Media Servers

Qsonix Q110 Media Server

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

Whether you know it or not, and you probably know it, media servers are zooming into the big sales arena. Many companies are entering this market now, because eventually, everyone will have a server in their home. They can serve music to several locations in your home, update their own software through a connection to your Internet router, and the user interfaces have already gone through several iterations, so they are becoming an absolute pleasure to use.

Gone are the frustrations hunting for the discs you want to put on the player for your holiday party that evening, or the classical collection you want to listen to while reading a book by the fire. Instead of digging in the CD drawer, listening pleasure is just a click or two away on the media server screen.

The Q110

Qsonix, a California company, makes the Q110 series of media servers. They come either with or without the LCD touchscreen display (you can buy your own touchscreen at a larger size at several places on the Internet), and with a 250 GB drive (reviewed here), 500 GB, or 1 TB. The range of price with these various options is from $5,995 to $7,795. You can place the touchscreen up to several hundred feet from the main box (using optional equipment), but usually, it would be placed next to the main box in your equipment rack just using the included VGA cable. Obviously, you will want the touchscreen at chest height so you can see the selections and move entire CDs or individual tracks into the que for playback.

Specifications

  • Capacity: 250 GB Hard Drive;
  • Interface: Touchscreen LCD Display
  • Outputs: Four Sets (Pairs) RCA Stereo Analog Audio for Four Zones, One Coaxial Digital for Zone 1
  • Inputs: One Pair RCA Stereo Analog Audio, Four USB 2 (can connect to an iPod)
  • FR: 22 Hz - 22 kHz ± 0.6 dB
  • THD+N: 0.002%
  • Dimensions: 4" H x 17" W x 14" D (Main Box)
  • Weight: 27 Pounds Main Box, 11 Pounds LCD Touchscreen
  • MSRP: $5,995 USA as Reviewed
  • Qsonix

The front panel is plain with black fascia, with an On/Off button that glows blue when the unit is on (you leave it on all the time, as the hard drive is designed for 24/7 operation, is very quiet, and runs cool). There are two USB 2.0 ports on the left side, for connecting various things such as your iPod. A CD drawer rounds out the front panel on the right side, and you use this to load your CD collection, but also to burn "Playlists" to blank CDs.

The rear panel has the four sets of RCA stereo analog outputs, one set to each of four zones (a power amplifier would sit next to the main box with speaker cables going to the various zones). There is one set of stereo inputs too, for connecting whatever you wish to distribute. Two connections exist for the display, one of which drives the video signal, and the other is for the touchscreen functionality. Two more USB 2.0 ports and an IR control port finish off the connections, save for the grounded AC socket.

I want to say that when I first was offered the opportunity to review the Q110, I was a bit put off by the price. We recently built our own media server, which has 3 TB of storage, and wireless serving to our various test labs. It cost us $2,400. However, the user interface is terrible and there is no touchscreen capability. It operates only with a mouse and keyboard or a remote control.

The user interface is what makes the Q110 worth the bucks. It is a pleasure to use, even not comparing it to our home built server. It is a complex interface, but that is because it has lots of features, and once you learn where everything is, it is hard to stay away from.

The package is actually meant for custom installers to place in your home, but it is so easy to install, you can certainly do it yourself. And, I would probably elect to purchase it without the touchscreen, and buy a larger one from the various sites that sell them. The serial interface controlling the touch function is standard on these things. This will also save you some money, as the touchscreen is OEM through Qsonix anyway, and you know how the price goes up as a product passes through distributors and installers. On the other hand, getting the touchscreen with the main box from Qsonix will ensure a turnkey system that you know will work properly.