Sooloos music server: Anyone hear, anyone a dealer

Seems like the unit got some rave reviews at CES this year. According to Stereophile, they changed their pricing strategy on the storage AND they release a few more products like a micro control and micro source unit.
Would love to hear what people think, if they heard it and also what the skinny is on the new hardware.


Chris Jones
The Sooloos was being used in a number of rooms and was very impressive. The touch screen interface is superb. It is dramatically more responsive and than most touch screens. The GUI is also the best I have ever seen. I understand that they get the software from AMG Tapestry?

The downside is that they are very expensive. The attention to making good sound is there, but isn't offering performance beyond what you could do with a carefully chosen computer setup and the right associated gear. It's really the excellent touch screen interface, superb GUI, impressive aluminum chassis metal work, and lack of build-it-yourself headaches that you are paying for.

They have the main big system for around $12-13K which can hold up to 3 TB mirrored using off the shelf hard drives housed in their chassis. That includes the beautiful and big touch screen with the CD drive built in to the base.

There is a more basic system that they announced with a max of 1 TB of storage and the same interface and touch screen for around $7K.

Very expensive but very nice. I wanted one.
I had the opportunity to see one, but not hear it, in a prestigious hifi store whose name I chose not to disclose. The store manager told me that downloading playback material in bit form without carriers (CD's, etc.) is definitely the direction in which the industry is going, because that is the direction where their clients are going. They are finished with talking about quality, it appears. This thing is all about functionality but not about the sound.

When they sell a unit, they then take the 5-10 suitcase-full collections of CD's from the clients and rip them to the sooloos hard drives. They charge $5-$7 a rip! There's a lot of money involved in this! And the clients either do not care, or think (for some reason...) that they are going to get good sound.

For example, the unit I saw did not feature clock in for digitally slaving. That is a missing link if you are looking for quality, even if only through a PLL for software on-the-fly sampling rate choice. We are in, what, 2008, and this is hifi? It isn't.

"super low-jitter design ( < 1 nanosecond)" -- This is just plain embarrassing. That's about 900 times more Jitter than what the state of the art is worried about, and probably comparable to any old 80's CD player which has been out in the rain.

Add to that Jitter the fact that if you want to add an external converter, it will be in slave mode to it, and you are in for some serious low-fi.

About the graphics: honestly, I felt as though I was browsing on Amazon for a CD. The playlist looked frighteningly the same. The search looked frighteningly the same. Then there is a feature where you hook up the thing to a LAN connection and call in support for a software upgrade. The implications are that in future they will offer you to download tracks for money from iTunes (good business scenario), or if they are successful, from their own music download store (excellent business scenario), where they'd get not only money per download, but they'd actually be able to scan what is being played how often in each home that has one. Even what the kids play as compared to what the parents listen to. It is like the web running Amazon search with business tentacles that reach out of your home computer's screen into your bedroom, into your snoring wife's brain to scan the dreams there in order to recommend to her more music she's bound to like.

It's all about controlling the user's music expenditures while making the user feel more in power than ever before.

It is also about catering to people who don't want to set up a home computer for audio, because they don't have time, or don't like the looks.

I don't mind the product. Don't get me wrong. I just don't like the marketing that makes it sound like progressive technology in terms of quality, when in fact the only progressive thing is the business venture idea of screening your music playback and pooling the data for business executives to see trends, maximize profits, etc. Basically, you are then a terminal hooked up to the boundless internet, which somebody will control. It is a PC with good looks and in the end, none of the freedom.

At least there is no fan noise, so that's nice.

lessloss, interesting perspective from someone in the business. I am also a little surprised by your comments of sound quality, when you admit you have never heard the unit before.

I was told I could just transfer my already converted lossless files over to the system. There is a computer program that comes with it.

I was also told that you should use it with a stand alone DAC, if you want the highest quality play back.

In the end however, your comments about jitter and master/slave is not only a complaint about the Sooloos, but based on your website, your overall complaint on most digital players, lacking a clock input.

