Sooloos Music Server System Page 2

The first thing I noticed on opening the boxes was the complete absence of instruction manuals. They've been replaced by a single, folded sheet of paper with pictures of how the components are to be connected to each other. Also included in each box is an Ethernet cable fitted with XLR jacks on each end (Sooloos uses RJ-45 or Neutrik Ethercon connectors), and, with the Store, a power supply.

To hook everything up, you network all components with the Ethernet cables, then plug them into the AC. That's it. The Source:One has a built-in Ethernet switch and multiple Ethernet jacks on the back, so you run one Ethernet cable from the Control:One to the Source:One, and one from the Store to the Source:One. Then you run an Ethernet cable from the Source:One to your router, which should be connected to the Internet. Finally, choose between the Source:One's S/PDIF and analog outputs and connect it to your DAC or preamp.

My router is an Apple Time Capsule that's also a WiFi base station. While the Sooloos components are not wireless and require Ethernet cables to network, once you've connected them to your wireless router, other wireless devices on your network can then access the Sooloos (more about that later). Also, I found that I didn't need to be connected to the Internet to run the Sooloos system, but I had to be online to turn it on: while booting, the Store gets a DHCP address from your router.

Once everything was plugged in, I hit the power switch on the back of each unit and waited. The Control:One blipped to life, and in a few seconds asked if I wanted to calibrate the touchscreen. It walked me through a few calibration touch tests before going on to the rest of the startup procedure. (I had to do this calibration only once, the first time I used the system.)

Depending on how many CDs you've loaded into the Sooloos, it takes two to three minutes to finish booting. The first time I set it up, however, my system hung after two minutes, displaying a message that it was looking for the Source:One. Turns out I needed to reboot my Apple router and cough up an IP address. Once I'd done this, all was well. And once everything is on, you can leave the Sooloos running 24/7.

After booting, a tidy-looking Home screen comes up, displaying four large squares labeled Music, Settings, Information, and Shutdown. You're ready to go. But before we poke the screen, let's look at the hardware.

Whenever entering someone's home, I make a bee-line for the music collection. It gives me a quick psychological profile or glimpse into the occupant's soul—a musical Rorschach. Very revealing. What I've seen of Wes Phillips' collection fits him like a glove, as do John Atkinson's, Robert Baird's, and Richard Lehnert's.

Stephen Mejias and I get together in person only once a year, at CES, but hearing about his musical purchases and recommendations year-round has fleshed him out in my mind in many ways. I've seen photos of the record and CD stacks in his apartment. He regularly lists recent purchases on his Stereophile blog. I feel I know the man. Maybe the FBI already knows about musical profiling and is studying iTunes download patterns to look for miscreants. I know I would.

I mention this because, while the system that Sooloos sent arrived mostly new in the box, the Store's hard drive was already stuffed with music. It was fascinating to see which 2400 CDs Sooloos had chosen to demo their system: everything from Bartók to Britney. Apparently, the Store's contents represented a sampling from the collections of various employees. It offered great insight into who had designed this product.

Back to minding the Store. By the time you read this, the Store will have evolved into the Twinstore ($2500), which, as the hard-drive storage component of the Sooloos system, operates exactly as the Store does. But the Twinstore adds several advantages that bear mentioning. The original Store was sold in pairs: one box for playback, the second to keep an automated backup of the first. With the Twinstore, the primary and backup drives are in a single box, and those drives are now removable. Backup is very important with music servers. Though it happens seldom, hard drives do fail; if not backed up, the crash of a 1-terabyte (1TB) hard drive could represent the loss of over $28,000 worth of music—not to mention the time it took to rip all those discs to the drive.

Like the Store, the Twinstore monitors its hard drives by pinging the Sooloos server every five minutes. In the event of impending failure, as disk errors and/or temperature start to increase—or an actual crash—it alerts you to find a replacement hard drive pronto. Once the new drive is in place, the Twinstore copies the contents of the backup to it and all is well.

Hard drives can be bought from Sooloos ($175 for 500GB, $350 for 1TB), or users can supply their own drives, up to 1TB (until bigger drives appear). A quick search on for the removable SATA drives used by the Twinstore revealed prices ranging from $189 to over $400 each for a 1TB drive. And don't forget that you'll need two drives per Twinstore, which means that each terabyte of Twinstorage will cost around $3200, or about $1.30/CD. If your library is really huge, you can add multiple Twinstores to the system.

The Twinstore's case exactly matches those of the Source:One and Ensemble, and is understated, modern, and to the point: a distinctive, low-slung box of silver metal with black heatsinks on the sides and six rows of quarter-size circles cut out of the top, each circle covered with black metal perforated for ventilation. The front is plain brushed metal, with the Sooloos logo, the component name, and a small blue LED to indicate that it's on. Such a look may not be to everyone's taste, especially those fond of gratuitous metal fascia, but for me it was just right. On the rear of the Twinstore are the two drive bays, a power switch, and a single Ethernet jack.

However, as with most hard drives of this type, cooling fans add their noise to the already irritating scratching of the disk-reading heads moving back and forth. You'll want to locate your Twinstores in another room, or a closet with plenty of ventilation—or, as I did, in a soundproofed but cool cabinet. Because they hook up via Ethernet connectors, you can run CAT5 cable where needed.

Source:One-Twinstore systems also offer Location Sync, for those with multiple homes and Sooloos systems. Those lucky few can remotely synchronize their libraries in different locations, which adds even more hard-disk redundancy.

EU-USA Stereophile Fan's picture

It was absurd that hi-fi companies didn't (still don't) pay attention to the access side but also we keep talking about controlling it from a smartphone such as the IPod. If one has the money for recommended components he/she should have it to use an IPad 4 or a Samsung Tablet 10.1"