Aug 012010
 

We old fashioned music lovers live in difficult times ! “How so ?” you might ask……”music hasn’t died, has it” ? Let me explain.

Many of my generation grew up enjoying music not only as an aural pleasure but also as a visual and tactile one. An important part of the listening experience for those of my generation was the handling of the music storage device and whatever the format the music was held in or on, one had to handle it and in so doing one developed a relationship either positive or negative, with the music you listened to.

The positives for me far outweighed any negatives (scratches on vinyl, drop outs on tape etc) and maybe for you too. Some of the benefits and enjoyment derived from physical music storage were that you had large scale art work to enjoy looking at, sleeve notes to read that did not require a magnifying glass and the actual process of placing vinyl on your record player, or the feeding of tape into your reel to reel tape player. Like playing a musical instrument listening to music required physical activity in away that seems to me, to help connect the listener more to the musicians activity of making music. This process required to listen to music I feel both grounds one to it and makes it a special activity that encourages more serious listening and a deeper appreciation of it. With music access at the push of a button, we have I feel reached a point were music has become a commodity and as such has lost its specialness.

The arrival of compact cassette, CD, DCC, DAT, SACD and DVD Audio did not rob you of the physical side of playing music (though sleeve art suffered due to smaller size, compared to a vinyl record) but the MP3 player, I-Pod and downloaded music does. For us old fashioned folks, pushing a button alone does not satisfy our souls, we crave and need the connection that physical music media has, that intangible ones and zeros pumped via the internet, WiFi and ethernet connections lack. What will a music lovers collection in years to come look like ?  Will you even be able to handle it at all or browse through it in the real physical world ? I think not, at least not in a way that I like to, which is literally hands on.

One of the things I love doing is browsing through some ones music and book collections when I visit them. You can learn so much about people by the things they have, whether its the afore mentioned music and books but also the art they have on their walls and the everyday clutter of life. It is these things that I feel makes us and me a human being. Not to have any of these things in your home to my mind will result in a sterile minimalist approach to life, lacking in soul and that is frankly not for me.

I will be honest here……he says as he pulls his Victor Meldrew hat firmly on…. The idea of a virtual only world of no printed material, books or physical media bothers me a lot and yet I myself avail of that very same technology to produce Adventures in High Fidelity Audio (mainly because of the costs of producing a printed magazine being overly prohibitive for a new start title). So is it the technology ? or the fact that I and others like me will be robbed of the choice as to whether we can use the physical rather than the virtual. Having thought a lot about this recently I have come to the conclusion at least in my case, that the crux of the discomfort lies not in the technology itself but in the loss of choice that it represents.

This review is a bit of a milestone for me in so much as it represents my first foray into the converging world of computer audio (well sort of) and my first direct experience, in my listening room of the type of product which causes me some of the discomfort I am currently feeling in regard to the future of how we may listen to music.

This review will mainly be focussed on sound quality and ease of use rather than being an in depth technical review of the Olive 4HD. There are those who feel that the process of getting to journeys end is more important than reaching journeys end but for me its the music and how a product reproduces it that is of most interest and it is that element that this review will be mainly looking at.

The Olive 4HD is in the vangard of relatively affordable single box products, that straddle the world of the virtual and the physical. Hailing from America where it is sold direct (and with a “We’re so confident that you’ll hear the difference, we’ll give your money back within 30 days of your purchase if you’re not completely satisfied”guarantee) to the public, this visually stylish HiFi music server can form the heart of a wired or wireless multi-room sound system.

The Olive 4HD is a CD player/recorder, hard drive recorder/player, internet radio streamer and DAC. It can deal with audio data from 16 bit to 44.1 khz redbook digital right the way up to 24 bit 96khz HD data and it comes preloaded with a 12 track best of compilation of such, from the Chesky record label. However while it looks a bit like a CD player the Olive 4HD is in fact really a computer and its internal main board is based upon a mini-ITX computer motherboard, with a separate circuit board for the audio components. Interior build is not of audiophile standards but is rather workman-like and will get the job done. The Olive 4HD is built to a price and rather obviously so, rather than being built to High-End audiophile standards.

