS room was one killer combination of cutting-edge digital tech and classic tube components. The VRS Revelation is a $9800 hard drive based music server with 600 gig HDD, wireless keyboard and completely custom interface. This room was almost always packed with people passing around the keyboard like it had medicinal properties. And not having to get off your lazy ass to change tracks doesn't hurt either...
Hard Drive Servers Strut Their Stuff
I have a love/hate relationship with hard drive servers. On one hand, they're damn cool -- pop in a disc, rip the music, instant Happy Days in your living room. On the other, a Mac Mini with a USB DAC or Squeezebox for less coin and infinitely more features seems like a no-brainer to me.
But you can't argue with the simplicity so here are three shiny toys for your listening pleasure: the Olive Symphony ($999), Cambridge Audio Azur 640H ($1399) and the big daddy McIntosh MS300 ($5100). All have hard drives (duh), all have video outputs for TV control, all have internet look-up of tracks, all have lossless encoding, all have pretty much the same guts except for hard drive size, expandability, quality of parts and number of blinky lights.
Keep reading to see how these guys stack up.