It seems the Japanese are not very keen on using computers with their audio systems, but they are not averse to using what are effectively data drives to stream audio so long as it can be done without the aid of a PC. This attitude was behind Melco’s network servers, and a similar – but arguably even more uncompromising – approach is taken by Fidata. The HFAS1-XS20U – that name really rolls off the tongue – is a dedicated PC-less music server that doesn’t even let PCs or Macs near its library management, as the only way this can be accessed is through Fidata’s Music App.
The Fidata HFAS1-XS20U is a beautifully minimalist piece of kit with the bare minimum of controls and connections on its elegantly machined aluminium exterior. This metalwork conceals a chassis that has been beefed up (compared to Fidata’s first product the HFAS1-S10U) with a 3.2mm thick steel chassis to provide greater rigidity. The bottom is protected from RFI with a heavy copper plate while the top plate is 4mm thick aluminium, a thickness arrived at by listening to alternative gauge sheets and chosen for the quality of mid and treble it brought to the sound. This level of attention to detail seems to have prevailed throughout the development of both the HFAS1-XS20U and its predecessor, the company using an iterative approach to refining the product in order to deliver maximum sound quality. Fidata is a part of IO Data which makes a wide range of electronics products including computer drives, and this gives Fidata the luxury of concentrating decent resources on a single product. Why doesn’t Unilever do the same thing?
The HFAS1-XS20U server contains two pairs of Samsung 500GB SSD drives managed such that the data is shared uniformly between them, this is an approach that Fidata calls an X-Cluster and it was created to maintain a constant load on the power supplies and thus to reduce noise. The unit has a pair of linear power supplies that like the rest of the design were chosen to produce the minimum of noise. The drives are arranged so that they can run in a RAID configuration whereby two act as backups for the first pair, however this reduces storage capacity by 50%. It would be more cost efficient to back up the library to an external drive either on the network or via USB.
Connectivity extends to Ethernet ports for network and streamer connection and USB 2.0. Having a dedicated ethernet port for a streamer has the benefit of removing the need for a network switch to channel the data and provides an extremely clean connection, and the whole system is controlled by the aforementioned Fidata Music app. This is similar to Linn apps in that you scroll through the library on the left-hand panel and selected albums or tracks are placed on the right to form a playlist, the playback controls are underneath with the option to control volume.