This article originally appeared in the October issue of our sister publication Sound & Vision
If you haven’t taken the dive into computer audio, you may be asking yourself a very simple question—Why should I? The very simple answer is accessibility and sound quality. Computer-based audio allows you to store all of your music in one central location on a computer network, making it accessible from virtually any network-attached device. And when your network is connected to the Internet, you have access to the largest source of free (and legal) and paid music on the planet. Unlike disc-based music, computer-based audio is not restricted to any particular format. You can have CD quality, DVD-Audio quality, SACD quality, and even music in greater resolutions than disc-based formats allow. With computer-based audio, you can have your cakes and eat them, too, in as many rooms as you’d like.
Jumping into Computer Audio can seem daunting. How and where should you take the plunge? Do you want a server or streamer? Or how about one box that does it all? And how do you get your file-based music to play through a hi-fi? What if they're in different rooms? In Part 1 of 3 we're going to talk about the pieces of hardware you'll need to play back file-based music whether its through a server, a streamer or an all-in-one device. Part 2 will cover the software side of the equation and Part 3 will touch on the most important piece—the music.
This was a long time coming and I've altered my initial plans somewhat and simplified the approach for the remaining parts of our NAS Series. Why? Because I'm going to recommend a few NAS devices and using them is so simple, you won't really need much help from me. I'm also working under the assumption that you've read the first three Parts of our NAS Series.
Each week another press release crosses my Inbox announcing another receiver, preamplifier or dedicated device with streaming capabilities, i.e. an Ethernet connection and DLNA/UPnP support. There are a few things you need to know (and have) if you want to play your ripped or downloaded music through a Streamer. Here's a down and dirty guide to the basics.
Sometimes a picture saves words and as you can see a NAS device connects to your Router with an Ethernet cable (hey that was much less than a 1,000). The next point of interest is since a NAS sits on your network and is attached to your Router via Ethernet, and Ethernet allows for cable runs of up to 100 meters, your NAS can live in another room leaving your listening room that much quieter. While some NAS devices are quieter than others, none are silent.
Anatomy of NAS (What makes a NAS not a HDD?)
When buying a NAS device, you'll want to pay attention to a number of specifications including CPU Speed and Installed Memory/Maximum Memory. These two features along with the fact that the majority of NAS devices come pre-installed with a version of the Linux operating system tell you why a NAS is more than a "drive". As a matter of fact, some NAS devices come without any hard disk drives at all (more on that below).
Welcome to Part 2. of our NAS Series. This Glossary is a work-in-process for a number of reasons the least of which being the ever evolving nature of this technology coupled with the idea that this list will grow as we dig further into NAS in Parts 3 and 4 (and it also gives me a handy out for those terms I've missed). I have also focused on the aspect of a term's definition that is most relevant to our focus on using Network Attached Storage as a media server in a typical home Local Area Network.
An Introduction to NAS
This is the first part of an ongoing series that will cover the ins and outs of Network Attached Storage (NAS) with a focus on how to use a NAS device as a music server. I've created a rough outline for the series and it goes something like this:
In the coming weeks and months (and years), we'll be looking at various aspects of the How To's of computer audio. Today, if you look at any computer setup and optimization guide whose focus is music playback, the word you're likely to see as much if not more than any other is "disable". My point brings us back to something Charles Hanson of Ayre Acoustics said in our The Future of Computer Audio article, "The biggest problem with computer audio is the computer."