Blue Smoke Black Box Music Server
Music server manufacturer Blue Smoke returned to CES this year as part of the Rockport Technologies suite in the upper echelons of the Mirage. The company's product is the $6,995 Black Box music server where they focus on creating an optimal environment for digital music on the hardware side and assume the customer will choose a Windows compatible music player and interface. For their demo, Windows Media Center was used with a Dell touchscreen (seen on the right) and keyboard/mouse combo for the control functions. A MSB DAC, located under the Black Box in the photo above, converts the data to analog.
Blue Smoke's Peter Sills explains that inside the box one half is devoted to the PC and the other to their proprietary sound system. The company has adopted some of MSB's technology that makes use of ethernet-type RJ-45 connectors and CAT-6 cables to facilitate high rez audio data and networking via MSB's version of I2S in addition to all the usual input/output suspects. Blue Smoke has also spent time coming up with some software apps to handle audio files at all resolutions in as clean a method as possible.
What really caught our attention was the company's claim that they had a way to allow SACD's DSD data to be captured as PCM and played back with their system. Due to Sony's draconian implementation of SACD copy management, Blue Smoke has adopted support of MSB's I2S network link which provides the ability to capture the files that started life as an SACD disc and then play them from your hard drive. Sills explained that you first start with an SACD player that has been modified with MSB's XPort DSP upgrade to convert the data to PCM before sending it out of the machine. After capturing the data and doing some editing with an application like Sony's Sound Forge Pro to chop up the stream into FLAC format and adding metadata, you ultimately end up with 32 bit/176kHz PCM files.
Sills assures us that sound quality is maintained through this process, but let's hope Sony finally sees the error of their ways and allows DSD the freedom it deserves.