One of the more promising pieces of technology to come into the high end audio space over the last decade is the Sooloos music streaming server. Sooloos was once independently owned, but was purchased by Meridian Audio 5 years ago or so. This purchase was made because Meridian wanted a piece of the music server market, but didn’t want a piece that required massive amounts of compression that most MP3 players use. They wanted a piece that allowed their customers to experience the full resolution of lossless audio.
Music Server History
The history of music servers is riddled with broken equipment and dreams. From Escient to many others there have been a whole host of manufacturers that have attempted to conquer this space. Many of the difficulties in the early days were tied to the expense of hard drive space. In order to fit a reasonable number of songs on a device it required compressing the tracks until much of the information from the song was gone.
Jason Harrison of Audio Video Experts, a Santa Monica home theater dealer, remembers well the complaints of his high end clients at the complete lack of devices capable of servicing this market.
While this sort of listening might be fine when using a pair of ear buds, it’s a totally different story when you’re listening on a system like set of Meridian DSP8000’s. All the detail that you expect when listening on a system like this is completely missing when listening in MP3 format, even if you choose least compression.
Escient attempted to get around this by building the Fireball platform that could either play directly from CD or could be burned to the hard drive of the unit. The problem was that if you wanted more than one zone of audio you had to have multiple CD’s and multiple CD players. This was hardly convenient.
The second problem manufacturers faced was the interface. While Escient in particular did a reasonably good job of this the interface was still slow and clunky. And while they did a great job interfacing with home automation systems like Control4, they eventually went out of business.
Along Came Sooloos
Sooloos came along into this market and decided to take a different approach. Rather than mass producing a product that did a poor job of music reproduction, they decided to focus on the high end market. They would offer lossless audio and an incredible interface that made selecting your music fun.
They used network server grade hard drives that could be swapped even when the unit was in use in the event of failure. They also used massive amounts of storage and offered no apologies for the price. While the units were expensive, they offered everything a high end audio lover could want. The ability to quickly and easily find all of their music and listen to it in it’s original lossless format.
Meridian Audio took note and decided to gobble them up. Up until that point most Meridian customers were using high end single CD players or carousels to listen their favorite music. Finally the Sooloos product offered a way for them to have the best of both worlds.
While the product line was relatively small, this is actually pretty ideal. The system is typically composed of a player, hard drive system, and touch panel. The connections to your audio system can either be analog, digital coax, or optical. The zone player allows you to listen to a different song in anywhere up to four zones. While the prices for these components are well above other music server systems, the performance is well worth it.
Unfortunately there is no way to handle SACD’s with this system, so if you’ve got a large collection of high resolution albums you’ll still need to keep your SACD player for the time being.