Media Server Reviews

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Wes Phillips Posted: Oct 05, 2003 0 comments
It was John Atkinson, that legendary ornithologist, who first pointed it out: "Have you noticed how frequently you see women using the iPod?"
John Atkinson Posted: Jul 25, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 2013 17 comments
Apple's iPod came of age in the fall of 2003, when, with the release of iTunes 4.5, the player was no longer restricted to lossy compressed MP3 or AAC files. Instead, it could play uncompressed or losslessly compressed files with true "CD quality"; users no longer had to compromise sound quality to benefit from the iPod's convenience.

Enter Astell&Kern. At the beginning of 2013, this brand from iRiver, a Korean portable media company, introduced its AK100, a portable player costing a dollar short of $700 and capable of handling 24-bit files with sample rates of up to 192kHz.

Michael Lavorgna Posted: Jul 01, 2014 5 comments
I'm the editor of AudioStream.com, Stereophile's sister website devoted to computer audio. We review all manner of hardware, software, and music related to file-based playback, and offer helpful (we hope) "How To" articles as well as interviews with industry people—all designed to ease your journey to and through the world of computer audio. I envision my new Stereophile column, "Audio Streams," as an extension of this mission—and the addition of that trailing, plural s gives me some leeway to explore a wider range of hi-fi topics.
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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 09, 2013 2 comments
I bought a Slim Devices Squeezebox network player in the spring of 2006 and my life changed. Having audio files on a server and being able to play them through my high-end rig via the Squeezebox's S/PDIF output liberated my music from the tyranny of a physical medium. As I wrote in my review, "physical discs seem so 20th century!" After Wes Phillips reviewed the Squeezebox's big brother, the Transporter, in February 2007, I bought the review sample and lived happily ever after in the world of bits rather than atoms—at least until the summer of 2010, when Slim Devices' new owner, Logitech, brought out the Squeezebox Touch. The Touch did everything the Transporter did, with a full-color display, at one-eighth the price!
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Larry Greenhill Posted: Jun 15, 2011 1 comments
James Tanner, VP of marketing at Bryston Ltd., was frustrated. He'd borrowed a Music Vault 4000 music server to play high-resolution digital music files at Bryston's exhibit at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. Most of the time, the server delivered some of the best sound at that event. The rest of the time, there were dropouts and crashes. Tanner later experienced similar dropouts and crashes when he streamed hi-rez digital files over his home network to a Bryston BDA-1 digital-to-analog converter (see my review in the February 2010 issue).

I found a more relaxed Tanner at the 2010 CES. This time, he'd borrowed an Auraliti L-1000 digital file server ($3000 at www.auraliti.com), a box with no front-panel controls, no display, no hard drive, no fans, and no CD drive. Instead of a Windows operating system, the L-1000 ran a stripped-down version of the Linux open-source operating system. Its simplicity of design solved the reliability problems Tanner had encountered the year before.

Then and there, Tanner decided to ask Auraliti to help Bryston create a simple digital music file player. The result is the BDP-1.

Stephen Mejias Posted: May 09, 2011 4 comments
Head-Direct's HiFiMan HM-602 is the second in a growing line of perfectionist-quality portable music players designed by Fang Bian, a 31-year-old audiophile and student of nanotechnology at the City University of New York's Hunter College. Bian's first HiFiMan design was the larger, heavier, more versatile HM-801 ($790; see my review here). In building the HM-602, Fang sacrificed the '801's removable amplifier module, 15V rechargeable battery, and coaxial input, thus creating a smaller, more portable product. Much sleeker and less substantial than the '801, the HM-602 measures approximately 4" L by 2.5" W by 1" D and weighs just 7oz—it can rest comfortably in the palm of a hand or a coat's inner pocket.

Overall, the HM-602 has a handsome, rather serious appearance: With its gold controls and its fine metallic finish, which at times seems a deep green and at others takes on a smoky charcoal, the HM-602, like its predecessor, exhibits an air of elegance and sophistication. And while the HM-801 proudly takes after Sony's famed Walkman—Fang Bian once owned every available model of the now-discontinued portable cassette player—the HM-602 much more closely resembles Apple's iPod Classic. On its front panel, below the 2" LCD screen, the HM-602 has a four-way control ring similar to the iPod's scroll wheel, and three sliding switches: Power, Hold (deactivates controls while music is playing), and DAP/USB.

