Media Servers

Olive O4HD Music Server

ARTICLE INDEX

Design

The first thing I noticed about the Olive O4HD was that it was much bigger than I thought it would be. The photos on the Olive website make the music server appear smaller than it really is. In reality, the O4HD is 17.38" wide and does save some space by being only 2.63" high and 12.25" deep. The Olive is wrapped with a single piece of anodized aluminum, which covers the top and front of the server. The O4HD comes in either black or silver. The top of the server is finished with the names of musical genres.

The design is very attractive and might make you feel guilty if you hide the O4HD away in a cabinet. You might also want to reconsider placing the O4HD in a cabinet since the front panel includes an LCD touch screen that makes the media server very convenient to operate.

The front of the server is slanted and the 4.3" wide-aspect LCD touchscreen has a 480 x 272 pixel resolution. To the right of the LCD are a set of round navigation buttons surrounding a Select button. The buttons can be used to navigate the menu interface of the O4HD, but since the touchscreen allows the same functionality, you may find that you don't use the navigation buttons at all. On the right side of the front panel is a slot for the CD drive. The O4HD has a soft plastic bezel mounted into the front of the server which helps prevent scratches to your CD collection. The CD drive not only reads your CD media, it is also a CD burner and can be used to create audio CDs of albums and playlists stored in the O4HD. The buttons under the CD slot are basic transport buttons for the CD player. The round button on the far right is the Wake / Sleep button for the server.

Moving on to the back of the server, you find one set of stereo RCA output jacks as well as optical and coaxial digital outputs should you want to bypass the analog stage of the server. The RCA jacks on the O4HD are of premium quality and are 24k gold-plated. The O4HD has one coaxial digital input which allows the server to be used as an outboard DAC. The rear panel provides an HDMI output which can be used to send a 480P signal to a display device. The HDMI output is identical to the content of the LCD touchscreen. To the right of the HDMI output is a Gigabit Ethernet connection which allows you to directly connect the O4HD to your home network.

If you don't have a direct network connection available, the server includes support for the 802.11n wireless networking standard and can utilize WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption. There are two small connectors on the back of the server for WIFI antennas. Only one antenna comes with the O4HD, but another antenna can be added if necessary. The rear panel also offers a USB output which can be used for connecting an external USB hard drive. The USB connection supports USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 and is provided only as a means of backing-up the content stored on the O4HD. The rear panel also includes an IR receiver input should you want to control the server behind closed doors.

Internally, the O4HD makes use of 192 kHz/24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1792A D/A convertors and up-samples all content to 24-bit / 192 kHz. The server uses a very quiet 2 TB hard drive to store the operating system and software of the O4HD, as well as the music library. The two terabyte drive has enough capacity to store 20,000 HD audio tracks or 6,000 CDs in lossless quality. The server also supports access to UPnP or DLNA servers that it finds on your home network. The O4HD is not officially certified for DLNA, and Olive provides limited support in this area, currently focusing on Tversity for the PC and Twonky Media for the Mac.

As for internet services, the O4HD provides access to internet radio via Olive World Radio. This free service is included with the Olive music servers and allows you to browse from hand-picked, high-quality radio stations selected by Olive. If a favorite station is missing, it can be entered manually and Olive will accept requests to have stations added to their master list. From a format perspective, the O4HD supports WAV, FLAC, MP3 (up to 320 kbps) and AAC (up to 320 kbps).

I found the remote for the O4HD to be rather clunky. It is a heavy, custom-made remote that could best be described as a small brick. The buttons have a nice feel, but they get lost on the cumbersome case. The OK button is below the menu navigation buttons which felt very unnatural to me. The back of the case is finished with six screws and an Olive logo. The remote is also not backlit and the buttons do not glow which makes it really hard to use in a darkened room.

In addition to the remote and touchscreen, the O4HD offers an application called Maestro which allows for the editing of the media library as well as limited control of the server. This is a web-based application which is run directly from the O4HD music server and can be accessed from a browser on your computer. We'll talk more about Maestro later in the review.

Olive also provides an application called Olive App which is available for free on Apple's App Store. The Olive App allows you to control the O4HD from your favorite Apple iPod, iPhone, or iPad and provides much of the functionality offered from the main touchscreen interface.