If your jaw drops at the thought of a $10,000 music server, you are not alone. Most folks don’t have anywhere near that much in their whole audio system, let alone one component. There are less expensive options from companies like McIntosh (not the computer company), Olive and others. But, when I say cheap, we still have four digits left of the decimal, and we are still talking about just one piece of gear.
So once again we turn our gaze to the computer, that complex beast with so much audio potential. A properly configured computer can do wonderful service as a music server. Unfortunately, unlike an off-the-shelf solution, there are many decisions to be made in designing a computer-based music server. Choices on sound cards, motherboards and connectivity all become important as you raise the bar.
Of course, you can keep the price even lower if you are happy with the quality of downloads from services like Rhapsody and iTunes, or keep your music in lossy compression schemes on your MP3 player or iPod. Many companies make iPod cradles that can be plugged into your receiver so that your can source your music right out of the player. This is convenient and portable, but unless you are keeping your files in .wav compression, the sound will be less than CD quality. If you do keep .wav files on your iPod, even the largest will only hold a few hundred songs. If your receiver is very new, it may be iPod ready. This allows you to access the songs on your iPod through the receiver remote. If a television is hooked up, you can get your library and playlists displayed on the monitor so that access is even easier. It won’t be Carnegie Hall, but it will be fast and easy.