To get the latest on music servers Technology editor Greg Fleming caught up with Absolute Sound's Michael Steven...
Q: Cds and cd players - dead technology?
A good cd player still gives a great sound, what we are seeing more is a convergence of technology between CD players, and digital music devices like music streamers and servers.
Q: Are music servers the future of home audio?
A: Yes as long as they are compatible with the ever changing array of music formats, and online music streaming services like Spotify and features like Airplay.
Q: These "servers" are essentially just network players correct?
A: Music Servers are essentially network music streamers that incorporate their own storage system so no external IT hardware is required, just a network connection for the local network to allow remote control via a tablet device and an internet connection for internet radio.
Q: I can hook my computer up to my stereo - problem solved - why bother with a dedicated server?
A: You can hook up your computer to you stereo, but the quality will be very bad, as the sound signal is being processed by the audio hardware in the computer, and no matter what marketing hype the computer company puts behind their product there is no comparison to using dedicated equipment for a dedicated job.
Q: Can all music servers stream services like Spotify/Rdio?
A: Not all music servers and music streamers, support specific streaming services like Spotify but almost all of them do support internet radio.
Q: There's a minimal graphic interface on many servers, so it's expected you control track selection etc from your phone or tablet - correct?
A: Pretty much all music servers and music streamers are really designed with the goal of using a tablet device as the remote.
Q: How much do you need to know about computers to work one of the music servers to full effect?
A: Unless you have some good basic IT knowledge, I wouldn't attempt setting one up yourself. These types of products should be installed by a professional with knowledge of computer networks and digital music to make sure the system is reliable.
Q: How robust are the servers? Is hard drive failure ever an issue?
A: Music servers are built to be robust and to be left on for hours on end, although it doesn't matter how good a hard drive is, they can always fail, the key thing is to make sure you have some kind of regular back up of your music collection happening, this will ensure if you have a problem, you will be able to get your music collection back with the least amount of hassle.
Q: Some servers come with dacs and amps built in, some don't, it's all rather confusing for the uninitiated what's your advice to a customers?
A: Most music servers and streamers do have DAC's built in but these can be bypassed to allow for upgrades and tuning of your system, the key thing is that this offers flexibility. Amplification that is built in to these devices can be very restrictive and low quality... The best way to avoid confusion is to stop reading reviews on the internet and getting hung up on specifications, go and see a specialist, let them guide you based on what features you are looking for and what your budget is.