The Hifidelio from Hermstedt aims to integrate MP3s into your current hi-fi set up. It’s a pretty big device, and fairly hefty, weighing in at 5kg. However, thanks to its sleek styling it would blend in well with most audio equipment. It plugs into your existing stereo using analogue, digital or optical line-out, and it also has an analogue input for old-fashioned recording.
The slot-loading CD drive at the front allows you to rip music directly to the internal hard drive, and you have the option of listening to it at the same time. Music can be imported as MP3, WAV, AIFF and FLAC files, while it can also read AAC and OGG files. It falls victim to DRM-enabled CDs, but luckily these are still relatively scarce. One standout feature is that the Hifidelio has an in-built CD database, so it can add track names and titles as you rip a CD without needing to connect to the internet. It will also download any updates when you next connect, so it should stay up to date with new releases.
As well as playing music imported to the hard drive, the Hifidelio comes with both Ethernet and WiFi connections. With four Ethernet connections, it can join an existing network or, alternatively, act as a wireless access point. By connecting to a network, you can begin to use the full functionality of the Hifidelio. You can use it to stream music both to and from iTunes. This allows you to play music from your Mac in a different room through a full stereo, in a similar manner to the Airport Express.
You can also manage the Hifidelio through a Web browser, which allows you to easily add track information to songs that are not in the database or recorded from the analogue inputs. Hifidelio will also be releasing satellite audio players to go with the Hifidelio. These will allow you to stream music from the Hifidelio to small units with built-in speakers around the house, each satellite able to stream different songs.
One other novel feature is the built-in USB ports that allow you to connect an iPod or other compatible portable player. You can then play music directly from the iPod through the Hifidelio and so through your hi-fi.
With all these features, controlling them may seem a bit daunting. However, the unit has a bright, clear display on the front, with a simple scroll and jog wheel system with four buttons.
Everything is menu driven, and follows a similar layout to that of the iPod. It is easy to navigate, and comes with a well-labelled remote control, allowing you to quickly change source and so forth from a distance. The numerical controls on the remote also act as letters in a similar manner to a mobile-phone keypad, so you can quickly jump to artist or song titles. As with iTunes you can create playlists, although you cannot import iTunes playlists directly.
Hifedeilio is a pretty complete and well-thought-out product. While it’s expensive for computer equipment, its hi-fi competition is much more pricey. It offers lots of features and implements them in an easy-to-use way. For really tech-savvy users it represents a good way to integrate your tunes with your current hi-fi. But it really comes into its own when used by not so techie users. It offers a way to go digital, rip MP3s and discard CDs, without knowing any of the technicalities, acronyms or buzzwords.