7 Most Important Features in a Media Manager for Music and Movies
The system that's easy for you to use will be the one you use most frequently
January 08, 2014 by Grant Clauser

Today we enjoy a glut of media sources, devices and delivery methods. It’s almost too easy to acquire a vast library of music and video content in high-quality formats. Despite the wealth in content, many people still have trouble accessing it all in a convenient manner. Our content is scattered over a variety of devices including smart phones, computers, external drives and cloud storage—not to mention outdated shelves full of dust-covered discs.

A good media management system needs to be able to collect, organize and deliver all your music and video content and make it available in the place you most want to enjoy it—that may be in your home theater, media room or all over your house.

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Media management is more of a strategy than a product. As you decide what solutions will work for you, here are seven top features to consider to help you on your way:

1) File Compatibility: Music and video come in a wide variety of file formats, and if you’ve been collecting for a number of years, you probably have more than one file type on your hard drives or computers. In fact you may even have multiple copies of the same music in different file formats. That MP3 you thought sounded good in 2003 is nothing compared to the FLAC version of the same music in 2013. Look for a system that is compatible with all the possible files you own. Be especially conscious of playback systems that work with high-resolution files so you’re getting the best possible quality out of your collection.

2) GUI: The Graphic User Interface is how you find and access your music or videos. Most devices now included apps with GUIs for smart phones and tablets. Some are easier to use than others. Look for one that sorts and displays your content in the ways that you like to enjoy it. Do you like looking at album art or are you more interested in creating playlists on the fly? Some devices include deep meta data on artists in the GUI, and those can be fun for people who enjoy trivia while listening to music or browsing movies.


The Autonomic Mirage iPad app makes it easy to find your music and send it to any room.

3) Easy Integration: A good media manager shouldn’t just be an island unto itself, especially if you’ve already got a home automation or control system you’re comfortable with. Many of the best media managers are easily compatible with the best-known home control systems, and your integrator will know how to add the proper drivers to make it work seamlessly. If you’ve got a control system already and want to add a media management device, check with your integrator first to see what products will work best with the system you already have. Easy of use also refers to how easy and quickly you can add more content. Some devices require multiple steps to add and sync new content, which may not suit you.


Mozaex interface on a Crestron touchpanel

4) Distributable: Gone are the days when an entertainment system was restricted to one room. The best media management systems can be distributed to multiple rooms when integrated into a multiroom audio or video system. If you want to listen to your music or watch your movies in more than one room, don’t settle for a system that only allows for a single zone output or can’t be used in a distribution system.


The Fusion Research Ovation OMS-2 is a 3 zone audio system with 30 music apps and on-board storage.

5) Dedicated.  Today’s game systems, laptops, streaming devices and even NAS drives can all function, at limited levels, as a media management device. That doesn’t mean that an Xbox or Apple TV is the best choice. If you take your music and video seriously, look for a device that’s dedicated to the task, not one that adds media file management as a bonus feature. Dedicated devices also tend to have superior DACs and file management systems.


The Kaleidescape interface offers movie meta data for trivia fans.

6) Easy to Use:  This should go without saying, but the easier a system is to use, the more you’re going to use it and the better you’ll feel about the money you spent buying it and having it integrated. Try out a couple of different system at your integrator’s showroom. If you can pick up the remote, touchpad or tablet app and immediately navigate through the features, then you know your family and guests will be able to as well.

7) Expandable: Your music and video collection has probably grown quite a bit in the last few years. There’s no reason to believe that’s going to end. Look for a system that can be expanded, either by adding additional components, hard drives, cloud backup or even streaming services. Some systems you can expand yourself, while others will need a professional integrator.


Other articles you might like:
Q&A with IMAX Chief Technology Officer Brian Bonnick
Review: Kaleidescape Cinema One HD Movie Server

Q&A with IMAX Chief Technology Officer Brian Bonnick
Review: Kaleidescape Cinema One HD Movie Server

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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