In the ever changing an evolving world of media center PCs and media servers, Sooloos finds themselves near the top of the food chain with a robust media server system that has its roots in music playback but can get as advanced as to store hundreds upon hundreds of Blu-ray music discs via a network connection. The Sooloos system can be configured many ways and is quite upgradeable. The heart and soul of the system us the Control:one 17 inch LCD touch screen remote (currently priced around $4,200) which is larger and less expesnive than most Crestron or AMX touch screen remotes.
What is specifically cool about the Control:one is the idea that it, like the Apple iPhone, is touch activated and Sooloos makes the most of this functionality with a blazingly fast interface that enables you to flip through a gorgeous graphical user interface that is loaded with colorful album covers or even DVD/Blu-ray discs. The Control:one can be loaded to run a Creston “project” meaning you can buy this nicely polished, hard-wired remote and run your entire AV system from it. Conversely, you can get the same level of functionality from a hard-wired Crestron or AMX system if you so desire. Wireless systems like the Crestron one I use have a less-sexy but very functional interface as they simply don’t have the speed to keep up with the fast paced processing of this impressive media server.
The Source:one (priced currently at $3,500) can be used as your main unit which will allow the loading and storing of music however additional storage can be added via the Twinstore and the Quadstore which represent upwards of 4 Terabytes of media storage. Consider this the brain of your Sooloos system for which you can add components to as you build or upgrade your server.
The Sooloos system is born from music but it is very capable of storing movies thanks to their $4,000 cinema box which allows you to rip DRM content from sources like DVD as well as to download moves to store in your various storage boxes. Storing Blu-ray discs is a bit trickier as the Sooloos system will look for these discs stored on an external PC or Mac computer. Getting Blu-ray disc titles on to your external computer will be your own challenge but it is fair to say that software for that is relatively easy to get a hold of for the more adventurous end-user.
The Sooloos system is networkable as mentioned above and is also multi-zone friendly. You can be playing John Coltrane in your main theater while the kids are rocking out to some Powerman 5000 in another part of the house while a playlist of “spa music” is also playing elsewhere in your house. The Sooloos system is easily controlled by keypads and remotes with hard-wired solutions being the best because of the GUI of the system. Sooloos also can be controlled via PC web browsers as well as Safari for Mac.
The meta data and content management of the Sooloos system is its strength when looking at the overall system versus other media center PC and media servers. Gone are the misspellings of “Jimmy Hendrix” or the band name Yes being spelled two different ways thus resulting in a disjointed display of your collection as you will find with lesser data management in today’s media servers. But it gets better. The relational aspect of the database makes searching even more powerful. For example: type in John Coltrane and find not just your 12 studio albums but you will also find other records from other artists (think: Miles Davis) that Trane also played on. You can with lightening speed, build playlists based on these searches.
Read more about the high points and low points of the Sooloos media server on Page 2.
The Sooloos system operates in the real-world meaning that it is connected to music sources like Rhapsody which for $12 a month gets you access to any and every album you can dream of. Imagine you are having a party and somebody starts playing with your Sooloos remote and wants to hear “Hocus Pocus” by Focus they can quickly have it downloaded to your system. When asked “Do you have…” You can answer yes albeit at 128 kbps resolution like you will find on iTunes. A CD ripped into your system will sound significantly better for critical listening. The Sooloos system has a robust photo storage system and management platform that can build slideshows for you to watch while you listen to music. It can do Internet radio which keeps getting better and better. You even can open up Facebook on the Sooloos system to check in with your “friends”,
• The sex appeal of the graphical user interface is irresistible. Other servers have tried to do this without the same excellent results.
• The speed for which you can browse your music and move collection is blazing and one you spend 60 seconds with the system you will appreciate that.
-• The build quality of all of the components is what you would expect out of the likes of Krell, Mark Levinson or Classé.
• The remote is big and even somewhat of a value considering its price versus size when you look at the entire market.
• The Sooloos system is complex which helps with upgradeability but does require you to have many different components to make a fully working system.
• At its price, Sooloos should have Blu-ray video functionality like the other top media server and HTPC companies do. You can work around this if you network in another PC or Mac loaded with Blu-ray titles but that adds most cost and more complexity when the competition can do it in one box.
• While the Rhapsody idea is cool – the resolution isn’t. I would love to see additional connectivity with HD services like Music Giants so that your $10,000 plus server is feeding you true HD music content that make a CD sound seem like a joke.
• If you really want the functionality of a computer in your system an HTPC would be better for that. Sooloos is a media server first with most of the functions of a PC available to you if desired. I just don’t recommend it for whipping up an Excel spreadsheet.
Put Sooloos on your short list for high end media servers right up there with Kalidescape. Its sex appeal will lure you in and its flexibility, thoughtfulness and overall power will make you quickly understand why this system is worth the $7,000 to $15,000 plus investment depending on the configuration you choose. Sonically, the system can shine if you put the right music into it. Its connectivity to the outside world offers you all sorts of music and movies that makes it possible so that you can hear or see damn near anything you want whenever you want. And at these prices – everything is what you should expect which is exactly what Sooloos delivers.