While it is seemingly true that much of the functionality that the Olive offers can be built into a desk-top computer, with say the likes of an Asus Xonar Essence STX sound card. However what an off the shelf/custom computer can’t do, is easily slot physically into an audio system, as any standard sized Hi Fi component can and this is something the Olive 4HD can do brilliantly. One other trick up its sleeve is it is totally silent while working…….yipee !

One thing I really can’t abide in my listening room is any kind of extraneous noise that is not part of the music coming from my speakers. As the designers of the Olive 4HD have chosen to use the case as a heat sink (the case does get warm after being in use for a few hours) rather than fit an internal fan to cool things down, they have removed one major source of noise that I would find unacceptable in the majority of most standard computers that might be used as a music source.  The other great source of noise in a computer is the Hard Drive, so how much noise does the 2TB HD in the Olive make ? Well as it turns out in the case of the Olive 4HD it is totally silent. No doubt it is still whirring away happily inside its case but as the makers of the 4HD have contained it within a noise/vibration damping cacoon you wont hear it. Even when I placed my ear to the top of the case I could hear nothing, just silence.

All of this is great news for those of us who can’t stand noise in the listening room or who have to site their system near to where they sit and listen. Well done Olive for making the 4HD silent in normal playback operation , though it is not silent when ripping a CD to the internal drive. This for me is not a huge issue, as noise during playback is a more critical factor and during playback as I have already stated the Olive is silent.

One slight negative while ripping CDs, using the full bit rate copy (WAV) mode was that the process was quite slow, say compared to my Yamaha HD1300 (the only item I own that is similar in some ways to the Olive 4HD)but not by much and anyway that design fails totally in the noise stakes; so much so that when in any mode of use it makes way too much noise for my liking; even during playback. So I had to exile it to a position behind my speakers where I can’t hear it when it is working. With the Olive 4HD you would not have to do that.

The Olive 4HD as I have stated earlier is a standard audio component size but unlike many CD players is is while a standard width being 43 cm wide, it is less deep than most HiFi separates and it is also not very tall. The Olive 4HD is also available in a black or silver finish.

The gently slopped fascia has a touch screen LCD on the left side and a series of soft touch navigation button to the right side of the screen. From left to right more soft touch buttons control, track skip, pause/play, eject and power up from standbye.

The top of the unit is nicely detailed with slightly raised lettering which spells out in several different sizes of lettering the various different musical genres that an Olive 4HD owner might listen to.

Some in other reviews have reported issues with the touch screen functionality. I myself had no such issues of non-responsiveness with the touch screen and at all times during the review period I found it fine to use.

The remote control is a reasonable size and sat well within my hand. The remote also uses soft touch buttons similar to the 4HD itself and these were quite responsive when in use.

At the rear from left to right there are a pair of gold plated RCA outputs, RJ45 connection, HDMI video out, fibre optic digital out, coax digital out and coax digital input (digital signals are not routed through to the digital output but can only be heard via the analogue outputs only….this is a shame), USB input, a pair of WiFi aerial connections, and the mains input.

The Olive 4HD can also be used as a music server for a multi-room system with the addition of an Olive2 HiFi player which can “Access your complete music collection and play different songs in every room of your home with Olive 2 Hi-Fi Players. Each Olive 4 Hi-Fi Music Server supports up to 20 different players on a wired network or up to 10 different players on a wireless network.”

However despite this function I wonder how well an Olive 4HD and Olive 2 HiFi players could be integrated into a conventional multi-room set up where a dedicated multi- room server would normally be selected for this role ?

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A few niggles….

Build quality of the unit and the back panel connections are quite good overall, however the mains input does feel a little weak when making or breaking mains connections.

During the review period I tried a number of audiophile mains leads with the Olive and all of them, even the lightest, put too much strain on the mains input. With any lead other than a basic throw away one the plastic mains input mounting bowed out a fair bit so much so with one cable that I feared the mains socket might pop out. Ultimately it didn’t but the build quality of this part of the Olive is in my opinion poor given the price.

After trying various mains cables I felt that the Analysis plus Power-Oval 2 sounded best with the OLive 4HD but I had to dress it very carefully so as to minimise the strain on the input.

