Media Server Reviews

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 29, 2022  |  18 comments
Ah, domesticity. Just when I had the reference system sounding better than ever, the husband decided to relocate his electric keyboard and music stand, which had been positioned along the right wall of the detached music room, to the dining room in the main house. His reason was rational: While I did the reviewer thing in one space, he'd be free to practice keyboard and sing in another. But what was rational to him screwed with my reference sound and drove me to the brink of irrationality.
Robert Schryer  |  Sep 21, 2021  |  54 comments
In 1968, I was a 2-year-old toddler living in Paris, France—my birthplace—on the 14th floor of a diplomat-occupied apartment complex overlooking the Seine. My dad, a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, was stationed in Paris, working security at the Canadian embassy. My mom and I were there with him.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Nov 30, 2017  |  35 comments
John Atkinson asked me to review the dCS Network Bridge ($4250), which was designed to be paired not just with the dCS Vivaldi DAC ($35,999) running the current v.2.02 software, but with any DAC. This meant I was forced to endure several months with the state-of-the-art Vivaldi as a replacement for my reference dCS Rossini ($23,999). Oh, how I suffered.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Aug 30, 2018  |  6 comments
Ever since the Tokyo Electro Acoustic Company (TEAC) founded its Esoteric division, in 1987, Esoteric's slogan has been "state of the art." Given Esoteric's impressive displays at audio shows, which reflect a consistency of ownership, staff, and philosophy of engineering, design, and manufacturing, I have longed to evaluate one of their hand-assembled models in my reference system. Any brand named Esoteric, and whose top line of products is named Grandioso, had better make superior products.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Apr 06, 2021  |  0 comments
A digital front end comprises several elements: data storage, library management, program control, signal distribution, signal conditioning, and digital-to-analog conversion plus all the necessary interconnections. All this can be contained in a convenient single box, or it can be distributed.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 24, 2021  |  11 comments
In 1979, I visited Philips Electronics' renowned Research Center in Eindhoven, Holland, to examine a prototype of what would eventually be called a compact disc player. In 1989, I returned to the Eindhoven lab to witness the birth of the first sigma-delta DACs, which eliminated the problem of large linearity errors at low recorded levels in resistor-ladder DACs.
Stephen Mejias  |  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.

John Atkinson  |  Nov 24, 2021  |  10 comments
In the summer of 2021, MoFi Distribution's Jonathan Derda emailed me about the South Korean HiFi Rose brand. "This brand strikes me as being the spiritual successor to the original SlimDevices Transporter and Squeezebox Touch," he wrote. "We're all really excited about it."

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 03, 2020  |  30 comments
We carry within us the wonders we seek outside us.—Rumi

There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path. Don't allow yourself to become one of them.—Ralph Marston, The Daily Motivator

Put these two quotes together, shake vigorously, and you've got the essence of a music server. Unless your container isn't tightly sealed, in which case you've got a mess.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 24, 2018  |  52 comments
"Phones are the gateway device," proclaimed Marc Finer, executive producer of the Hi-Res Pavilion, at the start of the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. When he pointed to LG Electronics' V30 Hi-Res+MQA smartphone, which includes streaming apps for Qobuz, Tidal, and YouTube, I sensed the truth in his words. The latest stats from survey company MusicWatch confirm that at least 87% of smartphone owners use a music-streaming service, including the largest, YouTube. Twenty percent of owners said that they stream music/music-related content daily, and 39% stream five or more days per week.
Wes Phillips  |  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.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 20, 2001  |  3 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  |  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  |  Oct 11, 2010  |  1 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.
John Atkinson  |  Mar 23, 2022  |  10 comments
I start this review with a confession. I have consistently found that when I play CDs on a transport and feed the digital data via AES3 (AES/EBU) to a D/A processor, the music has more drive, particularly at low frequencies, than it does when I send the same 16/44.1 data to the same D/A processor via my network.

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