Ahhh, software

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Computers are like vehicles and software’s like the gas they need to go. One without the other doesn’t work and the quality of the gas makes all the difference in the world.

We’ve were discussing the NAS and then I goofed and got the posts out of sequence. Sorry.

A NAS is a hard disc drive that connects to your network through an internal computer. On that NAS there’s a computer and an operating system that runs the the hard disc and communicates with the outside world. Because NAS do not have any video monitors or connectors to support a monitor, communication is usually through a webpage that’s built into the NAS. But communicating through a webpage requires another computer and the entire purpose for a NAS is to allow users to operate without a second computer. What possible value is there to owning a NAS if you need to use another computer to operate it? None, so that’s why NAS have software built in that handles this task.

Computers use software as a means of making something on the computer happen. There’s software programs every computer uses to do every task and the job of getting music from your NAS to your DAC is no exception. The biggest vendor of this type of software is called Twonky Media.

The name Twonky probably came from a video game called World of Warcraft where one of their wizards is called the same name. This is just a guess on my part since many programmers like video games. None the less, the vast majority of NAS use this software to permit access to music on a NAS. Twonky has never had any aspirations of being high-end, not from a sonic performance nor from a user perspective. My guess is they want to be the Microsoft of the connected media software – selling to as many people as possible and in the process, watering down the usability of the product for specific needs – like high-end music.

Add to this issue the fact that the computer Twonky is running on costs a whole $50 and is basically a slug, you can start to see why we no longer recommend widespread use of NAS for music applications.

Your best bet to streaming and storing music is through a full blown computer running reasonable software like J River, our own eLyric, Foobar, VLC or any number of software programs. Storage is always better through attached USB 2.0 or higher devices – because it’s cheap, easily backed up and stored. Because it’s connected to your computer it’s also fast.

There are a few dedicated music servers – that are actually NAS in high-speed clothing – and although expensive they are just dandy to use if they have decent software on them.

Just as you wouldn’t consider playing high-end music on a cheap consumer component, don’t think software is any different. In fact, consider software in exactly the same way you would separate components and choose the ones that offer the best performance. I always think of such things as functional blocks – and choose the best functional block for the job.

That your functional block is a bunch of bits or a piece of hardware doesn’t really matter if it gets the job done right.