Hermstedt hifidelio review
If you haven’t gone digital with your music collection by now, you’re officially a Luddite. But getting your music from your PC to where it matters – for example the hi-fi speakers in your lounge – without fuss or annoying alert sounds spoiling the mood can be a challenge. This is where wireless music-streaming products come into their own, and the hifidelio aims to be one of the best in this arena.
Looking like a high-end stereo unit, the hifidelio is finished in brushed aluminium or black, and designed to stack with other equipment or go on display as you prefer. It has S/PDIF digital coaxial and optical ports and a pair of phono outputs to link to amplifiers, a built-in 802.11g wireless base station and four-port Ethernet switch for the computer end of things. It works as a client with existing wireless networks, and can act as a base station or DHCP server for other network devices. Inside, there’s an 80GB hard disk and a CD-RW combo drive. USB ports allow storage expansion for serious music collectors, and a higher-capacity model is in the works.
To start with, you can rip your audio CDs and DVDs to its hard disk, using track information from its built-in database of album details or from the Internet, and encoding to MP3, AAC, FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) or WAV. In addition, you can connect an MP3 player to one of its USB 2 ports and play or copy music from there. The hifidelio also publishes itself as an SMB (server message block) server, allowing it to be accessed over a Windows network. As well as its encoding formats, this import method supports WMA (although not DRM protected), and OGG.
Lastly, the hifidelio can detect shared music libraries in iTunes. It also shares its own music in the same way, delivering up to five separate audio streams simultaneously across your wired or wireless network to remote copies of iTunes or any standard UPnP/AV-compatible network-streaming products.
In use, the hifidelio is very simple. The player controls are arranged under the optical drive slot on the left, and navigation through menus in the large LCD panel is done using a combined jog and shuttle wheel. This all proved easy enough to be used without a hitch by non-technical family members – a particularly vital point for this kind of product. Editing metadata by hand (title, artist, genre and so on) with the wheel is less easy, but a USB keyboard or the browser-based network management provide good alternative methods for this.
As you’d expect, static playlists can be put together, both on the hifidelio itself and using the browser interface from your PC. What’s more interesting is the hifidelio’s Searchlist feature. This builds custom playlists dynamically, based on filter criteria such as rating level, keywords in different parts of the metadata, date added to the list, and so on. With a little thought, these can be extremely effective.
The hifidelio bridges the divide between computer and serious hi-fi equipment better than just about anything before. Now your music can be available whether your PC’s on or not, anyone can play it without going near the computer, and it can be shared with multiple satellite clients anywhere in your house on demand. It may seem pricey, but this is quite simply a highly desirable piece of kit.