Home Electronics: Ace Server

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Audio enthusiasts in search of a single repository for their digital music collections encounter countless choices—and myriad headaches. Most of the available media servers lack audiophile-grade output capabilities, and they struggle to synchronize seamlessly with high-fidelity playback systems. Many are also impractical, if not illogical, in their functionality and ease of use. This summer, however, a more elegant solution arrived from German manufacturer Burmester, one of the world’s foremost producers of loudspeakers and audio components.

The $46,995 Burmester 111 Musiccenter, which shipped to dealers worldwide in July, combines a first-rate digital music server with elements of the company’s $54,995 Reference Line 077 Preamplifier and a high-fidelity media player. The result is an all-in-one music server that requires only external amplification and loudspeakers to complete an audio system whose power and quality belie its simplicity and ease of use.

To facilitate functionality, Burmester includes a third-generation iPad with the 111—marking the first time Apple has allowed one of its products to be bundled as an accessory with an item from an outside manufacturer. The iPad arrives with Burmester’s proprietary control app already installed, allowing the device to serve as a touchscreen remote. The 111 also comes with a standard billet-aluminum remote that those familiar with Burmester products may prefer to use when adjusting volume and switching between the 111’s three analog and six digital inputs.

With a 3-terabyte onboard hard drive (plus another 3-terabyte backup drive), the 111 can store a significant amount of digital music and offers playback of up to 24-bit/192-kHz, the highest-resolution file size commercially available. (High-resolution music files can be purchased from such online vendors as HDtracks, www.hdtracks.com.) Owners can also populate the 111 with music from their CD collection using a slot on the front panel. The server offers both quick and high-quality CD ripping modes, the latter of which ensures seamless copying of discs in less-than-perfect condition.

Should owners reach the 3-terabyte limit of the 111, they can connect any network-attached storage device or solid-state hard drive via the server’s four rear-panel USB inputs. The 111 also has an Ethernet input and two wireless antennas, which allow users to play music from any satellite system connected to a home’s hardwired or wireless local Internet network. When paired with Burmester’s newly released $5,995 113 digital-to-analog converter, the 111 also allows high-fidelity wireless streaming of music from any Bluetooth-enabled portable device.

An inch-thick steel plate separates the analog section of the 111 from the digital section for maximum fidelity. Owners can further optimize performance of the Burmester system by matching it with one of the company’s power amplifiers and a pair of its loudspeakers, a combination that results in breathtaking sound with unprecedented clarity.

Burmester, 604.542.0904, www.burmester.de

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