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Lurker the Second
27-10-2005, 12:18:54
Price isn't even shocking, although as more people jump on the bandwagon for these all-in-one things presumably they will drop.

David Pogue
Rip and Burn and Download on a Stereo

Published: October 27, 2005

JUST because a bunch of individual ingredients are delicious doesn't mean they'll taste good when they're all cooked up together. Ask anyone who's ever sampled a 5-year-old chef's rendition of chocolate chip spaghetti with meat sauce and grape jelly.

Similarly, many an electronics company has tried and failed to slap together a decent product from buzzword-compliant components - say, iPods, wireless networks, sound systems and personal computers.

So you might not have high hopes for the Olive Symphony, a $900 hi-fi component (www.olive.us) that merges all of those technologies and more. But instead of creating a multiheaded digital Frankenstereo, the company managed to make all of those technologies and features feel natural together. The resulting box takes a long time to describe, because it does so much. But it takes surprisingly little time to master, and most of its features are usable whether you own a computer or not.

If you're looking for a one-line description, well, think of the Symphony as an iPod for your stereo. Inside is a completely silent, fanless, 80-gigabyte hard drive that stores up to 20,000 songs. (A 160-gigabyte model, the Musica, is available for $1,100. It has a fan, but you'd practically have to climb inside the thing to hear it.) The back panel has both analog and digital outputs to your sound system.

The front panel's scroll wheel and bright, monochrome screen permit quick navigation through gigantic music collections by song title, playlist, album name and so on.

Now, Olive isn't the first company to invent a stereo component with a hard drive. What makes the Symphony, which will be shipped to stores next week, so interesting is all the different ways music gets onto and off of it.

Take the built-in CD player, for example. When you slip a CD into the slot and press the glowing Play button, the music begins. The song and band names appear on the screen in huge letters, visible from across the room, courtesy of the machine's built-in two-million-album database of album and track names.

By pressing one button, you can copy the CD onto the Symphony's hard drive. The process takes about 45 seconds a song; you choose the audio format and quality setting. (You get the quoted 20,000-song capacity only with the MP3 format, which is not exactly the audiophile's dream. Choose WAV, AIFF or FLAC for better quality. These are lossless formats - meaning "adored by classical music nuts"- that fill up the hard drive much faster. The Symphony stores about 2,000 songs in FLAC format.)

And what if you have 1,200 CD's? Are you really expected to sit there, drumming your fingers, feeding the box another disc every nine minutes?

Don't be silly. Olive has made an offer you can't refuse: it will preload all of your CD's onto a new Symphony's hard drive. You just pay for one-way shipping for the discs. (This offer is good until at least Jan. 1, 2006. Even after that, the service will always be available, but it won't always be free.)

The Symphony box can also rescue your old records and tapes. If you're willing to connect your tape deck or record player to the Symphony, it can turn each song into a full-blown digital track that behaves just like the songs you've copied from a CD.

Once your music collection is safely ensconced on the Symphony, you can exile the original CD's, tapes and records to the attic. From now on, you can call up any album right on the screen. You can also mix and match tracks into playlists of your own. Better yet, the Symphony's CD player is also a CD recorder, so you can burn your music - including the tunes you've rescued from your old tapes and LP's - onto shiny new CD's.

If your head hasn't yet exploded, there's more: you can also connect an iPod or any MP3 player directly to a U.S.B. jack on the Symphony (which also recharges the player). Amazingly, the iPod's own music collection now appears on the Symphony's screen, ready for playing through your stereo system. (The Symphony does not, however, play copy-protected files, like songs from the iTunes music store.) You can also copy music from the Symphony's hard drive to the iPod, thus getting extra mileage from all the work you (or Olive) did in transferring your CD collection. That is, the Symphony box lets you load and manage an iPod even if you don't own a computer - an industry first.

In fact, the Symphony doesn't even wipe out all of the music that's already on the iPod; it's content to add, not replace. Over all, this Symphony-to-iPod copying business is a pretty slick trick. (With the new video iPod, it's a trick that needs work. In my tests, copying songs from the Symphony had the bizarre side effect of stripping away all the video from the iPod's TV shows, leaving only the audio. The company promises a fix within days.)

Even this, however, is not the end of the Symphony's résumé. It also has a wireless (Wi-Fi) network antenna, so that it can join your home network. Suddenly, there are all kinds of other possibilities.

For example, suppose you keep your music collection in iTunes (the free jukebox software) on your Mac or PC upstairs. That music library shows up on the Symphony box, ready to play on your much nicer sound system downstairs.

In fact, the same stunt works in reverse: the Symphony also shows up as an icon in the iTunes software, so that you can play its music collection on your computer. In this age of copy-protection paranoia, you just wouldn't expect to find this sort of flexibility and simplicity.