I have no idea what this is all about:
"Don't get me wrong. I just don't like the marketing that makes it sound like progressive technology in terms of quality, when in fact the only progressive thing is the business venture idea of screening your music playback and pooling the data for business executives to see trends, maximize profits, etc. Basically, you are then a terminal hooked up to the boundless internet, which somebody will control. It is a PC with good looks and in the end, none of the freedom."
One doesn't need to necessarily hear a digital playback system in order to tell (ball-park assessment) the quality level. It suffices to look at some of the data that is published. Of course, the data only has this correlation to sound quality once one has heard many, many other devices or tweaks of devices and has a grasp for the correlation between lowered Jitter and sound quality.

So, hearing that there is less than 1 Nanosecond of jitter (that is tons and tons -- and that's why people are saying that transports are better in sound quality (see another thread here) and then that you have to slave a DAC to this Master Digital source for "best sound quality" is simply naive. It is not anywhere near best sound quality and I take issue with such a formulation. It is actually worse in a Jitter sense. It is only better in the DAC schematic sense, so there is a trade-off and to use the term "better quality" is, for me, another way of saying "more gear, different sound, somewhat better, but by far not as good as it could be".

I'm trying to think of a proper analogy to clarify my point. I guess it it would be like going up to a 55 year old established concert pianist and, straight to his face, say: "I have this excellent sounding Steinway. It doesn't have a soundboard, though, and the body is made out of cardboard, but it achieves the best possible sound quality nonetheless." The pianist would look at you and walk away, without even playing the piano.

There are some things which need not be heard in order to be understood right off the bat.

I am up against common Jitter marketing which is quickly taking over the minds of many audiophiles. It may sound improbable when someone says they can tell "how a unit sounds" without having heard it. I don't know how it sounds, but I know what that kind of Jitter sounds like. Sounds like computer audio.

So from a theoretical perspective, how would you fix this? Is a clock link absolutly necessary, as to make the D/A the master and the Sooloos unit the slave? How easy (hard?), is something like this to fix/modify? Can it even be done?

BTW, you have some good looking gear, I wish the US dollar was a little stronger.
When I was in the Sooloos room I overheard a conversation between two people, one was totally buzzed by the looks, convenience and "modern" approach of the Sooloos system.

I was speaking with another gentleman and commented that the price seemed way out of line for the performance level it provided. I suggested an Apple iMac and rack of outboard HD's and wait a year or two for touch screens to appear at Micro Center or Best Buy.

He agreed and said that was exactly what he had purchased for his own home.

The guy that was buzzed about the Sooloos looked shocked and walked away. I found out that he had recently purchased one from a dealer and waiting for delivery.

I felt bad, it was not my intention to rain on his parade but at least two of us in the room were thinking the same thing and the guy I was discussing this with was part of the demo.
Yetis, when dealing with computer audio, it might be more difficult (or impossible) to simply slave the machine to a DAC with master clock. The reason is that the Master Clock needs to give the frequency for the data to follow, and computer audio is often associated with many different sampling rates. I won't get too technical here, but the answer is that the clock link is not absolutely necessary at all, only if you are in it for the quality. But if you really wanted quality, you'd think twice about including PLL's to derive the sampling rates, which is what computer audio does, since a separate clock would otherwise be needed for every sampling rate, and that costs money to build. I am speaking from an engineering perspective here. From a user perspective, I would not get into it, because you have to drill holes in the sooloos and experiment and it may or may not work, something might break, and then sooloos will not give you any money for trying to raise the quality of their device.

All this wonderful user interface make-up is nice stuff. But still it make you feel you are on Amazon looking for a CD.
Just to follow up...I did get to hear a Sooloos running a rather high end system at THE Show (sorry, I can't remember the name of the gear) play some familiar material and the sound quality was easily as good as what you would get from a normal coax digital out on a better than average sound card like an M-Audio or higher into a good D/A.

I agree that listing the jitter at less than 1 nanosecond is as silly as listing my height as less than 100 feet, but from what I heard, it is in a respectable range which is obviously less than 1 nanosecond.

