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DIY Media Server and DVR Review

DIY Media Server and DVR ReviewChris Eberle's most recent Technical Media Server review, he explained many of the options available today for media servers, streamers, and NAS systems, including the option to build your own “home-brew” media server. In the current article I’m going to go into the details of one such system – mine! In addition to being a full-blown media server, this system is also my HD-DVR, and it is pretty easy to set up and operate. Moreover, this system allows me to record most high definition shows from my cable subscription totally DRM-free. I’ve done all this without a single piece of hardware from my cable provider. Want to learn how I did it? Read on!


Kaleidescape Cinema One Media Server

kaleidescape-cinema-one-graphic-smI am probably in the minority now. I am still a dinosaur that watches almost all of their movies off of physical discs instead of streaming, downloads, or Pay-Per-View. I do watch plenty of streaming content, as it is convenient, but I can't bring myself to pay for an inferior quality product that I download compared to buying a disc at the store. Now after spending a month with the Kaleidescape Cinema One Media Server, I can see a future, one that is very close, where I won't buy a disc again. I see a reality where convenience and quality are not mutually exclusive. What does the Kaleidescape do that has managed to change my mind about this? A lot.


Olive 03HD Music Server

Olive O3HD Music Server for the Audiophile

Of all the gear that I reviewed last year, my favorite component by far was the Squeezebox Touch. Having instant access to all of my music, and high resolution downloads, was just a fantastic thing that led me to listen to far more, and varied, music that before. However, the one thing I always said about the Touch is that while I loved it, I wasn't going to buy one for my Dad since I'd have to install a PC server component, or hook up an external hard drive that I'd have to keep ripping his music to for him. For him, a simple, all-in-one solution would be what I would want.


NAD VISO 1 AP AirPlay Music System

NAD VISO 1 AP AirPlay Music SystemNAD introduced its own iPod dock, the VISO, last year at CEDIA. As one would expect from this high-end company, little expense was spared in its design as it sought to bridge the iPod, and other digital music players, with quality amplification and speakers while keeping it all in a compact package. With the proliferation of AirPlay streaming, it made sense that the second generation product should include this super-convenient feature. Hence, we have the VISO 1 AP, the subject of today's review. Where last year's VISO required you to chain your iPod to the unit, the AP lets you keep your iPod in your pocket so you can control your music from anywhere within reach of your WiFi network.


ISTAR Mini Network Media Tank

ISTAR Media Tank

Every now and then you run into a product you are so impressed with you just have to share.  The ISTAR Mini Network Media Tank is one of those products.  By all accounts the product is another media extender set top box that you plug into your TV that plays video, music and photos from an attached hard drive or home network.  There are lots of these products on the market.


WideaLab Aurender S10 Music Server

WideaLab Aurender S10 Music Storage and Playback SystemLike most people I have some pet peeves. When I shop for televisions, I am always hoping to find one without speakers. I have a dedicated theater with speakers and electronics that are leaps and bounds ahead of what I could possibly get in a TV. I don't need speakers; I'll never turn them on. I don't want them! Simply having them adds cost, complexity, and size to my TV. I don't want to pay for what I won't use!


DViCO TViX HD M6500A Media Streamer


I found both video and audio quality of the TViX M6500A to be exceptional, and over the last few months, some of the firmware updates have already made this unit significantly more stable and better than its previous versions. Given that DViCO has been quite adamant in providing support for existing products and continually improving them, I have no doubt they will succeed in turning this unit into an ever more powerful item over the upcoming months.


Bryston BDP-1 Music Server and BDA-1 DAC

Bryston BDP-1 Music Server and BDA-1 DAC

Media servers usually contain a hard drive on which you store your music (ripped CDs). Bryston's new BDP-1 Music Server utililzes USB thumb drives or external USB hard drive. This way, you can carry your music around with you on a thumb drive and use with multiple devices to play the music. This music server is actually a computer with full operating system, and can be connected wirelessly to your iPod or iPad to choose and play albums. In fact, it really is designed to be used that way, so that the server itself can be a low profile component in your equipment rack. In this review, we test the BDP-1 along with Bryston's BDA-1 DAC, which is capable of handling 24/192 bitstreams.


HD Digitech HDX900 HDTV Media Streamer


The HDX900 is an HDTV streamer based on the Network Media Tank (NMT) middleware platform by Syabas. If you don't know what a streamer is yet, think of the AppleTV but without any of the Apple restrictions. Consider a player that will play all of your movies, in file format, including Blu-ray, DVDs, or any popular format you might have on your computer hard drive, as well as pictures and audio, but doesn't require you to pay a monthly iTunes bill.


Olive O4HD Music Server

Olive O4HD Music Server for the Audiophile

Olive Media, Inc. has been in the business of digital music since it was started by Dr. Oliver Bergmann and Robert Altmann back in 2005. I have admired the Olive products for many years and had the opportunity to visit with Robert Altmann at CES 2011 this past January. I really appreciated his introduction to their products and I was especially impressed with his love of music. We recently reviewed the Olive 03HD, and here, we cover the 04HD.


Qsonix Q110 Media Server


The Qsonix Q110 is a media server meant to be put in by a custom installer, but you can do it yourself because it is very easy to work with. It has a 250 GB hard drive that will hold hundreds of CDs in lossless compression format and serves four zones simultaneously. The user interface is a dream and employs a touchscreen that has drag and drop functionality, using your finger to bring music into the que for playback.