Network nerds will be even more impressed to learn that the Symphony is not just a Wi-Fi receiver; it's also a full-blown access point (wireless router) in its own right. That is, if you plug a cable or D.S.L. modem into the back panel, all wireless laptops in the house can share its fast Internet connection. Not yet wireless? Stand back: the Symphony is even a four-port Ethernet router. You can plug four computers directly into it to create a network.

What does all this mean to non-geeks? Simply that the Symphony box and your computers can play each other's music collections across a home network. You can also drag music files directly from your computer to the Symphony's hard drive. You can even use your computer's keyboard to manage song names and playlists; the Symphony's playlist-management software appears in, of all things, your Web browser.

(Olive also supplies a dedicated, more elegant playlist-management program for Mac OS X only.)

Those networking features also mean that the Symphony can be linked to the Internet, making it easy to download to the box new features and updates of CD track names on new albums.

Finally, the Internet connection also permits the Symphony to tune into Internet radio stations. Over 1,000 are listed when you open the package, organized by genre, and you can add your own.

Clearly, this is a machine with vast potential for musical pleasure - and for confusion. In general, the simple, iPoddish, drill-down-to-the-right-menu system keeps all these features easy to find. There's plenty to learn and troubleshoot, however, especially at the outset.

For example, adding this or any machine to a wireless network can be an evening-long headache, especially because you have to tap in your network password using the remote's number pad. Copying songs from a CD seems quick, but a very long period of post-processing is required before they're available for playback on your computer or copying to your iPod. And although the machine itself is sleek, black and beautiful (the more expensive Musica is silver), the remote control is a surprisingly cheesy, plastic, nonilluminated afterthought.

But Olive has big plans for its audio system. For example, in December it intends to offer a companion device called the Sonata ($200), a small, wireless receiver that hooks up to speakers or even to clock radios. You can park Sonatas in up to 20 rooms of the house; each can be playing different music from the Symphony's hard drive.

So, no, you can't mash together a bunch of trendy ingredients and expect to produce a successful dish. But a master chef can create a triumphant whole even from a disparate jumble of different ingredients - just as long as one of them is an Olive.

Source Link (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/27/technology/circuits/27pogue.html?pagewanted=2&adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1130414404-Rm2pV58ncslowFofMZ70rw)

Drekkus
27-10-2005, 12:22:07
Mmmmmmmmm, chocolate chip spaghetti with meat sauce and grape jelly.....

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 12:42:08
Bloody hell, that thing does have all the shit. Only question is, can you purchase and swap hard drives, because the only format I would save in if I bought that beast would be loss-less format.

Venom
27-10-2005, 12:44:31
I'm not reading all that.

Japher
27-10-2005, 12:45:15
and olives

mr.G
27-10-2005, 12:45:48
Lurker ...... the new Darkstar

Japher
27-10-2005, 12:46:31
he just cut and pasted... not like he wrote all that

Lurker the Second
27-10-2005, 12:59:06
Like I even know that many words ...... :rolleyes:

Funko
27-10-2005, 14:02:22
Originally posted by Nills Lagerbaak
Bloody hell, that thing does have all the shit. Only question is, can you purchase and swap hard drives, because the only format I would save in if I bought that beast would be loss-less format.

Why?

Resource Consumer
27-10-2005, 14:25:09
why not?

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 14:27:05
Because if it's going to replace my CDs (storing them in the atic)and form part of my HIFI system it's gonna have to be equivalent. Through a decent set of speakers, MP3s are shite.

King_Ghidra
27-10-2005, 14:27:57
the hi fi snobs here at work would 100% agree

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 14:30:02
Yeah, it's not rocket science. You go from 100Mb down to 3Mb and you are gonna lose some serious quality. The reson MP3s are good is cos they are portable and you don't really notice the loss through headphones.

Resource Consumer
27-10-2005, 14:31:20
I am in agreement

Funko
27-10-2005, 14:33:50
Originally posted by Nills Lagerbaak
Yeah, it's not rocket science.

I really hate that expression. - cue everyone on CG using it in every post for a year.

Funko
27-10-2005, 14:37:48
Personally I can hardly tell the difference between high quality mp3s (ie. not the standard ones that come out at about a meg a minute but maybe double that) and wavs even on reasonable hi-fi equipment.

It's a bit worse but if they are decent quality it's not as bad as some hi-fi snobs will make out. It's certainly still much, much closer to CD quality than a brand new audio cassette or something and we never worried about tape copies of CDs sounding too shit...

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 14:52:09
I disagree. I have listened to 8 meg (3 min) mp3s and they do not meet my standards. I think a Type II Metal cassette recorded on an excellent hifi sounds as good.

