Media Server Reviews

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Rogier van Bakel  |  Aug 12, 2022  |  5 comments
Pop quiz. What does the following verbiage describe? And what does it mean?

"It's about what we love the most. It's about what we hate the most. It's about what we wait for but never happens. Relationships turn on, interrupt, and resume. Or sometimes they just stay still. Floating and suspended. So breathe in. Let go. Let's begin from nothing."

Huh. Any luck yet?

Kalman Rubinson  |  Aug 05, 2022  |  11 comments
On a cold, clear February morning, I attended my first in-person press event since the beginning of the pandemic. Marantz had invited me to a small group session in a suite at the Equinox Hotel at Hudson Yards but gave no indication of what was in store. After two years without live press events or audio shows, I was not going to spurn the offer no matter what would be presented: I was hungry for hi-fi. Upon arrival, I learned that Marantz would be featuring just one new product, a streaming integrated amplifier, the Marantz Model 40n ($2499). Sure, I'm in.
John Atkinson  |  Jul 22, 2022  |  5 comments
Characteristically, the email from Kal Rubinson got straight to the point: "I have a WiiM Mini that I have played with, but I am not the right one to review this as I am not sufficiently interested in or knowledgeable about wireless streaming. It ... can handle uncompressed PCM via its DACs." "I'll review it," I replied, intrigued by a $99 D/A processor that can stream hi-rez audio via Wi-Fi and that also has an analog input so it can act as a preamplifier.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jun 01, 2022  |  8 comments
Melco, the Japanese maker of the N50 Music Library featured in this review, is not a household name among US audiophiles. Veterans may recall the Melco 3560 turntable, which was considered extravagant at its 1978 launch, in part because it supported three tonearms. Confusingly, several subsidiaries of the giant keiretsu Mitsubishi are called MELCO (for "Mitsubishi Electric Corporation"), but the maker of the N50 is not one of those MELCOs. This "Melco" is, rather, short for "Maki Engineering Laboratory Company," and though it got its start in hi-fi, these days its best-known products are network-attached RAID arrays made by Melco's American division, Buffalo Americas.
Ken Micallef  |  May 27, 2022  |  0 comments
Old-school audiophiles like me cling to our vinyl records and CDs. We spin them on turntables and slide them into transports, which send electric signals through wires to solid state or tubed amplifiers—a string of hardware devices. But, despite our object-attached ways, we're quite aware that we are living in a software-enabled, Bluetooth-connected, Wi-Fi–facilitated world. Even our Milky Way galaxy is wireless; as that pontificator of everything galactic, scientist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, has proclaimed, "We're all connected."
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.
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.
Julie Mullins  |  Mar 04, 2022  |  2 comments
I've been on a Kim Gordon kick lately. It began a few months ago with rediscovering some Sonic Youth albums and picking up Gordon's solo record, No Home Record. I recently finished reading her memoir, Girl in a Band, about her life, art, and musical career. I tend to read books rather than listen to them, but this time I listened with the Audible app, and I found the experience compelling. Gordon's delivery is direct, her voice even-keeled, almost deadpan. She's giving us the straight dope. Subtle inflections are detectable: moments when she felt strong and proud; leftover cobwebs of postbreakup pain. Her humanity came through.
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  |  Sep 29, 2021  |  22 comments
On the face of it, playing and streaming digital music files is a straightforward process. You direct data from various sources—some local, some "in the cloud"—perhaps via a reclocker/signal conditioner to a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). "And the music comes out here."

Not so simple. Bits, it seems, aren't bits, or not only. A digital datastream is also an analog signal. Noise and other signal errors endemic to multi-function computers not designed primarily for music playback can affect how music sounds. And then there are the practical issues of setting up and connecting everything optimally, and then organizing music files correctly, which can be especially difficult when ripping files from multidisc sets.

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.
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.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 29, 2021  |  11 comments
Is this all there is to it? I had done some superficial investigations of Volumio online, after the Primo was suggested to me for review. I had learned that the Volumio player software is available for several hardware platforms including Windows, Mac, and Raspberry Pi, but I had not tried it before. I discovered Volumio's reputation as an efficient, Linux-based music player, installable with an SD card on minimal hardware and said to support virtually all music formats and resolutions including DSD and multichannel. But I had not experienced any of this for myself.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 27, 2020  |  19 comments
My, how we've grown! The experience that convinced me of the inevitability of streaming was in 2010 with the tiny, tidy Logitech Squeezebox Touch that, despite being discontinued and disowned by its manufacturer, still has a cult-like following. Since then, we have seen an explosion of devices for file playback from local or nonlocal storage and web streams.

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