|Lansonic DAS-750 Digital Audio Server|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Kim Wilson|
|Friday, 01 December 2000|
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Lansonic™, a division of Digital Voice Systems, Inc. (DVSI), a leader in the field of voice compression, has introduced the first unit in what may be a brand-new product category. The DAS-750 Digital Audio Server is a high-performance audio product that stores and plays music files, decoding all the standard MP1/MP2/MP3 compression rates, ranging from 32 kbps to 448 kbps (kilo bits per second), as well as uncompressed WAV files. Depending on the configuration, the unit ranges in price from $695 to $ 2,595.
Unlike a PC that emits high levels of hum, noise and heat, the DAS-750 is far better suited for storing and playing a wide range of music files, since it employs 20-bit crystal A-to-D and D-to-A converters. Analog output is measured at 96 dB SNR from 0-22 kHz, which is considerably better than the typical computer soundcard. The DAS unit also contains a programmable 40-bit Digital Signal Processor to perform all the audio processing functions and a built-in spectral equalizer that makes fine adjustments to the frequency response.
Designed to fit into a home audio system, the DAS-750 includes an extensive array of standard analog and digital audio inputs and outputs, such as three stereo analog (RCA) and four digital (two optical and two coax) connections. The analog (one stereo pair) and digital (one optical and one coax) outputs are used for hooking up a variety of recording devices like portable MP3 players, CD-RW and MD recorders.
Another reason to integrate the DAS-750 into a home audio system, rather than a PC, is that the DAS does not require a fan. The patent pending SuperQuiet™ drive technology used on all DAS internal drives results in the reduction of noise commonly generated by hard drives. The DAS-750 was as quiet and unobtrusive as any other audio component in my system.
The DAS can be purchased with a variety of storage options, with the basic configuration containing a 20 GB hard disk ($995) that can store about 350 hours of music at 128 kbps. There are two drive bays that can be outfitted with 20, 60 or 120GB drives. When two 60GB drives are installed, the DAS is capable of delivering 2000 hours of music ($1,995 for this configuration). Hard drive upgrades require returning the unit to the factory.
A diskless version (for $695) can be used for additional terminals on the network. When one of these diskless terminals is placed in a different room, it can call up playlists from the server. Playlists can be created on the terminals, using files from the main server. Even with the addition of terminals in other rooms, only one server is required for a whole-house audio system.
For the ultimate setup, there is the DAS-750 Pro, which includes an RS-232 port for integration with automated systems such as Phast and Crestron. It retails for approximately $500 more at all configurations.
Currently, the DAS is limited to stereo output, either analog or digital. The manufacturers are considering new-generation models with multi-channel capability, in the event that multi-channel music becomes a mainstream reality.
For integration with a PC through a wired or wireless LAN (local area network), the DAS includes a built in 10-Base-T (i.e. 10 Mbps) Ethernet connection. It can also be linked directly to a PC with a crossover cable. It is advisable to use the higher bit rate network, but when that is just not possible, a dual-rate hub must be used so that the DAS unit will interconnect with a 100-Base-T (i.e.100 Mbps) network. Once configured on the network, the DAS hard drive will store any kind of file, including text and/or images. Therefore, besides being a digital audio server, the DAS can be a backup hard drive to your main workstation.
The DAS communicates with a Windows 95/98/2000 or NT operating systems. Using a basic web browser, the DAS can be configured and controlled right from the computer. Current capabilities include network configuration, CD player-type control (stop, start, pause, next, previous), display of the current artist/album/song, and selection between your favorite playlists.
Since I am a Macintosh user, I employed the software Virtual PC from Connectix, which provided me with the proper OS. I already had a network wired between my upstairs office to my downstairs home theater, where the DAS-750 was hooked up. I use two screens on my workstation and used one monitor to access Mac files while the other monitor was displaying the Windows interface. Transferring music files to the DAS was a simple drag and drop procedure. I selected files from the Mac hard drive and dropped them right into the DAS folder inside Windows Explorer.
Once all the files were downloaded, the DAS became a jukebox, capable of playing all the archived music in playlists that I created. Music stored on the DAS can also be played on any networked computer using an MP3 player program (like WINAMP, Musicmatch, Windows Media Player, etc.). The DAS will also connect to an external CD player or changer to share music files over an Ethernet network. A major advantage of the networked approach is that any device on the network can see and access the DAS unit.
Software upgrades (from lansonic.com) are made over the Internet (assuming you have a router for Internet access on your network). Just select the upgrade option from the front panel using the QuikSpin™ dial. Software upgrades also ensure that future audio formats will be accepted by the DAS-750.