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Olive Opus No4 Music Server Review Print E-mail
Friday, 23 October 2009
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Olive Opus No4 Music Server Review
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ImageBack in 1981 Sammy Hagar had a big radio hit, singing, “There's only one way to rock.” When it comes to setting up a digital music server, however, there's most definitely more than one way. There's hundreds of ways, but most of us want something simple. Digital audiophiles go to great lengths to turn laptops or old towers into music servers, running them through digital-to-analog converters to boost the sound and then using any number of ways to stream the music to an audio system. The drawback of such an approach means that you have an extra computer, and that it always has to be turned on, and so on.  A better solution, in my mind, is to bring all aspects of computer audio together into a single server, player and streamer. And that's just what the Olive Opus 4 Hi-Fi Digital Stereo does. It makes its easy for anyone to corral a large music collection and access it from a single point and call it good.

The Opus 4 has a lot going for it. First, it sports an elegant design, with an angled face and a top decorated with a printed mosaic of musical styles. The chassis is cast from aluminum, which gives it some heft and also assists in reducing operating noise and vibrations. Olive touts that it can be stacked atop traditional stereo receivers – and it can and comes with padded feet – but I'm anti-stacking altogether. Keep it isolated and you'll have no scratched surfaces, no unwanted heat dissipation or other unintended audio nasties. The Opus 4 looks great and fits in nicely with a home audio/theater system. It looks like a piece of audio equipment instead of an external hard drive. Second, it's simple to setup and use. You don't need to a computer or a bunch of extra wires and connections to get the Opus 4 up and running. The back of the unit is equipped with a pair of RCA analog outputs for connecting the Opus to an amplifier or receiver. Optical and coaxial digital outputs make it possible to run the Opus through an external DAC. Although Olive has fitted the unit with a good-sounding DAC of its own, I'm confident that a stand-alone DAC could take the sound to a new level.

Olive Opus 4 Right Side

Second, it's easy and fun to use. Getting the Opus 4 up and running took about 30 minutes. The only parts to fiddle with are the supplied WiFi antenna, power cord and remote control. The unit walks you through setup and makes connecting to wireless router a snap – just make sure you have the router password handy. I connected the Opus 4 to an amplifier via the RCA outputs, adjusted the volume and was soon listening to music. My review unit came ready with a bunch of music spanning multiple genres, so I was able to dial in to everything from Beethoven and Michael Buble to Eric Clapton and John Mayor.

Third, memory is upgradable. It wasn't too long ago when 100GB seemed as big as the solar system; not so now. We're now in the Terabyte age, and for those like me with massive music collections it's possible to fill a 1 or 2 TB drive with uncompressed music files. The Opus I received for review had 500 GB of memory, which is sufficient for most households. Such a system can hold approximately 812 CDs in WAV format, 1,433 in FLAC and 8,957 in respective MP3 and AAC formats at 128 kbit/s. Currently, the Opus 4 is offered with either a 500 GB, 1 TB or 2 TB drive. Even a music junkie would have a task to fill the 2 TB, holding some 5,778 CDs in FLAC format. But it would be fun to try!

Olive Opus Left Side

If you'd rather watch paint dry than load a bulging CD collection into the Opus 4, Olive can help. The company offers a preload service, including the first 100 discs free of charge, whereby your server will come filled and ready to play. Purchase an Opus 4 online and choose the preload option. Bundle your CDs on a spindle, package and send to Olive using a supplied shipping label, order and tracking number. Olive will digitize your collection, converting the music to FLAC. The discs are also tagged with relevant music information (album, artist, song etc.) and album artwork. Visit for complete pricing details.

According to Opus, the hard drive is “cushioned in 8 layers of noise canceling padding.” A passive cooling fan eliminates noise from a spinning fan. I can assert that the unit operates in glorious silence. That's been one of the driving arguments for a hard-drive based music server versus a CD player – any CD player – that the digital bits will playback without noise associated with the working mechanisms of a CD player, no matter the build quality or price. The Opus 4 can also multi-task, which is a huge timesaver when you want to listen to music and fill the drive at the same time. It can take many hours to load the system and it's nice to have music playing while performing the task. I suspected that the Opus 4 would bog down when asked to do two things at once, but it performed without issue every time I loaded a disc while music played. It encodes MP3 at either 128 kbit/s or 320 kbit/s, AAC at 128 kbit/s, as well as FLAC and WAV. I went with FLAC as my default encoder, as it offers uncompressed CD quality while taking up about half the space as WAV files.

Olive Opus screenshot

The front display is actually a high-resolution (480 x 272 pixels) 4.3 inch, color LCD touchscreen that is also controllable via remote. Music can be sorted by artist, album name, album art, genre and more. Once you load the Opus 4 up with albums, it's pretty cool to scan through the library via album artwork. Bring an album's artwork to the forefront and press OK on the remote to access the songs.


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