Music is Served: Media Servers for Every Taste and Budget
Whatever your tastes and budget, they’re a media server to whet your appetite.
December 07, 2011 by Grant Clauser

The Everyday Gourmet
(average bill $1,000 to $5,000)

Most cities of respectable size have a few respectable places to have a romantic meal or entertain important guests. Expect these system to act like a maître d’  to help you find the music you want and deliver it in a refined and enjoyable fashion.

Some gourmet systems will be user-installable, but often systems like this will benefit from a professional who knows how to tweak it best.

Gourmet music servers come in several varieties, but overall they’re focused on quality and experience. Usually they have high-quality DACs (digital to analog converters) from companies like Burr Brown or Cirrus Logic and overall better audio components.  These systems are designed not just for gathering your files together, but for making them easier to get to. They have much more refined user interfaces and often can be integrated with complex control systems. A gourmet server takes most of the work out of finding your media by easily sorting it into genres, letting you (or your installer) customize some features as well.

One server brand that’s really caught on with audiophiles is Olive. The company makes several server models, but they’re all distinguished by the high-end components that go into their manufacture. The Olive O3HD is a good example, offering music lovers the ability to store 1,500 CD recorded losslessly on a 500 GB hard drive. You can load CDs via the built-in TEAC drive or load files through a USB port or your network. A 192khz/24-big Cirrus Logic DAC makes sure the music is far better than just hooking your MP3 player to your A/V receiver.

The Nuvo Music Port Elite offers a healthy buffet of entertainment. The internal hard drive will store a user’s Windows Media Player and iTunes libraries and also access to cloud content from Pandora, SiriusXM and TuneIn Radio. Users can navigate their options with Nuvo’s color touchpad, an iOS app or via a control system such as Crestron, AMX or UMC. One thing that makes Nuvo stand out here is that’s it’s made for multiroom distribution. The server integrates with the company’s Renovia system which distributes up to six sources to eight zones.

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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.

Questions to ask yourself when considering a server

1. How many rooms do I listen to music in?
2. Do I enjoy background music or critical listening?
3. What’s most important, quality (stored lossless files) or quantity (streaming services)
4. Can I hook this up myself or do I need professional installation
5. Do I have lots of music or movies I don’t use because it’s too hard to organize?
6. How much time am I willing to put into loading and organizing my media?

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