And while I also agree that the unit is very expensive, I cannot imagine a better GUI or touch screen. Nothing I have ever seen comes close. The best off the shelf (now free) software I know of is J. River, and it's nowhere near as nice as this. The Sooloos GUI fills nearly the entire screen with your album artwork sorted by Artist, Genre, or whatever, and makes you feel like you are flipping through your actual CD or LP collection. To me it is the antithesis of "Amazon" or the typical cluttered text-based GUI. Their touch panel is also the first I have experienced to not seem to show any fingerprints even though hundreds, if not thousands, of people had touched the screen with their greasy fingers. And the response time was instantaneous. I guess these things are all in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, very expensive though.
i am a dealer you might want to try the qsonix I have several for sale that are b stock and have more features than the sooloos. This paired with a msb dac will provide you with the best digital sound you can get at any price
Hey all...I actually own a Sooloos system with 2 terabyte capacity. The attraction is basically interface, ease of use, capacity (with back up as well), touch screen, et etc...its simply the best there is. Building your own PC based system is fine but for those like me its a huge headache and note book based systems do not give terabyte capacity...which is important for the likes of me who have thousands of CDs and expect them to grow continually (& want to record in lossless quality). To be sure there are solutions around this.....

As for sound quality, best to use an external dac. I have mine connected in my home theatre/music combo system in the living room....connected to my McIntosh pre-pro, though I am considering inserting a better external DAC.

Two things which are not mentioned above which I find very valuable

1. The interface is so easy, the screen big enough, and given the LAN connection to the server u can have the screen pretty much right nxt to you sit...all this convenience leads to re-discovering your music library. Music servers, PCs etc all have this but the market leading ase of use make this even more inviting for investigation etc.

2. Its so easy to use and touch screen is such a complete hook that anyone uses it. Everyone in the family enjoys and when I have guest over, everyone ends up trying to putting their own favorties in the playing que. Just a LOT iof FUN.
There were two other servers at CES and THE Show that I thought were better and cheaper than the Sooloos. They were the Exemplar and Blue Smoke. The Exemplar uses a wireless tablet touch screen but, as shown, did not use the available cover art as the designer wanted to hold down as much as possible on the use of the processor. Nevertheless, if you want it you can just down load it from the internet. The Blue Smoke was showing cover art of what was playing. I never saw any more display than that, but they were selecting from a tablet also.

There is no reason why you could not have 1 terabyte drives in the Exemplar which was using .75 terabyte drives. The Blue Smoke had a wireless 4 terabyte drive sitting across the room.

I heard several servers at the show but these two were the best. I ordered an Exemplar. It was being used both in the LSA and FIM suites.
Anyone know how much the Exemplar or the Blue Smoke servier costs? Or where to get more info?
OK, ran a search, the Blue Smoke at least seems to be semi-vaporware; not yet available, no marketing material, no hard cost; pre-sales to a few select individuals.
TBG, What rooms were they in?
Don_s, the Exemplars were in FIM and LSA suites. The Blue Smoke was in the Rockport suite at THE Show.

Swampwalker, What I saw and heard was very real, but the principles said that it would be several months before it would be in production.

You can call Exemplar at 425 334-4733. The Blue Smoke is another matter. They gave me a preliminary sheet but there is no telephone number on it. Andy Payor at Rockport must know how to get in touch with them.

Both system are multiple units with the possibility of bigger hard-drives and different control computers. Both will allow other dacs. In fact Blue Smoke used two other manufacturer's dacs. The Exemplar uses AES/EBU connections so any dac with a parallel input would work. I think I recall that the Blue Smoke also did not use USB, but I am now uncertain.

Again, I basically went by what I heard comparing the FIM K2 sampler played as a disc and as I remembered it on my system to what I heard on the server.

I think that you are focusing on sound quality, which I normally do to, but in the case of the Sooloos, it's all about the interface and software being head and shoulders better than anything else.

All of the typical music server GUI's show you lists of text that make picking through your music collection a very different experience than thumbing though your CD or LP collection. The Sooloos makes you connect with your collection in a way that the others don't

When Henryhk says that his friends come over and get into picking albums and get lost in the fun of it, that's how I felt using the Sooloos at the show.

