Since the MS300 is really a customized storage solution at its heart, I was
hoping there would be some provision for expansion. Although the internal
hard drive can accommodate a sizeable collection that would suit most
buyers, I felt there should have been USB ports to connect external
drives should a user possess a larger collection and not wish to go the
external changer control route. With hard drive prices falling rapidly it
would have provided a cost effective solution to increase capacity. When I
inquired about this, McIntosh informed me they did not want to foray into the
world or external device support. Since third party products can open a can of
tech support worms, I could see their reticence had some justification.
Chris, their designer did note the hard drive markets volatility, so don't
rule out the possibility of future models sporting larger drives.
The other area I found the MS300 lacking in connectivity was the absence of
a digital video output with multiple output resolutions. These days, nearly
every Home Theater PC (HTPC) employs a video card with a DVI output and custom resolutions and
timings, so I was a bit bummed when I realized I would have to go the 480p
analog component route for my video connection. My Marantz projector is a
native 720p device, so the look of the upscaled interface was not as crisp as
it could have been with a 720p option. Since the MS300 is not really a video
device per se, and its output is solely for music browsing and not for
critical viewing, I begrudgingly accepted the omission.
with the MS300 is a wireless keyboard which came in handy for editing track
information and the creation of custom playlists. The keyboard communicates
with the MS300 via IR, so I did have to point it in the general direction of
the IR receiver when typing. Had I been a bit more enterprising I could have
programmed my MX-3000 with each key command and transmitted it via RF so as
to avoid directional issues, but it would have required multiple pages to fit
the entire alphabet on a 3.5" touch screen. For everyday operation, the
supplied backlit remote, an OEM from the same company who makes Anthem's
remotes, was adequate, though it does suffer from the same high-pitched
sound during backlit operation as the Anthem branded model.
On the front end of all this hardware is the MS300's aforementioned custom
OS. This interface serves as the visual middle man in accessing your
transcribed music, connected CD mega-changers, and internet radio stations. It
allows for browsing by genre, artist, title, song, or cover art. Features
such as custom playlists and groups are included to allow for an additional
level of personalization. I personally found the genre listing effective but
preferred the cover art method, as it was easier to recognize the work.
Not to be outdone, the MS300 possesses an impressive range of networking
features that were impressive in their scope and simplicity. Included is a
web-enabled interface that mimics the operation of the embedded OS.
Functioning in much the same as your typical website, the interface allowed
me to browse my collection from any computer connected to the network. The
interface even allows you to stream MP3 files stored in the MS300 directly
over the network to your computer. While this feature can eat up network
bandwidth, McIntosh's designer mentioned the MS300 can safely accommodate
The MS300 has a backup feature that allows you to duplicate your library by
copying files over a network connection to a computer or external hard
drive. Though it took some time, I was able to copy my entire FLAC collection
over my network during the course of a day without holding vigil over my
computer. The MS300 appears on a network just like another hard drive, so if
you have any experience with a computer network, you should be set. But, even if
you are not, the well written manual guides you through the process. Without geeking out too much, I must say it was a real trip to have over 350 of my
CDs backed up on a portable 3.5" external hard drive. Yeah, I know I need to
get out more.
With the collection archived, you can then take advantage of the MS300's
restore feature in the event of a system failure. It functions essentially
the same as the backup feature, just in reverse. All you need do is import
all of the files you backed up via the network import directory and you are
back up and running. All of these functions were exceedingly
straightforward. Best of all, this long suffering Apple user rejoiced at the
ability to conduct all of these tasks on my Power Mac! Of course the MS300's
network connectivity is fully PC supported as well.
Click Here to Go to Part III.