|Onkyo NC-500 Net-Tunes Audio Network Receiver|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Monday, 01 March 2004|
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You must not confuse the NC-500 with much more expensive music servers, such as those from Escient or Request that feature built-in hard drive storage for your music collection. This means that, in order to access your music, your collection has to be stored on your computer. It also means that your computer has to be turned on and has to be on the network for you to access your audio files. This was a little inconvenient for me, since my computer and home theater are on opposite sides of the house with 25 stairs in between. I also don’t like to leave the computer running all the time to conserve electricity, so when I feel like listening to my MP3s downstairs, it requires a trip upstairs to boot up the computer.
The biggest weakness is the fact that Onkyo does not yet make or support a wireless connection for the NC-500. This means that you will have to plan ahead and make sure that a hardwired connection from your computer networks router or hub is available wherever you want to NC-500 to exist. For my situation, this meant running a very long Ethernet cable under the carpet from my computer upstairs to the living room downstairs. An aftermarket wireless ethernet adapter may work but for the time being there is not an OEM unit from Onkyo that is fully supported.
You may ask, why do I need this product? Can’t I just install a program like iTunes or Win-Amp on my computer, run an audio output from it to an input on my receiver and listen to the songs on my computer that way? Technically, yes, you can, but the NC-500 allows you very powerful navigation options and access to files on your computer from a remote location that are simply not possible without it. You could play your songs from the computer without it, but to pause, play, rewind, change playlists, etc, you’d have to go back to your computer and make these changes there. You can even use up to twelve NC-500 units or Net-Tune equipped receivers to the different systems in your home to access your music collection throughout your entire home.
Audio purists may scoff at the thought of playing MP3 files or Internet radio through their high-end audio systems and, yes, the inferior quality of these formats will be detectable on your reference system. However, this isn’t where the NC-500 excels anyway. I found it to be most beneficial. Since it is not a surround sound processor and is small in size, the NC-500 has found a happy home on a shelf in my bedroom; it makes the most sense as a bedroom audio system. I can listen to the songs on my computer or pop in a CD or find a good station on Internet radio and let it play in the background. With the sleep timer and the ability to use it as an alarm clock, complete with the ever-popular snooze feature, the NC-500 makes a compelling centerpiece for a stereo audio system in your bedroom or office. Just remember that whatever song you cue to play as your “wake up” alarm song will probably be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.