Music Servers Catering to Audiophile Tastes
At this year's CES 2010, audio manufacturers such as Meridian, Cary Audio and Olive were showcasing systems designed to boost the enjoyment out of your digital music listening.
Cary Audio Design’s Music Server (bottom) and Xciter DAC
February 01, 2010 by Arlen Schweiger

There may not be as much buzz around media servers as there was a few years ago, but they still provide as slick a solution as you can find. At this year’s CES, serving your music and movie files from a centralized location came with pizzazz as high-end introductions and improvements to current products took the spotlight.

Meridian Sooloos 2.1 showcased enhancements with additions of Rhapsody web radio integration, zone linking synchronization to create a whole-house system, iPhone app and improved user interface and navigation. My favorite to that last item was a “Focus” feature that, among other sorts, lets you click on an album and then click on any musician who performed on it and subsequently view every other work associated with him in your collection. For example, we pulled up a Sting album and began perusing the musician list and found Eric Clapton as a guest guitarist—then upon selecting Clapton, the barrage of not only his own releases, but other albums he played on showed up. And that’s only one focus; you can sort by resolution quality, most played within a certain time frame, when you added a CD, what not to listen to (if you want to avoid some common items and try hearing rarer stuff) and many more parameters in the Meridian Sooloos audiophile setup.

Olive Media teamed with Thiel Audio to deliver its high-performance Olive+Thiel HD Music System (HMDS), which streams networked music directly into Thiel’s IP-based SCS4D speakers. The system can store 6,000 CDs or 20,000 24-bit HD music tracks in lossless quality. Its built-in touchscreen LCD allows users to find and play their music, and there’s an iPhone/iPod touch control app. The system is a nice statement on both companies’ parts, in that it caters to discerning music enthusiasts who really want a bit more out of their digitally stored music. The Thiel speaker models are essentially bookshelf size, but deliver much more than your typical speakers at that limit. Olive has simplified the system by connecting straight to the speakers via Ethernet cables, so not only can you easily wire a main listening room, but you can hook up to four pairs of the SCS4Ds anywhere in your home for a truly high-end multiroom system.

Cary Audio Design dove into the category with its Cary Music Server that simply plugs in, connects to your router, loads and plays your CD collection and provides metadata to scroll through … on an iPhone, of course, if you choose. Lossless FLAC format is the audio-ripping default for the 1TB server. The server also connects to SHOUTcast radio so you can tune into thousands of Internet stations from around the world. So you don’t have to worry about losing your digital music at any time, the server includes a USB port and delivers automatic backup to an external hard drive. At CES the company was showcasing the server’s ability in a high-end system that included $60K Marten Coltrane loudspeakers and Cary’s CAD 211 Founders Edition monoblock amps, and the music was completely enveloping with crisp detail as if it were being presented from one of the company’s disc players. Fans of Cary will be pleased.

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for and Electronic House magazine.

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