One other thing that I think is  poor at the price, is the tiny support feet. The Olive would benefit from slightly taller ones, as lifting it off any surface was a bit awkward to do and tipping it to get ones fingers under it could result in damaging the surface it is sitting on as well as possibly damaging the front or rear of the case. The end user owner could of course add new feet but at this price point why should they have to ?

And a few more niggles….

The small touch screen display is a tad fiddly (if you have large fingers) to operate as are the navigation buttons (hardly intuitive in use I felt) to the right side of the screen but the image quality from this screen is quite good despite the size.

The image displayed on the touch screen can also be transferred for viewing on a larger display (LCD or Plasma) as long as it has either an HDMI or DVI input (you can use an HDMI to HDMI cable or HDMI to DVI cable, which is what I used to performed this function.) However I was somewhat disappointed to find that by doing this (you have to activate this function via the general settings menu) the display on the front of the Olive HD loses its image but stayed on, as a patch of light.  Interestingly the touch screen will still allow touch operation even though it is devoid of any image.

I tried to use the image on the larger external screen as a visual guide to operate the Olive from the touch screen and despite trying hard to work it this way I found it too hard to line my finger tip with the position of the function strips as showed on the larger display.  Abandoning this I opted to use the five function buttons at the side of the touch screen to navigate my way round the Olive’s functions. I also used the remote control from time to time but overall I found it less intuitive to use than the touch screen display.

After switching the display image from the Olive to your choice of display, the screen sans image was left illuminated with a soft glow. However for no reason I could discern it sometimes would go dark…..go figure ? I found this somewhat distracting (as my equipment sits to the side of my listening seat) and I feel that this would be no matter where the Olive 4HD was situated in an end users room. After having a good look through the menus I could find no way of disabling the screen .

To my mind it would be better to give the owner a choice of having the screen image displayed on the Olive and a larger external display at the same time. The other option would be if the functionality would allow it, if you could switch the screen off  completely.  These would in my opinion be more sensible design choices than leaving the Olive 4HD with an illuminated blank screen.

The quality of image once displayed on a larger screen was also slightly disappointing, in so much as it was quite small and did not fill the whole of the 25in LCD I was using. I tried to find away to adjust its size (to fill all of the display) and found that I could not do so. Maybe this was as a result of using an HDMI to DVI connection rather than HDMI to HDMI, but I don’t think so.

One other operational/design quirk that I found was that even with the Olive 4HD in standbye mode the unit still outputs a video signal, so the last album details, cover etc will still be available to see on your large external screen. why ? Also along similar lines the digital outputs also remains active when the unit is in standbye mode, so unless you can switch your DAC off, dim its display or put it into a standbye mode (none of which the MSB Link DAC can do) you will have to put up with the all the DACs, data rate and input lock lights being illuminated. Only switching the Olive off (or disconnecting the digital cables) at the mains results in the video and digital outputs going dead. However that then results in you having to reset the clock date functions on full power up; if you leave it off for too long.

Positioning your Olive…

In order to allow ease of operation you will need to place the Olive 4HD on the top surface of your audio table or furniture. To place it on an internal shelf will result in making it hard to load a CD, either to play, rip or even if its a blank record and also to see the display. I also found it awkward to use the control buttons as well when I initially placed mine on a lower shelf.  This I feel is as a result of the sloped front panel design, which looks beautiful out in the open, but is a pain when housed under a shelf. I had to use my review Olive this way at the atart of the review period, as space was somewhat at a premium on my Clear Light Aspekt racks. Not only was my own reference equipment housed there but several other items in for review were as well. I must concede though, that by placing the Olive HD on top of my MSB Link DAC 3  I probably made things more awkward but I still feel that placing it under a shelf in a stand will make it hard to use. I guess the question you have to ask yourself, is this going to be what you need to do as well and is that going to be a deal breaker ?

However for the final review period I moved the Olive to the top shelf spot just vacated by the outgoing AMR CD-777. By doing this I was able to give the 4HD its own isolation platform a BASE model 2 and this did offer better sound quality than stacking it on top of another item.

Filling your Olive…

The Olive 4HD comes with a number of HD tracks pre-loaded onto the hard drive, most of which are 24 bit 96 khz but one was 24 bit 88.2 khz.  At least this is what the front display of the MSB Link DAC told me, while I was listening to a piece by David Chesky, the Concerto for Bassoon.

