|ReQuest F Series Music Server|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Saturday, 01 July 2006|
Page 1 of 3
In today’s market of automated homes and wired (and wireless) networking, the idea of having to drag your CD collection to every room of your home is getting as outdated as a turntable. Music servers are nothing new; chances are you already own one. With the advent of the iPod, music servers have touched almost every facet of our daily lives. The ReQuest music server is by no means an iPod, but the underlining principles that drive both products are relatively the same: to organize, store and play back music with relative ease. That is where the analogy ends, as the ReQuest line of music servers are heavy-duty tools designed to faithfully recreate music and reliably broadcast the tunes throughout your home and even beyond. The ReQuest F4.500 music server is priced at $5,000.
The ReQuest looks, more or less, like a single-disc CD player measuring in at 17 inches wide by 16 inches deep and three-and-a-half inches tall, weighing a manageable 22 pounds. The ReQuest comes in black aluminum with a brushed metal faceplate. Speaking of the ReQuest’s faceplate, the first thing I noticed was how barren it was. Minus the single disc tray and small LCD display, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, on the ReQuest’s front panel by way of controls or options. This baby was meant to be controlled via remote and there’s no getting around it, but more on that later. The ReQuest’s faceplate is easily removable through the use of two thumbscrews on the unit’s outermost edges. Behind the faceplate is the unit’s QuickSwap hard drive bay, USB keyboard port and master power switch. The QuickSwap hard drive is a nice feature, as it will allow you to change and/or share hard drives from other ReQuest units in the event that you fill one with music or a friend wants to share his or her library with you. It’s important to note that the ReQuest music servers only work with ReQuest’s own proprietary hard drives and not with those commonly found in most computers or electronic stores. Turning my attention to the rear of the unit, I was greeted with more familiar sights in terms of connection options. Moving from left to right, the first thing I noticed was the ReQuest’s rather large fan, which keeps the unit’s hard drive and circuitry cool. While the ReQuest may look like a CD player, it is essentially a computer and it sounds like one (at least mechanically), too. Next to the fan are the master power switch and AC power outlet. Continuing on, I came across the ReQuest’s RS-232 serial port, which allows the music server to be used with a variety of home automation products and controls from the likes of Crestron, AMX and more. Without jumping too far ahead, I should point out that most users will want to take advantage of the ReQuest’s third-party control support; it seems the F Series Music server is designed with this in mind. Next to the serial port are the ReQuest’s RCA line outs. There are four line outs to choose from, which allows for multi-room music capabilities from a single ReQuest unit, provided your house is wired accordingly and you have the appropriate hardware in each of the rooms you wish to utilize with this feature. The entry level F Series servers are equipped to handle two zones out of the box, while the higher-end models can distribute music to four separate zones. Next to the line outs are the ReQuest’s line inputs, as well as its digital outs, which include both coaxial and optical. Below the audio connections rests the unit’s video outputs, which can be used in conjunction with your television or small display device to give you visual access to the ReQuest’s menu system in the event that you don’t have a Crestron or AMX control system. The ReQuest supports most video connections, ranging from component down to composite video. There is also a VGA port, which can be used to connect the ReQuest to a VGA-compliant or computer monitor. Throw in a couple of rear-mounted USB ports and an Ethernet jack, which allow for remote access and maintenance, and you’ve got the ReQuest in all of its physical glory.
Looking inward, the ReQuest music server can be configured with a variety of hard drives, which will start you off with as little or as much space as you could possibly want. The standard F Series unit ships with a 160 GB hard drive. However, you can upgrade, at any time, to a 300GB or 500GB hard drive. With 160 GB at your disposal, you can expect to store up to 250 CDs in pure WAV format, 500 CDs in the open source FLAC encoding, 1,000 CDs in MP3 at 320kbps, 2,000 CDs in MP3 at 192kbps, and 3,000 CDs in MP3 at 128kbps, respectively. Which encoding format to choose is a matter of preference and you’ll want to experiment a little bit to find which one works for you and your music collection.
Another nifty advantage that ReQuest has over the competition is its ability to give you access to your library from beyond the home. That’s right: if your ReQuest is connected to a network, you can log onto it and stream music, update or manage your library, or rip songs to an iPod or other portable player from the comfort of your hotel room in, oh, let’s say Bangkok. To make it even easier, the ReQuest works with both PC and Mac seamlessly, as well as with programs like iTunes and Musicmatch. If you have a second home or condo that you like to visit from time to time, you’ll never have to be without music. Adding an additional ReQuest server to your second home will essentially make it an extension of your primary home system without having to transfer hard drives and/or port files to and fro, thanks to ReQuest’s own NetSync technology. Think of it less like multi-room and more or less like multi-location. Or multi-state, or better yet, multi-country. That, my friends, is pretty damn cool.
Which brings me to the remote. Upon first glance, I wanted to tear this thing apart (as I am likely to do with most remotes), but upon using it, I changed my tune. Sure, it’s not as sexy as I think it should be, given the ReQuest’s price point and potential customer base, but it is supremely functional and rather easy to use. It’s a bit bulky, but bear in mind that the remote is basically a computer keyboard, a CD player controller and an onscreen menu all rolled into one. With that in mind, it’s rather astonishing that the remote is as compact as it is. It doesn’t feature any backlighting or cool LCD screens that many of us have grown accustomed to, but it does what any good remote should: it controls the system easily and efficiently. Still, I can’t help but want the remote to match the look and feel of the ReQuest unit itself. However, most users will be ditching this remote in favor of their Crestron, AMX or Control 4 touch panel.