Hermstedt Hifidelio wireless music centre

Time to scrap that PC music hub?

Hifidelio runs its own SMB server, so I was able to log in, mount a folder on my desktop and drag over a host of pre-ripped albums. You have to import the tracks into Hifidelio's music database, in which it stores the tracks' ID tags, but that's a straightforward, quick process - just select all the albums and hit the import function button. Alas, you can't copy installed songs back to a computer, though any recordings you make using the device itself can be copied. Whether this is to avoid the wrath of the labels or to protect Hermstedt's own Hifidelio Back-up Drive business isn't clear, but I have my suspicions.

The back-up drive plugs into one of Hifidelio's USB ports, which can also be used to load up an iPod or other MP3 player. I tried my own HDD, without joy, and my iPod's too old and USB-less to work either. The CD drive is also a 24x burner, so at a pinch you can back-up your albums that way. But with a system like this, your original CDs can be the back-up, of course.

Copying songs wirelessly worked well, though once when I popped downstairs to check on the unit and changed the album currently being played, the connection with the computer was lost. That aside, the device played tracks back flawlessly while the copy was in progress. They also played just fine while I was ripping CDs, though one disc caused it problems, resulting in a lag between moving the controller and seeing the effect on the display. Playback remained smooth, however.

You don't need to copy songs from your computer. Instead, you can instead run iTune and stream songs to the Hifidelio - and vice versa. iTunes lists the Hifidelio in the playlist panel as a shared song library. Likewise, your shared iTunes library shows up in Hifidelio own list of servers - you may have other Hifidelios in the vicinity too. Just select the one you want and, once the listing has loaded, choose a song in the usual, iPod-like way.

Hifidelio iTunes

Hifidelio cleverly buffers each song so it will continue to play if the connection drops for some reason. Unsurprisingly - I did try, though - it won't play DRM-protected songs downloaded from the iTunes music store. What's needed is a clever bit of code to stream the uncompress, DRM-authorised audio across to the Hifidelio - or for Apple to license FairPlay at more attractive rates.

In addition to the SMB server, there's a web server on board, too, which the Hifidelio uses to provide a front end to its music database. This allows you to edit songs' tag information using a keyboard rather than the remote or the device itself, and you can delete tracks. You can't yet changed the Hifidelio's settings, but such an option is clearly coming in a future upgrade.

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