I also loaded a few of my own reference CDs into it and was thus able to compare the sound from the Olive 4HD as a stand-alone player and as a HD transport into the MSB Link DAC (used for its ability in this configuration to decode higher bit rate signals, up to 192 khz), the  DAC section of my Moon Andromeda and the DAC section of another CD player the AMR CD-777 (also in for review) were both also tried and as far as I know only decoded the HD tracks as 16 bit 44.1khz (I will look into this further and add a note to the eview if they were decoded to a higher rate)

The actual process of loading CDs is quite simple but time consuming. You slide your CD quite far into the slot (first time I did this I was quite shocked by just how far I had to push the CD in before it was taken….as a rule I prefer drawer loading to slot loading and the Olive 4HD did not change my mind regarding this) until the mechanism grabs it and pulls it into the depths. A few seconds pass while the machine reads the disc, once complete the display asks you what you want to do with the loaded CD – Play, import (record to the HD) the quality of which you will have already selected before hand.

The best quality, least or no compression selection will ensure the best sound, so I only used the WAV mode to rip CDs thus keeping them as bit perfect copies and the same quality as the original disc. By doing this you will of course reduce the number of CDs that you can store on the internal HD but in my opinion I think it better to guarantee yourself the best sound always than sacrifice that for a few extra CDs not being loaded.

A slight disappointment….

I had hoped to asses the internet radio aspect of the Olive as well as importing more 24 bit 96khz files to it but I was unable to do this as it requires the use of a broadband router, something I don’t have or use normally. I obtained a router to use with my broadband modem but alas I could not install it….Virgin Broadband don’t make things easy. Though I will admit that it might just be me.

In order to connect an Olive up this way you will need to configure it with the following information ISP, Subnet, DNS and Gateway. It was this information that my best efforts could not provide in full and thus it would not handshake with the router or the router with it.

By not being able to do this I am unable to report on the Olive’s Maestro music management system. This system allows you to create playlists, add and change album artwork, change album genres, edit metadata and merge two albums into one. One slight draw back for those who are wed to a particular internet search engine, Maestro is only compatible with Firefox.

I fully intend to revisit these aspects of the Olive’s functionality, plus doing a software upgrade. As they say watch this space.

Backup……

Olive recommend that you back up your music collection as it grows. They claim that this could take up to 5 hours to complete and is thus best done overnight.

The USB port is to be used for this and your external USB hard drive needs to be formatted to FAT32. I was unable to check out this function during the course of the review, so the ease of use or any potential issues are unknown to me at this time.

Review System…..

Reference Electronics

Moon Andromeda CD player DAC section, Meridian G02 pre-amplifier, Meridian G56 power-amplifier, MSB Link DAC 3 (with HDCD, Upsampling and 24 bit to 192 khz processing)+ Power Base P1000,  Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1 speakers.

Reference Cabling

Atlas Mavros RCA to RCA, Atlas Mavros XLR to XLR, XLO Type 2 coax digital cable and Atlas Mavros speaker cable.

Reference Accessories

Clearlight Audio Aspekt racks, String Concept Isolation platforms, BASE Isolation platforms, Telos RFI/EMI Caps, Audience AU24 mains cables, Analysis Plus Power Oval 2 mains cables and Black Ravioli Pads-future review item. No mains conditioners were used during this review.

Music Used…..

Jazz Side of the Moon-The Music of Pink Floyd by Sam Yahel, Ari Hoenig, Mike Moreno, Seamus Blake (SACD and 24 bit 96 khz music file)

Thomas Dolby-Aliens ate my Buick (16 bit 44.1 khz CD to WAV file)

Rosin Murphy-Oeverpowered (16 bit 44.1 khz CD to WAV file)

The Dali Demo CD (16 bit 44 khz CD to WAV file)

Nitin Sawhney-Broken Skin (16 bit 44 khz CD to WAV file)

How it sounds….

So after the negatives above, does it sound any good ? Well yes but only if you use it in certain ways.

I decided to test the Olive 4HD both as a standalone unit and as a transport feeding an external DAC. The main DAC used was the MSB Link DAC 3 but I also used the DAC sections of the AMR CD-777 and my Moon Andromeda.

