- August 2002 -
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In my humble opinion the arrival of products like the Imerge SoundServer marks the beginning of the next generation of home music and entertainment system solutions that will revolutionize the industry and the home. If you believe in "Killer Apps" ... then this could be the next one. Why? Here's my story and I'm stickin' to it!
Reason 1 - The SoundServer arrived in a regular old cardboard box and once unpacked it looks just like any other stereo component ... and has only a small instruction manual, a quick start card and a few cables. Right off the bat I feel warm and fuzzy because this thing looks and feels familiar and uncomplicated.
Reason 2 - Being in a hurry to play with this new toy I ignored many of the frills ... as I always do (including the ability to display on the TV and connect to the internet) ... and went straight to plugging in the unit and burning a CD onto it's 80 Gigabyte hard drive. Plug into the AC outlet (or the "mains" as the British instructions refer to it), connect the RCA left and right outputs to my receiver inputs, install batteries in the remote control and it's ready to record music. The 4 line LCD display is simply laid out and easy to follow. I just inserted a CD and once I closed the tray the panel asked me if I wanted to record it. Yes. A few more questions with regard to recording quality etc. (default was set at MP3 160Kbs - 1000 hours but it allows you to select 128Kbs, 160Kbs, 192Kbs or full CD quality) and away we go. As it's recording the display tells you how long to go ... which is nice if you have other things to do ... like read the instruction manual :-( About 20 minutes later CD1 is recorded. Select "Play Music" on the menu ... Select CD1 to play and hold your breath ... yes ... it just goes ahead and plays the CD over the stereo system. Not rocket science ... no electronics degree required ... and the sound quality is great. The remote has the same old symbols for play, stop, next track etc. Now I wonder ... yes ... I can record another CD while I listen to this one ... kick back ... party time ... listen to all of my old and new CD's while I record them.
Reason 3 - While recording my CD collection ... not connected to the internet ... the CD's are just being displayed as Album01, 02, 03 etc. While it is possible to label them all manually with the remote ... that would be a ton of work ... and no fun whatsoever. Internet to the rescue. After recording about 20 CD's I finally got around to plugging the unit into my ethernet home network hub (you can also connect via a phone line if that's how you access the net). All I had to do was fill in a short form (using the remote) to register the unit with Imerge, select a few settings (just to tell the unit to use an ethernet connection) and low and behold a message displays telling me that I'm online and registered. Once again ... no network jargon like DNS ... Subnet Mask ... Firewall Color etc. (but you can go and set all this *^*&^(% if you feel the need to). One more button push and low and behold the unit is accessing Gracenote CD Database and gathering all the title and track info on all of the CD's that I have already recorded. Awesome. Now when a track is playing, it's title etc. are listed on the display. As you record new CD's ... the SoundServer goes to Gracenote automatically and gets the info while recording.
Reason 4 - There's one more cable in the box to plug in. It's a video output to your TV. Again, I just plugged it in, tuned the TV to the appropriate video channel and the SoundServer menu popped up on the screen. You can sit back and control your music right from the couch. Display and play your collection by Album Name, Artist or Genre. Set up and use personal Playlists. Play the tracks randomly, repeat your playlist over and over again or combine the two so your favorites play randomly ... forever if you choose never to touch the SoundServer again. While you listen just select XiVA-Net and the unit will connect to this internet resource for the latest music news, album reviews, gig information and classical music information. Eventually you will be able to download music directly from XiVA-Net to your SoundServer ... from the comfort of your couch.
Reason 5 - Even with reasons 1 through 4 I still have a problem :-( I hate using a remote control to type. Building and naming playlists etc. is tedious at best and modifying the info is a royal pain. Enter "XiVA-Producer". A quick download and install from the Imerge website and this software found the SoundServer on my Home Network and now allows me to use the PC to set up and edit my music collection. Nothing like a keyboard, mouse and familiar windows interface to get the work done ... fast. As soon as you've set up a playlist via your PC ... it's ready to access back at the couch ... with the touch of one button. Oh yes ... one other HUGE feature. With XiVA-Producer you can transfer the music that you have stored on your PC over to the SoundServer ... at the speed of the ethernet. Man oh man I'm in heaven. And still 900 hours of recording time to go!!!
Future Reason 6 - I'm not quite there yet but soon we should have a Multi Room audio system installed. (see the HomeToys Home Technology Demonstration Project introduction article). A very unique feature of the SoundServer is that is has 2 (or 3 on some models) discrete sound outputs. This will allow different music (i.e. 2 separate playlists) to be played in different rooms simultaneously. I can hardly wait to try this one. Rolling Stones in my office while Gracie (the better half) listens to Simon and Garfunkle in hers. Life is good!
• CD tray loader
• Operating keys for: power/play/pause/ stop/ record/skip track/4 menu keys and open & close
• Alpha-numeric 4 x 20 backlit LCD display
• Anodised metal finish
• RS 232 serial port, 9 pin D-connector (male)
• Ethernet RJ45 connection (10 base T/100 base T)
• Male IEC mains power connector
• 56 kbs internal modem
• USB port
• Composite video out
• Digital S/PDIF and analogue out
• CD audio
• Uncompressed audio: 44.1 khz, 16 bit stereo
• Compressed audio: MP3 (upgradable)
• PAL/NTSC TV out
• IR remote control (standard) - 2 x AA batteries (supplied)
• IR wireless keyboard (optional)
• Software for screen based remote control (optional)
• 110/230V AC mains
• Approval for FCC,CSA,BABT,CE
• Power consumption: less than 60 watts
• Net weight: 10.6kg, gross weight 15kg
Several models are available:
- S1000 - 40 - 1 output (1 Analogue & 1 Digital both delivering the same source) - 40Gb hard drive (up to 710 hours compressed audio)
- S1000 - 80 - 1 output (1 Analogue & 1 Digital both delivering the same source) - 80Gb hard drive (up to 1430 hours compressed audio)
- S1002 - 80 - 2 discrete outputs (1 Analogue & 1 Digital) - 80Gb hard drive
- S1003 - 80 - 3 discrete outputs (2 Analogue & 1 Digital) - 80Gb hard drive
and prices range from about $1900 to $3900. I expect these prices will come down relatively quickly as the market grows and production quantities increase.