Olive O4HD

In Gadgets, General by John4 Comments

If one has been collecting CDs for as long I have (about 25 years), the collection can grow to unmanageable proportions. I have CDs in various plastic cabinets, and on shelves and in piles scattered throughout 3 rooms in my unit, and even in places I’d forgotten that I’d stored CDs – until I did a thorough search last week. My concerns over the years have been that I have no idea where to find most of the CDs if I want to play a particular one, so it’s too daunting to do a search. I find that getting up to put on a CD and changing it when it finishes, is tiresome, so I don’t do it often (and especially in the case of works that spread across several CDs. And perhaps the biggest concern of all, at my age, is that I will probably never get to hear most of my CDs again. It’s just too hard: and it’s not so easy and convenient to play them that I’ll do it because I can, and can quickly and easily explore the depths of my collection.

Enter the second exciting gadget I came across on Thursday. In this case I read about it in an article in The Age Green Guide headed “Music lovers don’t cut corners” (see featured image).  For the record, I didn’t read the article in the physical newspaper.  I read it on my iPad in the digital edition, which is a 100% facsimile of the actual newspaper.

I’ll quote parts of the article that aroused my interest:

Music lovers — those who can pick Pavarotti in 1965 from Pavarotti in 1985 — have always had a love/hate relationship with iPods and the electronic music storage they represent.  Most of them wouldn’t touch an iPod with a five-metre baton.

This is because the signal is compressed so more music can be squeezed onto the hard drive and in this compression process, much of the original signal is deleted, especially in the upper range. The music sounds similar, yet is not the same.   It sounds as if it’s all there and yet it no longer brings tears to your eyes. All the nuance has been lost.

But what music lovers secretly like about iPods is their convenience.  An album, or a particular track, can be found in seconds and played immediately.

The music is categorised and indexed automatically. And it’s all in one place.

Now those serious about their music can have it all; the music quality of a CD with the convenience of an iPod.  Modern solid-state hard drives have the capacity to make electronic music storage a viable option for people who refuse to compromise on sound quality.

The unit is shown above.  Here’s a further description:

Store up to 20,000 high-resolution HD tracks (6000 CDs) in 24-bit on this award winning music server – with more than 250 times the resolution of CDs, you’ll hear the HD difference immediately. Experience it right out of the box, the Olive O4HD includes over an hour of music with 12 of the best Chesky Records’ HD Tracks for Free!

Everything from 24-bit HD files to 16-bit converted CDs will be at your fingertips. Convenient storage, easy touchscreen access and the ability to play it all in any room of your home with the addition of an Olive 2 (see below). Now you’ll enjoy your music collection more than ever.

You can even turn your screen into an oversized color display and use the Olive remote control to see music details or select songs from across the room. It’s a great alternative to navigating with the touchscreen or our iPhone App.

Why does it sound so good?

The Olive O4HD will deliver exceptional sound quality from all of your digital music sources. Maximize your signal transfer with the 24k gold RCA connectors and use the Olive O4HD as an outboard DAC. With 24-bit/192kHz oversampling, noise and distortion are ultra low resulting in incredible purity in both high frequencies and low-level detail.

A quote from a review:

Exceptional sound; approachable and easy to use; quality build and finish; sheer value…this is 21st century hi-fi: the Olive O4HD is superb to live with and listen to’ (What Hi-Fi magazine February 2010)

All this plus a free iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app to control playback (as well as the supplied remote control).

The Olive O4HD has a wonderful final trick up it’s sleeve.  You can add a slave to every room in the house where you have a system through which you can play audio – and you can do it wirelessly with your Wifi network.  Wunderbar!

For this feature you need an Olive Melody 2 in each room where you want it.


  1. Wow – and it’s wi-fi N (not the old G that so many manufacturers try to get away with). Now does it transmit on the clogged 2.4MHz or the better 5MHz?

    I remember going to your Melbourne home in the early 1980’s (I think it was about the time of Rod Wilson’s wedding), and you showing me your CD player. I’m pretty sure you played an Elton John CD, which sounded absolutely amazing. I’m going out on a limb here, but I have a vague recollection “I’m Still Standing” was one of the tracks, which would make it the “Too Low for Zero” album of 1983.

    1. Author

      I don’t know much about wi-fi. The Olive website states:
      “Wireless, 802.11n (54 Mbit/s),
      WEP, WPA, WPA2, 64- and 128-bit
      1x Wired Gigabit Ethernet

      What a memory you have! Unfortunately, my home was burgled in 1988 and that CD player and all my CDs were stolen. All insured, thankfully. I got the same CD player, but I couldn’t remember all the albums that I had, so the “Too Low for Zero” album didn’t get replaced.

  2. Strange that they call it Wireless N when the speed is the old wireless G. Perhaps they mean it can operate at both 2.4 and 5MHz, but that would need clarification. Certainly the Gigabit ethernet would be 20 times faster.

    1. Author

      I don’t know the answer. But my guess would be that 54 Mbits/s is all that is needed for what the Olive does, and that they are using wireless 802.11n as that is the current state of art. The $6,499 Olive O6HD audiophile model with XLR connectors, hi-end headphone amp etc, still uses the same wi-fi specification.

      The Age writer had this to say about the top Olive, after mentioning the B&O and Sooloos and their prices.

      Olive has also unveiled the O6HD, which is aimed directly at the top 1 per cent of the audio market — the folk with the golden ears and pockets to match. The O6HD can hold up to 6000 CDs at full quality and is as good as Olive can get it.

      It starts with a 24-bit / 192-kilohertz digital-to-analog converter yielding a signal-tonoise ratio of 124 decibels. For those of you new to these things, that’s a stunning figure, as is total harmonic distortion of 0.0007 per cent. It upsamples lower audio standards (that is, CDs) to 24-bit /384-kilohertz and, importantly, it pays as much attention to the sound quality coming out of the headphone plug as the main connections. This is where many manufacturers skimp.

      It’s all handmade and the drive rests in eight layers of cushioning. Even the feet on which it stands are made in two parts, using a polymer mould, to isolate the machine from outside resonances and vibrations.

      And there’s no cooling fan to generate noise.

      Given all this the price, $6499, is far from outrageous.

      I’m planning to write another post about the Olive O4HD once I’ve got more CDs on mine.

      The bottom line though is that whatever the niggles I might have with its browser software for editing, once I listen to the music, all else is forgotten. CDs sound better (it’s the top end DAC that does it).

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