Firstly I fed the Olive my current reference CDs for standard Redbook music assessment and also the album Jazz side of the Moon. This excellent jazz interpretation of the classic Pink Floyd album has had a track selected from it to be part of the 24 bit 96khz compilation supplied with the unit. The track is Money.

All my initial listening was conducted using this track alone as it made comparisons fairly straight forward.

Up first was assessing the sound via the direct audio out of the Olive.

Redbook  Money direct

I must confess to being disappointed by the sound I heard. I know the track Money from this album quite well and frankly the sound was somewhat recessed and lacking in detail. The normally wide soundstage was smaller and lacking in depth. Percussion lacked decay and shimmer and the overall acoustic lacked space. Instrument tonality was fine but the interplay between instruments was lacking and overall Money had become wall paper music…flat and boring.

24 bit Money direct

This version of the track was much better with greater space in the recording venues  acoustic. The opening drum playing had gained weight, scale and the drum skin sound was better defined and sounded more like real drums than the Redbook version had. However the sound still seemed a tad sat upon and truncated compared to how I know it can sound.

At this point I switched to listening to the Olive as a transport feeding the MSB Link DAC.

Redbook Money 2

What a change in sound quality, it was like listening to an entirely different product. The music gained dimension and life, all the things that had been poor via the direct outputs sounded much better so much so that it now sounded like a real group of musicians playing in my room.

Now things were not perfect and the sound was still lacking compared to how Money sounds via my Moon Andromeda but at least it was not a slaughter as it had been.

24 Bit Money 2

With the MSB DACs 96 khz light lit I sat back to listen to Money again and was shocked at just how big a jump the quality of sound had just made. There was more detail, better tonal colour, greater depth to the image and those images now inhabited a very well defined acoustic space, with a very solid three dimensional reality to them.

As I listened to Money the whole way through, I felt that this level of performance had much in common with the best sound that DVD Audio had offered.

In order to compare this sound to another high rez source I played Money again but this time from the SACD layer of the disc and via my Marantz SA7.

Marantz Money

In the context of this system, in this room I preferred the SACD version of the track as it had a tad more depth, tonal richness, was slightly more open and detailed and overall more musical.

These differences were not massive and on the whole confirmed the slight preference I had for SACD over DVD Audio with the former sounding more natural to my ear and the latter slightly more detailed and spotlit. However there was not much in it between the 24 Bit version of Money via the Olive MSB DAC pairing and the Marantz SA7, some might even prefer the sound of the former to the latter.

Other Music

Moving on from Money to the other music I had ripped into the Olive I listened to my usual reference albums (see above list) and the comparison between direct out and connection to the MSB DAC always gave superior results to the Olive being used as a transport feeding a DAC rather than the analogue audio output.

This superiority always manifested its self in the same way as it had while I was using Money as the comparison track. I won’t bore you here by going into a blow by blow account of how Hugh Masekela or Nitin Sawhney sounded but the sound via the DAC had more air, detail, life, acoustic ambience, width, depth, height of soundstage to the sound when heard via a direct connection.

Other DACs….

I also tried, as I mentioned earlier, using the DAC sections of the Moon Andromeda and the AMR CD-777 with the Olive, both with Redbook and the 24Bit versions of Money. Both players DAC sections sounded excellent with the Moon Andromeda being the best and offering similar improvements in sound as the use of the MSB DAC had compared to the direct Olive outputs.

Isolation…

I found a preference in my system context to use the Olive on a Base isolation platform and did so for most of the test period. However at the tail end of the review an item of isolation came into my possession (for a future isolation comparison review) in the form of the Black Ravioli pads. Placing 4 of these under the Olive 4HD opened the sound up very slightly. So on the basis of that, I would suggest that if you own an Olive 4HD then trying some isolation products under it will be very much worth your while as any ways of squeezing more out of it will be a very productive activity.