Wes Phillips Posted: Mar 12, 2008 1 comments
Even the most savvy Stereophile reader might wonder what a "network music player" is. Linn rightly considers a music server to be a combination of 1) stored digital files, 2) music-management software, and 3) a device that uses #2 to transfer #1 to your hi-fi. What Linn's Klimax DS is is a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that receives digital data through an Ethernet connection rather than optical or electrical S/PDIF or AES/EBU inputs.
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John Atkinson Posted: Dec 20, 2001 1 comments
My friend Ed (not necessarily his name) used to be an audiophile. Ed had a great-sounding pair of floorstanding Joseph speakers, optimally placed so as to create a magic soundstage when he sat in the sweet spot. His component rack featured such famous high-end names as Mark Levinson, Meridian, and Z-Systems. But then Ed went DSL and discovered MP3s. Pretty soon, he was hanging as many hard drives on his PC as he could manage. His Josephs and his Levinson CD player gathered dust. Ed was enjoying his music sitting in front of his high-end Dell, with an active NHT Pro mini on either side of the monitor.
Art Dudley Posted: Mar 18, 2011 1 comments
My quandary on receiving for review the Linn Majik DS-I: What, precisely, is it supposed to do? Does the Majik DS-I contain a hard disk and music-ripping software, so I can use it to store all the music in my CD collection? Does it have a graphical user interface (GUI) that at least matches the one provided by the endearingly free Apple iTunes? Does it include a DAC that allows it to play the music files I've already put on my computer?
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Oct 11, 2010 0 comments
When it comes to ripping CDs and downloading music, I've been sitting on the sidelines feeling more than a bit of envy. Stereophile's reviews of various media servers have whetted my appetite, but not so much as to overcome my timidity about getting into a new realm of technology in which I would be a beginner all over again. Still, I've sneaked a few peeks.
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John Atkinson Posted: Sep 26, 2013 5 comments
In March, to celebrate Marantz's 60th anniversary, the company launched the subject of this review, the Reference NA-11S1 network player ($3499), which Ken Ishiwata described to me as "a new start, a new era" for Marantz. Michael Fremer attended the European press conference announcing the NA-11S1, and I subsequently talked to Ishiwata via Skype.
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Wes Phillips Posted: Jan 22, 2008 0 comments
It has a fan, it won't work without a monitor, and it contains a 750GB hard drive—for some audiophiles, that's a trifecta of reasons not to buy the McIntosh MS750 music server ($6000).
John Atkinson Posted: Oct 24, 2008 0 comments
"Physical discs seem so 20th century!" That's how I ended my eNewsletter review of the Logitech (then Slim Devices) Squeezebox WiFi music server in April 2006, and it seems that increasing numbers of Stereophile readers agree with me. In our website poll of January 5, 2008, we asked, "Are you ready for an audiophile music server?" The response to that question was the highest we have experienced: 32% of respondents already listen to music via their computer networks, many using home-brewed solutions, and 44% intend to. We've published a lot of material on this subject in the last five years, and it seemed a good idea to sum it up in this article.
Jon Iverson Posted: Mar 08, 2012 1 comments
The taxonomy of audio products used to be easy. An amp, a preamp, speakers, a disc player or two—done. Now that hard drives, streaming clouds, and computers have entered the scene, unless your world revolves around only an iPod or a disc player, you have choices—lots of choices.
John Atkinson Posted: May 02, 2014 6 comments
"Physical discs are so 20th century," I wrote back in 2006, when I began experimenting with using, in my high-end rig, a computer as a legitimate source of music. These days I rarely pop a disc into my Ayre Acoustics C-5xeMP disc player, unless it's an SACD I want to hear, or a CD I haven't yet ripped into my library. But many audiophiles, even if attracted to the idea of using a file-based system as a primary music source, do not want a computer in their listening rooms. Nor do they want to be bothered by the fact that a computer demands too intimate a relationship with its user.

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