Cambridge Audio or Olive Digital Music servers
I'm thinking of adding a digital music server to my system. The two at the top of my list are the Cambridge Audio Azur 640H and the Olive Musica.
Does anyone have any experiance with any of these units? Or have anymore knowledge on the differences in these units, DAC's quality of CD players/burners and interface with music on computer hard drives? Also any info on ease of use and remotes
I no direct experience with either. These devices have their place, I guess, but I chose not to get one. These devices are basically computers but with a very limited user interface and limited connectivity to the Internet. A solution based on a standard computer, if not simpler, is cheaper and potentially a lot more powerful and flexible.
Originally Posted by thegreenline
I run iTunes on my laptop; the 'top is connected via a USB hub to an external hard drive where the music files are stored, and to USB DAC which feeds my preamp.
If your computer is in another part of the house, you can connect wirelessly with a device like the Squeezebox; it has a DAC plus it provide an interface as good as the music servers' for a lot less money.
Don't waste your money on these overpriced units.
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However, if you don't store your music on a computer, then you have to go the component route. I haven't used the Olive Musica, but I did get a chance to play with the CA 640H.
The interface requires connection to a TV, though, so make sure that you plan on using it that way; the on-screen menus are essentially the only real option for navigating the music selection. One possible issue is that it only has an s-video connection (no component/DVI/HDMI, so if your receiver does not upconvert and you're using an HD connection to your flat-screen, you may be unable to see the menus. Alternately you can connect any old PC monitor to the VGA-out, which conveniently outputs simultaniously with the s-vid output.
It has internet connectivity so it will download CDDB info and album art, which is pretty cool, and it is also supposed to be able to dial into internet radio stations although we didn't get that working very well. We tried to connect it to the XM satellite stream over the Internet and didn't get it connected. Maybe there was some copy-protection issue there? Anyhow, this may not be an issue.
There is a 160Gb hard drive inside which should be OK, although you could probably upgrade that to one of the new 500+Gb drives (there are companies out there that do that, if you don't like the thought of doing it yourself). I did feel that the stock hard drive was a bit loud and the unit takes a while to boot up. It didn't run too hot, though, so I suppose you could keep it on 24/7, although there MTBF issues with this hard drive you might want to consider. Another option to expand the hard drive space is to use of the on-board wireless connection and more 640H's, as they can access each other's files over the network.
It supports most media formats, although I've read that there were issues with copy-protected files like iTunes and Sony's DRM, but this has probably been addressed with a firmware update by now. It does not recognize OGG files, which is a blow to the open source community, but generally that's not an issue for most people.
The CD portion / DAC is actually exactly the same as the 640C and has the same Wolfson WM8740 DAC. The sound is a bit on the bright side to my ears, but that also gives it a very crisp and airy feel which a lot of people like. Some say it sounds similar to Adcom and Rotel players, but I think they each have their character, although they do have the same general sound. It is definitely brighter than NAD, Music Hall, or Audio Refinement (three players I have owned), and this is sort of surprising considering that the brits tend to not like the brighter sounding stuff - maybe they are catering to the American market or letting the Chinese manufacturing show through. On the bright side (no pun intended) it also has great seperation and soundstaging which is something that's important to me. I still think it benefits from a good external DAC, but the player is very good on its own. It also has two digital outs that work simultaniously, which is nice for output to a second component, which is kind of cool but probably of little use to most people.
I have an older CA CD player that has been my workhorse for several years now. The build-quality (while still having too much plastic IMO), is very solid and I have not heard anything better under $1K. My experience with the 640H was at a friend's house, but since he bought it, he has not had any problem with the unit either. I would say that CA has a pretty solid reputation for quality and reliabilty. The 640H can be found online for about $1200, so make sure you shop around.
Let us know what you decide on. I'm curious to know what the Olive player is like.
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