|Qsonix Q100 Digital Music System|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Monday, 01 May 2006|
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In the two decades since the Compact Disc (CD) was released, few can argue about the significant ways in which it has changed our habits in accessing and listening to music. Its durability, diminutive size and capability to be played universally in our homes, automobiles and portable players gave consumers the opportunity to take their tunes virtually anywhere. This had a phenomenal plus side over the previous dominant format, the vinyl LP, with its limited durability and restricted playback options. Unfortunately, the CD’s additional flexibility created the potential problem of having your music scattered throughout a multitude of listening environments and devices. Personally, I've struggled for years to keep all of my CDs organized and easily accessible. My collection has had a large amount of attrition due to lost and loaned discs, not to mention the mysteriously disappearing CDs that I keep buying repeatedly.
As mentioned in a previous review, I have used computers to archive my music in one location in order to have access without rummaging through every drawer, storage box, vehicle, etc. to find a desired disc. This has worked well to a certain degree, but requires a lot of attention and effort to create an effective playback option. Fortunately, in the last several years, many companies have taken on the effort of creating music servers that perform this task with far greater finesse and functionality.
Qsonix, a new AV company based in Agoura, California, has taken the typical music server application to a new level of global function, creating one of the most entertaining, effective, user-friendly music management devices available. Their current offering, the Q100 Digital Music System, incorporates a standard component-sized server with a 15-inch LCD touchscreen controller, capable of supplying two zones of music. It is this touchscreen controller and Graphical User Interface (GUI) that really separates the Q100 from any previous music server that I have experienced. Retail price for the basic Q100-160GB model reviewed here is $5,495, but it can be upgraded for more storage capacity and accessorized to fit various applications. This reviewed unit allowed approximately 500 CDs to be stored using a proprietary lossless compression scheme, and up to 3000 using the highest level of compression.
The Q100 is cleanly designed, with enough architectural features to make it interesting, yet capable of blending in with a broad array of other manufacturers’ components. The front panel is functionally simplistic, with a centered, lighted power button and a single-slot CD drawer positioned above an open/close button. On the rear panel, the Q100 provides a coaxial S/PDIF digital audio output (24 bit, 192 kHz) and two high-quality stereo analog (RCA) output jacks. There is also a VGA video output with a resolution of 1024 by 768 and an RS232 serial connection for integrating the touchscreen panel to the main chassis. Additionally, a second RS232 port is provided for remote control or combination with a home automation system. For future upgrades, Qsonix has also included two USB 2.0 ports. Finally, there is a 10/100Mb Ethernet connection for connecting the server to a high-speed Internet service.
Physically, the main server chassis occupies approximately two bays in a conventional system rack and is quite substantial in both its construction quality and weight (21 pounds) for a relatively compact component. Its overall dimensions are 17 inches wide by 14 inches deep by four inches high (including the feet).
The 12-pound touch-screen controller measures 17 inches wide by 16 inches high and six-and-a-half inches deep with its tabletop base. Rear panel connectors are complementary to the connectivity of the Q100 server chassis. The monitor is powered via a 12-volt external supply (similar in size to a laptop power supply). For custom installations, the touch-screen can be remotely located up to 600 feet away by utilizing an optional CAT5 extension kit.
Audio performance and specifications for the server are on par with other state-of-the-art digital components. Qsonix claims a typical signal-to-noise ratio of 107dB, and a frequency response of +/- 0.6dB from 22 Hz to 20 kHz.