Review Price free/subscription
Pinnacle Audio Folio
There's no doubt that digital music storage and playback is a mainstream technology. You won't meet too many people who haven't ripped at least some of their CD collection to their computer and copied it to their iPod or similar portable media player. But there's one group out there who are far harder to please, the audiophiles. For this select group, compressed music is heresy, and many remain unconvinced by lossless codecs like FLAC.
Part of the problem with convincing the audiophile community of the benefits of digital music libraries is the need to include a computer in the equation. Although ripping my CDs to my NAS box via my Mac doesn't seem like much of a chore to me, I know that some people simply don't want that added complication and much prefer to just drop their favourite CD into their favourite transport, and pump it through their carefully chosen amplifier, no doubt connected using an equally carefully chosen interconnect - iTunes is not, and never will be an option.
This is where Pinnacle Audio thinks it has the answer, with its Folio music server. This particular box of tricks is aimed at music lovers who like the idea of a large digital music library, but don't want to compromise on sound quality and definitely don't want to muck about with NAS appliances, computers and media streamers.
It's somewhat ironic that the Folio is aimed at audiophiles who don't want to use a computer, since in essence, that's exactly what it is. But don't go thinking that the Folio is just like your average media PC, because it's not. The Folio has been designed, first and foremost, to offer the best quality audio, so if you were to crack open that minimalist casing, you wouldn't find any superfluous electronics that could interfere with its primary brief. That's why Pinnacle Audio decided on an external power supply.
The Folio itself is pretty nondescript, with a single power button, a slot for loading CDs and a small LCD display. Getting your music onto the Folio couldn't be easier. You simply insert your CD and it will instantly be ripped using FLAC, ensuring the best possible sound quality. Once the ripping is finished, the Folio with spit the CD back out and you're ready to rip another disc.
Your music is stored on internal hard drives, of which there are two. The drives are configured using a RAID 1 array - this means that both hard disks hold exactly the same information, so if one disk fails, you don't lose all your music. In the event of a disk failure, the faulty drive can simply be replaced, and the array rebuilt, leaving your music completely safe once more. The downside is that you can't replace a failed disk yourself, and the Folio will have to be returned to Pinnacle Audio.
The Folio can be configured to employ RAID 0, which stripes your data across both disks and gives you double the capacity, but neither Pinnacle Audio or I would recommend such a course of action. Although you'd end up with more disk space, you'd be creating two potential points of failure, and if either disk failed, you'd lose your entire music library and have to start ripping your CDs all over again.