Olive Page 3

The Short Form
WWW.OLIVE.US / 877-296-5483 / $899 / 17.125 x 11.5 x 3.375 IN
•Excellent sound and incredibly quiet operation. •Superb music organization and access. •Legible LCD readout. •Elegant design.
•No video output/onscreen display. •Won't import noncontiguous tracks. 0512_olive_benfolds
Key Features
•Plays and rips CDs to 80-GB hard drive •Rips to FLAC, WAV, AIFF, and MP3 formats for 125- to 1,500-plus-disc capacity •Wireless or wired streaming of music to up to 5 zones; incorporates Wi-Fi access point; 4-port Ethernet switch for setup of multiple networked A/V components •Can burn audio CDs from hard drive •1-touch CD-copying/burning •Playlist/Searchlist ("smart"-playlist) creation, playback •Full-function supplied remote control includes volume-control/mute •Playlist data-editing software (Mac only)
Test Bench
CD playback was very good, with linearity essentially perfect and noise modulation as good as I've seen. Noise performance was about 3 dB inferior to the very best players, which is still very good. I checked my tests on a FLAC-imported version of our test CD and got essentially identical results - no surprise. Analog-domain record/play frequency response was nearly as good as CD play-only, as was distortion. Full lab results
And here's a biggie: Like most servers or CD changers, Symphony lets you edit info on your recordings by scrolling through lists of characters via its jog/shuttle wheels - an extremely tedious task. But you can also just type your Symphony's IP address (displayed on its Info page) into the Web browser of any computer on your home network, and you'll get typing access to most of its editable fields - Artists, Albums, Songs, Genres, Playlists. This will be a godsend to obsessive-collector types. For example, a disc whose ill-conceived table of contents yields an Artist listing of, say, "Barbara Hendricks," which unhappily sorts under the "Bs," can be instantly edited to "Hendricks, Barbara," to sort where it should. Very cool.

On the other hand, I uncovered a couple of prominent gaps in Symphony's operation. The biggest: no video output for an onscreen display. The upside is that you don't need to turn on a TV to use Symphony. The downside is that the 3.75 x 1.5-inch LCD is your only window to its extensive menus and displays, many of which are critical to everyday operation. You can set a default to get a large-font display of the current track title, times, the progress bar, and scrolling album title during playback, and this was easy to read from across the room (absent bright light falling across the LCD). But for extensive programming, you really need to be standing next to Symphony itself.

You also can't select noncontiguous tracks for importation. Sure, you can rip an entire CD and simply delete the songs you don't want, which only takes a couple of keypresses. But for CDs from which you want to grab only two or three songs - and don't we all own too many of those? - this is a big hassle. Olive says it's working to correct this in a future software update - Symphony's firmware is upgradable through its own Internet connection or via a Web-download burnt to CD from your PC or Mac.

BOTTOM LINE There's even more to Olive's Symphony, but I've run out of space. Suffice it to say, this is the most thoroughly implemented, intelligently designed music server I've encountered, and its value is unquestionable - if it had a video out and onscreen display, it'd be just about perfect. Any serious music listener/collector who wants to replace 200 to as many as 2,000 CDs with a single slim component must check it out.