Olive conducts Symphony for classical music fans

Wi-Fi meets hi-fi

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Classical music fans may scoff at the digital music world's preference for lower-quality-than-CD audio formats, but they're no less keen on leveraging new technology to improve their listening experience.

Enter, then, Olive Media Products' Symphony, one of the first digital music systems pitched specifically at Beethoven buffs, Delius devotees, Ligeti lovers, Elgar enthusiasts and Faurée fans.

Olive Symphony

Designed to fit inside a typical separates rig, Symphony incorporates a 2.5in 80GB hard drive for music storage, though given the system's preference for uncompressed (WAV, AIFF) and FLAC lossless compression - not to mention the size of most classical music listeners' collections - that may prove a limitation. Fortunately, Symphony has a CD-R drive to auto-rip CDs and make back-ups. The unit has a 2m-track CD database built-in, so ripped songs can automatically be populated with ID tags.

The audiophile-oriented unit connects to an amplifier through built-in SP/DIF optical and TOSLINK co-axial connections. It also has RCA jacks to enable music from other sources to be digitised.

Cunningly, there's also a USB port, allowing you to hook up an iPod and have the portable player populated. Symphony includes a four-power 10/100Mbps Ethernet switch and an 802.11g Wi-Fi adaptor to allow the unit to be connected to other computer-like devices, plus PCs and Macs, to stream tracks to and from them.

Olive will also offer Sonata, a $199 wireless controller/multi-room system. Up to five satellite systems are supported.

The fanless, near-silent Symphony is based on a PowerPC processor, so it's no surprise perhaps that it ships with a separate Mac OS X application, PlayList, to create playlists, transfer songs from a Mac to Symphony, stream Internet radio stations and download free songs from Olive's public domain download service.

Symphony will ship around the middle of August, Olive said, for the princely sum of almost $900. Pricey, perhaps, but Olive will preload the machine with a stack of CDs you provide. You send Olive the discs, it rips them to the format of your choice, then returns them along with your brand spanking new Symphony. Alas the free preload offer only applies to folk who pre-order the product, and you have to pay to ship the discs to Olive. ®

Olive Sonata

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