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Oddly I ran out of storage space after ripping a mere few discs. Assuming I was going to use my loaner primarily with a NAS, the folks at SotM alas unbeknownst to me had swapped the 2TB HDD for a 32GB SSD. According to them running the server’s OS on a SSD and playing your music back via NAS offers superior sonics to using the standard internal 2TB HDD. That's said to primarily be due to the superior electrical isolation inherent with an Ethernet connection. A heads-up on this decision prior to struggling with the unit would have been nice.

To configure the sMS-1000 to mount a NAS or external USB HDD/SDD requires logging into the VortexBox web-based Admin page; creating a name for said storage device; and inputting its IP address plus location of the shared music library. None of this was in the manual. Joy. According to SOtM you need to either download a PDF from their website or have them mount your storage device remotely. This they did for me through TeamViewer. Based on email exchanges I had with SOtM the remote setup appears to be the recommended option for all customers. Be that as it may, I want physical instructions in hand and suspect many potential customers would too. Once I deciphered the PDF I tried it myself. It’s not what I’d call straightforward but once set you shouldn’t need to do this procedure again.

With my NAS mounted I was good to go. Or so I thought. As with pretty much all music servers the sMS-1000 requires an application for remote control playback. Some firms develop their own app. Most recommend third-party iOS/Android apps. Since the sMS-1000 came with the Logitech Media Server, I gave Logitech’s Squeezebox Controller app a shot on my Google Nexus 7 tablet. I soon gave up due to frequent lockups and a rather convoluted user interface. Where the fault lay I cannot say. Nor could I find my DSD files. It turns out Squeezebox is incompatible with DSD. Now I was instructed to use a MPD client instead. Again any and all documentation or prior instructions regarding any of this were MIA. At this point my patience was rapidly dissipating. After a rather cranky email from yours truly I finally received a number of PDFs which gave me all the required information albeit in a somewhat dodgy translation.

After checking out a number of MPD apps on Google Play Store I chose the free MPDroid. Once installed on my Nexus I finally got glitch-free playback and DSD to boot. All that was now required was select some music on my tablet, hit play and let the good times roll. Other than voice recognition it can’t get any simpler than that. If I'd gotten there directly, this review would have published a lot sooner.

I encountered no ticks, pops or dropouts of any kind regardless of sample rate or DSD. But the same is also true with my laptop which runs JRMC and JPlay. Incidentally JRiver recently ported their Media Center software to Linux. That just might be an ideal library management and remote playback solution for something like the sMS-1000. Their Gizmo remote app is notably slicker and more user friendly than MPDroid.

The fanless sMS-1000 was essentially dead quiet but so is my Asus despite its fan. On two occasions I had to connect a keyboard and monitor directly to the sMS-1000 to enforce a reboot. Switching the unit on/off did nothing to get it unstuck. But I’m not so sure the average user would run into this. I was constantly switching between various external storage devices and am pretty certain that in the process I inadvertently messed up one or more Linux parameters.

Whilst no more convenient to use than any regular computer, it was on sound quality where the sMS-1000 excelled. Music was bigger, more powerful and articulated yet also more refined, smoother and easier flowing than from my Asus laptop. I didn’t really notice any difference in tonal balance or frequency extension. I did note a quieter background that revealed greater nuance and inner detail. That was with the sPS-1000 linear power supply. Using the standard switcher pushed sound quality down a couple of notches but as such was still superior to my tweaked laptop which came across ever so slightly bright and grainy although it was a pretty close call.