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The MS-1 behaves like any other audio component: It turns on via a power button on the rear panel, which activates the server and a blue LED light signaling game time. Press the power button once more and the unit shuts down. It worked perfectly for me.
Setting up the MS-1 requires two additional pieces of gear: the aforementioned Apple “remote” and a USB-compatible digital-to-analog converter. Cary recommends pairing the MS-1 with its own Xciter Series USB DAC. I've read good things about Cary's DAC (retailing for $1,499), and I'm confident it would take this unit to another sonic level, but for this review I paired the MS-1 with HRT's Music Streamer II, a USB DAC that sells for just under $150. More about the sound later. One last component to complete the kit is the MS-1 Remote App, available for free through iTunes. Cary's Billy Wright was kind enough to include a loaner iPod already loaded with the app for this review. Otherwise, a simple search for Cary Audio in the iTunes App Store will get you going.
The MS-1 requires wireless and wired access to a network. This is a simple matter of connecting the server to a router, whereby the MS-1 retrieves an IP address and connects to the network. Wireless access allows control via an iPod, etc. An Internet connection is necessary for accessing SHOUTcast; no connection is needed to play music from the MS-1 itself. For the final “audio” connection, I ran a USB 2.0 cable from the MS-1 to the HRT. Lastly, I connected the Streamer to my amplifier using standard RCA interconnects.
All that's left to do is establish remote control:
1. Select the Cary Audio App on the Apple device
2. Press “Settings” button
3. Select “Discover Servers”
4. Select server, wait for a checkmark to appear next to the server name
5. Press “Done”
Now, via the respective remote device, the music library is accessible and at your command.
By default, the MS-1 copies all music data as FLAC files. I like that the MS-1 makes FLAC its native file format, as it protects the fidelity of original recordings while preserving drive space. The server is also designed to play MP3, OGG, AAC, WAV, M4A and WV files, and I also discovered it will play AIF files, too, though sometimes with a slight hiccup between songs. All the discs I fed the machine were copied perfectly, but the unit isn't particularly speedy transferring audio, even with its 24x slot-loading drive. For example, The Band's self-titled 1969 release (with bonus track) contains roughly 48 minutes of audio. Via the MS-1, the disc took 8 minutes and 20 seconds to copy. Through iTunes, as uncompressed AIFF, the same disc took 2 minutes 55 seconds. Using MAX, a program that converts WAV files to FLAC, took 3 minutes. Ripping music from an outside source may be faster initially, but you still have to get the files onto the MS-1 before playback so by the time you transfer outside files into the server the score mostly evens out. The MS-1 relies on two metadata services – FreeDB and MusicBrainz – to obtain album information. I was less than impressed with the retrieval, as many albums were tagged as “Unknown”; others, such as The Flower Kings' Stardust We Are and the previously mentioned album from The Band displayed incorrect album art. The former showed cover art from The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998 box set, the latter displayed The Band Perry's 2010 self-titled release. Across the board, it was hit or miss regarding album info and artwork. Rather obscure releases including Miller Anderson's Bright City, Quicksand's Home Is Where I Belong and Kayak's Merlin were tagged accurately including album art. Thus, I found it strange when Van Morrison's Beautiful Vision and ELO's On The Third Day were relegated to the land of unknown albums. If you want to edit and make corrections, it's necessary to first copy the album to your computer, manually tag the album and then copy it back to the MS-1. That may not sound like a big deal, but if you're suddenly faced with a dozen or more “Unknown” albums it becomes a hassle. The last thing you want to face is a sea of unlabeled albums and tracks, unless you like guessing. My advice: deal with any Unknowns immediately; tag the tunes and drop 'em back into the server and be done with it. Managing the files on the MS-1 can done either through a Web interface or FTP. Both are accessed using the IP address from the Settings menu on the respective remote control device. Cary supplies username and password to login. Once connected to the interface, it's simple to highlight folders and files to delete any unwanted data. Manually transferring and/or backing up music is accomplished via FTP and/or USB. Though the owner's manual includes a screenshot of the local file system and MS-1 file system, it doesn't completely explain the upload process. If, for example, you select a file (album) from the Local Site and add it to the upload queue, the music ends up in the File System Source folder. It's not a big deal, but albums in that realm don't display album art – they're treated as if untagged. The artist/album/tracks will still be identified, though. One other note regarding tagging: WAV files can't be tagged as such, so any such music by default can be accessed only via the SOURCES/FILE SYSTEM menu. If you have a hard drive already full of music, the MS-1 can automatically sync with an external USB drive to import it. Likewise, the MS-1 can sync to backup its contents to an external drive. Cary recommends leaving the server and USB drive connected overnight to ensure complete file transfer. The MS-1 performs comparably to like-priced CD players, with a natural and neutral tone that's easy to listen to for hours and hours, the MS-1 makes it easy. Can the MS-1 replace a CD player? In some ways, it can replace 2,799 single-disc CD players. Fill up the MS-1, sit back and enjoy the music.
Cary Audio MS-1 Music Server
Trade in Item One Only.
To begin your musical experience, just insert a CD, and the MS-1 will copy the disc to the oneterabyte hard drive, which is capable of storing roughly 2,800 CDs in FLAC format; the disc ejects automatically when the transfer is complete. The MS-1 then searches Internet archives for the song list, artist information, and album art. Once the information is added to the music library, your music becomes searchable using your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad as a remote control device. An extremely efficient and fast internal operating system quickly locates and plays your music at the highest level of quality over a USB output. Downloading the custom Cary Audio Design application available free from the iTunes App Store gives you complete wireless control of the MS-1. Simply launch the Cary Audio Design application, and you can begin exploring your entire music library with the swipe of a finger. Never before has your music library been this easy to enjoy. SHOUTcast™ Radio is also included as part of the MS-1, enabling you to stream thousands of Internet radio stations. The MS-1 offers many exciting new ways to enjoy your music collection. Using the Subsonic app/program you can access your server’s music from anywhere you have an Internet connection (Wi Fi or 3G/4G), with a computer, a tablet, or even your Smartphone. Subsonic also allows you to easily build playlists and edit the album art and metadata of your music collection. UPnP capability (Universal Plug and Play) allows you to stream music stored your computer or hard drives over the network to your MS-1. You can also stream multiple feeds out of the MS-1 to any of a number of other devices to listen to your music all around the house. Music is a big part of our lives, and the MS-1 lets you share it and enjoy around your home and around the world! The MS-1 is the modern day equivalent of a high-end audio transport and is designed to be paired with a USB D/A converter. To achieve the best in high-end sound, we suggest that the MS-1 be paired with the Xciter Series USB D/A converter. This combination of Cary products provides you with a system whose ease of use and sound quality is difficult to match at any price. Congratulations on your fine choice, the Cary Audio Design MS-1. We are confident the MS-1 will bring you many years of musical satisfaction, and we sincerely welcome you to the Cary family.