Autonomic Controls MMS-2 Music Server Review 
Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers
Written by Andre Marc   
Thursday, 28 April 2011

Things are moving fast; very fast. The proliferation of hard disc based music playback systems that began a few years ago has continued at even a brisker pace then anyone could have been imagined. And with each new generation in this product category, new, and sometimes mind blowing features are added, as well as improved sound quality and improved interfaces. Now with designers across the board allowing for devices to be controlled via Apple iPads and iPhone/iPod Touch units, and some even providing for remote off site access, we are entering a new dimension.  

Specifically, we are entering “the cloud”, a place where we wandering humans can access our media files anywhere in the world with handheld devices, tablets, computers, or any WiFi enabled gadget.  It seems this was a logical progression from multi room systems, which have been around for a few years now.  This coupled with on-demand streaming media services like Pandora, TuneInRadio, and Rhapsody, just to name a few, and these indeed are interesting times.   

Which brings us to Autonomic Controls, who may not be familiar to many consumers, but they are an established presence in the world of networking, multimedia, and system integration. They make a variety of very specialized products that work in a variety of environments and platforms.  Under review here is the MMS-2 music server.The MMS-2 is solidly built, finished in attractive black case work, and is small enough that it is easy to integrate into any hifi or AV rack. The back panel includes USB slots, audio outputs, and a VGA video output. The MMS-2 handles just about every audio file format, including WAV, AIFF, FLAC, Mp3, WMA, etc. It supports 44.1, 48, and 96 Khz sampling rates.   

streaming services

Set Up and Listening:  

Setting up the MMS-2 was simple and a bit complicated. The simple part was the physical set up. I installed the unit as i would any component, and then I used the supplied adaptor which allowed me to out put digital via my Transparent Toslink cable into the optical input of the Arcam rDAC, which I reviewed here. I then plugged in an Ethernet cable, and powered on. Simple! Next came the trickier part. I visited the supplied browser address for set up but I could not connect to the server. No worries. I called tech support and was up and running in minutes. The very helpful Autonomic support team member manually assigned an IP address to the MMS-2, then walked me through the settings, which included downloading a media sync tool, activating sharing in iTunes via local network, and lastly, syncing content to the MMS-2.  I then logged on to sever via the assigned IP address and saw all the music that had been synced and a playback interface much like you would normally see in a multitude of available music library packages. Embedded artwork also appeared.

When I selected tracks to play via my Dell netbook, connected via WiFi, playback was virtually immediate. So was forwarding, skipping through albums, and pausing. It was as easy as using a CD player, with the obvious advantage of having access to your entire music library. Very cool.  I then downloaded the iPod Touch app. It worked like a charm, even from all the way across the house. Another really great feature was that the MMS-2 synced with the iTunes library automatically, so any changes to the library were also apparent on the server.   

 The MMS-2 has some even more interesting options. If you have a TuneInRadio, Pandora, or Sirius XM radio account, you are in luck. My wife logged into her Pandora account and was able to listen through the system by navigating with the iPod Touch. Pandora is a great tool for discovering music and creating custom playlists.  The MMS-2 had one more trick up its sleeve, and that, in conjunction with a MP3 Tunes account you can access the server from any where there is an internet connection. There are limitations for now.  For instance, mp3tunes currently only allows uploading of lossy formats. Autonomic is currently working with other vendors and the ability to access lossless and uncompressed formats is coming. Stay tuned.  

Ok, so we have all these cool features, elegant styling, and iPod Touch control, but how does the MMS-2 actually sound? In a word, excellent; surprisingly so.  I guess the expectation that a feature rich, cool product has to be sonically compromised comes into play. But I was very pleased with the presentation, which was absolutely high end in my book. I thought bettered my Logitech Squeezebox by a slight margin on FLAC playback. The Olive server I recently reviewed was a tougher call. Working from memory, the MMS-2 was just as engaging. I must point out, that the quality of your DAC or AV Receiver will make a difference. I also should note I did not try the analog outputs. I think to get the most of the MMS-2, the best bet is the digital optical output. However, the MMS-2 does out put two discrete streams of music, analog and digital.  

 


I used the MMS-2 with both FLAC and WAV files ripped from CDs and from my live music collection. The Band’s Music From Big Pink, the Mobile Fidelity hybrid SACD remaster, sounded  fantastic,  just about the best I have heard the Redbook layer. Espers, a neo-psychedelic folk group, were well served, no pun intended, on the presentation of their album Espers III. The music was rendered with tremendous spaciousness and true to the promise of superior fidelity from error corrected hard drive playback. This is the clearly the digital playback medium of the near future.  