I have a computer that is set up as a server at home and have tried every GUI possible (if I'm missing a winner let me know). They are mostly text based, and the ones that give you album covers to pick from are amateurish by comparison.

BTW, I am not a dealer for Sooloos. I'd like to see the GUI software made available for everyone to put on their computer. At that point, you'd still be lacking the incredible touchscreen, but it would be a move in the right direction.
Davemitchell, the sound is the only thing that is important to me, but convenience is next most important.

VRS and the Memory Player both have the same capabilities as the Sooloos. You can easily add them to the Exemplar although they do not recommend doing so, or at least turning it off when playing music.
re sound Tbg...I think its a matter of DAC in this case, though the Memory player make claims otherwise....I don't think though it offers terabyte capacity and its mainly supposed to be CD player that uses cache memory? In any case, the main difference shld be the DAC. Adding an external DAC is the way to go...indeed I think as music servers or PC based audio more popular, the external dac with multiple inputs will make a comeback. The only real drawback agst Sooloos is price IMO, but for me its worth it.
Henryhk, I don't think the Memory Player is intended to just be a cd player, but I don't know whether it will allow larger than the .5 terabyte drives they originally offered. I suspect you are right about using an external dac for noise reasons. The Memory Player is to have an external dac. I am not convinced that the Sooloos is as good as either the Exemplar or Blue Smoke. I certainly did not hear otherwise at CES.
VRS and the Memory Player both have the same capabilities as the Sooloos.

No they don't. NOTHING I have seen has the same capabilities as the Sooloos in terms of the quality of the touchscreen and the GUI.

VRS has a website that is basically down and they were using J. River Media software previously (available for free to anyone)...not anywhere near as cool as the Sooloos. And the memory player seems even less like it.
Davemitchell, I guess I am more interested in the sound and the ease of selecting what I want, especially if the processor's activity interferes with the sound.
Hi All,
I have a Blue Smoke server on order. It was put together by a local dealer, Ron Laporte at Ultimate Audio in Deerfield , Illinois. They recommend a mid-level DAC by MSB. I'll let you know in a couple of weeks how it is.

David Shapiro
David, I heard it with the MSB. It sounded great.

Ask Ron if he is from ND and went to IIT in Chicago.
I bet at CES Sooloos did not use an external DAC and just used its own internal DAC...which is unlikely to be that good despite advertisements otherwise. My recollection re Memory Player is memory space is quite limited, really not an access/archive system but claims of better than CD quality (advantages of hard disk etc which is arguable, I'm not getting into that debate!), and its internal DAC capabilities...and not cheap either. Blue Smoke I have no idea.
I have no idea what they did at CES, but Sooloos will come right and tell you that for superior sound, you need to use an external DAC.

What I want to know is, if the Slimdevice Transporter can have a clock link, then why can't the Sooloos units. If it did, I think it would come closer to legitimizing itself as an audiophile product. In fact, given all the jitter, noise inherent with a PC/computer, I have to believe that a clock link will become all the more necessary, as we push more and more into digital music. I will wholly admit I know little of the technical complexities of such a link, but based on the comments from Lessloss above, it sounds like no small challenge.
In my opinion the Sooloos is not intended for someone who want fidelity. It is for someone who merely wants the presence of music everywhere. I concede that it is better than the Ipod and looks nice. I just looked at their webpage--good styling, nice pictures, and very little about fidelity or even how the system goes together.
Hi, I have played and heard the Sooloos System. The sound quality with a high-quality DAC is awesome. Not to mention the easy access to the music. I will gona buy one, as soon I have the money. Cheers, Silvan
I agree w/ Mroctave. And its not about styling per se...u dont know how much value added until u actually use it. U rediscover your own collection of music...and that's what its about. Yes its a shame it doesn't have top quality dac, yes its shame it doesn't have a top notch clock, but there are stand alone products to solve this.
Albert, I'm with you. The Sooloos is very expensive.

The main appeal is its user friendly touch screen interface and perhaps convenience...the fact that you can buy all the music server components in a single product line.

