Review: Sunfire Theater Grand Media Server
The quality TGM server easily integrates into a system for convenient access of your disc collections.
The electronics and computer industries are merging and products like Sunfire’s Theater Grand Media Server (TGM) line are becoming increasingly important.
The servers join Sunfire’s existing lines of amplifiers, preamplifier/processors, subwoofers and A/V receivers to round out the product platform.
Sunfire sent me its TGM-100 server ($5,920) and a TGM-HD1 ($580) external hard drive. The TGM is pretty much a standard size A/V component. Its front panel is simple with just a slot-loaded DVD/CD player opening and an on/off button.
The server’s rear panel features a choice of analog audio and video outputs, as well as an HDMI output and coax and Toslink digital audio outputs. It also includes an RJ-45 Ethernet connection, a USB input and 3.5mm IR inputs.
The server employs a built-in Web browser for Web-based control, a flash-based operating system, scalable functions to distribute media to as many as six zones and automatic metadata download functions.
The external TGM-HD1 is a RAID1 mirrored 1-TB drive that hooks up to the TGM-100 via an eSATA connection. One last feature of the TGM-HD1 is its three-stage power functions for vacation mode, instant on and energy efficiency.
Sunfire offers media ripping through Get Digital Inc. for clients with large media collections.
Installers and homeowners will love how easily the TGM products integrate into a system. It basically hooks up like a DVD player. I started by running an HDMI cable to my Key Digital video processor and a Toslink cable to my Bryston preamp. Wrapping things up I connected an Ethernet cable to my switch, a USB cable to the external drive and powered up the unit.
With the connections in place and the unit fired up, I waited until it enabled itself and I entered the GUI so I could set the output resolution, the size of the GUI and the screen saver.
I contacted Sunfire because I didn’t see the audio output option I wanted. Sunfire’s Eric Harper explained how to access the audio settings, which are on a second page that isn’t readily apparent. Once I found the audio settings I switched it from the default “stereo” setting to “surround.”
Grabbing a handful of my kids’ movies, including “Barbie of Swan Lake” and some Disney titles, as well as a recording some friends and I made at Sarrin Music Studios, I loaded the media. It took a few minutes per disc.
With the discs on the server, it reached out and grabbed the metadata quickly. I was able to choose the discs based on the movie and music tabs in the GUI and the artwork from the metadata that lists the titles in alphabetical order.
Watching movies like “Atlantis: The Lost Empire” I was generally pleased with the quality, but it did look a little soft compared to some stand-alone players’ upconverting capabilities.
The surround audio was crisp and when I switched to two-channel content like my recording, the Sunfire captured the natural ambience of my friend’s Taylor 414CE guitar, as well as subtle detail like the delay that was added to the guitar solo in the cover of “My Funny Valentine.”
Priced in the middle of the entertainment market, Sunfire offers an upgrade over AppleTV, but it’s still not at the top of the pricing tier. The Server did everything I asked of it within a reasonable timeframe, and its performance was solid on music and movies.
Stores entire collection of DVDs and CDs on a system that is as easy to use as it is sophisticated
Automatic download of artist, album, genre, film, director, cover art and more
Flash-based OS for increased reliability
Remote monitoring and diagnostics
Built in Web-browser interface enables full control via Macs and PCs
Scalable for up to 6 additional independent zones
TGM-100C “Client” extends these capabilities to additional zones
Rack kit included
Professional quality Wolfson 192kHz/24-bit audio DACs
Dolby, DTS and 2ch bitstreams supported
Scaleable UI for perfect pairing with almost any TV
Intuitive high-definition TV interface with video-phile 1080p upconversion of DVDs
Power scroll feature enables rapid navigation of extensive libraries
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HDMI v1.3a output (up to 1080p)
Component output (up to 1080i)
DVI output (touch panel interface only)
S-Video and composite video outputs
Stereo RCA outputs
Coax/optical digital audio outputs
2 x ESATA, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 GB Ethernet
IR input, bi-directional RS-232 port