Conclusions…

As a standalone unit

I can’t help but feel that despite Olive using a high quality Proprietary, high resolution DAC featuring Texas Instruments’ 192khz/24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1792A that the implementation of the analogue output has let the side down. This sample of the Olive 4HD had been well used before I was lent it and as far as I know is now fully run in. Despite adding isolation platforms and a better mains cable, which gives the Olive 4HD a wee push towards better sound in its standard use, via the direct analogue outputs. However despite those tweaks it really does not sound that much better than a fairly modestly priced CD player when playing Redbook CDs or a CD rip file. Using the ability to play 24 Bit files raises the bar quite a bit but this level of sound quality (in my opinion) still falls a little short of how a standalone £2200 CD player should sound.

Perhaps I am not the end user that Olive have in mind for their product and it occurs to me that my sound expectations for an item at this price point are perhaps too high. These expectations are based on what I know most £2200 CD player will sound like, having heard many over many years. However unlike all £2200 CD players the Olive 4 HD has not just been designed to play CDs but combines quite a lot of extra functionality for the money and as a result a lot of compromises must have had to be made in its design to meet the price point it sells at and I feel that these are very audible in how it reproduces music when used as a standalone unit.

However these compromises for a non-audiophile, with no sound expectation or experience may well not be noticed, as I can imagine many end users being very happy with the sound quality available. However to only use the analogue outs, will I am afraid not really give you the best sound that the Olive can achieve and as such will sell it short and rob you of hearing what it can actually do but only if you use it…

As a transport

Using the Olive 4HD as a transport to feed Redbook and HD data to a high quality external DAC will allow the end user to access the very best sound this product can deliver and that sound quality is potentially very good indeed. While my MSB Link DAC 3 is hardly cutting edge any more it is still very good and allowed me to get a very good feel for what the Olive 4HD can do when used as a digital transport, so using one of the newer DACs on the market will bring major improvements in sound quality to both Redbook and HD music taken from the Olive.

However I have to ask the question….how many general potential customers will do that ? Not many as I suspect the idea of having to spend more money to get better sound will be an alien concept to them. Lets be honest hear when was the last time you visited a normal non-audiophile music fan and found a digital data transport and DAC in their system ? Sadly it is my opinion that the Olive is just not special enough as a standalone unit to justify its high UK cost and persuade the average customer into spending the money over say a Squeezebox Classic.

In regard to the audiophile market who’s enthusiasts will spend £2200 on an audio product, well it seems to me that one of the problems with the Olive4 HD for them will be, it is just not good enough overall (I feel) to appeal to them either. The audiophile may well go for a Naim HDX or Linn at a higher price point or perhaps Sonos kit, a Cambridge DAC Magic or Beresford Caiman and a RipNAS from somebody like Ripcaster instead of an Olive 4HD. There will also be those who will use a MAC or custom built PC as a transport and these options will be much cheaper than the Olive; though not as nicely packaged.

The Olive 4HD offers a lot of functionality for the money but sadly those features are just not linked to a particularly good sounding standalone sound, unless it is used with a quality external DAC and to get the best from it you must do that and that will mean budgeting an additional £250 to £1000 + cabling to unlock the full potential of the Olive.

Perhaps I am being too hard on this fairly unique product but as my main interest is sound quality I can but only report the failings as I have heard them and the operational quirks (which a current software upgrade may solve) as I have come across them. However on a positive note, the Olive’s sonic strengths when used with an external DAC are considerable but the shame here is that you will have to go to extra expense to hear them.

At the end of the day any prospective purchaser will have to audition an Olive 4HD, way up their individual needs/requirements to what it can deliver and see if it fits the bill. That is what all of us have to do when approaching any new audio purchase, even me.

Neil

Current UK distributor Henley Designs _http://www.henleydesigns.co.uk/portal.asp

Direct link to Olive http://www.olive.us/ were you can read more about the Olive 4HD


Prices

Olive 4HD HiFi Music Server £2200

Olive 2 HiFi Player £700 (not tested)

Specifications….

The Olive 4HD Hi-Fi Server is designed and custom-built in San Francisco, expressing the innovative energy of the Silicon Valley and the music passion of the Bay Area. Each Olive 4HD is built to order, guaranteeing you the latest in technology at the best price possible. And it gives us the opportunity to quickly respond to the many special requests that our customers have. After all, each Olive 4HD becomes as unique as your taste in music.

