Having access to all the music in the world is well and good, but if you don’t have a user friendly way to explore and experience that music, then it’s all for naught. Fortunately, Autonomic knows control, and its solutions work.
For my review, I used the URC control module for my MX-6000 touchscreen, Autonomic’s iPad app, and Web-based IP control to operate the MMS-2. While the URC solution worked well and allowed for two-way metadata, the experience suffered on the MX-6000’s small screen and ended up being generally not as good as the other options.
The iPad app was wonderful: Using it was similar to using Apple’s iTunes. Unfortunately, as with iTunes, some features I wanted, like creating an on-the-fly music queue, weren’t available. Also, whenever I selected a song with the iPad app, it automatically jumped ahead to the next track. (Autonomic said it is aware of this bug and plans to kill it.)
Web control via my PC actually worked best, though it should be kept in mind that I didn’t have an AMX, Crestron, Control4, or other system to compare it with. This is good news, as the Web control option is available to everyone and costs nothing! The Web GUI gives you the usual options to browse by album, artist, genre, and playlist. You can also add songs to an active queue and save a particularly brilliant queue creation as a playlist.
Services like Pandora, TuneIn, Sirius, and Spotify appear under a Radio tab. New Pandora channels can be easily created from music in your collection by clicking the “Actions” button and designating a station based on an artist or a particular song. (Pandora fans will love this feature.)
Even cooler is that the MMS-2 can be one of your five iTunes-authorized devices, which allows it to play even DRM-protected music purchased from iTunes.
As I mentioned above, “high-speed” doesn’t necessarily mean high-speed to the MMS-2. Let me explain. Using my custom install showroom’s pokey DSL connection, I could not stream online music with the MMS-2, even though a computer, Blu-ray player, and pre-pro all handled Pandora with no problem. And then, when I plugged the MMS-2 into my home network, uploading to my Amazon Cloud Drive routinely failed because Time Warner apparently caps my upload speeds at 384 kbps. (Even so, an Amazon digital purchase I made on my home PC of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album quickly migrated over to the MMS-2, proving that downloads worked fine.)
R.E.M. announced its breakup during my review, and I soothed my pain by using the MMS-2 to dig through my library of R.E.M. discs, touring through old and new albums, jumping from track to track, and just indulging in “Play All Songs” mode. Whatever I selected, it never missed a beat.
The MMS-2 supports 96/24 FLAC, but when I initially played my library of high-rez files, my Marantz processor told me that it was only receiving a 44.1k input. A call to tech support determined that this was an internal setting issue that could be remotely corrected in my machine. (Autonomic says it will push the fix out to all machines, probably by the time you’re reading this.) Afterward, my high-rez music played without a hitch and sounded amazing.
Measured in features per pound, the MMS-2 might be one of the most jam-packed music servers on the market. It handles all of your local content, plays virtually any file type (including high-rez 96/24 FLAC and DRM-wrapped iTunes songs), supports nearly every control solution, and connects with the wide world of audio streaming. But its biggest feature going forward will likely prove to be cloud syncing. Buy some music on Amazon and have it automatically show up on your server? Cool. Have all of your music up to date and available from anywhere in the world where you have Web access? Awesome. And with the lifetime of free firmware updates that Autonomic promises, your MMS-2 will only continue to evolve.
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