Max Research Interface File Player interview

02.09.2012..

Today our topic is the Interface File Player, about which Max Research’s manufacturer, Massimo Piantini, and Sophos’ distributor, Bruno Fazzini, are going to speak.

Several years ago, I wrote that I would never buy or suggest the purchase of a high range CD player. There were several reasons, like the adverse price/performances ratio, the availability of the streaming, the use of any PC or Mac dedicated to audio, the possibility of ripping or uploading digital music, keep it on the hard disk and make it directly available for our best DACs.

Nowadays new devices are breaking into the market. On average, they come from the world of the pure digital that is the computer world. Instead of simplifying the use, they are a resistance for the “old style” audiophile, which is our majority….

 

Question: It follows that, being an innovative product, the first question is compulsory: what is the Interface?

Massimo Piantini, Max Research: 

The Interface is a player that reproduces audio files in whatever format and sampling up to 192 kHz, and videos in the most common formats with a 5.1 channels output. All of that at the highest quality.

 

Question: To play devil’s advocate, I would say that there are many audio-video players on the market…what makes the Interface different?

Massimo: True. Many audio-video players are currently available, but no one can read both audio and video. The difference between the two terms is abyssal. As far as I know, the Interface is the only player provided with a software dedicated to the audio and another specific to the video, which have to be inserted separately and on demand.

 

Question: If I am not mistaken, the Interface has to be started in the audio or video mode, depending on what you want to listen or watch. Why this division and how can be carried out?

Massimo: The software for the Interface handling is inside an SD (editor’s note: the most widespread format of memory card) operated by a small external file player and plugged into a USB port of the Interface. Therefore, the use is very simple. The reason of this choice is the great specialization of the machine. When the Interface reads any video files, all the resources have to be absorbed in this function, disabling, as much as possible, all those not strictly required for this action. The same is for the reading of video files. What is activated here are all the video functions that in the audio version would subtract resources to the CPU and could affect the digital audio signal. Keep in mind that the digital output is S/PIDF so we have to be cautious in the cabling as we usually are with any CD player.

 

Question: This pertains to the main idea of the design. What about the connections to our beloved Hi-Fi system?

Massimo: It is a very simple thing. Like before, when the transport of the CD player was connected to our converter through a normal RCA digital cable, now the Interface has the same connection: from its digital output to the converter input with the same RCA digital cable.

 

Question: What about the video mode?

Massimo: There is a HDMI cable, the same that we would use to convey the signal of a DVD player.

 

Question: Now let us talk about a fundamental aspect referred to a system that aims to read several audio files: the fact of being user-friendly in handling tracks and videos

Massimo: To answer your question is important to understand how the Interface system is composed. To read the traditional CDs we needed a CD player, a remote and the CDs. The Interface copies this mode. In this sense, the Interface replaces the CD player, the iPad replaces the remote and the external hard disk replaces the CDs…. The difference is that on the HD are stored, not one, but thousands of CDs. The challenge was to handle thousands of CDs at the same ease that the CD handles one disk only.

 

Question: So an iPad, an iPhone or an iPod – one of our user-friendly and multifunction modern gadgets - is treated like a “remote control” to handle the Interface: how does that happen?

 

Massimo: It is very important to understand our philosophy. We have postulate that our Interface would not have any screen, any keyboard, and any mouse. I mean, we did not want to have, for any reason, a computer in our listening room.

Besides the poor audio quality of the computer in respect to the media players, we wanted to avoid any cables in the room and any interfaces, which, for obvious reasons, degrade the signal. The solution is a machine positioned together with the audio system and a remote, the iPad precisely, which handles everything, included the functions of visualizing the entire content of the HD connected to the Interface.

 

 

L'interfaccia grafica Interface

Question: So we are not talking of a manageable HD only: which is the limit?

Massimo: You are right. Interface can handle how many HDs you like. For example, now I have four of them, with about 12.500 entire CDs stored (twelve thousand five hundred…). To handle this Babel of files there is an official app, XBMC Commander, downloaded here for example. This app allows the connection between iPad and Interface via Wi-Fi, visualizing all the files present, included the covers or whatever image present on the external HDs in jpg format. You get immediately the power of this system.

Visualizing and playing thousands of tracks, immediately available, has always been the dream of any audiophile or music lover.

 

Question: That is very interesting and handy as we said at the beginning. Which consequences this mode of fruition of music and video could have?

Massimo: At the beginning, we have thought that the main benefit was to listen easily and at best to our music. After a while we have noticed that this was only one aspect, and maybe not primary.

What has emerged in a powerful way was that we owned the music again, and that should be the ultimate aim of our Hi-Fi system. I will make it simpler. I have listened again to CDs hidden in the shelf that I have not listened for years to or that I did not even remember to have. The ease of flipping through the iPad catalogue and listening to a track is a joy not easy to describe until you feel it directly.

Switching from Mozart to Pink Floyd from Guccini to La Traviata, maybe in our favourite execution, is a so intense pleasure that you can listen for hours forgetful of the system. And again, making a comparison between two versions of the same track, for example the same symphony, but directed by two different directors, and doing it immediately and easily, is a reason of pleasure and represents a possibility that so far was not so easy to get.

 

Question: You have spoken of thousands of CDs uploaded on many HDs: how does their uploading happen and which tricks do you need to take?

Massimo: Every change in the reproduction system, like the passage from LP to CD, has forced us to restart with our own music collection. This time technology has helped us and at least we do not have to buy again what we already have. The CD can be ripped with free downloads from the net and, once the software has been set, the programme will extract in the best way the information from the support. The ripping is a very important chapter but we cannot speak about it here.

On Max Research website, you can find some material. I am aware that inserting hundreds of CDs on one’s own HD and then organize them is a long work and that many people are not so eager to do it. For this reason, we have institute the Service File that helps and follows the audiophile in all the needs linked to the ripping and file cataloguing. Another way to supply one’s record collection is to buy audio material from the producers’ websites, also and mostly at higher sampling frequencies than the CD ones, that is at high resolution.

 

Question: In conclusion, since Interface was born to satisfy an important bracket of users, how is it distribute and which is the benefit besides the machine?

Bruno Fazzini, Sophos: The distribution is by Sophos. Together with Max Research we take care of the installation. We intend to follow our enthusiasts in all the utilization phases of Interface, both before the sale, with consulting and tests, and afterwards with assistance at anytime. We give this benefit together with the player. The certitude that the users can turn to us for any problem. Furthermore, with the File Service, we intend to give assistance also in the phase of file acquisition, which sometimes is something difficult to overcome, by handling the demands of the single audiophile individually. To enjoy this service, also before the purchasing of an Interface, you have just to contact Sophos and our customer will be followed personally.

 

 

For further information:

manufacturer: to Max Research website
distributor: to Sophos Hi End website

by Giuseppe Castelli
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