Technology Showcase: Home Media Servers
Aug 4, 2009 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles
Storage and playback options for residential audio and video.
The Life|media media center server from Life|ware is powered by Intel processors and operates on Windows Vista to store up to 4TB of movies, music, and photographs. The unit can be configured to include either a CableCard, NTSC, or ATSC TV tuner and use a DVD or Blu-ray drive. With Life|media, up to four separate programs can be recorded simultaneously, and live TV can be paused and rewound. There are nine different audio and video configuration options including analog 7.1 channel and optical audio with Dolby Home Theater decoding. Video output connections include HDMI, DVI-I, component, composite, and S-Video on all models. The LMS-200/250 also has a VGA video output and uses Windows Vista Home Premium, and the LMS-300/350, LMS-400/450, and LMS-500/550 run on Windows Vista Ultimate. All available models are 3RU tall and use Nvidia graphics cards.
The NMH300 media hub from Linksys is for storing and playing video, photos, and music using a web-based interface for local or remote media browsing. The unit can house SATA drives in two drive bays, and the included automated backup software allows manual and continuous automatic backup of all stored media through RAID 1/JBOD configurations. There are two USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet 10/100/1000 port, and support for iTunes server. Users can view up to three simultaneous HD streams and operate the control interface for music listening in WMA, MP3, MP4, M4A, 3GP, WAV, OGG, FLAC, AC3, and other formats; view JPEG photos; and watch videos in MP4, MOV, MPG, SPTS, AVI, DivX, MPV, and more.
The Meridian Audio Sooloos Ensemble audio server can be configured with up to 1TB of storage for as many as 2,400 albums in either FLAC or MP3 192kbps format, and these can be backed up to a PC-based hard drive with one-touch control. The removable drive tray holds a 3.5in. SATA 7200 RPM drive. On the rear panel are four analog stereo RCA jacks and a S/PDIF digital audio output. The network connection, either RJ-45 or Neutrik EtherCon, interfaces the unit with the Internet and Sooloos control devices, and there is also a detachable, external auto¬sensing AC adapter. Ensemble and other Sooloos servers can be operated through the new 17in. Control 10 high-contrast, resistive LCD touchpanel and CD importing mechanism. It connects to the system through twisted pair on either RJ-45 or Neutrik EtherCon terminals, and it offers a fanless, noise-free interface with 1280x1024 video resolution.
Niles Audio’s DMS4 digital music server records CDs and uses its Ethernet interface to automatically connect to the Gracenote music-recognition service to download album and track details for virtually every CD in the collection to aid in alphanumeric music searches and selection. Its sound file formats include uncompressed WAV, MP3, and WMA. MP3s can be recorded and stored at 320kbps constant bit rate, or 192kbps and 128kbps for selection of storage capacity vs. audio quality. Designed to be controlled with the company’s Intellicontrol ICS, the unit displays CD titles, artist names, and track names on the associated Intellicontrol ICS user interface as soon as the CD is recorded on the system’s 160GB internal hard drive. Customized playlists can be crafted via the front panel, remote control, keypad, or TV interface.
Modularity seems to be the message in the Pro Series servers from Niveus Media. Up to 4TB Seagate Pipeline HD storage enables RAID reliability and up to 500 hours of HD recording, 500 days of continuous digital music, or 2 million high-resolution photos. A 32GB drive is used for the operating system. The Niveus ConvergencePanel contains the audio and video I/O ports on the rear of the unit. The Pro Series uses an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia’s GeForce 9 series graphics. Sound is handled through Niveus Pro Audio and 5.1/6.1/7.1 surround with 192kHz/24-bit output and a 120dB signal-to-noise ratio. Control interfaces include an external IR receiver with two IR blaster ports used to control cable or satellite set-top boxes, a rear RS-232 serial port, and an Ethernet 10/100/1000 port for third-party software control.
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