|Qsonix Q100 Digital Music System|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Monday, 01 May 2006|
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Functionality and Use
Philosophically, Qsonix set out to design a product that would be easy to operate by even the least sophisticated user, while providing an unparalleled feature set and level of music management. The design team consisted of individuals who collectively had extensive experience in both the audio and computer industries, amalgamating their expertise into the Q100.
The centerpiece of the Qsonix system is the intuitive, visually attractive and highly informative GUI used to navigate and access your music library. Functionally, I have yet to experience anything even remotely close to the simple drag-and-drop interface used by the Q100, which allows you to manipulate your music by the touch of a fingertip. Because of this simplicity, you spend far more time enjoying your listening experience and less time manipulating and navigating the data.
It's amazing how, through the years, album artwork has become less important then it was during the days of vinyl. I remember listening to music for hours while gazing at the incredible detail that was available on a full-sized album cover. This experience often intensified my appreciation and emotional connection to the music and performer. Navigating this artwork on the Qsonix’s touch-screen brought back many of those sensations that were lost when I started storing my CDs in carrying cases, becoming completely detached from the artwork that had previously adorned the disc. Merely browsing through the Qsonix’s menus was a pleasure in itself.
Qsonix offers a plethora of unique operational and navigational options, such as the ability to aggregate your CD collection into one focal device and manage the data in a multitude of ways. Creating your music library is easily accomplished by loading a selected disc, automatically accessing an Internet CD database, and having it compile a detailed album database. This database includes cover art, artist, track and other useful information. Actual loading process for a 70-minute CD typically takes three to four minutes, though the recognition of all CDs is not flawless. Compilation CDs occasionally were recognized as incorrect albums, requiring manual cataloging. If you have a custom compilation CD that cannot be found on any database, the Q100 has a built in onscreen data entry wizard that will allow you to enter information about your CD quickly by using just the touch-screen.
The Qsonix server also supports a range of recording qualities, which include a Microsoft based lossless compression scheme (without compromising original sound quality) and two high bit-rate modes, 320 kilobits/second (kbs) for high-quality compressed music and 192 kbs for what Qsonix designates as a normal-quality compression scheme. By utilizing all three modes, you can customize your music collection to optimize your storage space, deploying the lossless mode for your more critical listening sources, while compressing your general listening music to save space on your storage drive.
Once the library is compiled, the Q100 offers an almost infinite ability to navigate your music collection. Browsing is quick and easy using the onscreen menus, which allow you to filter your music based on various criteria such as artist, album, genre, music style, year of release or CD cover. As a plus, if you forget some of this information, you can search via an onscreen keyboard.
Playback is achieved by creating playlists that can be configured in a variety of ways. You can drag-and-drop whole albums, individual tracks, complete artist and genre libraries, and even your previously configured playlists. It is also easy to make on-the-fly modifications to your current playlist, even while a track is playing.
Along with the custom ability to manipulate your music, you also have the option of integrating the Q100 to provide music for two different zones. More complex features include fast preview auditioning of different tracks, which allows the first few seconds of any song to be played without stopping the playback of your current playlist. Another feature that I really enjoyed was the SoftFade function, which allows you to smoothly transition from one song to the next by providing a user-defined cross-fade between tracks. This utility provides a time overlap for the volume of one song to fade out and another to fade in, creating a DJ style of track transition and playback.
Set up of the Q100 was extremely easy, especially with the help of Mike Weaver, president and co-founder of Qsonix. Qsonix’s main headquarters is roughly an hour away from my home and Weaver offered to assist in the set-up. Less than a half-hour after he had arrived, the unit was unboxed, assembled, playing music and acquiring pertinent data from the Internet. Since setting up the Qsonix system requires only basic technical knowledge, there was nothing in the assembly process that should cause any consumer to experience a significantly longer time frame for duplicating the same set-up and integrating it with their existing audio system. The Qsonix can be used as a stand-alone source or be integrated into an automated system with relative ease. If you are still technically challenged, you can acquire the services of an authorized Qsonix dealer to assist you in the installation and guide you through the operational features.
Once physically connected, the Qsonix onscreen set-up wizard will navigate you to configure the server for items such as your Internet connection and various setting preferences. The extremely easy to negotiate GUI allows access to these functions and to a considerable amount of additional features with simple taps and touches.
Qsonix’s Q100 connects to your audio system with standard analog and digital audio connections. Throughout the review, the digital coaxial output was the primary source feeding my preamp/processor, though a sufficient amount of time was allocated to assess the analog outputs as well. An insignificant difference may have existed, though during most of our listening experience, a preference for either connection was not established.