Olive Media Inc. has gained quite a loyal, worldwide following for their user friendly, great sounding series of music servers they created from the point of view of non computer geeks and music lovers. In reviewing the wonderful Olive 04HD server, I confirmed for my self that the excellent touch screen interface, large storage capacity, networking capabilities, and upgradable architecture was not at the expense of authentic high end sound.
Currently, there is fierce competition in the digital music field, with various systems, philosophies, and design goals. Competing camps are trying to convince the buying public that their vision is the path forward. Makers of the currently ubiquitous USB DAC claim that their products used with an ordinary home computer and high end playback software is the way to go. Designers of one box solutions like music servers claim their products are headache free and simpler to operate, while still sounding excellent. Many believe streaming devices offer access to digital music stored in multiple locations, and are thus superior. We also have a new product category that I will call “file players”. These are stripped down computers, optimized for audio, and require control via web browser, or iPod/iPad for the best user experience. Lastly, makers of old fashioned disc spinners are saying optical disc playback is still viable.
Olive is banking on the fact that most people don’t want to hassle with a consumer grade computer, get involved in the complicated set ups and, frankly, don’t want computers in their listening rooms. They are also banking on the fact that a quality, stress free interface is key. I agree that interface is incredibly important. A clunky, inefficient interface is a deal killer for most.
Who wants to jump through hoops when sitting down to listen to music? Not me.
Olive sent me their flagship music server, the 06HD, for review, and it came at a very interesting time. I recently reviewed the Logitech Squeezebox Touch, and the Bryston BDP-1 -- two different products, but like the 06HD, they play digital music files. The 06HD sells for $4999. It is sold direct by Olive and through a growing dealer network. My sample arrived in an attractive black finish, but is also available in silver.
The 06HD is built on the same basic foundation as the 04HD (2TB of storage, a touch screen, a TEAC optical drive, and digital outputs -- S/PDIF on the 04HD and AES/EBU on the 06HD), but with some major differences. The 06HD has a much larger, 10.1 inch touch screen, a fully balanced differential DAC design with two PCM1792A DACs (24-bit/192 kHz), a high-performance headphone DAC and amplifier, a high quality linear power supply, linear regulators and high-performance AC line filters. Lastly, there are also Nuetrik XLR outputs, as well as phono jacks. The 06HD has no digital inputs.
Olive says only top shelf parts were selected for the 06HD. The case work itself is very impressive, and it houses a low noise 2TB hard drive, which Olive says is “cushioned in 8 layers of noise cancelling padding”. The 06HD handles everything up to 24 bit/192 Khz and supported formats are WAV, FLAC, MP3, and AAC. Circuit layout is clean and obviously well thought out.
The final piece of the puzzle is the USB connection which allows for music library back up. One must use a back up drive of at least 2TB, the same size as the 06HD’s drive. The process is extremely painless, initialized with the a few touches of the screen, and may take several hours depending on the size of the library.