I'm finding though that with a decent DAC, it is not hard to get very good sound for not much cost.

For an easy and low cost of entry solution, I'm doing it via a wireless connection with a fast Toshiba laptop with a large disk built-in and Windows MEdia Player, a Roku Soundbridge, a mhdt Paradisea tube DAC, and decent but not exceptionally expensive ICs.

I have over 1300 songs available on the server currently (ripped from CD in just a few minutes each) and room for 2-3 times as many at least more. Total cost, including laptop PC, Roku, DAC and ICs: ~$1700.

The sound is fabulous!
The main appeal is its user friendly touch screen interface and perhaps convenience...the fact that you can buy all the music server components in a single product line.

I'm finding though that with a decent DAC, it is not hard to get very good sound for not much cost.

I'll do that when the time is right, I'm keeping a close eye out on the market. There are lots of super buys at places like Micro Center where they sell a HP or other laptop at a screaming deal and you just add a Buffalo array and DAC and good to go.

I'm an Apple guy, so it would be even easier for me if I could snag a good deal on one of their laptops.

I still think touch screen is just a heartbeat away, I saw an HP ad on TV the other day that had the feature, so how far behind can the rest of the guys be?

Once the super user-friendly touch screen is common, the market will be flooded with cost busting options to do it yourself with a server.

Here's the HP demo at YouTube. I've not tried it in person but it sure looks flexible and it's really easy on the eye too.

HP Touchscreen
The music server is a great thing that adds new perspectives to music you may have heard many times before.

I have been rediscovering parts of my music collection that I other wise might not listen to often with my new music server set up.

I often now find myself putting the Roku in random selection mode within or across genres and let the 1300+ tunes flow. You hear music from a different perspective and make new discoveries by not having any pre-conceptions or album context in mind when a particular tune comes on.

For vinyl, I currently record to CD-R first and then rip to the server. In the future, I may go with a direct to disk/file recorder or ADC and avoid the CD-R, though having the disk copy for safe storage and use in the car isn't bad.
Albert, I agree that there will lower cost Sooloos like servers coming our way...I just cld not wait. LCD panel prices are plummeting and will do so more again over the next yr as there is excessive production capacity in Asia where most of them are made. The same thing can be said for memory.

However, I do think the Sooloos interface and touch screen is vastly more convenient than a notebook PC based solution, Mac or PC. I find a bigger screen makes things easier to access and browse, the Swimming function excellent, and available memory of course is vastly bigger.
Unless I'm missing something one of the funny things about this thread is theat Henryhk has one of the best DACs that exist at any price. EMM Labs DCC2 SE DA converter.

For Gods Sake Man - plug in the Sooloos into your DAC! :)

Okay - ignoring that aspect for now, my commentary on this is the following:

1) For people to whom 500 is a lot of money, i.e., they optimize their system not to spend 500 extra here or there, the Sooloos is a no-go on price - even if 10k on one component is okay, as you are paying for redundant and non-optimized capability. What it offers for price is not competitive with what you can build off the shelf.

2) It has an interface that can't be beat today, hands down.

3) For people with 20k+ DACs already :), and tons of CDs, and they want a turnkey solution, and perhaps don't have a lot of detailed computer experience, this is an extremely easy and efficient way to go. Probably the best one.

Now, for me, my recommendation is that they sell another product that is the same as what they have now except it has no DAC at all, and no storage. It should be 3k, maybe 4. You plug in your own DAC and your own storage, and now we have a system that is optimized price/performance at a much more constrained level.

On Jitter - if you have a DAC that re-clocks (Benchmark, Berkeley Alpha, the new Bryston, etc) then Jitter doesn't matter from your source as the signal will be re-built inside the DAC.
Lightminer...I do exactly that...that's my pt. But I also know its question of money so was trying to contribute the discussion in another manner.
Okay - good. The planets and stars are aligned once again :)....
Samsung has a touch screen that can be used with the Exemplar music server. I don't want my server's processor dealing with getting page art at the expense of dealing with sending the music to my dac, so I don't use this capability.