|NuForce MSR-1 Music Server Review|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Wednesday, 09 September 2009|
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The raging debate du jour these days for both the music industry and audiophiles is the future of physical media. The compact disc is 25 plus years old, but is still the primary format for physical music purchases. There is also a tiny sliver of music buyers who opt for SACD, DVD-A, or Vinyl LP. The formidable and rapidly growing population of music buyers, who purchase music downloads, prefers to be free spirits in their relationships to any physical medium. The trade off is these consumers are willing to accept much lower sound quality. It should be noted that there a handful of websites that also sell high resolution, lossless music files as well, but at a premium, and usually by lesser known artists.
The NuForce MSR-1 is slim and rectangular, with a front slot for loading compact discs. It is essentially a standalone personal computer, running Windows XP Home Edition with custom software, and utilizes a 500GB internal hard drive. There are connections on the back panel for a keyboard, a mouse, an LCD monitor, a touch screen monitor, and a jack for a LAN cable. There are several USB ports, plus VGA, and Serial connections. There is a fully functional remote with a tracking ball and every conceivable command available to the unit, with several buttons approximating a PC mouse. The MSR-1 can also connect via WiFi.
Regarding audio connections, there is a coaxial / digital output, and two sets of analog RCA outputs. There are two sets as the MSR-1 can out put to two different “zones”. There is no Optical output, as NuForce believes this is an inferior digital connection. I would have like to have seen one as an option. If you have more music than the 500GB hard drive can accommodate, this was an option included. You can connect multiple external USB hard drives and import the files into the library.
The MSR-1 must be connected to a monitor. In my case, I ran a VGA cable to my HDTV. What is really quite impressive is that the server can be set up with a touch screen monitor, and there four brands NuForce recommends on their website. Once can place commands, browse the collection, and perform any function from the touch screen. Optional software is available to allow for an Apple iPod Touch to be used as a display and remote control. As I noted, the flexibility of this machine is second to none.
To complete the setup, I ran interconnects from the RCA jacks to my preamp, plugged in my LAN cable, the remote control communication module, plugged in the power cord, and I was ready to go. I loaded about 10 CD’s to get started. You simply insert the disc in the front slot, the sever downloads the artwork and track information from an online database, and begins to rip the disc in FLAC format (Free Lossless Audio Codec) which compresses the file about roughly 25%, with absolutely no loss of audio quality. Once the cd is ripped, it is added to the library. It would take pages to detail the library, playlist, genre, and other filing options available. Suffice it to say the most obsessive music fan would have no complaints. I do have one issue with the process. While a CD is being ripped into FLAC, there is no status indicator to tell you where you are in the process. I found that to be a bit inconvenient. Don’t get me wrong, the process was seamless, but I would have like to have had some feedback during the ripping process.