Digital Wrap-Up

So many music servers and related products appeared at the 2011 CES, that we can now sort them into various sub-categories depending on what is included in the box.

Below is a list of new or upgraded products that caught my eye at the show.

Optimized Music Computers
These are hot-rodded off-the-shelf computers and software packages from Amarra and Pure Music to help you set up your own computer as a high quality server. Couple that with all of those USB DACs now appearing (see below) and a stack of hard drives and you're set:

Disc Players/Music Streamers
These are disc players that also stream files and can connect to hard drives with varying ability:

Disc Players/Music Streamers/Preamps
Same as the list above, but also have varying degrees of preamp functionality built in:

Music Server Hubs
These are the servers which don't include music storage and at the same time leverage Apple or Microsoft products for an interface and file management. Some have disc drives for ripping discs and some don't (another sub-category perhaps?). They provide an optimized center portion of an audiophile music server, but not the edges. Some include streaming from internet radio sources:

Music Server Hubs with Storage
Some companies include varying degrees of internal music storage, but still leverage Apple devices to control their systems:

Complete Music Server Solutions
Then there are the tip-to-tail solutions all of which provide everything you need straight out of the box with varying degrees of upgradability. You can add an iPod/iPad interface if you like, but it is not necessary:

These are sprouting all over, and have varying capabilities regarding higher sampling rates (note that most of the above products have USB inputs on them as well):

There are likely more new products in addition to those mentioned here (feel free to add what I missed at CES in the comments). What will work for you depends on how you approach your music collection in particular, and technology in general. But clearly, music servers as a broad category is here to stay, and will likely be the future of audio for a very long time.

That is until we can all stream high resolution audio straight from the cloud, with its infinite library of all music ever recorded, to anyplace we are, for $9.99 a month. Hey it could happen.

soulful.terrain's picture

You guys did a fantastic job covering the CES show. Congrats! :)

King Local's picture

Great write-up, but there are a few additions that could be made?

I was very interested in the new PlayBack Designs mpd-3 with high-rez PCM and DSD/DXD over USB; I was disappointed to see how little info. there has been online about this new product introduction.

Also, I am listening right now to my PS Audio PerfectWave DAC, which boasts not only USB inputs (not really ideally implemented properly, I think) but also the best executed network streaming solution I have seen thus far from a high-end company... it's not a new product, but I was surprised it didn't merit a mention in your all-inclusive CES list above.

Thanks for the great reporting from CES as I could not make it this year :(.

volvic's picture

Great coverage, haven't finished going through all the posts. I know that Michael Fremer is covering analogue and don't doubt his skills one bit, but I do wish he would post his reports on this site as well and hope he does.