Olive 06HD Music Server Review 
Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers
Written by Andre Marc   
Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Olive Media Inc. has gained quite a loyal, worldwide following for their user friendly, great sounding series of music servers they created from the point of view of non computer geeks and music lovers. In reviewing the wonderful Olive 04HD server, I confirmed for my self that the excellent touch screen interface, large storage capacity, networking capabilities, and upgradable architecture was not at the expense of authentic high end sound.

Currently, there is fierce competition in the digital music field, with various systems, philosophies, and design goals. Competing camps are trying to convince the buying public that their vision is the path forward. Makers of the currently ubiquitous USB DAC claim that their products used with an ordinary home computer and high end playback software is the way to go. Designers of one box solutions like music servers claim their products are headache free and simpler to operate, while still sounding excellent.  Many believe streaming devices offer access to digital music stored in multiple locations, and are thus superior.  We also have a new product category that I will call “file players”. These are stripped down computers, optimized for audio, and require control via web browser, or iPod/iPad for the best user experience. Lastly, makers of old fashioned disc spinners are saying optical disc playback is still viable.

Olive is banking on the fact that most people don’t want to hassle with a consumer grade computer, get involved in the complicated set ups and, frankly, don’t want computers in their listening rooms.  They are also banking on the fact that a quality, stress free interface is key.  I agree that interface is incredibly important. A clunky, inefficient interface is a deal killer for most.
Who wants to jump through hoops when sitting down to listen to music? Not me.

Olive sent me their flagship music server, the 06HD, for review, and it came at a very interesting time. I recently reviewed the Logitech Squeezebox Touch, and the Bryston BDP-1 -- two different products, but like the 06HD, they play digital music files. The 06HD sells for $4999.  It is sold direct by Olive and through a growing dealer network. My sample arrived in an attractive black finish, but is also available in silver.

The 06HD is built on the same basic foundation as the 04HD (2TB of storage, a touch screen, a TEAC optical drive, and digital outputs -- S/PDIF on the 04HD and AES/EBU on the 06HD), but with some major differences. The 06HD has a much larger, 10.1 inch touch screen, a fully balanced differential DAC design with two PCM1792A DACs (24-bit/192 kHz), a high-performance headphone DAC and amplifier, a high quality linear power supply, linear regulators and high-performance AC line filters. Lastly, there are also Nuetrik XLR outputs, as well as phono jacks. The 06HD has no digital inputs.

Olive says only top shelf parts were selected for the 06HD. The case work itself is very impressive, and it houses a low noise 2TB hard drive, which Olive says is “cushioned in 8 layers of noise cancelling padding”.  The 06HD handles everything up to 24 bit/192 Khz and supported formats are WAV, FLAC, MP3, and AAC.  Circuit layout is clean and obviously well thought out.

The final piece of the puzzle is the USB connection which allows for music library back up. One must use a back up drive of at least 2TB, the same size as the 06HD’s drive. The process is extremely painless, initialized with the a few touches of the screen, and may take several hours depending on the size of the library.



Set Up & Listening:

Setting up the Olive was not difficult. The only “tweaks” I used were a high quality Transparent AC cord, Symposium Acoustics Roller Block Jr isolation devices and, for the hell of it, a Shakti Stone.  The 06HD connects to home network via WiFi or Ethernet, but I chose Ethernet. Once connected, I transferred about 80 GB of ripped CDs and downloads. I also ripped dozens of CDs, via the slot loading TEAC CD-RW drive. The whole process was flawless. I was then able to navigate artists, albums, songs, genres etc via the large touch screen or the supplied chunky remote control. One can also control the Olive via a web browser or the ubiquitous iPad or iPod Touch with a downloadable app.  You can also connect a monitor via the HDMI output.  This kind of flexibility is pretty impressive. As a last set up note, errors in metadata can be corrected via a web interface.

I spent quite a bit of time in long listening sessions with the 06HD.  The music flowed gracefully, and there was not a hint of brightness, edge, or glare. Nor was there a smearing of transients, loss of detail, or a lack of resolution. On the contrary, I have not heard a one box digital playback device that could trump the 06HD on sonics.  The Bryston BDP-1 shared many of the same sonic characteristics, with low distortion, and a natural flow to the music.  However, the Bryston is part of a more complicated, multi box system.  Ergonomically, the Olive is the cleanest server solution I have seen, except for perhaps the far more expensive Meridian Sooloos system which, incidentally, offers far fewer features.

I loaded the 06HD with a quite a variety of music. I listened to everything to high rez classical jazz, and vocal music, to recent rock releases from Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter, John Hiatt, Robert Plant, and R.E.M. Everything sounded amazing, with spacious soundstages, clean, extended highs, and solid, and articulate bass. I noted how consistent the 06HD’s performance was across all genres and sources.

On various tracks from Ultimate Hits, Johnny Mathis’s voice sounded rich and buttery, and on tracks from Ocean Of Confusion, a best of compilation by the Screaming Trees, the guitars chugged along relentlessly, the drums thundered, and Mark Lanegan’s Jim Morrison inflected voice was huge. Music streamed via my network also sounded amazing.  After I downloaded Twonky, a UPnP server software, I was able to access files housed on various hard drives attached to my computer. Everything I sourced, whether ripped Redbook CDs, downloaded Hi Rez material, or streamed files, sounded superb.


Olive 06HD back panel
Conclusion:

If one word could crystallize my experiences with the Olive 06HD, it would be elegance. Elegance in the ergonomics and sonics. I really enjoyed interfacing with the 06HD and operation was as smooth as could be. The slot loading drive worked beautifully, and I am generally not a huge fan of slot loaders. Ripping CDs seemed to take less time than I remembered with the 04HD, and even quicker than an iTunes rip with error correction.  File access was immediate, and the unit responded to touch screen and remote commands without delay. One more thing I should mention is that Olive provides a very popular ripping service, at a reasonable cost, for those with larger collections who don’t have the patience to manually load the 06HD.  

I think the Olive 06HD is a perfect solution for those seeking a no compromise, elegant music server solution, with top quality parts, a beautifully engineered interface, in an attractive package that would be welcomed in any listening room. The prospective buyer of an Olive product would obviously have no patience for mucking around with a computer, software, and a slew of other outboard boxes and cables. $4999 is certainly not cheap these days, but rest assured you are getting a superbly crafted device, along with Olive’s excellent customer service and support.  I visited Olive’s facility in San Francisco early this year and I was impressed with their attention to detail, and the dedication of their employees in every department. Look for an upcoming factory tour feature.  I can conclude by saying that anyone who invests in an Olive 06HD will be thrilled with their purchase.


Specifications



Olive 06HD Music Server
MSRP: $4999

Design
●    Anodized fine-grade aluminum shell
●    Passive cooling without noisy fan
●    Ultra-quiet operations

Measurements
●    Width 17.125"
●    Height 4.5" (at highest point)
●    Depth 14"
●    Weight 16.5 lb

Color
●    Silver or Black

Box also includes
●    User manual, Remote control with battery
●    w/ battery, WiFi-antenna, Power cord

Olive Media Inc .
555 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA 94105, USA
Phone: 1.877.296.5483
For International Callers: 415.908.3870


Review System 1

Cd Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X,
Server: Squeezebox Touch, Bryston BDP-1
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
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 rack

Review System 2

Cd Player: Marantz 5003, Audiolab 8200CD
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: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), RS Cables, Element Cable






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