Like I say if it's to replace my CDs then it;d have to be full quality.
I know I sound like hi-fi snob, but I can actually tell the difference which is considerable.

I hate the expression huh.

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:02:53
Oh well, you have better ears than me then. I can tell if I have them side by side but if you just played me some music I couldn't tell. But all tapes sound a bit tapey... Mind you I've also never been able to afford an excellent tape recorder or really expensive tapes to make copies (not that that would have been worth it at any time in the last 10 years or so).

As for Huh? - I know, that's why we are all using it. :beer:

mr.G
27-10-2005, 15:04:20
Originally posted by Funko
Oh well, you have better ears than me then. At leat not as ugly :lol:

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:04:24
Better ears or better speakers (I'm talking about my mum's system) As I said, it's not rocket science. :p

Venom
27-10-2005, 15:06:38
Huh?

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:06:48
How did you listen to the mp3s on that system? Through a line out off a crappy mp3 player or from a dedicated seperate hard disk player?

It can be tough to find the weak point sometimes...

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:08:20
No, through MP3s burned to a CD and played through a pretty slick DVD player (which obviously plays MP3s).

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:09:30
Fair enough.

For me the convenience of large amounts of music on a small storage space easily compensates for a small loss in quality.

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:09:59
Oh I also heard a wireless stream from a PC to a stereo... that was pretty cool, but the difference again was obvious.

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:12:31
Originally posted by Funko
Fair enough.

For me the convenience of large amounts of music on a small storage space easily compensates for a small loss in quality.

True, that's whay I like i-pods. Don't think I'll be getting rid of my CDs just yet :)

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:13:47
Whay I!

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:14:23
I wouldn't get rid of my CDs anyway but it's a lot more convenient to have all your music at the touch of a button not have to hunt for the CD.

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:23:33
Yeah, that's a big advantage. One would hope that there would be good search facilities as well, more than the i-pod. It does sound like a wicked machine, if not only to avoid CDs lying around the floor.

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:24:42
I've managed to get about 200 CDs on my computer so far. It's great, I keep listening to stuff I've forgotten for ages because it's so much easier to just spot it in the playlist and put it on.

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:26:43
I tried to, but sorting it and naming it is all too crap! (Helps if you have an internet connection I suppose) The most annoying thing is when you open up an alnum folder, click on a song and it just repeats that song instead of playing the album!

I am fully aware that I probably don't know how to work it......:D

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:29:08
Yeah, I wouldn't have even considered sorting and naming it myself. It just sorts itself out when you are online.

Resource Consumer
27-10-2005, 15:50:28
It's not rocket science

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:52:23
It's also not cooking, brain surgery, wanking, posting at Poly, taking a shit, talking Dutch, being John Malkovich, copying your CD collection onto a hard drive...

Oh no, sorry, it is that.

King_Ghidra
27-10-2005, 15:55:23
wanking is easy, rocket science is hard

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:55:55
It's not wanking. Damn right.

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:57:23
Originally posted by King_Ghidra
wanking is easy, rocket science is hard

Actually wanking is taking Captain Picard to Warp Speed so really they are the same.

Resource Consumer
27-10-2005, 15:57:41
Originally posted by Funko
..... wanking, posting at Poly......


Repetition

Funko
27-10-2005, 15:58:22
Hang on, wanking is an enjoyable passtime... are you really saying they are the same?

Resource Consumer
27-10-2005, 15:59:15
I am, perhaps, being metaphorical here. It isn't rocket science;)

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 15:59:57
Originally posted by Funko
are you really saying they are the same?


It's not rocket science.

MoSe
27-10-2005, 16:22:02
Originally posted by King_Ghidra
wanking is easy, rocket science is hard
it depends on the rocket

King_Ghidra
27-10-2005, 16:22:20
Originally posted by Funko
Actually wanking is taking Captain Picard to Warp Speed so really they are the same.

i don't belive warp technology involves rockets

and i can't believe i just wrote that

Nills Lagerbaak
27-10-2005, 16:24:26
Well warp technology is all a bit wank really, but I think you're right. Basically you have to create a worm hole to take you above the 3D space and into the hyperspace plane.

I don;t know what the fuck I just wrote, butit aint rocket science. Launching the pink torpedo might be more appropriate.

King_Ghidra
27-10-2005, 16:27:16
we should both back slowly away from this thread

Funko
27-10-2005, 16:40:19
Torpedos aren't rocket powered either.

Venom
27-10-2005, 16:46:41
Some are steam powered.

Funko
27-10-2005, 16:47:00
Torpedoes from Boston?

Japher
27-10-2005, 17:00:17
bean powered