Audio Is Served
What You Need To Know About Hard-Drive Audio Servers
By Mark Fleischmann>
The process of playing recorded music didn't change that much from the wax cylinder all the way up to the CD. You'd put a recording into a machine and music came out. Once music became digital, courtesy of the CD, the rules changed a bit (no pun intended). But the digitization of recorded music was almost a trivial event compared to the compression of those digits. Today's state-of-the-art playback systems put compressed audio files on a hard drive, where they are rigorously cross-indexed and organized, travel through the home in a network, and roam the Internet, where they are often shared, bought, stolen and fought over.
AUDIO SERVERS DEFINED
All audio servers have at least one hard drive to store and play digital music files. Most also have a CD drive for easy encoding (ripping). In fact, most of these CD drives are actually CD-R and CD-RW drives, capable of burning recordable and rewritable CDs. Analog line, digital coaxial and digital optical inputs/outputs are usually standard equipment. But just as important are RJ-45 Ethernet jacks to communicate with networked home audio systems, as well as the Internet. Some products also communicate with home networks and the net via wireless (802.11b, -a and -g) and phone (RJ-11) con-nections. (For more information about the latter see www.homepna.org.) Custom-installed products that connect to an existing touchscreen interface may also require a serial (RS-232), USB or Ethernet connection.
A hard drive can be built into anything including a compact system. Such a standalone solution may appeal to some of your customers. But a true audio server is a component that seamlessly integrates with existing multi-zone or other audio systems, PCs, PDAs, home networks, third-party interfaces such as Crestron, the Internet and, last but not least, the consumer himself. The networking, programming, installation and instruction that will make the system work well are best provided by a professional.