  • Proprietary, high resolution DAC featuring Texas Instruments’ 192khz/24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1792A
  • DAC may be used as an outboard DAC for any digital music source. With 24-bit/192kHz oversampling, noise and distortion are ultra low, resulting in incredible purity in both high frequencies and low-level detail.
  • Ample processing power for multi-tasking
  • Simultaneous recording of and listening to CDs
  • Flawless encoding and decoding of lossless audio format
  • Fast management and access to extensive music libraries
  • 4.3″ wide-aspect ratio, high-resolution touchscreen(480 x 272 pixels) with Superior color and image quality, See more of your music information and browse by album artwork, Color-coded touchscreen navigation lets you find your music fast.
  • Ultra-quiet 2TB drive, cushioned in 8 layers of noise cancelling padding. Holds almost 20,000 HD tracks or 6,000 CDs in original CD sound quality.
  • Energy-efficient design and heavy-gauge, heat dissipating aluminum enclosure. Passive cooling without noisy fan, Ultra-quiet operations.
  • TEAC CD-R/RW CD Mechanism, High fidelity CD audio playback, Protective lip on CD slot to eliminate noise from internal components and protect CDs.
  • Fast bandwidth for seamless multi-room audio streaming

    via Wired Gigabit ethernet and wireless. WEP + WPA, 64- and 128-bit encryption

  • Analog outputs.. 1x RCA, 24k gold-plated
  • Digital outputs and inputs.. 1x digital output S/P DIF optical Toslink, 1x digital output S/P DIF coaxial cinch, 24k gold-plated
  • Audio formats.. Bit rate: 16bits, 20bit, 24bits, Sampling Frequency: 10kHz up to 200kHz.
  • Recording options…WAV, FLAC, MP3 (128 and 320 kbit/s), AAC (128 kbit/s).
  • Other inputs/outputs….1x USB 1.1/2.0 + video via single HDMI.
  • Colours Black or Silver.
  • Size… Width 17.13″ Height 3.35″ Depth 11.42″
  • Weight 13.2 lb
  • Accessories….. 1x user manual, Olive remote control w/ battery, WiFi-antenna.

© Text and Photos Copyright 2010 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio…..except for Olive product photos and album cover artwork Copyright belongs with their original publishers.

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

 Posted by at 1:57 pm

  3 Responses to “OLIVE 4HD HIFI MUSIC SERVER…. Welcome to the future of music ?”

  1. I am looking for a off-the-shelf music server and Olive 4HD (after all those marketing dollars spent and glowing reviews by Online/Offline Hifi magazines) naturally is on the short list. Before reading your review, I compared the sound quality of a redbook CD rip (without any external DAC as this was not available in the shop) on the Olive 4HD with that of the same CD played through a moderately priced CD player. The sound of the former was clearly inferior – consistent with your review.

    Thank you for a thorough, informative and objective review. There are just too many “positive”/”rave” reviews on the internet and it’s refreshing to see a review like yours. Keep up the good work.

  2. i am considering an olive 4 hd 2tb,in your comments you consider an connection to the amr cd 777,which has only a digital usb input.which connector did you utilise ,as i have not been able to find one?
    regards r.arkauer

  3. Hi
    Firstly sorry for the lateness of my reply to your comments.

    The AMR CD-777 was in for review at the same time as the Olive 4HD so in order to test the AMR CD-777 as a DAC I hooked the two together, a pairing which worked quite well. I was however not suggesting that the AMR should be used as the DAC of choice with the Olive 4HD. The chances of an Olive owner also being an AMR CD-777 owner is quite slim.

    The connection used was the Co-ax digital out on the Olive 4HD to the Co-ax digital input on the back of the AMR CD-777

    The analogue outputs on the Olive 4HD are somewhat compromised so any quality 16 bit 44.1 to 24 bit 96/192 khz DAC is what you should partner the Olive with to get the best sound quality, i.e to make the fullest use of the Olive as a server transport; something it is excellent as. The DAC should be able to process the HD signal in its native form, so a DAC which up-samples only to 96/192 khz is not what I am suggesting.

    The mk1 AMR CD-77 only had a USB input but the .1 version of that player and the AMR CD-777 have both Co-ax digital inputs and outputs as well as the original USB input. They can be used as standalone DACs and as quality transports into an external DAC. This gives these CD players a lot of versatility.

    Regards Neil

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