Network and Music Server Products
(Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from SS's CES Report. The full report will appear in the upcoming issue of "The Absolute Sound.")
Blue Smoke’s Black Box offers a different approach to networked music devices. It can read and “rip” a disc into your system, but it doesn’t have a hard drive. Instead it sends the data stream to an existing networked hard drive. It can handle up to 192/24 files and sports one S/PDIF input and both S/PDIF and AES/EBU outputs. The Black Box is designed to interface with an external DAC (it was hooked up to an MSB DAC for the show) and is an “open system,” so it will work with both iTunes or Windows-based music systems. The base unit with a keyboard lists for $6995 (it also needs a screen), and delivery will be at the end of the first quarter 2009.
Olive displayed a prototype of its new flagship product, the Opus Nº 6 (see photo below). It features independently and separately grounded multi-regulated power supplies for its analog and digital stages and uses a TI SRC194 asynchronous sample rate converter. Along with all this cutting-edge hardware, the Opus Nº 6 sports a very intuitive yet powerful user interface. Projected price will be between $3k and $4k, and delivery will be in the summer of 2009.
The Letter N was well represented with new music server products from both Naim and NuForce. The Naim HDX 4 has been further refined and supports up to 192/24 music files which are stored on its internal 400GB hard drive. The NuForce unit employs four unique databases to search for metadata so that 95% of all commercial classical releases are recognized when you rip them to your hard drive. It also has twelve distinct fields that you can search for classical music. The Nuforce unit will be available in the US beginning in February with a base price of $2500.
The Italian company Blacknote (distributed by Koetsu USA) showed the DSS-30, a server than supports up to 192/24 files and can handle Apple lossless format. It also reads CD ISO files and can update itself automatically from an Internet-connected network. Priced at $2800 with a solid-state analog output stage and $4400 for a tubed version, the DSS-30 appears to be a bargain.
Weiss, who’s established its reputation in the pro world with its FireWire DACs, showed a prototype network player called Roma. It’s PC-based but needs no internal cooling fans. It will support automated CD ripping as well as remote operation through iPhone or iPod Touch. Still in the early prototype stage Weiss hopes to have a finished version by summer 2009.