Logistically, the MMS-2 worked flawlessly for the time I had it in my systems. I kept it on 24/7 and it got slightly warm to the touch on warmer days. The unit was generally noiseless, but after extended use I could hear some mechanical noise, but only with my ear a few inches from the chassis.  I was impressed by how responsive the server was, and that made perusing the library a painless and fun endeavour.  It was quicker than my Squeezebox navigating folders and files, which was very welcomed.    

server front

Conclusion:  

I really enjoyed have the Autonomic Controls MMS-2 server in my system. It performed solidly, was fun to use, and offers up a host of features that are very forward looking.  My only two reservations are the limit of a 500 GB hard drive, and only one digital (optical) output, which is a bit limiting, but optical has a big advantage in that it is not susceptible to ground loop issues. With a price tag of $1995, there is stiff competition, from a number of vendors. But I must fully admit the MMS-2 was one of the best sounding digital playback solutions I have heard. With so many features and highly anticipated “cloud” access, I was almost expecting the sound quality to be secondary consideration. But I was dead wrong. I can’t stress how well the MMS-2 performed sonically. I was also very impressed with the Autonomic support team. I had a month of hassle free listening after the initial set up.

Autonomic Controls has clearly flexed their engineering muscle on the MM2-2 and I will be sad to see it go.  It also will play back high resolution 96 Khz files, which are available for download from a variety of websites, like HDTracks.com. Hold on to your hats, as there has never been a more exciting time in home entertainment, with servers, streamers, and cloud based products storming down the path. The Autonomic Controls MMS-2 is on the cutting edge, and I strongly recommend those seeking a streamlined, great sounding central music server solution to check it out.        

Specifications

  • Autonomic Controls MMS-2 Music Server: MSRP $1995.  
  • Video Output: VGA, 15 Pin D-Sub Connector; component video available with optional adaptor
  • Supported Streaming Services: Pandora Internet Radio, SiriusXM Internet Radio, RadioTime Internet Radio
  • Supported Audio Formats: .aif, .aifc, .aiff, .au, .cda, .flac, .m4a, .m4p, .mid, .midi, .mp2, .mp3, .mpa, .rmi, .snd, .wav, .wma, .wpl
  • Audio Processor: Realtek ALC662 5.1 Channel HD
  • Digital-to-Analog Conversion: 44.1k/48k/96kHz
  • Master Volume: -80dB to +20dB
  • Frequency Response: <10Hz to 48kHz
  • S/N Ratio: 95db, A weighted
  • Dynamic Range: >110dB
  • Channel Separation: >90dB
  • Audio Connection: Pre-Amp Output: 1x analog unbalanced stereo line-level audio output; maximum output level: 2.0 Vrms
  • Toslink Digital Output: 1x digital 5.1 channel output, toslink via included adapter
  • LAN: (1) 8-wire RJ45 with 2 LED indicators; 10/100/1000 Mbits/sec BaseT Ethernet port; green LED indicates link status; yellow LED indicates Ethernet activity
  • Power Connection: 110V-240V: (1) External power supply DC 19 V @ 3.4 A; mates with removable SATA power cord (included)
  • Control System Interfaces: AMX, Crestron, RTI, URC, Windows PC/Mac, Adobe Flash-enabled mobile devices and computers, Apple iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad
  • Control System Protocols: IP, 2-way documented API
  • External Controls + Indicators: Power On/Off
  • Humidity: 10% to 90% RH (non-condensing)
  • Temperature: 32° to 104°F (0° to 40°C)
  • Main Power Consumption: 60 Watts @ 120 Volts AC, 50–60Hz
  • Internal Storage: 500 GB Magnetic
  • Dimensions: 2.8" H x 7.5" W x 7.9" D; 2U rack-mount chassis with rack kit (not included)

Manufacturer Info


Autonomic Controls Inc.
200 Business Park Drive
Armonk, New York
914 598 1647
http://www.autonomiccontrols.com/

Reviewer System 1

  • CD Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X
  • Music Server:  Olive 04HD 
  • Preamp: Audio Research SP16 
  • Amplifier: Audio Research VS55 
  • Speaker: Thiel CS2.4 
  • Cables: DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC),  Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Element Cable Element Cord, (AC)  Shunyata Venom (AC) Pangea AC-9 (AC) Audience powerChord e.(AC) 
  • Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rac  

Reviewer System 2

  • CD Player: Marantz 5003
  • Music Server: Squeezebox 3 
  • DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply 
  • Tape Deck: Revox A77 
  • Preamp: Belles Soloist 3 
  • Amplifier: Belles Soloist 5, Revox A722 
  • Speaker: Spendor S3/5R, Harbeth Compact 7ES3 
  • Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC), Pangea Audio, RS Cables, Element Cable, Belkin Gold (USB) 





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