ReQuest F2 Media Server System
ReQuest is one of the first companies to bring proprietary music and media servers to the home entertainment environment. The company offers various systems that simplify how you store and retrieve your music, movies, photos, and more. ReQuest’s F2 Media Server is primarily designed for integration into existing A/V systems, and its IMC Intelligent Media Client adds video functionality to the F2.
ReQuest’s F2 Media Server incorporates a 1-terabyte hard drive and a built-in CD/DVD drive into a 2U rack-mount chassis. The black chassis features a basic brushed-aluminum faceplate. The heavy-duty, industrial-looking construction indicates that its designers expect you to hide it away in a closet. A small LCD screen displays details about the boot-up procedure and other operational information, but it doesn’t have much use during normal operation.
The F2’s built-in optical drive makes it easy to rip CDs. Plus, with ReQuest’s Automatic Dual Encoding format, you can create two separate files. The default mode automatically stores an uncompressed WAV file and a 320-kilobit-per-second lossy compressed MP3 file. You can change this if you prefer to store different file formats. According to the company’s brochure, the 1-TB drive can store 100 movies, 20,000 songs, and thousands of photos. However, that will greatly depend on the size of the files you choose to store.
If you have a lot of music, videos, and photos already archived on networked computers or external hard drives, you can sync those files to the F2. ReQuest also has an app called NetSync that automatically syncs with your iTunes library whether it’s on a Mac or a PC. It will even access iTunes DRM-encoded tracks. When it archives a CD, the ReQuest system automatically acquires track names and cover art.
While the IMC has its own optical drive, the F2’s 18x SATA drive features faster ripping; it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to rip a DVD. Plus, you can access the system through the IMC (i.e., play music, watch archived movies, and view photos) while the F2 is ripping. Since the IMC doesn’t have a hard drive, the system stores all of your files on the F2.
The F2 provides two zones of audio. Zone one uses digital or analog connections, while zone two strictly connects via analog. When you use the digital audio output, your A/V receiver or surround processor controls the volume. If you need more zones for wholehouse audio, ReQuest’s F4 is essentially the same device with four zones (one zone for digital and analog output; three zones for analog output only).
In addition to music storage, you can also use the F2 to stream Internet radio. However, you’ll need to set up your subscriptions and stations through a computer’s Web browser, which can be on your home network or anywhere on the Web. (Your home network assigns the F2 an IP address, which you’ll need to know to connect to your ReQuest system from a PC outside your home network.) Once you’ve added stations, you can access them through the IMC’s menu. When you add stations, it’s important to test them to ensure their validity. The F2 appeared to be compatible with more types of streaming protocols than the IMC.
You can integrate the F2 with ReQuest’s TS.15 15-inch touchscreen display or iQ.TS35 wall-mounted touchscreen for control throughout the house. While an iPhone app is available for use with the F2, it only works with the analog-connected zones. I configured and controlled the F2 via the Safari Web browser (other browsers will also work) on a networked Mac laptop. I could go through my music collection by artist, genre, song, or album and create my playlists on the browser.