Meridian Sooloos Control 10 Media Server Page 2

Within seconds after it accepts the disc, Sooloos goes online to the All Media/Music Guide (AMG) Website and downloads the cover art, song titles, songwriting, musician, and production credits, and even an album review if available.

There’s also a feature for ripping multiple-disc sets. If the downloaded information is incorrect, you can edit and fix it later from the touchscreen or your computer. For instance, if you load a gold CD from Mobile Fidelity or DCC Compact Classics, AMG loads the standard CD’s information. You can change the label information and catalog number and even find the gold CD cover art online and paste it in place of the original cover. Sometimes AMG has the wrong cover art or no cover art. You can scan a cover and add it if you can’t find the cover art online at another site.

If you don’t want to spend time ripping, you can buy a $4,000 device that automatically loads 125 CDs per session, at around 50 per hour. Many Sooloos dealers have this machine and will either rent it or charge for the ripping as an add-on service. It’s not all that difficult or time consuming to do it yourself, though. I do it while I listen to vinyl. After a while, it becomes a healthy compulsion, like feeling good about saving money in a bank account.

You can use the Control PC/Mac software to go online to sites like HDtracks.com and buy and download 96-kilohertz/24-bit files. (While the software is Mac compatible, the downloading function requires an Intel-based Mac.) Do that with something you own on CD and compare the sound quality. Then tell me about CD’s perfect sound.

When you rip a CD or download a file, Sooloos automatically creates a backup copy. It also generates an MP3 version for easy export to iTunes (or other software) so you can load your music onto an iPod (etc.). Sooloos routinely checks the hard drives’ health and alerts you if it spots a problem. When you replace a bad drive, the system automatically backs up the information again. So unless your system is stolen or you have a fire, your music should be safe. With storage so inexpensive, it’s probably a good idea to save a backup copy in another location too. That’s also easy. Connect a 1-TB USB drive to your computer, use Control PC/Mac’s automatic backup function, and save a copy for storage elsewhere.

Searchin’
I could fill the review space with system features and setup options that can customize the experience to your tastes and usage preferences, so this will have to be a somewhat incomplete description of how you use the system.

Once you’ve loaded a few hundred CDs, how do you find them? When you touch the screen, it lights up to show 18 glowing eye-candy CD covers sorted alphabetically by artist name. (You can choose to sort by import or release date too.) Below the cover images are the letters of the alphabet and forward and back arrows. Pick a letter to quickly get to an artist (by first name), or use the arrows to scroll through the CDs and peruse 18 at a time. You can change the letters to a bar and scroll, using a finger to slide the bar across the screen.

When you find a disc you want to hear, tap it and it opens to show you an enlarged version of the cover art. Below this are the release date, label, AMG rating at the time it was added, and the import’s audio resolution. Next to that are the track and timing listings, as well as info on how many times you’ve played them and when. Next to that is a list of all of that artist’s CDs you’ve ripped or downloaded. Tap the grid next to Tracks to access other information, including credits and a review, if one is available from AMG.

To hear a song, tap Play All Tracks or tap an individual track and then select Play Now or Play Next. You can also choose Add to Queue, which is an unlimited list of albums or tracks that will play in the order in which you chose them. In other words, you can access and play any album stored in the system within seconds. The accessibility is instant musical gratification at its finest.

But that’s just the most basic access to the system. You can tap the Explore button and browse by decades, among other categories. Or you can tap the Focus button and limit the selection you see by composer (good for classical collections), by record label, or even by certain musicians who played on a given CD. So, if you’re a jazz guy and like the sax player on a CD, you can find other titles in your collection he played on. You can also sort by Most Played (25, 50, 100, etc.), When Played, When Added, or by genre. So you can access just big band albums, or folk albums, or whatever.

You can also “swim” in the whole library (Sooloos’ version of Apple’s Shuffle mode). Or you can swim within chosen Focus categories. Or you can hit the Search button, which brings up a virtual keyboard where you can search by artist, album, song, or any of the three. Have you ever had your iPod in Shuffle mode and heard a song that reminded you of another, or made you want to listen to more songs from the same band, or the album that song is from? If you’re in a swim, and a song reminds you of another song or album, you can find that tune and either Play Now, Play Next, or Add to Queue. And the swim continues after it plays. There’s more here to cover but not enough space.

The Sooloos doesn’t come with a remote control, but if you have an iPhone or iPod touch, it can join the network and become one. Just type in the Control 10’s IP address, and you can browse and select by artist or other criteria. You’ll see the cover art and a set of controls that will let you pause, stop, or change tracks.

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