Ripfactory Ripserver

Wednesday 22nd October, 2008
If you want a complicated, all singing, all dancing NAS unit that will act as a print server, Bit Torrent client, email server etc...then the last thing in the world you want to buy is the Ripfactory Ripserver.

If, on the other hand, you want the easiest, greenest, simplest way to rip your music...you've come to the right place.

The Ripfactory Ripserver is almost unique in the marketplace. It's not exactly sold as a NAS device, but it can quite happily be used as one. Many end users don't know what a NAS is or even what the acronym stands for. They don't want to worry about complex things like RAID, file systems or user permissions. All they want is somewhere to store their digital music so they can easily access it from their digital music system like Sonos and if they buy the Ripserver, they've got one.

The Ripserver isn't really sold directly as a music server, but it certainly is one and a powerful one too. It supports Sonos, Firefly, SqueezeCenter, DLNA, UPNP and is even iTunes server compatible. What all this means is that, whichever digital music playback solution you decide to purchase, the Ripserver is likely to support it.

What the Ripserver has, that most other comparable NAS devices don't, is a CD slot...and this is what puts it head and shoulders ahead of the competition.

Do you understand CD ripping? Do you know how to tag your tracks with Artist/Title information? Do you know how to locate and insert the album sleeve artwork into your music files? Do you know how to install different codecs onto your PC? Do you know how to rip your CDs into 2 different codecs at the same time? The Ripserver does.

This device can only be described as "Simple" with a capital S. You simply take it out of the box, patch it into your internet router, connect the included power supply and start it up. Once booted, there's a little beep to let you know the device is ready - a good job really, it's so quiet that sometimes you might even wonder if it's turned on.

Now all you need to do is configure the device...oh, maybe not. The device comes preconfigured with the required network shares and, all being well, will just appear on your network. No complex configuration required you can simply tap http://ripserver into the browser on your PC and your looking at the rip settings. Here you can easily choose what codec in which you wish to rip your music. A lossless codec like FLAC is the best option for future use, but it may not work with some portable players. Ripserver allows you to rip your music into both FLAC and mp3 at the same time. I told you it was easy.

No complex menus or difficult user interfaces, things are kept nice and simple, you only need to see this screen once. Once you've chosen your desired codecs, from a healthy list of the most common choices, you're good to go.

Insert a CD into the slot and there's a little beep then the disc starts to read. That's all you need to do, unless you want to go and put the kettle on. When it's done with it, the device smoothly ejects the disc ready for the next one. That's it....all you need to do. In fact, if you have a child, nephew, niece or neighbour handy and they want to earn some extra pocket money...it's all they have to do. Disc in, disc out. Disc in, disc out. It's easier than making toast.

But what's happening in the background during all this? Well, the Ripserver is...
1) Identifying the artist/title/album name/genre of your CD...
2) extracting all the digital data from the CD...
3) Converting that digital data into individual files, one for each track...
4) Tagging each track with the correct Artist/Title/Album/Genre...
5) Downloading album sleeve artwork for that album...
6) Inserting the album artwork into each trackfile, so it appears on your player...
7) Saving a copy of the artwork into the music folder, so windows will display it in explorer...
8) Creating an Artist Name\Album Name\Track folder structure...
9) Doing all of the above twice...once for each codec.

But you don't need to worry about all that as it's completely seamless to the end user you just rip a disc and then play it on your music player. It's all there and just works. The only quirk I found is that sometimes the data in the online database is slightly inaccurate. For example, an album I ripped by Dina Carroll was identified as "rock" music. Far from it really, but this is always the danger of using public online databases and not an issue unique to Ripserver in any way.

So why is Ripserver better than a PC/Mac with iTunes installed? Well, for a start it's far simpler. You simply insert the disc and wait. Nothing to click, nothing to mess up.

On top of that, the album art handling is massively better. iTunes does download art, but only in a way that is compatible with your iPod. It's no use for 3rd party music players like Sonos or Squeezbox.

iTunes can only rip in one codec at a time, so if you want a copy of the CD in lossless alongside an mp3 copy, then you have to do it twice.

Also, with iTunes, if you shut down or reboot your PC, the music stops. Ripserver is designed to run 24/7 with minimal power consumption.

When I say minimal, I mean a power consumption of just 27 watts at idle. Even during concurrent ripping/encoding it only manages to draw 33 watts...less than half that of my Infrant ReadyNAS - and considerably more powerful too, the 1GHz processor on the Ripserver packs quite a punch. Performance of heavyweight NAS applications is equivalent to that seen on my full sized PCs whereas the same software really struggles to perform on the ReadyNAS. This makes the Ripserver an ideal choice to couple with the Logitech Squeezebox Duet which needs a fairly weighty machine to run it's Squeezecenter software.

Hardware wise, a quick look under the lid confirms that this unit doesn't even contain a fan, so the only noise comes from the hard disk itself which has been securely seated in the chassis so there are no vibrations. To put this into perspective, I hid the unit under the bed one night before my wife came home. She slept above it all night without noticing any noise whatsoever. Unlike most NAS devices, this unit will not give you any intrusive background noise.

For a pretty technical guy, I'm finding it really hard to say how easy this device is to use. To put it simply, if any of the technical details above are too complicated for you and you just don't understand...then Ripserver is the solution for you.

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