Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
What the NAS-2.6 can do is pretty complex, but it's surprisingly easy to set up. The complete user's manual is a refreshingly concise 40 pages. The hardest part is probably hooking the server up to your home computer network. But that isn't difficult, especially if your network has a DHCP server to automatically issue an Internet Protocol address to the NAS-2.6.
The initial setup instructions, in fact, make little mention of the Ethernet connectivity. Instead it's handled later in the "Advanced Settings" section of the manual. The initial instructions tell you to connect the internal modem to a phone line. This is ideal for people who just want a hard disk library of all their music in their rack and don't want to be bothered setting up a home network. Independent multi-room operation is still possible using the analog outputs.
Without even cracking the user's manual open, I found the NAS-2.6 easy to use, thanks to a fairly attractive, straightforward menu system and a remote control that's not overcrowded by buttons. (It has no backlighting, unfortunately.) You can also control virtually all operation of the server from the front panel. The display is easy to read and to follow, though the button labels aren't visible in dim lighting.
Once you store hundreds of discs or thousands of tracks on the hard drive, you need some way to access them without drowning in a sea of titles. The NAS-2.6 makes it possible to organize your music so you can get to it without a lot of hassle. You can, for example, sort your music tracks by artist, genre or album title. You can also create play lists and what Integra calls Presets, which are very much like play lists, but are especially easy to access without turning on the TV display.
When I saw my first disk-based audio server I thought, "Hey, what a really cool idea!" After using a couple of servers, I thought, "Now if they could only get it to work!" By using Imerge's XiVA platform, which, in effect, is the operating system of the server, Integra seems to have not only a fine-sounding system on its hands, but a very stable one, too.
While the basic performance of the NAS-2.6 was first-rate, I can find some things to quibble about. The user interface was easy to figure out, but I'd like to see more information on the screen. It's skimpy, I suppose, because the base-level output is composite video and it has to be readable on a standard NTSC TV. But if I'm using the server's VGA output with a plasma display, I'd like to see more tracks on the screen at the same time. And I'd really like to see a screen saver so the menus don't get burned into whatever display I'm using. Even when the server is put into its Standby mode (instead of being fully turned off) it sends video out to the display telling you that it's in standby. I could probably figure that out by myself.
Perhaps the real power of the NAS-2.6 is the combination of both Ethernet and analog outputs. If your home isn't wired for Ethernet and you have multiple audio systems scattered about, the server is a great way to share a single library throughout. You'll still have to run wiring to the remote locations, but it's sure to be a great option for non-networked people. Each analog output can be set for variable or line-level operation. For even more options and flexibility, you can use Net-Tune-ready clients to extend the server's output.
Hard-disk-based storage of music is great, but I'm not ready to give up on physical media like CDs anytime soon. However, I can pretty much guarantee that with the NAS-2.6, you'll move your CD collection to the back of a closet and free up all that shelf space for something else. Additional Resources
Read more Media Server Reviews from the likes of Logitech, Apple, Escient, Russound and many more.
• Read about Integra's Fall 2010 Lineup of AV gear here....
Integra NAS-2.6 Audio Network Server
Capacity: up to 2,600 Hours
Encoding Bit Rates: uncompressed or 128,
192 or 320 kbps
(1) Optical and (1) Coaxial Digital Audio Output
(4) Independent Analog Stereo Audio Outputs
(1) VGA Output
(1) S-Video and (1) Composite Video Output
(1) Modem Jack
(2) USB Ports
(1) Ethernet Port
RS-232 Serial Control Port
4" H x 17-3/16" W x 14-17/16" D
Weight: 19 lbs