A music library with hundreds or thousands of CDs can be quite large and very cumbersome to organize and manage. Add DVD-A, SACD discs and vinyl records and tapes and the collection grows even larger. A music server may be the best solution to the dilemma of keeping music organized and at your fingertips. This article is an overview of music servers, their uses and benefits and a few examples of the types of servers available.
What is a Music Server?
Organizing and managing a large music collection is the task of a music server. As the term suggests, a music server 'serves up' music on demand. A server makes it quick and easy to access any tune or group of tunes when they are organized by song, artist, genre, playlist, etc.
Music servers come in a variety of models and types, but they typically consist of two main parts; a CD player with hard disk drive unit for 'ripping' and storing music files and a video display with a software interface to make organizing and managing large music libraries a simple and fun task.
Some servers feature top of the line digital audio processing, which upconverts CDs to 24-bit sound quality and others allow Internet connection for access to thousands of Internet radio stations and music subscription services such as Rhapsody and others.
Why Have a Music Server?
Aside from the benefits of playing music on demand without loading a disc in a player, a server is a great way to store large amounts of music in a very small space. It's also the best way to organize and manage a large collection of discs and records and be able to access them quickly. There is a great deal of satisfaction in having all of your music at your fingertips – it's sort of like cleaning and organizing the garage where all the tools are in their proper place and easily accessible.
Storing physical media (discs, records and tapes) on a music server is just one of the benefits to think about. Many servers connect to the Internet, enabling access to thousands of Internet radio stations and other online music services such as Rhapsody or Napster. A music server connected to a stereo or home theater system quickly becomes a music hub with instant access to a virtually limitless source of music. A server is also the ideal centerpiece for a whole house music system.
Creating custom playlists of favorite music is undoubtedly the most popular use of a music server. Music for parties, quiet dinners or just easy listening background music are just a few examples of the playlists that can be created with a music server.
Examples of Music Servers
- Olive 4HD: The Olive 4HD offers storage for up to 20,000 HD music tracks in 24-bit high resolution. Conventional CDs are ripped then upconverted to 24-bit performance. The Olive features high-quality Burr-Brown DACs for improved audio output and can be used as an outboard DAC. It's HDMI output allows viewing and controlling the music server via an on-screen display and the system can be controlled with an Apple iPhone app. The Olive 4HD can be purchased online here.
- Meridian Sooloos Control 15: The Control 15 is a single elegant component with a 500 GB hard disk drive for storing up to 1,000 CDs in lossless audio format, a CD drive for ripping discs and a 17" display with an intuitive user interface to control the system and organize a music library. The Control 15 can connect to a pair of Meridian DSP speakers with a single cable or can be used with other stereo or home theater systems. It can access Internet radio stations and Rhapsody music service. The Meridian Sooloos Control 15 has a suggested retail price of $7,500. Learn more here.
- NuVo Technologies Music Port: The NuVo Music Port can provide up to four zones of audio for a multiroom music system. It can use both Windows Media Player and iTunes formats for organizing music and features a 320GB hard disk drive for storage. Any computer networked with the Music Port can be used to control the system via its user interface. It can access Internet radio stations and can be used with Sirius and XM satellite radio. Learn more here.
- Escient Fireball SE-80 Digital Music Manager: Priced at $999, the Escient Fireball SE-80 is an affordable music server solution with 80GB of storage, Internet radio, multi-zone support, and an easy-to-use interface. Although 80GB sounds a bit small, the Fireball can store 538 hours of music in MP3 format (320 kbps file size) up to 1345 hours in 128 kbps file size, enough for even large music collections. The Escient Fireball is now available for $999. Read more here.