Hardware Spotlight ? Onkyo
Onkyo NC-500 'Net-Tune' Audio Network Receiver
By David Dritsas
Even with the death of Napster, everyone seems to have found ways to stockpile MP3s as if in preparation for the next ice age. I've got friends whose computers' hard drives resemble crowded CD racks. And any number of custom installers can tell you about the hours spent moving MP3 files to a home audio server. But I have to laugh when I see someone burning a whole load of MP3s to CD, just to listen to them on a stereo system (with MP3 playback) through better speakers. It just seems that a purpose is being defeated in that process. A number of electronics companies agree with me, and have begun selling alternatives to combat the problem. Onkyo is one of them.
Onkyo's NC-500 Audio Network Receiver is a stepping-stone device that organizes music on a PC, or shares a broadband Internet connection to stream Internet radio stations. The device is versatile enough to act as a component, be connected to an A/V receiver or be used as a standalone system when paired with speakers. In my test, I used Onkyo's D-N3XA speakers, which are designed to mate with the system.
Before even considering this device, the customer must have an Ethernet-based home network with a router of some sort, or be prepared to establish one. And if the customer plans to use Internet radio, a broadband connection is a must. If a network is already available, all the better, because the NC-500 is smart enough to connect itself to a router (so long as the DHCP function is on). The NC-500 doesn't have built-in wireless capability, but if you connect it to a wireless router, you can save yourself the trouble of running extra wires.
First, you need to load Onkyo's Net-Tune Central software, a simple, no-nonsense program that organizes all of the music, and readies it for streaming to the NC-500. This software has to be downloaded from Onkyo's Web site after the product registration is completed online, which is slightly annoying, though the process doesn't take long.